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  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 89.12)
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    Greek, Dutch, English - Hearing Impaired
  • Audio commentary - director and producer)
  • Animated menus
  • Documentaries - Inside The Lost World

The Lost World

BBC/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 145 mins . M15+ . PAL


When most people hear mention of British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, they think immediately of Sherlock Holmes. Which is just as well for Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg - because if Conan Doyle’s later novel The Lost World had been anywhere near as well known to modern audiences as Sherlock Holmes, you wouldn’t have been able to hear how good early DTS cinema sound was during a certain hit dinosaur epic. Because the entire audience would have been doing that strangely muffled throat-clear that sounds like “rippough”!

And it’s not like The Lost World has been languishing in obscurity since it was first published at the start of the 20th century. It was first filmed in 1925 by Harry Hoyt, complete with cardboard jungles and plasticine dinosaurs. That one terrified and amazed viewers for years, until the king of the cheesy disaster flick, Irwin Allen, had his own 1960 stab at the story (with Claude Rains as Professor Challenger!) Three decades later a small production company had John-Rhys Davies playing the lead role in a 1992 attempt, and in 1998 (obviously inspired by the success of the Spielberg/Crichton variation) Trimark Pictures had a crack at it with Patrick Bergin doing the professorial honours; it went straight to video. It’s all enough, you’d think, to keep a Conan Doyle buff outraged for months, but it didn’t stop there - the following year John Landis grabbed expatriate Australian director Richard Franklin (the man who brought you Psycho 2!) for yet another retelling of the story, this time for television and with former Neighbours star Rachel Blakely in a supporting role.

Yes, there have been way, way too many Lost Worlds in movie and TV history, and we’re proud to say that we’ve never seen most of ‘em. But when the BBC announces that they, too, are making a version of the story, it’s hard not to sit up and pay attention. No disaster-movie producers, horror-sequel directors or soapie actors for the BBC - goodness, no! For this one they would hire one of Britain’s most respected and reliable television drama directors, Stuart Orme - a man who, as it happens, also has a solid background in music videos and concert films, including a lot of work with the Conan Doyles of rock music, Genesis. And key to the production would be the involvement of the people behind the acclaimed documentary series Walking With Dinosaurs, who would bring along their eye-popping computer-generated beasts and train them to be actors.

The story - quite substantially altered and embellished from the Conan Doyle original by screenwriters Tony Mulholland and Adrian Hodges - takes place in 1911, as Professor George Challenger (Bob Hoskins) confronts a stuffy bunch of London academics with a discovery he has made and a theory - that prehistoric creatures still roam the earth, hidden deep in the jungles of the Amazon and untouched by civilisation. Eventually finding support and funding for an expedition, he sets out to prove himself right, bringing along the sceptical and stuffy Professor Summerlee (James Fox), the dashing and suitably spiffily-named adventurer Lord John Roxton (Tom Ward) and nervous young newspaper reporter Edward Malone (Matthew Rhys). On their way into the Amazon they stop at the ubiquitous Last Outpost of Civilization to pick up some bearers for their supplies, and also manage to pick up an intrepid woman named Agnes Cluny (Elaine Cassidy), who may not have appeared in the book but can get away with it because she looks like Bjork and handles bloody great big spiders with an eerie calm. Together they head off to find the jungle plateau that contains a forgotten habitat and creatures beyond belief. Unfortunately, Agnes’s uncle Theo (Peter Falk!) is a fanatical, fundamentalist Reverend, and when he pops up to remind them that evolution is heresy he decides to make his point by stranding the explorers - and his niece - on the plateau. And that’s a problem, for there may be things lurking there with nasty big pointy teeth.

Are we being flippant? Well, yes actually, and with good reason. The writers, producers and director Orme all realise that this isn’t a story that needs to be filmed like it was Pride and Prejudice. This is a bang-up adventure yarn in the classic style of the time, the sort of tale that’s right at home in the company of old-fashioned Saturday-matinee movies and serials and, yes, Indiana Jones. So it’s all done with an enormous sense of fun, a healthy dose of wide-eyed wonder, a bit of mischief, not one but TWO goofy romantic sub-plots, and a story that moves at such a cracking pace it seems to fly past even at the rather hefty two and a half hour running time.

On TV this was shown as a two-part mini-series, but it plays like a feature film, is made with all the technical skill and cinematic prowess of a feature film, and boasts a satisfyingly involving and well-rounded story that never once loses the viewer’s interest. The well-cast actors are obviously having a terrific time of it all, too, which is not surprising considering the magnificent New Zealand locations they get to act in. The dinosaurs look superb, as do the various CGI effects that come subtly (and occasionally spectacularly) into play.

