Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959, remade 1999)

The Lost World (1925, 1992 and sequel) – Spielberg

The Land that Time Forgot (1975, 2009)

Wikipedia says that King Solomon’s Mines (1885) is the first English adventure novel set in Africa, and it is considered to be the genesis of the Lost World literary genre. This would neglect Journey to theCenter of the Earth (1864), by Jules Verne.

While Hollywood movies have a poor record for establishing accurate timelines for life on Earth, they have in the present millennial decades established a very good track record for helping moviegoers imagine how it might have been to encounter a Tyrannosaurus rex or a brontosaurus in the wild. After Fantasia, virtually all Hollywood movies featuring dinosaurs cast them as threatening adversaries to human adventurers in lands forgotten by time. The literary classics of this genre came from the three great science fantasy novelists of the turn of the last century. They were: Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), by Jules Verne; The Lost World (1912), by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and The Land That Time Forgot (1916), by Edgar Rice Burroughs. All of them have become movies, some of them more than once.

Very briefly, the several movies based on the three classic “lost world” books are fantastical journeys into domains imagined by any kid who ever visited a natural history museum.  The chief characteristic of these exotic places is the sudden appearance of large extinct reptiles.  It is at least tacitly acknowledged in this genre that dinosaurs in fact lived many millions of years before the coming of any animal that resembled a human.  The modern movie adaptations of these books generally border on the ridiculous, frequently incorporating elements of of contemporary culture in order to appeal to the youth market.  It’s hard to imagine a self-respecting adult tolerating these absurdities, though it does occur among the fans of classic cult movies.  In the earlier versions, the giant reptiles are often harmless lizards shot at advantageous camera angles.

Here’s a brief passage from my review of “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World:”

They paddle far into the river system, hike inland, and then take a hot air balloon into the Lost World.  It is a cavalcade of evolutionary clichés, including a great plain of grazing dinosaurs, an attacking T-Rex, natives who can handle movie choreography, a beautiful blond girl who lives in a tree house, and marauding ape-men.

NOTE: For the epic battle between dinosaur (extinct reptile) and mammal (gorilla), see the King Kong movies, and don’t miss Godzilla vs. King Kong (1962).

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