You know, watching this film made me think hard about just what makes a movie worthy of the Hall of Shame treatment. Sometimes the whole film is just god-awful, like Battlefield Earth and Manos: The Hands of Fate, while sometimes the underlying premise is great but the execution is awful like A.I. or Soldier, and sometimes the execution is good, the script is good, and the directing is good... for MOST of the movie. But, then something happens.
Perhaps the director had a stroke, or sipped coffee laced with LSD, maybe he or she fell down a concrete staircase and whacked their head, maybe they had a drunken brawl with their spouse or significant other? No one will ever know, but in these cases we end up with a film that succeeds in grabbing your attention, making you care about characters and their problems, making you enjoy the set design and lighting, and then, maybe twenty minutes before the end credits roll, takes such a hard left turn that your investment in the film becomes little more than psychotic anger.
This is the reaction I have to The Lost Continent.
What in the hell happened to Michael Carreras and Leslie Norman (uncredited, and I think I know why) in the editing room when this was in post production we will probably never know. But, that aside, we are left sitting, mouth agape, as The Lost Continent careens out of control from well made film into absolute and utter idiocy.
How’s this for a premise, trapped somewhere in the Atlantic or Mediterranean, is a vast expanse of Sargasso weed that acts sort of like a graveyard of lost ships. Now, imagine that some of the people on those lost ships survived for generations in the same sort of time period in which they were lost. Now imagine that those people were Spanish Inquisitors on the way to the Southern American Spanish colonies in the 1500s. Now, (I know this is getting tedious), imagine a ship of contemporary characters swept into that little weed-borne universe.
Those imaginings have the potential to make a great movie. The Lost Continent hints at the potential for greatness, and in some respects even achieves really-goodness before imploding.
We begin with a ship-borne funeral as the body of “a boy, a child,” is ceremonially dumped overboard and Captain Lansen intones, “how did we get to such a place...”
Flashback to a tramp steamer (model) being chased by a harbor patrol boat (rear projection).
Captain Lansen (Eric Porter) refuses to stop and let the patrolmen board much to the confusion of First Officer Hemmings. Not only will Lansen not stop, he won’t explain his actions. We’ve just been given the first of a series of clues that everything going on with this ship is not, shall we say, above board.
Once the ship cruises out of the harbor and the patrolmen give up the chase, we get to meet the other characters aboard, and there are quite a few holed up in the ship’s small lounge drinking heavily. They are; Eva Peters (Hildegard Knef), she’s a man baby... No really, this woman must be sporting at least one Y chromosome. Anyway, her character is a mother who is fleeing the king of whatever country the ship just left, with 2 million bucks now that said king has been deposed/killed. Dr. Webster (Nigel Stock), a womanizing medical doctor on the lam for impregnating several locals and who’s infidelity caused the suicide of his wife and mother of Unity Webster (Suzanna Leigh), his cynical, hard drinking slut-of-a-daughter who is waiting for her trust fund so she can torture her father with wealth to which he will have no access. Ricaldi (Ben Carruthers), the extremely oily man charged with bringing back the stolen 2 million bucks from Eva Peters, it is also rumored that she is supposed to also be killed by him. Finally we get Harry Tyler (Tony Beckley) a drunk on the run from his past. Keeping all of these lowlifes in the throes of drunken seasickness is Patrick, the Bartender (Jimmy Hanley), a gregarious fellow who refuses to leave the ship even when things look their absolute worst. Finally we get to Nick, the Engineer (James Cossins)
We haven’t even reached most of the crew yet, and to spare you having to read about them, I’ll just call them “the crew” led by befuddled First Officer Hemmings. Oh, and the crew knows that the ship is a heap of shit and could go down at just about any moment.
With a crew like that you know we are in for a disaster movie.
It turns out that Captain Lansen wants out of the tramp steamer business and to pad his retirement agrees to take a huge load of Phos-2 as cargo. Phos-2, in case you were wondering, is a chemical that bursts into flames when it comes in contact with water. This is the same stuff the ancient seafaring Greeks used to use as “Greek Fire” to arms their triremes with chemical flamethrowers.
No one knows these extremely dangerous chemicals are on board until the ship is miles and miles and miles from anywhere. It is never explained how the crew could not have noticed porters carrying iridescent yellow canisters of the stuff into the hold, but it doesn’t matter.
This sets us up for all the cool drama that comes with a cast like this. The impetus for the drama is:
1. The crew discovers the super dangerous cargo, and they are pissed.
2. The ship hits something and winds up with a gashed hull, directly into the hold where the Phos-2 is stored.
3. The generator that works the main pump for the hold burns out
4. The captain ignores a hurricane warning
So the seeds of a bloody mutiny are sown. Captain Lansen shows First Officer Hemmings the power of Phos-2 by dropping a few tiny crystals in his cabin sink and turning on the faucet. Needless to say this does not fill Hemmings with confidence and now he immediately wants the ship turned around. “Think of the safety of the passengers!” he screams.
