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Film / The Lost World

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"My brontosaurus has escaped. Keep off the streets until I recapture it." —Professor Challenger

The Lost World is a 1925 silent film directed by Harry O. Hoyt. It is an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 book of the same name.

The movie was produced by First National Pictures, a large Hollywood studio at the time,note  and stars Wallace Beery as Professor Challenger. This version was directed by Harry O. Hoyt and featured pioneering stop motion special effects by Willis O'Brien (an invaluable warm-up for his work on the original King Kong (1933) directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack). Writer Doyle appears in a frontispiece of the film. In 1998, the film was deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

Every movie featuring dinosaurs, from the Godzilla movies to Jurassic Park owes a nod to this film, as it was the Trope Codifier for dinosaurs as movie monsters. Even King Kong (1933) can be seen as a remake of The Lost World with a giant ape instead of a Brontosaurus.

Not to be confused with the 1997 movie The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which borrows quite a few plot points of The Lost World nonetheless.

This film provides examples of:

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder
  • Adapted Out: The traitorous "half-breeds" Gomez and Manuel, and the entire backstory about Roxton having killed Gomez's brother. Gomez may have appeared in the deleted sequence involving the cannibal tribe, however.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Gladys' last name is changed from Hungerton to Hungerford, and the man she marries while Malone is away, named William Potts in the novel, has been rechristened Percy Potts here in the movie.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Professor Challenger is more of an adventurer paleontologist.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: An Agathaumas kills an Allosaurus in battle, only to fall victim to the bigger and more powerful Tyrannosaurus.
  • Anachronism Stew: Various species of prehistoric animals from different periods coexist in the plateau, including the Late Jurassic Brontosaurus and Allosaurus, the Late Cretaceous Trachodon, Triceratops and Pteranodon, and a primitive hominid, which evolved in the Pliocene.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Real spectacled bears live in the Andes Mountains and are much larger than the tiny cubs identified as full-grown spectacled bears in the movie.
  • Ascended Extra: Challenger's butler Austin joins the expedition; in the novel, he's barely seen.
  • Beast Man: An Apeman that looks like a hairy human with sharp teeth stalks the expedition on the plateau and causes some trouble.
  • Behemoth Battle: The film features plenty of stop motion dinosaur fights. An Allosaurus gets to fight a Trachodon, a mother Triceratops and an Agathaumas (which is treated as a separate species from Triceratops). The last one kills the Allosaurus, only to be killed by an even bigger Tyrannosaurus rex.
  • Berserk Button: Reporters for Prof. Challenger.
  • Blackface: Zambo, the black expedition member, is played by white actor Jules Cowles in blackface makeup. This was 1925, when blackface wasn't seen as offensive yet by the general public.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Challenger.
  • Break the Cutie: Paula is teased with the possibility that her father might still be alive, then falls for Malone, only for her father's bones to be found later and Ed to have a fiance.
  • Bridge Logic: The expedition gets to the plateau from another cliff by crossing a cut-down tree, which then gets tossed down by a Brontosaurus, trapping them on the plateau.
  • Bring It Back Alive: The expedition brings back a Brontosaurus that survived the volcanic eruption.
  • Call to Adventure: Malone, who's looking for a way to prove himself as a real man, boldly accepts Professor Challenger's invitation to journey to the depths of the Amazon.
  • Cannibal Tribe: Appears in a deleted scene.
  • Canon Foreigner: Maple White was given a daughter, Paula, as a love interest for Roxton (and then Malone who unintentionally steals her from him). While she's a typical passive female for most of the expedition, she plays a crucial role in how they escape the plateau: by calling Jocko the monkey, who carries a rope ladder up for them.
  • Cringe Comedy: When Malone goes into his employer's office looking for a dangerous assignment, he immediately spills a bottle of ink all over a desk covered in papers, tries and fails to clean it up with a handkerchief, which he then wipes his face with, covering himself in ink as well, and on his way out he slips and falls headfirst through a closed door.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: The whole reason Malone went on the expedition was to impress Gladys, who marries Percy Potts while he's away. He does however win the hand of Paula - but since Paula was engaged to Roxton, now it's Roxton who doesn't get the girl.
