The Land Unknown

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The Land Unknown

Post  BoG on Thu Mar 04, 2010 2:49 pm

A semi-classic. As far as dinosaurs and lost lands go, you can't really beat this for concepts. I do believe writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a
lot of stuff similar to this premise (memory is fogging over). By using the continent of Antartica, a writer has the ability to create a huge landscape - the lost land may be as big as the USA, for example. The landscape starts out as mist covered, so we don't see any details at first; then there's a big reveal.

The film actually utilized both the T-Rex costume AND blown-up (enlarged) lizards (a la The Lost World/1960), which I'd forgotten about. But the lizards are integrated quite well into the sets. Over at Marvel Comics, their version of a hidden land in this same area was called'The Savage Land,' introduced in 1965 with the character of Ka-Zar, a Tarzan-like hero who dwelled there with his sabretooth tiger, Zabu. They also fought dinosaurs, as well as apemen and the like. Speaking of Tarzan, lead Jock Mahoney, after playing the baddie in the Tarzan movie Tarzan the Magnificent (1960), went on to play Tarzan in a couple of features, Tarzan Goes to India and Tarzan's Three Challenges.

In the next decade, Marvel Comics published a short-lived (8 issues) series titled Skull the Slayer, which also had a very similar premise - modern humans accidentally ending up in a lost land of dinosaurs, though this happened in the Bermuda Triangle and involved time travel.

The Land Unknown is a bit tricky when trying to appraise it fairly, at least for some of us. There are the added factors of nostalgia, childhood memories and so on. But, if we put aside all those, it comes down to, I think, concept and execution. For me, the concept is just terrific. I mentioned my own fondness for Edgar Rice Burroughs and even some Marvel Comics stories which utilized this concept: the lost land, the hidden jungle, the large creatures. In a way, it's kind of hard to mess something like that up. In the execution department, The Land Unknown does OK, maybe even just so-so, probably better than some other films in the fifties with the same concept (Lost Continent) with lower budgets.
The Land That Time Forgot (1975) is at about the same level, with the advantage of color and 18 years of fine-tuning some fake (if still sloppy) dinosaur FX. But, again, I'm a bit more fond of The Land Unknown. Why? Better pace & story? Or more nostalgia? I myself probably make too many allowances for the sometimes sloppy looking/moving T-Rex. Even when I was much younger and first watched this, something about that T-Rex didn't seem right to me. I also got this sense of a soundstage when I watched The Land Unknown years ago. BoG's Score: 5.5 out of 10
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