Tag Archives: The Land That Time Forgot

[Stop Button Lists] The Lost Worlds of Kevin Connor

Kevin Connor, partial filmography, 1975-1981

I have heard of Arabian Adventure, I had forgotten I knew about it when I was thinking about doing this list. Kevin Connor’s career–which has gone from British fantasy films to American television to direct-to-video to the Hallmark channel–reminds of someone like Jack Arnold, who went from Creature from the Black Lagoon to “Gilligan’s Island.” I’m sure a lot of guys who directed “The Brady Bunch” had made some decent pictures in the forties and fifties.

But I wanted to do a list about Connor after watching The People That Time Forgot again for “Stop Button Favorites.” It’s a weird series of fantasy films, most starring Doug McClure, three adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs, a few starring Peter Cushing, a few starring John Ratzenberger!

Land That Time Forgot had been my dinosaur movie as a kid, it and Planet of the Dinosaurs. Even after Jurassic Park came out, because Jurassic Park was “real” not movie fantasy. It did all the imagining for you.

Doug McClure and Peter Cushing are bewildered Victorians in AT THE EARTH'S CORE, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.
Doug McClure and Peter Cushing are bewildered Victorians in AT THE EARTH’S CORE, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.

Of the films on the list, I’d say Land That Time Forgot is easily the most “respectable.” It lacks the constant sexuality of People and it’s nowhere near as stupid as At the Earth’s Core. Now, Earth’s Core had Caroline Munro but she was sort of forgotten in the late eighties and early nineties. A mythic siren of PG-sexiness my generation didn’t grow up with.

And Warlords of the Deep didn’t have much U.S. distribution on home video. I’m not even sure it’s out now; I rented it (on R2) from Nicheflix the moment I could but I had never even come across it on VHS at that point and I was always on the lookout. As for Arabian Adventure, like I said, I sort of forgot about it even existing. I know I saw the seventies Sinbad movies but not much after I was seven or eight.

Goliath Awaits, the only entry on the film not a theatrical release (Goliath was a syndicated prime time miniseries), is there because it is such a perfect postscript to Connor’s other fantasy films.

John Dark produced all of Connor’s fantasy films–not Goliath–and they had a lot of similarities between them. They were period pieces. Land and People take place in the late 1910s, At the Earth’s Core is set in the Victorian era, Warlords is early 20th century (nothing too specific) and Arabian Adventure is, you know, some kind of fantasy era of Arabia. It’s not supposed to be very good; I know I have to see it now but I’m not looking forward to it.

They mixed American actors down on their luck with British actors who were just doing another gig to pay the bills. They launched no careers–unless they helped Sarah Douglas along to Superman II or Ratzenberger to “Cheers”–yet they are incredibly memorable films. Kino Lorber even got Connor to do commentary on their recent Land That Time Forgot blu-ray. It’s not a cult classic, but only because it the eighties weren’t long enough for it to catch on enough before Jurassic Park. It’s a quasi-cult classic.

Thorley Walters, Sarah Douglas, and Patrick Wayne star in THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.
Thorley Walters, Sarah Douglas, and Patrick Wayne star in THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.

And they aren’t good. Well, People That Time Forgot is good. I’d love to hear a commentary on that film to see if Connor was being stylistic or they just didn’t have the money. But the other films aren’t good. Earth’s Core and Warlords are both awful. Back when I got them all (well, I owned Land and People) and watched them one week, my friend Jim was worried I had lost my mind. “What are you doing to yourself?” he said. Later, after I saw Goliath Awaits–I had first heard about it in high school, but had not found the full length version until 2007 or so–I mailed Jim a copy immediately. Such lunacy most be shared.

Over the years, even before the site, I have reexamined the interests of my youth, or even just the films people said were good when I was a youth, and tried to be as objective as possible. Good and enjoyable aren’t the same thing. A well-made movie can be entirely unrewarding (or partially unrewarding). Navigating nostalgia and how it interacts with the viewing experience of a film is simultaneously frustrating and fun. Critical thinking can be fun. Much like talking about these Kevin Connor films.

What’s upsetting about the films, listed chronologically, is how they don’t inform one another. Connor leapfrogged. Okay Land, bad Earth’s Core, good People, bad Warlords, haven’t seen Arabian but heard it’s even worse than the bad, then underwhelming TV mini series Goliath. It’s inconsistent to say the least. It does seem, however, even though there was so much cast and crew crossover, People and Land were their own franchise. Connor and Dark and McClure’s collaboration wasn’t the franchise.

Doug McClure and John McEnery star in THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.
Doug McClure and John McEnery star in THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, directed by Kevin Connor for American International Pictures.

While we were recording “Alan Smithee,” Matt and I would often decide–talking about the bad movie of the episode–the story of its making would probably more interesting than the resulting film itself. We never did any of the Kevin Connor movies for an episode; we probably should have at least done one. Is there some great story behind the scenes of these films? Maybe, but I think not.

But for at least ten years, in the seventies and eighties, many of these films filled children’s minds with imagined lands and some inappropriate thoughts about cave girls. They aren’t insignificant, they shouldn’t be forgotten. I’m just not entirely sure they’re worth seeing. Other than People That Time Forgot. I think I wanted, as Matt and I were discussing what to do with “Alan Smithee” (we ended up closing it down), to try to get an interview with Sarah Douglas about her fantasy and sci-fi work as she’s now awesome on Twitter.

What do these films of Connor’s deserve now? A good book. I wish I had the time and resources to write it. I’ll have to hope to read it instead.

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The Land That Time Forgot (2009, C. Thomas Howell)

It’s a Christian movie? Really? Okay….

I guess the dinosaurs confused that point. And I think there’s some gravity in there.

