Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.
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My name: Brian Martin
If characters were real people, Lord John Roxton would have sued Irwin Allen for defamation of character. A real hero in the book, he is reduced in the film to a self-involved ladies man who once left others to die because he wanted to get laid.
This is but one mistake among many that Allen makes. Another is the inclusion of Jill St. John, a woman who boasts early on that she can out-ride and out-shoot any man she knows, but who is a burden from the moment she steps off the helicopter onto the titular prehistoric plateau. Very much the stereotypical ditsy female, she even brings her poodle along. As well as her younger brother, to whom she sells the trip as an opportunity for fun.
Worse still, since this is a movie about finding prehistoric life and dinosaurs in particular, Allen eschews stop-motion special effects for live animals. Hence, we have an iguanodon played by an iguana with horns glued to its head, a stegosaurus played by a monitor lizard with various appendages of its own, and so on. When Challenger first catches a glimpse of the iguana, he tells his companions he thinks it might have been a brontosaurus! It's all less convincing than The Giant Gila Monster, which at least produced one of the great MST3K episodes. Oh, and there's also a giant green-glowing tarantula.
The tarantula scene does have one saving grace, an opportunity to look past it at Vitina Marcus, an American actress of intriguing beauty (being of Sicilian and Hungarian descent), who plays a native girl captured by the explorers.
The actors aren't bad here -- Claude Rains as Challenger, Michael Rennie as Roxton, David Hedison as reporter Edward Malone, and Fernando Llamas as a South America guide -- but they've got nothing to work with. Their best scenes all take place at the beginning of the film, before they ever get to the silly plateau.