• MT VOID, 07/15/22 -- Vol. 41, No. 3, Whole Number 2232

    From evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Sun Jul 17 07:10:05 2022
    07/15/22 -- Vol. 41, No. 3, Whole Number 2232

    Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, mleeper@optonline.net
    Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, eleeper@optonline.net
    Sending Address: evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com
    All material is the opinion of the author and is copyrighted by the
    author unless otherwise noted.
    All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for
    inclusion unless otherwise noted.

    To subscribe or unsubscribe, send mail to eleeper@optonline.net
    The latest issue is at <http://www.leepers.us/mtvoid/latest.htm>.
    An index with links to the issues of the MT VOID since 1986 is at <http://leepers.us/mtvoid/back_issues.htm>.

    Why Michael Dirda Misses the Old DC Comics (pointer)
    Six Lost Worlds: The Dramatic Adaptations of Sir Arthur
    Conan Doyle's Novel (Part 1) (film comments
    by Mark R. Leeper)
    Changes to "Star Wars" Films (and Others) (letters
    of comment by Peter Trei, Gary McGath,
    and Tim Merrigan)
    This Week's Reading (THE LOST WORLD) (book and film
    comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


    TOPIC: Why Michael Dirda Misses the Old DC Comics (pointer)

    "Marvel superheroes get a spiffy update. Still, I miss my old DC



    TOPIC: Six Lost Worlds: The Dramatic Adaptations of Sir Arthur
    Conan Doyle's Novel (Part 1) (film comments by Mark R. Leeper)

    [Given the choice of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's THE LOST WORLD (book
    and 1925 film) for our book-and-film discussion group this month,
    this seemed like a good time to reprint Mark's article on the
    various adaptations, originally published in Argentus, Number 3,
    Summer 2003. It will run in five parts. -ecl]

    Imagine a land so isolated from the world that it was beyond the
    reach even of the forces of evolution. On one plateau deep in the
    remote Amazon rain forest there is a land that has withstood the
    ravages of time. Here dinosaurs and prehistoric ancestors of man
    still live.

    In 1960 I remember being enthralled with the publicity for the
    upcoming film THE LOST WORLD. I was nine years old and anything
    that had to do with dinosaurs was okay with me. I had only
    recently seen the 1959 version of JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE
    EARTH and loved it. But only three sequences in the film had
    dinosaurs. (Okay, to be literal, there are no dinosaurs in that
    film, but at nine I was not ready to make zoological distinctions.)
    The Sunday comics had ads telling a little teasing bit of the
    story of an expedition to a plateau with dinosaurs. I was hooked.
    I guess I still am.

    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes series of
    stories, also had a science fiction and fantasy series featuring
    short, wide, and blustery Professor George Edward Challenger. The
    stocky scientist was first introduced in his 1912 novel THE LOST
    WORLD. For this tale Doyle saw the dramatic possibilities of
    humans interacting with live dinosaurs. He told an irresistible
    story of an Amazon plateau so isolated that evolution had passed it
    by and where the dragons of the past still reigned supreme. There
    are two more novels with the same set of adventurers, though they
    are not nearly as interesting or famous. THE POISON BELT is about
    the earth traveling through a field of poisonous ether gas. THE
    LAND OF MIST is a plea for tolerance for a spiritualist church.
    Two shorter stories have Challenger opposing an inventor who has
    created a terrible weapon in "The Disintegration Machine," and
    discovering the Earth is a living organism in "When the Earth
    Screamed." Doyle is said to have preferred writing Challenger
    stories to stories about Sherlock Holmes, though the latter
    undeniably had greater popularity and perhaps were better written.

    The publicity I was seeing in 1960 was for the second of what at
    this writing are six screen adaptations of the novel. In this
    article I will review each of the six adaptations of Doyle's novel
    to the screen. In doing so I face certain problems. First, the
    earliest version is incomplete. I will have to review what is
    available, a restored version of 92 minutes. A more widespread
    problem is that is in my opinion none of the adaptations has been satisfactorily accurate to the novel. Every one of them takes at
    least one woman along and Doyle did not have a woman on the plateau
    in the novel. Each adaptation does a lot of inventing as if there
    was something wrong with Doyle's story. There really is not. If I
    like a version, it really is mostly in comparison to the other
    renditions that may not be as good.

