Film Review: The Lost Continent
Released on DVD 11 January 2010
By Guy Sangster Adams
From the Hammond organ to the fore title track, to the introductory panning shot across the deck of the tramp steamer Corita taking in a surreal mix of characters, from medieval Spanish conquistadores and hessian robed monks, to twentieth century uniformed merchant seaman and a 1960s white roll-neck jumper-ed blonde siren, it is clear that this 1968 Hammer film is not only particularly redolent of that stable and of its times, but also has all the makings of a cult classic. Compounded by the original trailer which is included on the DVD and wonderfully proclaims that viewers will see “monster weed attack helpless beauty,” to say nothing of “giant molluscs, see them fight to the death.”
Though in no way as scary as it might possibly have been 40 plus years ago, The Lost Continent, which was adapted by the director Michael Carreras from Denis Wheatley’s 1938 novel Uncharted Seas, is still a very watchable and enjoyable film, not only with a retro loving, tongue in cheek. The film divides neatly into two halves and two genres, the first a thriller on the high seas as the captain of the Corita, played by Eric Porter, embarks on one last trip from Freetown to Caracas, not only smuggling a cargo of highly dangerous explosives, but also with a whole host of passengers with something to hide and a mutinous crew aboard. A hurricane brings all the secrets to a head and also throws the ship and the film into a world of sci-fi horror, a lost continent in the Sargasso Sea, replete with man eating seaweed, enormous killer crustaceans, and the equally murderous descendants of a Spanish Galleon marooned 500 years earlier.
Of course, as with any film originally released four decades ago the special effects are phenomenally dated, but in this case the datedness adds to the charm of the film. Whilst the release on DVD also affords renewed attention for the soundtrack, not only Gerald Schurmann’s great psychedelic score, but also the theme song by The Peddlers, two thirds of whom were part of Joe Meek’s ‘house band’ The Saints, and who have been recently sampled by genre busting producer, musician, and innovator Luke Vibert.