Animal Attack Movies: The Lost World



The Lost World (1925)

Here's the original claymation dinosaur movie. A group of explorers find a plateau with relict populations of dinosaurs and ape-men. Doyle stayed hip to the latest research and, as Victorian sensationalists go, was pretty accurate about his animals. He's best known as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, but also wrote tales about a cave bear, a jaguar, a gigantic python, and a venomous snake trained to kill. Yes, I said he was accurate by Victorian standards, but that isn't saying much. A modern biologist would scoff at the idea of gigantic animals surviving on a plateau, because giants don't usually do well in isolated geography.

Anyway, Doyle didn't make the film, he only wrote the book. And the filmmakers weren't too invested in this accuracy stuff. Animator Willis O'Brien, however, has a fine eye for the motions of animals. 

Attack Quotient: High. Lots of dinosaurs, plus some ape-man action. 

Cheese Factor: Also high.

5 comments:

  1. This is one of the few VERY old movies I really liked- the part with the sauropod rampaging through the city was my favorite by far :D

    Then again, I read the novel when I was a kid and has always been one of my absolute faves...

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  2. Doyle had a great eye for animal behavior, as when his Allosaurus goes sniffing after prey.

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  3. Always was a big fan of Doyle's thrillers; I got into him, as so many do, through Holmes but quickly discovered his other stuff was excellent too. He even writes a story where a seance conjures up a live unicorn and the animal goes rampaging through the house, stomps on somebody's hand and breaks it, and creates havoc. (I wonder if the author of Jumanji ever read that one.)

    However, some giants--make that giant reptiles--have done well in isolated geography: the Galapagos and Aldabra tortoises; certain populations of the reticulated python, and of course, last but by no means least, the Komodo dragon. So we shouldn't write Doyle off as completely off the wall here (although I think when the Lost World went to press, Komodo dragons were not yet known to Western science.)

    This python tale--do you recall the name of it? Also, who could forget Holmes's encounter with the lion's mane jellyfish?

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  4. I don't mean to bash Doyle, despite my snarky tone; he was up on the most of the latest discoveries of his day. Few knew about what we now call island biogeography in 1912, when he published The Lost World. It was only a glimmer in the work of Alfred Russell Wallace, waiting for the scientific establishment to finally understand it. It's only time and the advance of science that has made some of Doyle's ideas quaint.

    I have recently been putting together a collection of Victorian animal stories, and I'm noticing more and more that Doyle had an amazing eye for animals, for their small gestures and big behaviors. I really think he has no peer as an animal-writer in that era, except HG Wells.

    His python story is called "The Fiend of the Cooperage." In case anybody's interested, the other stories mentioned by James and me above are:
    "The Terror of Blue John Gap" (cave bear)
    "A Brazilian Cat" (jaguar)
    "Adventure of the Speckled Band" (venomous snake trained to kill)
    "Playing with Fire" (unicorn at a seance)
    "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane" (jellyfish).

    All of these are terrific stories. Highly recommended.

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