Robert L. Lippert, shitty film producer extraordinaire, once said of himself (in the third person, no less), “Lippert makes a lot of cheap pictures but he’s never made a stinker.” That is a bunch of bullshit. For proof, one need look no further than 1951’s Lost Continent. It stinks.
Directed by Sam Newfield, brother of another one of the film’s producers (career shitty movie producer Sigmund Neufeld), Lost Continent tells the story of a military expedition that discovers an island of prehistoric flora and fauna in the Pacific while searching for a lost rocket.
Cesar Romero (yes, that Cesar Romero) stars as Air Force Major Joe Nolan, pilot and de facto leader of the expedition. He’s joined by co-pilot Lieutenant Danny Wilson (Chick Chandler); mechanic Sergeant William Tatlow (Sid Melton, whose portrayal drips with WW2 movie cliché); and three scientists who are part of the rocket project, Rostov, Phillips, and Briggs (John Hoyt, Hugh ‘Ward Cleaver’ Beaumont, and Whit Bissell).
They’re expecting to find a dye slick and rocket debris in a remote area of the Pacific. Instead, they find an uncharted island. On approach, all the instruments on their transport plane fail, and the expedition crashes on the island. A native girl (b-movie starlet Acquanetta) points the expedition to a nearby mountain, where she saw a ‘fire bird’ fall from the sky. This is the last we see of Acquanetta. Just about any other film of this sort would have dragged her along for the fun, but not Lost Continent. What we get is one of the most tedious acts in film history.
The expedition makes it to the foot of the mountain, and then they climb it. And we viewers are with them the entire way. Newfield and company built a cliff set for the cast to climb, and they shot them climbing it, over and over, from every angle imaginable. For a third of the entire goddamn film the audience is held captive by this most boring of sequences. Just when one thinks it’s nearing an end, it’s a false summit, just like in real mountain climbing. At one point the soundtrack even seems to give up, cutting out and leaving the cast climbing in stony silence. It’s unbelievable, really. I’ve seen some really poor efforts to pad running time in my journey with shitty cinema, but this is something else. It’s hostile to the viewer — the commission of a fraud. This flick has an 83-minute runtime, which is not long. But it wasn’t uncommon for b-movies of this era to clock in at around an hour. Lost Continent would have been helped tremendously by lopping off a huge chunk of this climbing nonsense.
Once the expedition finally reaches the top, there’s only one act left to show viewers the ‘lost continent.’ It’s jungle, as expected. And there are dinosaurs, also as expected. But Lippert didn’t provide much cash so the dinosaur shots are few. The shots (special effects are credited to Augie Lohman) were done in stop motion, and they’re kind of cute, as if they come from a TV show for toddlers. The dinosaurs aren’t tame, however, providing what little action viewers get.
Eventually the expedition finds the rocket, grabs a hard drive or something, and then CLIMBS BACK DOWN THE MOUNTAIN. By this point I was suffering shellshock. Thank goodness it didn’t take Newfield a half hour to get his cast down the mountain. It was mercifully swift, because there was a movie to wrap up.
It’s the poor pacing that dooms this flick. Because, otherwise, all the ingredients were there for a decent shitty movie experience. The cast was capable, and Romero provided just the right amount of ham. The problem was they were handed little to work with. Lippert didn’t seem to care what was in his production, so long as it got made for pennies. This flick isn’t the first shitty cash grab, and it certainly wasn’t the last, but for its shamelessness and dullness, it drops far down in the Watchability Index, falling to #194, in between Alone in the Dark and Reptilicus.
There is some good news, however. Lost Continent was featured in one of MST3K’s better episodes. If one insists on seeing this flick, find that version.