Well, Captain Lansen already knows that the passengers will rather face the hurricane and explosives than return to their departure point, but he helps Hemming lay out the risks and convince them to agree to set a course back to certain death.
It’s mutiny! Hemmings and about half of the crew storm the wheelhouse and secure what little of the ship they can before piling into one of the two lifeboats and disembarking.
Lansen lets them go and they are never heard from again.
We have about 15 minutes of character development now as the ship chugs headlong into the hurricane. Ricaldi makes his mission known to the extremely masculine Eva Peters, but agrees to split the money with her in exachange for her life, and when he wants it, her body. They are never shown doing the nasty, unlike Unity “Oh look a mattress, please screw me now” Webster, which, considering the freakish manlike face and body of Hildegaard Knef, was probably omitted to save the audience several years of therapy.
Eva then turns her affection to Captain Lansen and plays out the whole sad story of her predicament, which is interesting, but not enough to warrant rewriting it here. Though, as you can guess, she is not as bad or devious as she is made out to be.
So, back to the action!
Engineer Nick gets the pump going well enough that the passengers and remaining crew can move the Phos-2 to a drier location then seal the hold. Now all they need do is face a class 4 hurricane and everything will be fine.
Well the hurricane attacks the ship with incredible ferocity and they remaining cast members are forced to abandon ship, except for the bartender, who has a strange attachment to the vessel that is never really explored.
Once in the lifeboat and safely away, the cast-away’s begin arguing over food and water. This was rather inevitable now that I think about it... Anyway, Harry drinks all the rum and in a fit of drunken assholeishness, punches Dr. Webster off the boat.
Dr. Webster dies in the jaws of a shark. Awwwwww.
Harry then gives up drinking. I guess once you’ve fed a guy to the briny deep, you’ve hit rock bottom. Well, strange as it seems, the lifeboat drifts into a mass of Sargasso weed surrounded by dense fog, and consequently, up against the hull of the ship they recently abandoned.
Okay, the bartender is aboard and drunk, and spends a few minutes explaining that the ship has never let him down yet, and so it seems, he is correct.
Wait now, there’s something funny about this Sargasso weed... It stings, and writhes, and grabs people, and sucks them down to their deaths. That’s not right!
Okay. Once everyone is back aboard the steamer we get some model shots of the other vessels in the Sargasso graveyard, and special effects being what they were in the later part of the 60’s, the graveyard looks pretty good, though obviously made of several models. Still, the cinematography is quite good.
We are on the lip of the cinematic abyss, so brace yourself.
Unity Webster has taken a shine to Harry because he’s killed her dad, and spends a whole lot of time trying to get him to drink and be “fun”. But he is a changed man now, and spurns her drunken slutty love. She then takes her fickle libido to Ricaldi who is more than happy to put some time into Unity Webster. This proves fatal though as a giant blurry Muppet monster rises over the deck and kills him with its stinging Sargasso tentacles. Unity gets beaten up pretty good too, but Harry, now sober enough to wield an axe, saves her.
Just after this we get our first glimpse of the abyss. It is a set inside a 15th century galleon, also trapped in the Sargasso, as “El Supremo” and his chief henchman “The Inquisitor” (who is dressed in what appear to be Klan robes), throw a woman to her death in the rubber jaws of a monster stored in the galleon hold.
No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!
This sounds much more interesting than it actually is, but you will no doubt be laughing so hard at the name “El Supremo” that none of this scene will matter.
See, this ship was cast ashore on the Sargasso 300 years before and the offspring of that original crew have never advanced beyond the Inquisition.
Okay, now back aboard the steamer, Captain Lansen notices what appears to be a small island somewhere in the fog, and several “er... things...” moving across the Sargasso. These “things” turn out to be the soldiers of “El Supremo’s” army coming to raid the ship for supplies and capture the crew.
They are foiled by a wonderful modern invention known as a carbine rifle.
Although, Johnathan (Norman Eshley) one of El Supremo’s Sargasso Attack Squad is only wounded and subsequently captured along with woman of questionable loyalties and enormous boobies pressed into a skin tight leather vest., Sarah (Dana Gillespie).
Man, are they huge. She looks like a woman trying to smuggle honeydew melons out of a supermarket. And the director keeps shoving them in our faces. Which is okay by me.
It seems that Sarah is not all that fond of boy-king El Supremo and his cast of ascetic Cardinals, and mentions that a whole society of outcasts lives on the island hidden in the fog. Jonathan tells her to shut up or face of wrath of El Supremo.
Before you can say “Fetch the pointy pillows!” we are back in El Supremo’s lair. The few stragglers still who made it back after the failed raid are being dressed down by El Supremo, a kid who appears to be all of 11 years old.
