Under the Sea(weed)

Before Irwin Allen put a bunch of miserable, lustful people on a boat headed toward disaster, there was Lost Continent. Hammer’s film (adapted from a novel) involves romance, mutiny, crime, perversion, religion, and whatever else can make these circumstances utterly unlikable.

Soapy drama and nonsense backstories builds this ship filled with people seeking an escape from civilization. Unlike most “lost world” fiction, Lost Continent is less about the excitement of the destination than it is a need to get away to… anywhere. There’s a motif about worshiping false idols, with the British crew primarily seeking financial reward (or escape), all unknowingly headed toward a small cult, trapped on an aimlessly floating ship since the Spanish Conquistadors centuries before.

Lost Continent doesn’t offer a single hero or character worth rooting for

Lost Continent’s finish uses a hokey crab monster, equally inane giant scorpion, and hungry seaweed. But at its core is stale Catholocism, left unchecked by social progress, the generations building on a messy foundation still indebted to torturing non-believers, and bowing to a king – a teenager descended from royalty. The only escape for the British passengers is realizing what devotion to blasphemy will do.

That base provides a firm, pulpy story device, yet Lost Continent doesn’t offer a single hero or character worth rooting for. There’s a doctor chased from his African-based practice after sexually dire accusations; he then exerts total control over his daughter, who freely engages with male passengers. The captain doesn’t tell his crew anything truthful, hiding water-activated explosives in storage. When the crew finds out and revolts, they maim and kill in their panic.

To some credit, Hammer imbues the story with Gothic mood. On the ocean, it’s often foggy. Nightfall exacerbates said tension, and even the limited sun casts an eerie, unsettling golden glow. Lost Continent uses disquiet to its advantage, if also overextending itself through pace-stopping personal monologues to define these characters. Worse, the inappropriate, clumsy, and jazzy score that upends any legitimate tension. By the time killer plants, bugs, and crabs arrive, Lost Continent failed to gain footing.

Video

Offering both an extended and theatrical cut, the former uses some SD footage to fill in gaps. Those scenes look… not so good, but expected. What matters is the rest, and Shout presses a truly gorgeous master to this disc. Sharpness nails the 35mm grain structure, preserving mesmerizing, reference-grade detail. Thanks to the precisely lit cinematography, sixty years on, Lost Continent pairs with modern productions – even bettering them – in purely textural terms.

The source print isn’t damage free. Often, it’s dirty too. Still, this master prevails, causing no significant problems. Flushed color pushes flesh tones to extremes, while elevating other primaries. Suzanna Leigh wears a few graciously saturated outfits. Mood setting blues convey the loneliness at night, the pleasant black levels well calibrated too.

Audio

In the extended cut, popping and cracking will match the “new” footage (plus a volume boost). But for a few outlying concerns, those issues disappear for the rest. In DTS-HD, dialog keeps to consistent clarity. The analog nature of this vintage audio is apparent, if preserved naturally.

Weedy range isn’t unusual, keeping sound locked to a treble-y existence.

Extras

Richard Klemensen steps up for commentary duties, a knowledgeable historian/publisher who’s a great fit. The always awesome Kim Newman fills a video essay for 21-minutes. A strong, well produced 22-minute feature on director Michael Carreras delves into his career at Hammer. Actress Dana Gillespie is interviewed for 17-minutes, the longest interview of this lot, followed by actor Norman Eshley (4:57), effects maker John Richardson (3:40), and music arranger Howard Blake (6:31). Finally, an older behind-the-scenes episode of World of Hammer runs 25-minutes.

The Lost Continent
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

Pulpy sea-faring adventure from Hammer, The Lost Continent never finds a groove before trotting out hokey mutant monsters.

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