The Lost World is a 1925 silent fantasy adventure film and an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 novel of the same name. The movie was produced by First National Pictures, a large Hollywood studio at the time, and stars Wallace Beery as Professor Challenger. This version was directed by Harry O. Hoyt and featured pioneering stop motion special effects by Willis O'Brien (an invaluable warm up for his work on the original King Kong). Writer Doyle appears in a frontispiece to the film. In 1998, the film was deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
From a lost expedition to a plateau in Venezuela, Paula White brings the journal of her father explorer Maple White to the eccentric Professor Challenger in London. The journal features sketches of dinosaurs which is enough proof for Challenger to publicly announce that dinosaurs still walk the earth. Met with ridicule at an academic meeting at the Zoological Hall, Challenger reluctantly accepts a newspaper's offer to finance a mission to rescue Maple White. Professor Challenger, Paula White, sportsman Sir John Roxton, news reporter Edward Malone (who is a friend of Roxton and wishes to go on the expedition to impress his fiancée), a sceptical professor Summerlee, an Indian servant Zambo, and Challenger's butler Austin leave for the plateau.
At their campsite at the base of the plateau, the explorers are shocked when a large rock falls, sent their way by an ape-man perched on top of an overhead ledge. As the crew look up to see their attacker, Challenger spies overhead a Pteranodon (mistakenly calling it a Pterodactyl) which sighting proves that the statements in Maple White's diary are true. Leaving Zambo and Austin at the camp, they cross a chasm onto the plateau by cutting down a tree and using it as a bridge, but it is knocked over by an Apatosaurus (referred to as Brontosaurus), leaving them trapped.
The explorers witness various life-and-death struggles between the prehistoric beasts of the plateau. An Allosaurus attacks an Edmontosaurus, and knocks it into a bog. The Allosaurus then attacks, and is driven off by a Triceratops. Eventually, the Allosaurus makes its way to the campsite and attacks the exploration party. It is finally driven off by Ed who tosses a torch into its mouth. Convinced that the camp isn't safe, Ed climbs a tree to look for a new location, but is attacked by the ape-man. Roxton succeeds in shooting the ape-man, but the creature is merely wounded and escapes before he can finish him off. Meanwhile, a Styracosaurus is attacked by the Allosaurus, and gores it to death. Suddenly, a Tyrannosaurus attacks and kills the Styracosaurus, along with an unfortunate Pteranodon.
The explorers then make preparations to live on the plateau potentially indefinitely. A catapult is constructed and during a search for Maple White, Roxton finds his remains, confirming his death. It is at this time that Ed confesses his love for Paula and the two are unofficially wed by Summerlee who used to be a minister.
Shortly afterwards, as the paleontologists are observing a Brontosaurus, an Allosaurus attacks it and the Brontosaurus falls off the edge of the plateau, becoming trapped in a mud bank at the base of the plateau. Soon afterwards, a volcano erupts causing a mass stampede among the giant beasts of the lost world. The crew is saved when Paula's pet monkey Jocko climbs up the plateau carrying a rope. The crew use the rope to pull up a rope ladder constructed by Zambo and Austin and then climb down.
As Ed makes his descent, he is again attacked by the ape-man who pulls the rope ladder. The ape-man is again shot and finally killed by Roxton. They discover the Brontosaurus that had been pushed off the plateau had landed softly in the mud of the river, trapped but still alive, and Challenger manages to bring it back to London, as he wants to put it on display as proof of his story.
However, while being unloaded from the ship it escapes and causes havoc until it reaches Tower Bridge, where its massive weight causes a collapse, and it swims down the River Thames. Challenger is morose as the creature leaves. Ed discovers that the love he left in London has married in his absence, allowing him and Paula to be together. Roxton morosely but gallantly hides his love for Paula as Paula and Ed leave together, while two passersby note: "That's Sir John Roxton--sportsman."
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Himself (appears in a frontispiece to the film, missing from some prints)
- Bessie Love – Paula White
- Lewis Stone – Sir John Roxton
- Lloyd Hughes – Edward Malone
- Wallace Beery – Professor Challenger
- Arthur Hoyt – Professor Summerlee
- Alma Bennett – Gladys Hungerford
- Virginia Browne Faire – Marquette the half-caste girl (uncredited)
- Bull Montana – Ape Man/Gomez
- Francis Finch-Smiles (billed as "Finch Smiles") – Austin
- Jules Cowes (in blackface) – Zambo
- Margerette McWade – Mrs. Challenger
- George Bunny – Colin McArdle
- Charles Wellesley – Major Hibbard (uncredited)
- Nelson MacDowell – Attorney (uncredited)
- Chris-Pin Martin – Bearer/Cannibal (scenes deleted)
- Jocko the Monkey – Himself
- Mary the Chimpanzee – Herself (uncredited)
Note: All human cast members who are listed in the on-screen credits are billed as "Mr..." or "Miss...."
