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The Lost Continent (1968)

Anyone looking for a repeat of the successful Hammer and Dennis Wheatley partnership on show during 1968's classy Devil Rides Out in the barking Lost Continent is going to leave the place sadly disappointed - however, if what you're after is a dry run for the Amicus 70 s dino-crapfests The Land That Time Forgot etc, then you're in for a high old time…

The Lost Continent is bizarre - a mishmash of boat-set soap opera-cum-disaster movie (a la The Poseidon Adventure), science fiction lost civilisation rubbish, and killer seaweed-on-the-loose nonsense that defies belief. Whether it's a bona fide horror film is a debatable point - but a quick look at the posters for the thing reveal that back in the late 60s, what would these days be seen as a laughably poor kiddie's film actually qualified for an X certificate!

However, one thing lifts the film from the depths of mediocrity. Well, two things. Well, to put it bluntly, a couple of sets of two things, which belong to the respective fronts of Suzannah Leigh (who's never looked more fetching than here) and the astonishingly buxom Dana Gillespie. In fact, "buxom" is too underwhelming a word for what's attempting to escape from Ms Gillespie's straining blouse throughout the proceedings. And when you factor in that this was in the days before silicon implants (presumably), the one thing the movie does prompt you to do is give Mother nature three cheers.

The Lost Continent almost qualifies as a "lost" Hammer film - not as famous as their bikini cavewomen output, not lumped in with the horror, not shown at 4pm on a winters' Saturday like their "comedy" films (oh my God they're showing On The Buses again! It was only on a fortnight ago…)

It's a slice of 60s kitsch which fails to interest anyone, as it falls so resolutely between every genre Hammer made a success of that no-one's bothered about it. But in the interests of completism…

The whole thing's told in flashback, as the captain of a tramp steamer (Eric Porter, sans Hands Of The Ripper beard) wonders "How did we get here?" as he conducts a funeral on-board with a bunch of "modern" people (wearing fisherman's jumpers) and what looks suspiciously like the Monty Python Spanish Inquisition team.

We join the back story as the ship evades customs. Why? Well, get this for a reason - the hold is packed full of comedy explosive which will go off if it gets wet. None of the passengers are that bothered about the customs evasion, however, as they all have little secrets they'd rather the authorities didn't find out about. After some high-jinks with the anchor, the hull gets holed and the explosives start getting wet. The crew mutiny, but don't get very far (Porter shoots one and the unfortunate chap ends up getting caught up in a winch and dies, messily). It's then announced that there's a hurricane a-comin', so everyone pitches in to help move the explosives somewhere less damp. All the fighting and peril is taking second place, however, to an extremely distracting cocktail dress being worn by Ms Leigh. Just when you think things can't get any better, she gets sopping wet! Ah…

Now, where was I? Sorry. But for anyone who's not seen the film, her outfit is a testament to the waterproof properties of double-sided sticky tape, and, it has to be said, keeping an eye on it is about the most enjoyable part of the proceedings so far.

The hurricane hits, and the crew end up adrift in a lifeboat in shark-infested seas, still squabbling. After losing one person to the sharks, another gets offed by the flesh-eating seaweed they've drifted into (not a huge amount of luck going on here), and if that wasn't enough, on finding the ship again (bit of an odd storyline, this - it hardly seemed worth them abandoning it in the first place) they then get attacked by a killer octopus, which drags an oily Phil Lynott look-alike to his doom (he takes ages to die, which is reasonably amusing - "Aagh! Ugh! Aagh! Ugh!"). The ship is fouled up in the seaweed, which drags it off to a ships' graveyard, where they're approached by a girl with tennis racquets on her feet and two balloons strapped to her shoulders (and what looks like two more shoved down her top - ie Dana Gillespie has arrived, hoorah!).

"Save yourselves!" she shouts. "They've come to kill you!"

No, not her breasts - she's talking about the men following her. Yes, as if there wasn't enough plot in this mental film to fill at least two others, now we find out that:

a. This place they've ended up in is home to a bunch of pirates and conquistadors, who have been there for hundreds of years worship a young prince called El Supremo, and get around on top of the seaweed aided by their balloons / racquets contraptions. It's a sad fact that whilst making my notes I actually wrote "I wasn't expecting the Spanish Inquisition";


b. After the sharks, the seaweed and the octopus, the crew now have to cope with enormous man-eating crabs too (although they're not exactly the most terrifying creations ever committed to celluloid).

As mental films go, The Lost Continent ranks as one of the mental-est. Whether that's a good or a bad thing is entirely a matter of taste, although I did warm to it in the action-packed final few scenes. When I managed to tear my shallow, typically male gaze away from the brace of beauties on show (and I'm talking about both the women, not just Gillespie), I noticed that Tony Beckley was there too, giving a reasonable performance as a drunk who swears off the booze after accidentally feeding Leigh's father to the sharks.

"The rum is strictly for emergencies!" shouts an angry Porter after discovering that Beckley's made a beeline for the supply on the lifeboat. "And what makes you think that my hangover isn't an emergency?" comes the louche reply (we've all been there, Tony).

And let's face it, where else are you going to hear respected thesp Eric Porter say: "I'm not praying to any man, let alone a child who isn't old enough to wipe his own bottom!"

Last updated: February 24, 2010

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The Lost Continent

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