    THE LOST WORLD (1925)

    The 1925 version had the much of the story more faithful to the
    novel than any of the later film versions, though some incidents
    occur out of order. One revision is that in the book Challenger
    brought back only a pterodactyl, and it escapes before it is seen
    by more than a roomful of people. The 1925 silent film version
    apparently thought it would be more dramatic to have the animal
    brought back be a brontosaurus and it does quite a bit of damage
    when it escapes. This would show off imaginatively the stop-motion

    The 1925 film version was the first feature-length film to use
    stop-motion animation to any great degree. The technician who
    created the effects was a young Willis O'Brien, who would later be
    in charge of the effects of KING KONG (1933). In fact, though
    O'Brien did not contribute the plot to KING KONG, it has strong
    similarities to THE LOST WORLD, with the animal brought back to
    civilization being a very large ape.

    This first and arguably the best version of Doyle's classic was the
    first version, a silent film. However, for years it has been
    nearly impossible to tell with any assurance much about the 1925
    version of THE LOST WORLD. There are four or five different
    versions of this film. Until relatively recently only an edited
    version a little over an hour has been available. This was much
    chopped down from the original film. Recently a 93-minute version
    has become available to the general public on DVD. Reportedly the
    original release was 104 minutes so only about 11 minutes of the
    original theatrical release are still missing. However, that is
    the released version.

    Sadly, it is impossible to see at this point what the released film
    was really like. Production stills shown on the Turner Classic
    Movie cable channel seem to indicate that there was a great deal
    more of Doyle's plot that was shot than could possibly fit into the
    missing eleven minutes. Some sequences that look like they would
    have not only lengthened the film but made it more faithful to the
    published story. The stills include the "stool of penance" scene
    from the novel in which Challenger used as a most politically
    incorrect way to punish his wife. Also there is indication that as
    with the original novel Challenger was not chosen as one of the
    members of the expedition and he uses trickery to join the party
    after they are on their way. This plot was in the Doyle and was
    apparently filmed for the silent version and then probably edited
    out. (Of the adaptations covered in this article only the 1992
    television version and the "Alien Voices" audio versions are
    faithful to the book in this regard.) So while even the 93-minute
    version indicates large liberties taken from the novel, there was
    probably sequences shot that could have made for a fairly accurate
    version that perhaps never came together.

    I personally recommend this 93-minute version as being more
    entertaining than the 63-minute version that has been available.
    The shorter version has just the minimal story needed to connect up
    the special effects shots. The longer editing makes the expedition
    seems less slapdash and makes the film feel more like a ripping
    adventure story. The shorter editing has the background story be
    little more than a frame for the dinosaur sequences. That
    audiences would settle for that is a testament to the popularity
    that the Willis O'Brien's dinosaur sequences had with audiences.

    It is hard to gage the impact that these sequences must have had
    since so little like them had been seen on the screen before. Many
    of the viewers assumed that the dinosaurs were full-scale
    mechanical creations, and a few were naive enough to believe they
    were seeing real live dinosaurs. It is hard to believe from the
    jerky effects, the best possible at the time, that people took them
    for real. But in fact there were some who did. While the film was
    in production Marion Fairfax, who wrote the screenplay, thought she
    would reassure special effects technician O'Brien and told him that
    if the effects did not work out, the dinosaurs could easily be
    removed from her screenplay. It is hard to imagine how popular a
    film they could a made without the attraction of the dinosaur

    The variations in plot from the novel are relatively small changes
    of little consequence until the travelers arrive at the plateau.
    Perhaps the biggest change was the addition of a love interest for
    Malone to go with him on the expedition. This is Paula White,
    daughter of plateau discoverer Maple White, played by Bessie Love.
    After the crew gets to the plateau the story diverges somewhat
    more. The novel talks of two tribes of humans. One are half-human
    Neanderthal sorts, the others are like modern Indians. Doyle
    spends much of the plateau story of how the modern Indians beat the
    half-men, proving the superiority of modern man. Frankly, for me
    this plot is not as interesting as the dinosaur-related plotting.
    In this 1925 version of the film the two tribes are reduced to one
    ape man, played by a man with the unlikely name Bull Montana.
    Montana specialized in playing apes and half-men in the movies.
    Without particularly good looks he had found his niche playing
    ape-men. The filmmakers had only one half-man actor so the story
    more concentrates on dinosaurs. Probably that is not a bad thing.
    Even at the time the dinosaurs were more intriguing to audiences
    than a man in an ape costume, however lurid.

