At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT (KINO/Lorber)

By • May 15th, 2016 •

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BluRay review by Roy Frumkes.

IMDB, via its email-in voting system, gives this film a dismissive 5.3. It’s prequel, 1975’s THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, rated a 5.8. Both films are sweet, intelligent, classily-produced, and great fun. They’re re-watchable, collectible, suitable for children and adults, and deserve better on the IMDB meter. Maybe it’s the superb quality of the BluRay transfers that elevates them beyond their reputations. Whatever the answer, I’m pushing them both on you with no caveats.

Well, the monsters all appear to be seriously arthritic, probably not the result of research into primeval life so much as budgetary limitations. But they’re endearing nonetheless. They amble around like dragons in a Chinese New Year pageant, with men clearly inside. A stylized endeavor, like Godzilla but with no metaphor attached.

On the other hand, the arctic miniatures and process photography in the first act are breathtaking, the supplementals on the disc are wonderful, and the casting is solid (and in the case of Dana Gillespie, absolutely extraordinary – worth the disc’s ownership for that alone).

We last left Doug McClure and Susan Penhaligon stranded, but up to the task of surviving, in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ polar throwback to dinosaur-and-cave-dweller times. A ship has come to rescue them, but that plan soon goes awry, with the search party finding the verdant primeval land but sustaining a pterodactyl injury to their sea-plane in the process. Their adventures in act two & three pit them against cave-people, giant reptiles, and the ticking clock that will signal the rescue ship’s departure without them. They find McClure (hardly a spoiler – he’s listed in the cast as Guest Star, and serves a similar narrative purpose as Chuck Heston did in the PLANET OF THE APES sequel) but all doesn’t go the way they’d hoped.

They also find, a half-hour in, 5’8” Dana Gillespie playing Azor, a big-busted, nicely-outfitted cave girl (pre-adolescent viewers are going to pin-point the moment their minds turned to sex by the date at which they ogled her in this film), sullen and mournful, and incredibly beautiful. She brings a predominantly pantomime warmth to the proceedings, and the camera just worships her. I’ve rarely seen anything like it. No matter which way she faces, whether she’s performing or just background frame fill, she’s utterly gorgeous. And amazingly, she had no film career afterwards to speak of. But she did have a major singing career to speak of. I checked it out on YouTube and there were lots of her club appearances to enjoy, stretching out over the intervening decades. She’s interviewed on camera (recently) as one of the disc’s supplementals, having by now lost all of what made her visually special in ‘77, but not her verve nor her charm.

Patrick Wayne, as the protagonist, is doing his Clint Eastwood thing – chisel-faced and low-key. And he’s quite believable. Far superior to his stilted early performances in THE SEARCHERS and THE ALAMO, and better than the same year’s SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER. Only problem – he looks more like Jim Caviezel than Patrick Wayne.

Lead actress Sarah Douglas had an inch on Dana Gillespie in the height department, but in her delightful video-interview, referring to her co-star’s assets as “fabulous frontage,” she admits that as soon as she saw them she realized that no one was going to be looking at her. She acknowledges that the two women, plus Doug McClure, had a good time throughout the production, which probably made things difficult for director Connor. McClure, she suggests, was a heavy drinker, but always prepared for the next days shoot, a gift which was probably the result of having had to memorize lines continually for a weekly TV series (THE VIRGINIAN) that ran for nine years.

A nice casting choice is the corpulent, ever-menacing Milton Reid (kind of a Tor Johnson clone, but with a glint of malevolent intelligence behind his eyes), looking his wildest, covered in gray body paint, and posed as if in a Frank Frazetta painting. IMDB has conflicting info on the same page about him. On top it says he died of a heart attack, and below, in the bio, it says his son (also Milton Reid) claims his father just disappeared.

Alan Hume’s cinematography is hyper-real, aided no doubt by the terrific BluRay transfer. Colors and facial tones are richly saturated. Mattes and miniatures and back projections are vivid and appealing. Performances are rather real all around, down to the smallest speaking (or grunting) roles, which is admirably attentive on the part of the director’s team.

The pacing is fast, until the second half hour. Then the attacks from the warrior tribe become hard to energize, though the art department does nice things with the enemy’s armor and colors. And I loved the mattes of the green and yellow sunset. Also, the location manager must be praised – bizarre, visually pleasing shots, gathered at the Canary Islands, show a sincere effort to be creative on the part of the camera department as well. For instance, seeing a distant dinosaur through the opening jaws of one close to the lens is nice visual thinking.

A last, humorous anecdote from Ms. Douglas indicates that, learning the company had the word ‘American’ in its title, therefore America had to be involved and it had to be big-budgeted, she concluded that she should sign on.

Which of course wasn’t true. The company whose title duped her was American International Pictures, Sam Arkoff’s indie outfit, which couldn’t have been further from Hollywood, budget-wise, than Troma is from the film capital today.

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