The Lost World


(8/10) In a nutshell: Although the plot does completely disappear when the dinosaurs enter, this 1925 classic is still as thrilling an adventure as it was when it was released, and Willis O’Brien’s revolutionary stop motion animations still holds up to scrutiny.

The Lost World. 1925, USA. Directed by Harry O. Hoyt. Stop motion sequences directed by Willis O’Brien. Written by Marion Fairfax. Based on the novel by Arthur Conan Doyle. Starring: Wallace Beery, Lloyd Hughes, Bessie Love. Produced by: Earl Hudson (uncredited) for First National Pictures. Tomatometer: 100 %. IMDb score: 7.1

Willis O'Brien's stop-motion Allosaurus in action.

Willis O’Brien’s stop-motion Allosaurus attacking the beautiful Bessie Love.

At some point when reviewing these old silent sci-fi movies it starts getting a little tedious to introduce them as ”the first film to blah blah blah …” But you really can’t help it. During the twenties not many sci-fi films were made, and even fewer before that. Those that were made will almost by default be the first to introduce something. And – if you want a first of something, then few films are as apt as The Lost World. This is the first full length film to feature a lost world, the first full length film with dinosaurs, and stop-motion animator Willis O’Brien’s first involvement in a full length film.

The importance and impact of this film cannot be understated. Without The Lost World we probably wouldn’t have King Kong. We probably wouldn’t have any films by Ray Harryhausen, we probably wouldn’t have all those B-movies of Raquel Welch and the likes in tiny fur bikinis, or Jurassic Park or any Peter Jackson, for that matter. We unfortunately do not have any Peter Jackson in tiny fur bikinis. I would pay a long penny for that. Continue reading

The Ghost of Slumber Mountain

No rating due to partially lost film

In a nutshell: This 1918 short by stop-motion wizard Willis O’Brien is probably the first film to describe time travel, and is a showcase for O’Brien’s marvellous stop-motion dinosaurs. 

The Ghost of Slumber Mountain. 1918, USA. Written & directed by Willis O’Brien (uncredited). Starring Herbert M. Dawley and Willis O’Brien (uncredited). Stop-motion animation my Willis O’Brien (uncredited). Produced by Herbert M. Dawley (falsely credited as writer, director and animator as well). IMDb score: 5.9

Promo still from the film.

Promo still from the film.

I usually don’t review short films when we start getting into the realm close to 1920, but I allow myself a few exceptions when pioneering concepts, themes or techniques are involved. Such a film is 1918/1919 short The Ghost of Slumber Mountain. It is considered by many to be the first film to deal with time travel, and one of the first where special effects pioneer Willis O’Brien (The Lost World, King Kong) combined live action with stop-motion photography. The first one was The Puzzling Billboard (1917), where a goat eats a billboard at the end of the film. It is also essentially the first film to depict a time machine (although that is debatable). O’Brien also wrote and directed the The Ghost of Slumber Mountain, and it was produced by Herbert M. Dawley, who also played the lead as Uncle Jack Holmes. Willis O’Brien plays the ghost of Mad Dick. Continue reading