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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 4/20/01



The Lost World
Restored Special Edition - 1925 (2001) - First National Pictures (Image)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

The Lost World: Special Edition (1925) Program Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/B

Specs and Features
93 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), tinted B&W, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary by Roy Pilot (author of The Annotated Lost World), original score by Robert Isreal (in DD 5.1), alternate contemporary score by The Alloy Orchestra (in DD 5.1), animation outtakes (12 mins), production still & art gallery, selected images from the book The Annotated Lost World, collectible booklet reproducing original souvenir program, animated film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (18 chapters), languages: none (music only - see above), subtitles: none

Okay... it's pretty hard not to dig The Lost World. I'm not talking about Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park sequel, I'm talking the ORIGINAL dino epic. 1925 vintage, baby, in all its tinted-B&W glory. Image's new special edition DVD represents a major restoration of the film, and it's a treat for any fan of classic cinema.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First National Picture's original film adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic story tells the tale of one Edward E. Malone, a cub reporter for the London Record-Journal newspaper. Malone (played by Lloyd Hughes, who looks shockingly like a young Charlie Sheen) wants nothing more than to marry his sweetheart, Gladys. But she's reluctant - Gladys, it seems, will only marry a man of "great deeds and strange experiences" (those women - sheesh!). Luckily, all is not lost for poor, love-sick Malone. You see, the great scientist, Professor Challenger, has just returned from the Amazon with a fantastic tale of prehistoric creatures that he claims still exist on a remote jungle plateau. Naturally, without evidence, no one will believe him. But Malone sees his big opportunity, and convinces his paper to fund an expedition back to the Amazon and provide proof of the Professor's claims. Along for the ride are Sir John Roxton (Lewis Stone), the famous hunter, Paula White (Bessy Love), the daughter of a colleague that Challenger left behind in the Amazon and the eminent Professor Summerlee (Arthur Hoyt) who wishes to see these fabled creatures, if they do indeed exist, for himself. As you've probably guessed, this intrepid band will indeed find the dinosaurs that Challenger claims. And Malone will definitely get his chance to look Death in the eye.

The Lost World is an undeniably fun movie. Think of it as one of the original "B" pictures, and you've got the right idea. The film was made just before the advent of movie sound (although orchestral music was written to be performed live at various showings as accompaniment), and it was a sensation in its day. Shot black and white, the film was tinted various colors to represent different times of day and locations. But of course, the dinosaurs were the main attraction. Technical Director Willis H. O'Brien went to great lengths to recreate the creatures on film, pioneering techniques of stop-motion animation that would bring the legendary King Kong to life a few years later. Any way you slice it, The Lost World is a classic.

Interestingly, the film was originally seen in theaters with a running time of approximately 104 minutes. Shortly after its release, however, it was cut down to a little over an hour in length, and has been seen in that form ever since. The deleted footage was presumed lost to time. Recently, though, a cut was found in the Czech Republic that included much (but not quite all) of the original footage. And so, using portions of 8 original source prints to obtain the optimum quality (along with the film's original shooting script as a guide), Image Entertainment has produced this version on DVD, which represents about a 90% restoration of the original film (the new running time is 94 minutes) and which is considered to be the most complete restoration possible.

Given that this film is some 76 years old, the full frame image quality is surprisingly good. Certain scenes are obviously clearer than others, owing to the different source prints. And you'll certainly see plenty of film grain, some dust and dirt, and plenty of scratches on the print (although as much of these artifacts as possible was reportedly cleaned away digitally after the transfer). All that aside, I was still surprised at the overall quality. It's certainly watchable, and the film is obviously in better condition here than its been for some time. Again, this is not true B&W - the footage is tinted to signify time and location (as was the case on the original prints) and that's been restored too. If you go into this expecting that you're going to see an old film, that still looks old on home video (DVD can't work miracles), and you'll have the right mindset.

The audio on this DVD is provided in 2 versions - a newly-written and recorded orchestral score (in Dolby Digital 5.1) recorded by The Alloy Orchestra, and Robert Isreal's original score (in Dolby Digital 2.0). Both are good, although the new 5.1 music is a little synthesizer-heavy at times and includes sometimes cheesy sound effects to match the on-screen action (the rear channels are mostly used for ambience). The original score is definitely the one I preferred.

Extras on the special edition include a decent audio commentary by Lost World historian and expert Roy Pilot, author the book The Annotated Lost World. He certainly knows his facts, and has plenty of them to relate, but there are occasionally large gaps in the commentary. Still, what he has to say is interesting enough to forgive the periodic lapses. You also get something which I think is very cool - some 12 minutes of animation outtakes from the original production, which were found in the 1990s in the Warner stock footage archive. Some of it was clearly shot to test the stop-motion process and puppets, and other clips were mistakes. But it's all fascinating to see. Also included is a gallery of production photos and artwork, and another gallery with selected images from the aforementioned book, The Annotated Lost World. Finally, you get an insert booklet reproduction of the film's original souvenir program - a very nice touch.

For a film that's over 75 years old, this is a surprisingly good special edition. In fact, I'm trying to think of another DVD special edition that's been done of a film this old, and I'm having a hard time coming up with anything other than Image's recent Nosferatu. What that tells me is that Image is working hard to preserve these important classics on DVD for us to appreciate for generations to come. And they're doing a nice job of it. Definitely recommended.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com




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