12/9/06

208 Lost Continent

(1951, SciFi, b&w)

You ever fly one of these before?

Rating: *1/2

In a nutshell:

Pilots and scientists brave a dinosaur-infested swamp to recover a missing rocket.

Summary:

It's hard to tell at this resolution, but if you look closely you'll see Cesar Romero grabbing Sid Melton's butt.A thin-lipped Russian-American scientist loses the first ever atomic rocket somewhere in the South Pacific. He and his scientist buddies, Hugh Beaumont and a mousy guy named Briggs, get a pair of air force pilots and a painfully goofy mechanic (played by monkey boy Sid Melton) to help them track it down.

During the search massive radiation of unknown origin kills the electrical system on the plane. They crash on an uncharted island, and are directed to the “sacred mountain” by natives whose complete mastery of the English language is marred only by their inability to use articles and personal pronouns.

So they climb the mountain. And they grab Sid Melton’s butt to hoist him up a cliff. And they climb the mountain. The main pilot (Cesar Romero, a.k.a. The Joker from the Adam West Batman series) nearly passes out from poison gas. And they climb the mountain. They stop to camp in the rain and see a giant iguana. Next morning they get up and, guess what? They climb the mountain. The mousy guy falls to his death, and Cesar Romero doubts Thin-lips’ loyalties. And they climb the mountain. They jump across an unseen but tiny crevasse. And they climb the mountain. Eons pass. And they climb the mountain.

As you may have guessed, the above section occupies the bulk of the film.

When they finally reach the top, they find it to be a wide plateau covered with a lush plastic jungle set. They wander around and whine and climb rocks for a long time. They get attacked by stop-motion dinosaurs (brontosaurus and triceratops) but drive them off with their rifles. During one of the dinosaur incidents, Thin-lips proves his loyalty by saving Hugh Beaumont from certain death.

When they finally find the rocket, a triceratops gores Sid Melton while the others recover the guidance systems. At this point, and for no discernable reason, the whole island starts to shake itself to pieces. Though it took them two days to climb the mountain, the survivors scramble back down in just a few minutes, amidst a hail of dust and boulders. They run through the abandoned native village, jumping over crevasses that appear at their feet. Arriving at the beach, they steal an outrigger and watch as the whole island crumbles into dust and disappears into the ocean. Thin-lips grimly reflects that they will probably die out in the open sea, and then the end credits roll.

Introduction:

Hugh Beaumont, horseman of the apocalypse.Joel talks the experiment up to the ‘Bots like a coach before the big game.

Host Segment One:

Joel wraps up his little pep talk while the Mads call up to say, “rock climbing” in menacing tones. Frank demonstrates the mobile treadmill and shows schematics for a stair machine that takes you to upper floors while you climb it. Joel has something with plastic tubing on it, but the Mads don’t leave enough time for him to tell us what it is.

Host Segment Two:

Hugh Beaumont (played by Mike Nelson) flies up to the Satellite in his suburban house-shaped ship and shows up in black and white in the Hexfield Viewscreen. In his amiably paternal way he gives Joel and the ‘Bots a stern talking to about making fun of other people’s movies. Then, while lighting his pipe with a two-foot flame, he declares himself one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, bent on destroying the earth for their crime. The satellite crew easily talks him out of it with a really whiny apology, liberally peppered with the word, “golly.”

Host Segment Three:

The Satellite of Love presents “Quinn Martin’s The Explorers.” Joel puts on a pith helmet and talks down to Tom and Crow, who play articulate natives. Upon hearing Joel’s stilted dialogue, Crow says, “You’re high, aren’t you?”

Host Segment Four:

Joel and the ‘Bots look out the window at something really cool. They talk at length about how cool it is.

Host Segment Five:

Joel and the ‘Bots sit in director’s chairs and dispense little know facts about the film, as if they were introducing the afternoon movie of the week. Then they read a letter. Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank gloat.

Stinger:

The co-pilot snuggles up to Hugh Beaumont and delivers an overlong sarcastic tirade.

Thoughts:

Sid Melton, moments away from a triceratops-induced death.The Mads said, “rock climbing” a lot while introducing this film, and boy did they mean it. Take out all the rock climbing sequences without dialogue, and you’re left with maybe a fifteen to twenty minute film. I might be exaggerating to a certain extent, but not by much.

Excuse me, I have to rant at the film and its creators for a moment.

Okay, where’s my tyrannosaurus rex? When I see a stop motion dinosaur movie I expect the king of all dinosaurs. Sure, the brontosaurus is big, and the triceratops has horns, but even my four-year-old knows that both of them are peaceful plant-eaters. Why bother with herbivores when you could have a big slavering T-Rex chasing them across the screen?

Oh, and why would the U.S. government send the only three men in the world capable of building an atomic rocket on a dangerous mission with just two grumpy air force men and an insane grease monkey to protect them? What’s with the “unrefined radiation isn’t dangerous” crap? Why the traitorous Russian red herring, and why, oh why is there so much rock climbing in a film that isn’t about rock climbing?

Thanks, I feel better now.

Despite the minimal amount of material given to them by this episode’s film, they still managed to make fairly interesting host segments. Frank’s idea to create mobile stationary exercise equipment is funny, as is the sketch ridiculing the stereotypical white man-native relationship portrayed in the film. The pep talk and the “little known fact” sketch are okay, but my favorite by far is Mike Nelson’s bizarre but hilarious portrayal of the Hugh Beaumont from hell.

Though the film gives them almost nothing to work with for long stretches of time, Joel and the ‘Bots keep their energy up in this episode remarkably well. Unfortunately, during these periods they’re mostly just reduced to saying, “Rock climbing, Joel (or Crow, or Tom), rock climbing.” To which the party addressed will helplessly reply, “Yes, rock climbing,” and attempt a joke about the musical score if it’s playing. At one point Crow asks why we have to watch all this footage of them climbing the mountain, to which Joel replies, “Because it’s there.” The episode’s not as bad as I’m making it sound here, and it’s certainly not as bad as such tests of stamina as “Manos, the Hands of Fate,” and “Red Zone Cuba,” but it’s not an episode that I’d watch again on purpose.