    Some additional liberties are taken. The zoological meeting takes
    place before Malone visits Challenger's home. The escape route
    from the plateau is destroyed by a dinosaur rather than by Gomez.
    The most memorable variation, and one that would inspire other
    films, is that instead of bringing back a pterodactyl, Challenger
    returns with a brontosaurus who then escapes and wreaks havoc in
    London. This popular sequence probably inspired films like KING
    (a.k.a. THE GIANT BEHEMOTH).

    I have read a review that said that Willis O'Brien's special
    effects have still rarely been matched. That comment was
    well-intended but I think that Willis O'Brien would be among the
    first to deny it himself. While these effects were a big step
    forward from O'Brien's previous work, he would do better work for
    KING KONG in 1933. O'Brien's protege Ray Harryhausen furthered the
    art a great deal more. O'Brien would probably have been ecstatic
    to see the JURASSIC PARK films, and perhaps none more than THE LOST
    WORLD: JURASSIC PARK II, which I see as in part a tribute to him
    and his contributions. Some of the sequences, like a stampede of
    dinosaurs, are not technically perfect but are ambitious beyond
    belief for a film this early.

    O'Brien was, at the time he made THE LOST WORLD, still having some
    problems with the smooth fluid movement of the figures he is
    animating. He also has a tendency to make the creatures of too
    large a scale. An example is the pterodactyl that seems much too
    massive in comparison to the spur of the plateau. O'Brien would
    similarly exaggerate the size of his stegosaurus in KING KONG.
    Some of his matte scenes, static and traveling, combining images of
    actors and dinosaurs are well ahead of their time. While O'Brien
    never let the humans get too close to the dinosaurs, they
    impressively give scale to the giant beasts. There is one scene in
    which the humans throw a flaming piece of wood in a dinosaur's
    mouth. This could not use stop-motion since there is no effective
    way to animate a flame frame-by-frame. For this effect a
    hand-puppet seems to have been used.

    The acting is sufficient but spotty. Wallace Beery makes the best
    Challenger of any of the screen versions. He is sufficiently gruff
    and pushy. Bessie Love as Paula is not so good and her main talent
    seems to be that she can look frightened well. Arthur Hoyt's
    Summerlee is almost unnoticeable. One barely remembers scenes he
    was in. Lloyd Hughes is bland as Edward Malone and reminds the
    viewer of Harold Lloyd. Lord John Roxton is played by Lewis Stone,
    who later would play dignified roles like Captain Smollet in the
    1934 TREASURE ISLAND and Judge Hardy in the Andy Hardy series.
    Stone makes an imposing Roxton if not a very interesting one. He
    seems almost too dignified to be the great hunter.

    Unless one counts films like KING KONG, UNKNOWN ISLAND, THE LAND
    UNKNOWN, or TWO LOST WORLDS, all of which arguably took some
    inspiration from the Doyle, the next real film version of THE LOST
    WORLD was released in summer of 1960 with Claude Rains as

    [continued next week]



    TOPIC: Changes to "Star Wars" Films (and Others) (letters of
    comment by Peter Trei, Gary McGath, and Tim Merrigan)

    In response to Warren Montgomery's comments on changes in RETURN OF
    THE JEDI in the 07/08/22 issue of the MT VOID, Peter Trei writes:

    Your correspondent saw the 1997 'Special Edition' of the movie.


    In 1997, for the 20th anniversary, Lucas released remastered
    versions of all three films, not only cleaning them up optically
    and sonically, but changing music, adding scenes and special
    effects, and dropping CGI critters and aliens into existing scenes.