All this, of course, must have cost the BBC (and their American and Irish co-producers) an absolute fortune to make. But given the results, it’s no surprise that The Lost World has made it to DVD so quickly (it was screened on Australian TV only a couple of months before its DVD release). Modern BBC productions always have the look and feel of quality about them, but this one takes all that, adds a dash of old-style Hollywood to the mix and turns out to be one of those rarest of things - an adventure film that actually feels like an adventure to the viewer.


It will come as no surprise, given that this is a modern BBC production, to learn that The Lost World was shot on 35mm film with 16:9 viewing in mind. While it screened on television here on the ABC zoomed in almost to full-frame, the director’s intention was obviously that it should be seen in a wide aspect ratio. And on this disc, it’s presented the way it was intended to be seen. Comparing the version seen on TV to this disc is a very enlightening experience.

The 1.78:1 and 16:9 enhanced image is gorgeous throughout, quite remarkably so for a television production - a lot of care was obviously taken with the colour timing during post-production, and the film-to-video transfer itself has been handled with consummate skill. Vibrantly, naturally saturated colours are everywhere, there’s loads of detail throughout, not a film artefact to be seen nor a compression problem to distract from the action and the scenery. Just try and find something to complain about, we dare you. This is easily the best-looking BBC DVD to date.

Encoded at a suitably big bitrate on a dual-layered DVD, The Lost World is presented as a single seamless feature rather than two separate episodes, and that’s just how it should be. The opening credits that were overlaid on top of the second episode are of course not present here. The layer change at the 89 minute mark is noticeable but reasonably undistracting.

Incidentally, the subtitles that were used on the TV version to translate the dialogue of foreign-speaking characters are included here as a subtitle stream that’s on by default. However, on our review player (a Sony), the default setting of “English” in the player’s language options caused these subtitles not to display at all. Setting the player’s default subtitle language to “Audio Follow” and reinserting the disc fixed this problem; ironically, we’d say that the scenes that use subtitles actually play better dramatically and emotionally without them!


Quite obviously aware that this production would have its biggest impact (and revenue) on DVD, the BBC have thrown caution to the wind and gone for a full Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio mix for The Lost World. It’s still a fairly restrained mix in some ways - the rear channels are used only very subtly except for some key action sequences, but this actually makes their use all the more effective when they do spring to life (sometimes with some very diverting directional effects). Dialogue is anchored to the centre and cleanly recorded, while the music score uses the left, right and subwoofer. And if your sub is nice and big you’re in for a treat, too - after all, this is a dinosaur movie, and what dinosaur movie would be complete without completely over-the-top use of the LFE track to shake the room every time a creature walks past? Warn your neighbours.

Overall, a superb soundtrack that doesn’t have the over-the-top surround flamboyance of current theatrical action films, and is all the better for it.


As always, Roadshow gives us a carbon-copy of the BBC’s own UK release from the exact same master, and as a result we get the exact same extras. And yes, TV production it might be, but there are indeed some extras! There is also a beautifully animated main menu that’s seriously stylish, and the scene selection menu screens all have animated thumbnail previews. Speaking of these menus, those who like disc-surfing might find the disc’s use of only 12 chapters quite restrictive; ironically, that’s four less chapters than the actual novel!

Audio Commentary: The “producer and director commentaries” listed on the back cover are actually a single, dual-person commentary. Director Orme joins producer Christopher Hall for a full-length commentary that’s loaded with interesting info and some fascinating insights into the production; they’re extremely conversational and have plenty of things to say about the production and its challenges. A very good commentary track.

Inside The Lost World: A 29 minute documentary about the creation of The Lost World, focussing on Conan Doyle, the dinosaurs (including a clip of the now-hilarious 1925 version) and one other impressive visual effect. Great stuff, but there’s not enough coverage here - this would have been much more satisfying at twice the length. Still, for those used to those dreadful EPK-style promo featurettes, this should come as something of a relief. Being BBC-originated as well it’s naturally at 1.78:1 and also 16:9 enhanced; audio is stereo.


A kinetic big-fun adventure romp of seriously high quality without a single dull or misfired moment, The Lost World takes the already-high BBC standard and effortlessly outdoes it. Undoubtedly expensive but made on a fraction of the budget of its unrelated Spielbergian cousins, it offers affectionate, old-fashioned entertainment done with a precision that keeps you firmly glued to the screen.

The BBC’s Roadshow-distributed DVD presents The Lost World as though it was a feature film, which is the way it should be seen. In its full widescreen format with sublime picture quality and house-shifting audio, it’s one well worth grabbing and keeping around for those times when you want some old-style entertainment with lots of, err, bite.

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      And I quote...
    "A kinetic big-fun adventure romp... done with a precision that keeps you firmly glued to the screen"
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS300
    • TV:
          Panasonic - The One
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DB870
    • Speakers:
          Klipsch Tangent 500
    • Centre Speaker:
    • Surrounds:
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
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