Review: The Land That Time Forgot

Blu-ray: The Land That Time Forgot (1974)

The first time that I watched The Land That Time Forgot was as a 9 year old boy at a single screen cinema in our local town, sat next to my dad. So began a period in my life when Doug McClure was my action hero of the time. Fast forward 44 years and watching this excellent Blu-ray release from Umbrella Entertainment had me grinning from ear to ear like that 9 year old kid all those years ago. I just wish that my dad could have sat next to myself and Tina while we enjoyed every single minute of it…he’s the one responsible for my love of cinema.

It’s WWI and a German U-boat sinks a British ship and the few remaining survivors take refuge on a leaking lifeboat. Stranded at sea with hardly any supplies to sustain them, the survivors see the U-boat surface not too far in front of them. Taking advantage of the element of surprise, they attack the German soldiers as they open the submarines hatches and take control of it. Their control of the submarine doesn’t last long and they soon find themselves having to make a pact with the German officers as they are lost at sea with dwindling supplies and food.

They chance upon an uncharted island which, after a dangerous underwater navigation through twisting tunnels, finds them emerging into a lush world inhabited by a variety of dinosaurs and prehistoric humans. Yes, this really IS ‘The Land That Time Forgot”!

Finding a source of crude oil, their plan is to refine it as best they can into fuel for the submarine, load up on food and water, and then try to return home. Of course, things are not so simple. Battling dinosaurs, primitive man AND a huge volcano which is threatening to erupt at any moment, it is a race against time to leave the island before all hell breaks loose.

As already mentioned, I’m a huge fan of this movie and this is definitely the best that I’ve ever seen it. There are however some caveats to make for those of you who may be new to it.

Eschewing the traditional stop-motion animation techniques of the time as made famous by the likes of Ray Harryhausen, The Land That Time Forgot uses crude puppets for all of their air and land based monsters. Strings are clearly seen as a pterodactyl swoops down and picks a man up in its snapping jaws, while other dinosaurs wiggle around in a stiff and ungainly manner. It wouldn’t have surprised me to see Muffin the Mule trot past in the background. All of this though just adds oodles of charm as the action plays out.

I should also point out, and this only became apparent upon watching it again as a grown adult, that the survivors are complete and utter twats! Many a time they kill dinosaurs, not because they are being attacked by them, it’s more a case of; “look, there’s some dinosaurs in the distance, let’s shoot the shit out of them“. Prehistoric man fares little better either, often being shot at for nothing more than a passing glance. Myself and Tina were in hysterics watching things like this that we hadn’t noticed as kids play out in front of us.

The cast is superb and the always reliable Doug McClure plays his role as Bowen Tyler with an air of bravado which naturally has everyone following his lead. Susan Penhaligon is far more than the sympathetic love interest, and wades into the action with aplomb. Keith Barron as the ships Captain had me forgetting about his character in ‘Duty Free‘ within a few minutes…which is a good thing! John McEnery as the German U-Boot Captain fleshes out a great character arc; going from stoically leading his crew against the British, to a more sympathetic man who wants everyone to leave the island safely. However, it is Anthony Ainley as the German officer ‘Dietz” who steals the movie for me…yes, even above my action hero of the time! He oozes pure evil, and if he had a moustache in this movie, I swear he would twirl it in an intimidating manner. I wanted to yell “BOOOO” and “HISSS” whenever he was onscreen.

The Land That Time Forgot is a lighthearted adventure movie which is fantastic entertainment for all the family. Wean your kids/grandkids off todays CGI fuelled summer blockbusters and show them how your imagination brought far more to the action on the screen than can be shown with computer wizardry. Call me an old git (and many have) but I absolutely LOVE movies like this, and especially this one for all the amazing memories associated with it.

Thank you Umbrella Entertainment for not only releasing The Land Before Time with an absolutely cracking picture, but for also allowing me to become 9 years old again whenever I put it into the Blu-ray player.

Forget the upcoming Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, treat yourself right now to this dinosaur adventure.

Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Umbrella Entertainment.