- Allosaurus (main carnivorous dinosaur seen, attacking Trachodon and Triceratops among others)
- Ape-man (menaces the team of explorers)
- Brachiosaurus (seen during the volcanic eruption, one of which was attacked by a Tyrannosaurus/it is not seen with the crest unfortunately)
- "Brontosaurus" (The main antagonist. After falling into a bog at the conclusion of a fight with an Allosaurus, one is captured and taken to civilization, where it escapes and terrorizes the city)
- Edmontosaurus (is preyed upon by the Allosaurus and also called by synonym Trachodon)
- Pteranodon (the first prehistoric animal seen by the team of explorers)
- Stegosaurus (escaped the volcanic eruption with many other animals)
- Styracosaurus seen in battle with Allosaurus and Tyrannosaurus and also called by one of Triceratops' synonyms Agathaumas as based on a hypothetical restoration by Charles R. Knight
- Triceratops (seen in large herds, and shown to be capable of handling an Allosaurus in battle)
- Tyrannosaurus (is seen to have little trouble bringing down Agathaumas, as well as having a taste for any Pteranodon that swoops in too close)
- Toxodon (a juvenile's carcass is seen being eaten by the Pteranodon)
(The film's program mentions the Diplodocus but none are shown in the surviving footage.)
Other animals on the plateauEdit
- Capuchin Monkey
- Chimpanzee (helps the Ape-man antagonize the explorers)
- Frilled Lizard
- Feathered Lizard
Animals seen in the Amazon, but not the plateauEdit
- Caiman or Alligator
- Jaguar (stock footage)
- Scarlet Macaw
- Spectacled Bears (erroneously identified as "Spectacle Cave Bears")
- Two-toed Sloth (stock footage)
- Three-toed Sloth
Restorations of The Lost WorldEdit
- George Eastman House - Laserdisc preservation with stills showing missing scenes
- George Eastman House - Film restoration using materials from Czech National Film Archive. Some sequences still missing and some inadvertently left out
- David Shepard, Serge Bromberg - DVD version using Kodascope prints, Czech archive materials, and trailers. Like the George Eastman House restoration, some sequences are still missing and some inadverdently left out.
Missing or deleted scenesEdit
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sits at his desk, writing The Lost World (footage of Doyle, found in some copies, was taken from a 1927 interview)
- Ed Malone sees three people sent to interview Challenger, bruised and bandaged
- Ed Malone escapes from Challenger in the Zoological Museum by climbing on the back of the Brontosaurus skeleton
- The explorers are attacked by cannibals
- The native bearers, led by Gomez, mutiny and injure Zambo's arm
- Challenger scrambles onto railing of bridge to watch the Brontosaurus swim out to sea
Scenes rediscovered but not added backEdit
- A Brontosaurus feeds on some leaves
- A Triceratops family enjoy each other's company
- An Allosaurus is distraught over a Brontosaurus escaping over a cliff
- Two brontosaurs have a confrontation
- A Triceratops herd is seen with an Allosaurus in the background
- A Trachodon eats while an Allosaurus stalks it from the background
- An Agathaumas and Stegosaurus battle over space
- In 2004 an incomplete, original tinted/toned/hand-colored nitrate 35 mm print of the original version of The Lost World was discovered and purchased by Film Preservation Associates.
- Recognizable brand name products on screen was uncommon prior to the 1950s. However, an editorial in Harrison’s Reports criticized the collaboration between the Corona Typewriter company and First National Pictures when a Corona typewriter appeared in this movie.
- In a bit of self-promotion of a film within a film, First National promoted The Sea Hawk a big hit produced by First National the previous year. A theatre showing a run of the film is seen by the explorers when they return to civilization.
- Willis O'Brien combined animated dinosaurs with live-action footage of human beings, but at first he was able to do this only by separating the frame into two parts (also known as split screen). As work went on, O'Brien's technique grew better and he could combine live-action and stop-motion footage in the same part of the screen.
- In 1922, Conan Doyle showed O'Brien's test reel to a meeting of the Society of American Magicians, which included Harry Houdini. The astounded audience watched footage of a Triceratops family, an attack by an Allosaurus and some Stegosaurus footage. Doyle refused to discuss the film's origins. On the next day, the New York Times ran a front page article about it, saying "(Conan Doyle’s) monsters of the ancient world, or of the new world which he has discovered in the ether, were extraordinarily lifelike. If fakes, they were masterpieces".
- The dinosaurs of this film were based on the artwork of Charles R. Knight.
- Some of the dinosaur models used in the film came into the famous collection of the fantasy lover Forrest J Ackerman. The models were not specially preserved, and with time the rubber dried out and fell to pieces, leaving only the metallic armatures.
- The Lost World became the first film to be shown to airline passengers. This happened in April 1925 on a London-Paris flight by the company Imperial Airways. As film stock of the era was nitrate and highly flammable, this was a risky undertaking on a wood and fabric-hulled plane, a converted World War I bomber, the Handley-Page O 400.
- This was the first feature length film made in the United States, possibly the world, to feature model animation as the primary special effect, or stop motion animation in general.
- This is the first dinosaur-oriented film hit, and it led to other dinosaur movies, from King Kong to the Jurassic Park trilogy.
- American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills - Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 - Nominated Fantasy Film
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