    Note that this is far from the only time it SW got changed. "Han
    shot first!".



    Gary McGath responds:

    That's not as bad as the editing of E.T. to eliminate any
    suggestion that cops would draw guns on kids. Mustn't let the
    audience think that ever happens. [-gmg]

    But Tim Merrigan says:

    To accomplish they've got the edit the IRL [In Real Life] news.


    TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

    Our book-and-film did THE LOST WORLD by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle this
    month; the film was the 1925 silent version with the Robert Israel
    score. (There have been several film adaptations, and the silent
    version is available with two different scores.)

    The book has a lot that did not make it to the film. In the book,
    there are two sub-species of humans, a more advanced one and a more
    primitive one. To the characters in the book, the less advanced
    are considered animals and suitable only for extermination or
    slavery. In the film, there is only two humanoids shown on the
    plateau, and they are basically also shown as animals, but at least
    there is no attempt at extermination. There is also no subplot of
    someone out for revenge against Challenger.

    It is not clear how old the various characters are, but the actor
    playing Roxton was 46, and the actress playing Paula White was 27.
    He somehow looked older, she looked younger, and the result was
    that the way he was looking at her seemed very creepy. Of course,
    it might not have been back when the film was made; I think the age
    difference was not considered as important then.

    In the film, when they get to the base of the plateau, Challenger
    says they chopped down one of the two trees on the "pillar" to make
    a bridge to the main part of the plateau, and the stump was still
    visible. So they climb up and chop down the second tree to make a
    bridge, but it apparently never occurs to anyone to ask what
    happened to the first bridge.

    Challenger and Summerlee have an article about whether something
    fired from a catapault follows a parabola or a curve, completely
    overlooking that a parabola *is* a curve.

    How incredibly convenient that when xyzzy and Paula think they will
    be trapped on the plateau permanently, Paula mentions that
    Summerlee used to be a minister, so he can marry them. This was
    actually pre-Code, but I guess they were concerned about local

    And it is also convenient that the ladder that the two men at the
    base construct is *exactly* the right length to reach from the cave
    to the ground.

    Willis O'Brien did an amazing job of putting ten or twelve
    dinosaurs in a single scene, though without major interaction among
    them. It wasn't until CGI that you could have, e.g., the
    gallimimus herd in JURASSIC PARK, or the dinosaur stampede in KING
    KONG (2005).

    I love how all the cast were given their honorifics ("Mr.", "Miss",
    etc.). Was it a more formal time, or were they trying to make
    acting seem more respectable?

    The introduction to the film has the following quote by Sir Arthur
    Conan Doyle:
    "I have wrought my simple plan
    If I give one hour of joy
    To the boy who's half a man,
    Or the man who's half a boy."

    I guess I wasn't in his target audience. [-ecl]


    Mark Leeper

    It is better to ask some of the questions than to know
    all the answers.
    --James Thurber

    --- SoupGate-Win32 v1.05
    * Origin: fsxNet Usenet Gateway (21:1/5)
  • From Gary McGath@21:1/5 to eleeper@optonline.net on Sun Jul 17 19:59:40 2022
    On 7/17/22 10:10 AM, eleeper@optonline.net wrote:
    In 1960 I remember being enthralled with the publicity for the
    upcoming film THE LOST WORLD. I was nine years old and anything
    that had to do with dinosaurs was okay with me. I had only
    recently seen the 1959 version of JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE
    EARTH and loved it. But only three sequences in the film had
    dinosaurs. (Okay, to be literal, there are no dinosaurs in that
    film, but at nine I was not ready to make zoological distinctions.)
    The Sunday comics had ads telling a little teasing bit of the
    story of an expedition to a plateau with dinosaurs. I was hooked.
    I guess I still am.

    I saw The Lost World in a second-run theater and must have been a little
    older than nine when I saw it, but not much. I remember immediately
    being disappointed with the "dinosaurs," which were obviously lizards.

    It was much later that I first saw the 1925 film. I'm a fan of it.

    Gary McGath http://www.mcgath.com

    --- SoupGate-Win32 v1.05
    * Origin: fsxNet Usenet Gateway (21:1/5)