“I am the voice of God, and what I say comes directly from God’s mouth...” Needless to say he is angry that the Sargasso Storm Troopers failed in their mission. To demonstrate this he tortures them.
“Fetch the Comfy Chair!.. Not THE COMFY CHAIR!!!! Cue ominous music)
What a guy. Someone get him a Playstation or something, jeez.
Back aboard the steamer, Sarah gets to know some of the crew members well enough to be trusted. But, at first chance, she chucks it over the side and makes for the island.
How, you ask, does she and the rest of the El Supremo Tactical Sargasso SWAT Team manage to get over the Sargasso without being burned/dragged under/killed/eaten?
Simple, they wear huge pontoons on their feet and gas filled bladders to decrease their weight, this the Sargasso becomes little more than ugly green shag carpet.
Luckily, all of the dead guys from the raid had this gear on when they were killed and therefore it is still laying around the deck of the steamer. Harry, Nick, and the bartender, launch a rescue mission to find Sarah.
Why? Did they forget that she has lived her whole life among the stinging seaweed? They never even consider that she might be perfectly capable of getting to the Island unharmed, and instead assume that because she is:
A: A damsel
That she must be:
B: In distress
Meanwhile, Captain Lansen is formulating a plan to repel the next attack by the El Supremo Sargasso Hit Team using Phos-2 as a weapon. And if you didn’t think that chemical was going to play a huge part in this movie, then you deserve to watch it all the way to the end.
We are plunging headlong into the abyss now, so brace yourself.
Our intrepid team of rescuers hop over the side and make for the Island intent on rescuing Sarah’s enormous breasts and the scrawny parts attached to them. Harry, Nick the engineer, and the bartender have taken the job.
We get a few minutes of “Sarah? Sarah? Sarah? Sarah, where are you?” before the group stops to rest on a small rocky promontory.
Luckily Sarah is there. Unluckily, so are two really silly monsters. One of them, a bigt latex crab like thingy attacks Nick, who volunteers for guard duty. How he failed to see the enormous black rubber tentacle enwrapping his neck is anyone’s guess, but he fails to see it and is killed.
Have I mentioned just how awful this monster is? Think Sigmond the Sea Monster from the old Sid and Marty Krofft show and you might have some idea as to its fright potential. But we are not left with only one asinine rubber creature. We get two. The second is an equally unimpressive scorpion thing that has legs yet still manages to get around on a set of clearly visible wheels.
The wheeled scorpion puppet attacks the stationary crab puppet while Harry fires all his bullets into the crab’s Sigmond-is face.
The stationary crab is undeterred and with the help of some overhead wires, launches the scorpion over the side into the Sargasso and dies. Harry then lands a perfect shot into the latex monstrosity’s eye and it too goes to Davy Jones Locker (the prop room).
All mourn the death of H.R. Puffinstuff....
Well, all this commotion bring in a hit by the El Supremo Rapid Reaction force and our group of heroes are captured and brought before the great and mighty El Supremo, and his happy Inquisitor, guy in Klan robes...
Of all people, Nick the Engineer ends up in a spirited debate over God, El Supremo, and life in Sargassoland with the chief Inquisitor. See, he refuses to subject himself to the boy-God because as all modern people know, God is a guy who drives a Ferrari and gets his pick of the women at all functions. God isn’t some snot-nosed little twit on loan from Dr. Who.
This right-pisses off Inquisitor man who demands that all of the captives either bow to El Supremo, including those still left on the steamer, or die in the pit of eternal latex teeth-chewing.
Nick tells him to get stuffed and is about to be killed as Captain Lansen drops a whole mess of Phos-2 into the galleon. All sort of confusion breaks loose and El Supremo cries, “no! Wait! I want to come with you!” Just before El Supremo reaches Captain Lansen, Inquisitor Guy nails him with a dagger.
More Phos-2 gets thrown into the monster beneath the galleon and the ship goes up in flames.
Everyone escapes as the galleon explodes.
Captain Lansen then uses the Phos-2 to free the steamer from the hold of the Sargasso and our intrepid crew of misfits, drunks, and 300 year-old holdovers, float off to less green pastures.
Whew... If only this has explored the society of the 15th century lineage. If only this film had carried the excellent character development over to the villains. If only the back stories of the passengers hadn’t been rendered completely irrelevant by El Supremo and his cavalcade of stupidity. If only the monsters didn’t look like Dr. Who rejects. “If only” is the best way to describe the feeling I had when watching the credits on this roll past.
Oh well... No one expects the Spanish Inquisition...
The DVD comes with a few paltry extras that aren’t worth the time to view them. A “documentary” on Hammer films is little more than a series of clips from “20 Million Years BC”, “Viking Queen”, “She” and “Vengeance of She” with some stupefyingly obvious narration.
Other than that there ain’t much.
The film is presented in widescreen (YAY!) and the transfer is nice and crisp.
Still, it’s not worth watching.