THE LOST CONTINENT
Hammer Film were at the peak of their success in 1968, having hit a box-office stride with their reworkings of the horror classics beginning a decade earlier with The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958). Throughout the 1960s, they had made a string of sequels to their Dracula and Frankenstein films and a number of other horror works, which had enjoyed great popularity. The Lost Continent is different to most of Hammers other works and should be considered adventure rather than horror. A couple of years earlier, Hammer had created a prehistoric adventure cycle with One Million Years B.C. (1966), which they followed with Michael Carrerass Slave Girl/Prehistoric Women (1967), When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) and Creatures the World Forgot (1971). They had also ventured into the lost city adventure with their version of She (1965). That said, The Lost Continent is a modern film for the most part it has more in common with A Night to Remember (1958) than it does One Million Years B.C. Indeed, the film here essentially created the template of a group of modern or more commonly Victorian travellers encountering a prehistoric world inhabited by monsters and dinosaurs that became a lucrative theme that was mined by Amicus, director Kevin Connor and star Doug McClure a few years later with a series of films The Land That Time Forgot (1975), At the Earths Core (1976), The People That Time Forgot (1977) and Warlords of Atlantis (1978). The premise of a lost corner of the ocean where ships go missing and there is a society made up of descendants from the Conquistadors existing into the present-day almost certainly influenced the Peter Benchley-adapted film The Island (1980), which substituted pirates for Conquistadors but is otherwise similar.
Surprisingly, the titular lost continent doesnt turn up for more than half the running time. (Continent does seem to be stretching the description, as all we have are a few ships stranded in a floating mass of seaweed and a small rocky outcropping). Eric Porter a Hammer regular in films like Hands of the Ripper (1971) and The Thirty-Nine Steps (1978) gives a harsh and domineering performance that has some noted moral ambiguities. (The way Porter is made up, you would swear he is a lost brother of F. Murray Abraham). The dramas aboard the ship hold the interest where all of the characters are crafted with edges that are more interesting than usual, not to mention come with suggestions of backgrounds they are running from and much in the way of backbiting and desperation. (The disappointment of the film is that these backgrounds prove of very little relevance to the rest of the story). There is the even further oddity of a lost world film opening with a folk song on the soundtrack.
With the entry of a tentacled monster with one glowing green eye, The Lost Continent abandons all of this and heads for the realm of the cheesily ridiculous. The effects come out as only slightly better budgeted versions of the tatty creatures in the average Doctor Who (1963-89, 2005 ) episode of the same period. The scenes of two giant mollusc creatures fighting looks like something out of a 1960s/70s era Japanese monster movie. There is a somewhat better monster that El Supremo/Diablo keeps in his hold to throw interlopers to albeit that reminds of the Sarlac in Return of the Jedi (1983). It is probably of some consolation to the film that much of the action in the seaweed sea is covered in mist as that conveniently allows them to prevent the monsters from being fully seen. The images of the orange-lit Sargasso Sea look striking, as is the strange sight of people wading across the seaweed lifted up by balloons and makeshift snowshoes. The world of the Conquistadors when we discover it aboard a sailing ship has an incredible vividity. The complaint might be that the build-up of the film is far more interesting than anything that happens once we reach the Sargasso Sea. The monster scenes never amount to much and the Conquistadors are defeated quickly and then the film is over. You feel like The Lost Continent had the potential to do far much more than that.
The Lost Continent should not be confused with the cheap and unrelated US-made lost world film Lost Continent (1951).
The Lost Continent was one of the handful of occasions when Hammer producer Michael Carreras, grandson of the companys founder, stepped out of a producing role and into the directors chair. The film had started shooting under Leslie Norman, the director of Hammers X the Unknown (1956), but he was fired soon into production. Carreras had directed two of Hammers non-genre war films with The Steel Bayonet (1957) and Visit to Canton (1961) and some of their more staple genre efforts such as the psycho-thriller Maniac (1963), The Curse of the Mummys Tomb (1964) and the prehistoric adventure Slave Girls/Prehistoric Women (1967).