The Lost Continent (1968) 

Hammer's X-rated adventure film based on a book by Dennis Wheatley is failed by a very poor scipt and editing. E-M-S German R2 DVD.

The Film

A tramp steamer heading from Africa to Venezuela carrying a cargo of explosives and a collection of passengers with secrets to hide. Not far off the coast the hull is holed and the crew become concerned. With a heavy storm in the air, the generator on the blink and the pumps failing, the crew try and abandon ship, but the passengers refuse to leave; the captain fires on the mutineers but they manage to escape on one of the life-boats. Eventually the passengers themselves have to leave the ship on the lifeboat and sail around in the storm, but come full circle and find their ship again, stuck in some sort of living, carniverous seaweed. The weed drags them into a strange orange-misted area of sea and the passengers find themselves under attack from a marooned legion of Spanish Insquisitioners and a number of bizarre beasts.

After their popular U-rated fantasy films
She (1965) and One Million Years B.C. (1966), Hammer set out to make a more adult adventure film loosely based on Dennis Wheatley novel Uncharted Seas (which one of passengers is seen reading, see the picture above!).

The film starts off very strong, a brief and mysterious opening heralds the flash-back that is the rest of the film. The characters of the passengers are built up enough that the film could easily have stood as a maritime drama. The crew's rebellion seems to happen pretty quickly, and no-one seems to react to the captain gunning down and drowning half his crew. This sadly sets the tone for the rest of the film -  everything seems very rushed, and the passengers are never particularly bothered by anything. The damage the ship had sustained is forgotten about, as is the passenger's concern over the explosive cargo, they even seem quite unsurprised to find their ship again while the fate of the muntineers is completely forgotten about. The final third, as the passengers reach the Sargasso sea is rushed and completely undeveloped; reportedly the film was far over budget and had to be cut short. The ending is a nice but predictable climax. Even the title is quite the misnomer, no Continent is ever seen, and we never even see the islands mentioned. Ultimately the plot teases of much, but is far too short to deliver, a TV mini-series, in the style of Lost (2004) would be needed to do justice to all the issues and questions raised here.

The production is, for the budget, impressive. The model ships look good, and the ship sets look authentic - even the monsters are well shot, the fog keeping them mostly obscured. As though to compound the rushed script, the film also suffers from poor editing that make a lot of sequences confusing - as the mutinous crew row away, the scene cuts away far too fast so we never actually see what happens to them, it often appears that the film was heavily cut down to reduce run-time. Even the music is far from impressive, the orchestral scores are good and tension building, but we could do without some cheesy electronic-organ music or a crooning song to open.

Few of the usual Hammer cast are present here. Christopher Lee was apparently to play the role of the hooded Grand Inquistor, which was eventually played by his regular stunt-man Eddie Powell, which again suggests that the film should have been much longer (Lee is unlikely to have played a role with such brief screen-time and few lines). Eric Porter (who would later crop up in Hammer's Hands of the Ripper (1971)) looks good as the captain, and there are some good looking females to observe, although Dana Gillespie as island girl Sarah doesn't get enough screentime. Hammer regular Michael Ripper gets a typical background role, although with several lines of dialogue.

Overall, The Lost Continent is a very poor film - the script is completely rushed and wasted and the editing only compounds it. On the plus side, the film looks pretty good, and the acting is decent enough. Not recommended except to Hammer completists.

In Brief

Anyone famous in it? No-one of note
Directed by anyone interesting? Michael Carreras - normally a producer, he also directed Hammer's Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1964)
Any gore? A little blood and several violent deaths.
Any sex? None.
Who is it for?
Hammer completists only.
Good soundtrack? A decent orchestral score, with some poor electronic organ mid-points.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 widescreen (might have been shown 1.66:1 in Europe). Anamorphically enhanced. Colour.
The disc is strong visually, good colours, some grain but minimal print damage in most scenes. Some scenes have a much lower quality (see: cut?)
Audio English and German language mono audio.
The audio is decent throughout.
Subtitles German and German HOH.
Run-timeFeature: 1hr 32m 52s (PAL)
Extras The disc includes:
  • Original English trailer, appears to be cropped from fullscreen (2m 39s)
  • TV spots, black and white (0m 51s + 0m 28s)
  • Interview with Eddie Powell (Christopher Lee stuntman who appeared briefly in this film) taped in 1998 at Festival of Fantastic Films, Manchester. (50m 09s) optional German subs.
  • An extensive gallery of posters, lobby cards and publicity stills with soundtrack backing (8m 50s)
  • Shots German pressbook of the film (2m22s)
  • Liner notes (German).
AvailabilityGerman release. DVD Title: Bestien lauern vor Caracas
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? American R1 disc and Spanish R2, this has the most features.
Cuts? This print includes the sequences cut from the US print, although in slightly lower quality than the rest of the print.
As originally submitted to the BBFC this film was 103 minutes long, the whereabouts of the other scenes is unknown.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 28th March 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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