Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It can only be one thing – Prehistoric!

In the Seventies, producer John Dark and director Kevin Connor made a series of fantasy adventure movies based on and/or inspired by the works of pulp writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan. These films (all starring beefy TV cowboy Doug McClure) were The Land That Time Forgot, The People That Time Forgot, At The Earth's Core and Warlords of Atlantis.

The other night, I re-watched The People That Time Forgot.

People, American International Pictures' sequel to the Amicus Studios-produced The Land That Time Forgot, was released in the Summer of 1977. A square-jawed aviator played by Patrick Wayne, son of John, and star of the same year's Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger, leads an expedition to the prehistoric island of Caprona in search of adventurer Doug McClure, still marooned there after the events of the previous film. The expedition consists of Wayne, his mechanic (Shane Rimmer; The Spy Who Loved Me), a female reporter (Sarah Douglas; Superman 2), and a paleontologist (character actor Thorley Walters). After their biplane is forced down by an attacking pterodactyl, the adventurers discover a beautiful cavegirl (the gorgeous Dana Gillespie, below) who eventually leads them to Skull Mountain and the evil, samurai-like Nagas who have McClure locked away in their skeleton-strewn dungeon.

People is a full-blooded, old-fashioned Saturday matinee adventure, with vicious cavemen, clunky dinosaurs, an evil Tor Johnson lookalike, volcanic eruptions, swordplay and plenty of heroic deering-do. As in Sinbad, Wayne makes an acceptable, if not particularly charismatic, hero, while Douglas, an underrated actress who's appeared in tons of fantasy films, makes the most of her spunky girl reporter role. Gillespie provides the eye-candy, and Walters and Rimmer provide solid support. McClure, who shows up late in the film, looks a little tired of these cut-rate lost world epics, but acquits himself adequately.

The production design and special effects have a charming, nostalgic cheesiness about them, with obvious matte paintings, miniatures and mechanical monsters adding to the cliffhanging fun. Although primitive by today's high-tech standards, I'll take this kind of hand-crafted filmmaking over today's CGI-dominated 3D toons any day. The photography is magnificent, making good use of the rugged, prehistoric-looking locations, and the score by John Scott is rousing, if a bit sparse.

The Land That Time Forgot and People That Time Forgot were released as a double feature DVD by MGM Home Video some years ago as part of their marvelous, consumer-friendly "Midnight Movies" line, and might still be available from some retailers. The disc is bare-bones – just the two movies and their theatrical trailers – but the widescreen transfers are beautiful.

3 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Yeah, I liked these movies. Great books too.

Rip Jagger said...

I picked the double-feature dvd from Amazon just a few months back and enjoyed both flicks. I'd never seen People that Time Forgot before, and it's just like you say, a mildly cheesy Saturday afternoon romp. Great film no, great entertainment yes.

El Vox said...

I'd seen People Time Forgot on hulu.com not too long back, and enjoyed it. I'd wondered where I'd seen Sarah Doughlas before & went to imbd to see what all she'd starred in. I guess she's a SF fan as she has been in many features. It's a fun film, one that I wouldn't mind owning, and I agree about CGI being overused these days.