Being a fan of the seventies adaptation, I thought I’d see this one too. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever sat through. It’s relatively harmless, with far better acting than I was expecting. There’s some bad acting, but no worse than I expected from my first viewing of a “film” from the Asylum (who don’t even have a dot com, they have a dot cc).

I once read an interview with C. Thomas Howell where he said (paraphrasing), given all the great directors he’d worked with, he’d like to direct. And direct The Land That Time Forgot he does–a little bit less classy than a network sci-fi show from the nineties, but definitely better than their syndicated cousins.

His performance is solid too. He’s not much of an everyman (it’s unfortunate the script doesn’t recognize what yuppie flakes the main characters are), but he’s solid.

Screenwriter Darren Dalton gives a better performance than Howell and Lindsey McKeon is solid as his girlfriend. Anya Benton’s a disaster as Howell’s wife.

The best performances come from Timothy Bottoms and Scott Subiono, as a sixties burn-out captain and WWI U-boat commander (the biggest connection to the source novel), respectively. The film’s even better if you pretend Bottoms is gay (it never says he isn’t).

There isn’t, unfortunately, any reference to the first adaptation. There should have been.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by C. Thomas Howell; screenplay by Darren Dalton, based on the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs; director of photography, Mark Atkins; edited by Brian Brinkman; music by Chris Ridenhour; production designer, Brandon Kihl; produced by David Michael Latt; released by the Asylum.

Starring C. Thomas Howell (Frost Michaels), Timothy Bottoms (Captain Burroughs), Lindsey McKeon (Lindsey Stevens), Darren Dalton (Cole Stevens), Stephen Blackehart (Lonzo), Christopher Showerman (Stack), Patrick Gorman (Conrad), Scott Subiono (Zander), Anya Benton (Karen Michaels) and David Stevens (Jude).


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The Land That Time Forgot (1975, Kevin Connor)

The Land That Time Forgot never achieved any sort of cult notoriety (though I’m not sure any film with dinosaurs ever has), but as a child, any video box cover promising submarines, aquatic dinosaurs, octopuses, and ape-men was golden. The film does not feature any octopuses. While I did see Land That Time Forgot as a child, it was the 1980s and it was hard to get inundated with relatively obscure 1970s British films, dinosaurs or not. The cheapo EP VHS wasn’t released until at least 1990–and around that time, I first learned of a sequel, which proved even harder to see. Even today, The Land That Time Forgot has never had a real DVD release (there was a two pack DVD, with the sequel The People That Time Forgot, available exclusively at Best Buy, but it’s disappeared with the Sony buyout of MGM).

I last watched Land That Time Forgot in late 2000, just after AMC aired it letterboxed for the first time. I remember being less than impressed and somewhat puzzled by my childhood favorite. I wasn’t even going to pursue the film again, even after I read about a German release on DVD, then I woke one morning and couldn’t remember whether or not the disc was actually available or if it had been some odd detail in a dream. I ordered it soon afterwards. And watching it again, I’m not at all sorry I did (I suppose I was much less willing to be an individual at the ripe old age of twenty-one). The film doesn’t even have traditional problems… some aspects work and others don’t, but the failing ones aren’t problems. It’s a movie about a lost world of dinosaurs. That sentence, save the first three words, is a problem.

The bad part of Land That Time Forgot is the logic. The people kill dinosaurs to identify the species. Dinosaurs not bothering them… in a longish, five minute sequence–and the poor dinosaur suffers. It’s awkward. But the film has quite a few awkward aspects–the pacing, for example, is entirely odd. The first half hour (before the titular Land ever appears) is set over two weeks in a World War I U-Boat. It’s fine enough stuff–one particularly nice scene where the U-Boat goes deeper then everyone (except Doug McClure) says it can and the crew–German and British–silently marvel at the machine and their success. They share the moment. The Land That Time Forgot is a very quiet film. Not just that sequence, but at least three others are totally quiet. Two of these scenes are in a wheat field and in a dense fog and the result is a beautiful experience, one totally unexpected in a dinosaur movie (one with bad logic too).

The special effects are pre-Empire Strikes Back (which really started the otherworldly thing) and the dinosaurs are pretty bad. The triceratops are all right. In a way, the effects have a nice simplicity. You want a flying dinosaur, well, you rig something up and coast it through the sky. The dinosaurs are nowhere near as distracting as the rear-screen projection, for example, and the volcanic chaos at the end of the film is well done. It’s excellent.

But, in addition to being genially inoffensive, The Land That Time Forgot does feature some good acting. The female lead, played by Susan Penhaligon, is useless, but it’s not her fault. Doug McClure plays the lead and, while he reminds a little of a young William Shatner, it’s not in a bad way. Some of the Brits are quite good, Keith Barron (as a Brit) and Anthony Ainley (as a German), in particular. I think John McEnery is good, but his voice was dubbed with a German actor, so it’s always hard to tell whose giving the good performance in that situation. The film’s also interesting because it eschews any sense of real history regarding British and German relations during the Great War, but doesn’t replace the Germans with the insidious variety popular since the Second World War. It’s not as good as it could be, but it’s odd enough to be interesting.

I think Leonard Maltin’s book might recommend The Land That Time Forgot for a rainy Saturday afternoon. That recommendation seems about right.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Kevin Connor; screenplay by James Cawthorn and Michael Moorcock, based on the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs; director of photography, Alan Hume; edited by John Ireland; music by Douglas Gamley; production designer, Maurice Carter; produced by John Dark; released by American International Pictures.

Starring Doug McClure (Bowen Tyler), John McEnery (Captain Von Schoenvorts), Susan Penhaligon (Lisa Clayton), Keith Barron (Bradley), Anthony Ainley (Dietz), Godfrey James (Borg) and Bobby Parr (Ahm).