  • Dumb Dinos: Zig-zagged. Most of the dinos spend their screentime attacking and killing each other and humans, including the herbivorous Brontosaurus (though it only attacks humans during its rampage in London, which actually would be a realistic scenario for a large animal in a place it would find unsettling). The Allosaurus, for example, goes on to attack a Triceratops (and gets injured in the process) immediately after it has killed and eaten a Trachodon. The Tyrannosaurus also goes on to kill a Pteranodon after having killed an Agathaumas. However, the dinos are shown to be quite agile and lively, and a moment with a mother Triceratops and her young averts the trope, as the mother makes sure to hide the baby from the Allosaurus before confronting the predator.
  • Escaped Animal Rampage: May have been Trope Maker as far as monster movies are concerned.
  • Frazetta Man: The expedition is stalked by a rather monstrous-looking hominid portrayed by an actor in a furry suit and makeup, and his buddy who's just a normal chimpanzee.
  • Funetik Aksent: The dialogue cards for the expedition members Austin and Zambo are misspelled to represent their accents.
  • Gentle Giant Sauropod:
    • Challenger describes the Brontosaurus as "perfectly harmless". Subverted later in the movie, as the Bronto is forced to defend itself from an Allosaurus, and after it is taken to London, the sauropod panics and goes on a rampage.
    • Subverted with the Brachiosaurus during the eruption scene, where it fights with a Tyrannosaurus and chases away a Stegosaurus.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: Lord John Roxton is this, combined with Great White Hunter. He's a well-mannered gentleman and a famous big game hunter. He's also willing to let Paula go, despite having feelings for her, when she reveals she is in love with Malone.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: This seems to be reason why Roxton lets Paula go when she professes her love for Malone.
  • Improbable Taxonomy Skills: The explorers are able to identify the dinosaurs to the precise genus all while looking at them from a distance, despite them only having seen dino skeletons so they should not know precisely what the real versions would look like—especially considering the millions of years of evolution in the interval, as well as the fact that only a handful of dinos had been discovered back then anyway. (To say nothing of feathers.)
  • Intrepid Reporter: Edward Malone joins Challenger's expedition to write a story that will impress his fiancée.
  • Kaiju: The very first. That Brontosaurus going on a destructive rampage through London was such a trendsetter. It predates King Kong (1933) by 8 years and Gojira by 29.
  • Living Dinosaurs: Might be the first film example of this trope. Surviving dinosaurs are discovered in the eponymous Lost World.
  • Lost World: A film adaptation of the Trope Namer book. The eponymous Lost World is a plateau in the South American jungle, inhabited by various prehistoric animals.
  • Mama Bear: The mother Triceratops protects her calf from the Allosaurus.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: The plateau is in South America, but most of its inhabitants are species from North America. Along with an African chimpanzee (though it's probably meant to be some sort of prehistoric ape, played by a chimp).
  • Public Domain: While certain restored versions of the movie are owned by the organizations that oversaw them, the heavily-edited 60-minute version is in the public domain and can be found for free in many places online, including Wikipedia of all places, usually without color tinting and featuring generic music.
  • Roar Before Beating: In a silent film, no less! In what might be the Ur-Example in film, Allosaurus is stalking a grazing Trachodon, but instead of pouncing on it, it roars at it from behind, as if it was challenging it for a fight.
  • Skewed Priorities: Summerlee, who stops during the log crossing to examine and capture a beetle, briefly holding the expedition up.
  • Staircase Tumble: As in the novel, the tussling Challenger and Malone tumble down the front steps of the Professor's home.
  • Stock Dinosaur Archetypes: Arguably the Trope Maker given its release in 1925 and the first movie to show them in a good variety, the dinosaurs are mostly stereotyped as territorial and aggressive, as shown with Allosaurus, Agathaumas, and Tyrannosaurus. Trachodon and Triceratops is more sympathetically portrayed, though the former only serves to be killed and eaten (oddly also shared with Pteranodon) while the latter is a mother defending her calf. Finally, the Brontosaurus is seen attacking humans, though this only takes place when the dinosaur is taken to London, meaning that it's likely the sauropod is lashing out due to being in unfamiliar lands and acting out of distress and panic.
  • Team Pet: Jocko is a pet capuchin monkey who accompanies the expedition.
  • Terrifying Tyrannosaur: The first major film example. While Allosaurus is the film's main predator and described by Challenger as "the most vicious pest", it is Tyrannosaurus that establishes itself as the dominant predator by killing an Agathaumas that gored an Allosaurus to death.
  • Terror-dactyl: The first prehistoric creature shown in the film is a massive Pteranodon that grabs a peccary with its beak and carries it to its perch to eat.