My friend Lucy is doing a Halloween-month series of posts about the Amicus anthology horrors from the ’70s, and talking about the Amicus films, I remembered a pillar of my young education – the Amicus productions of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Novels, The Land that Time Forgot and The People that Time Forgot, plus At The Earth’s Core.
All three movies were directed by Kevin Connor and featured Doug McClure.
So I went and re-watched The Time that Land Forgot, the first and certainly the best of the three movies.
The film was adapted from the first in the three Caprona novels by ERB, and the script for the film was written by no less than Michael Moorcock and James Cawthorn. Apparently the Burroughs estate had explicitly asked for Moorcock – maybe because in his youth he’d be the editor of the magazine Tarzan Adventures.
What struck me in particular on this umpteenth re-watch was how solid the movie was given its tragically low budget. True, the pterodactyls that appear on screen 37 minutes into the action as extremely embarrassing, but apart for some of the creature effects, there’s nothing wrong with this film. The script is fine, the direction is intelligent without being anything particularly new. The submarine scenes are quite good and exciting, and the cast is top notch.
Doug McClure was an actor specializing in westerns and adventure features, and he was at the same time rock-solid and charming – a combination that’s exactly what’s needed if one is trying to tell a story with cavemen, dinosaurs, a mysterious island and German sailors. A nice guy punching the bad guys sort of eases the viewer into the much needed suspension of disbelief.
Yet something did not click. Yeah, the effects were cheap and often ridiculous, and there were some problems on the set according to Moorcock’s memories of the shooting. And maybe dinosaurs and cavemen on mysterious islands were a hard sell in 1975.
Or maybe not – De Laurentiis’ King Kong would hit the screens the following year, and Skull Island is certainly a close kin (if not a straight out derivate) of Burrough’s Caprona.
The budget was certainly the greatest problem.
And yet an abortive franchise was launched – and of the three Caprona novels, the second also was shot, with Connor at the helm, McClure in a supporting role, and no longer Moorcock at the script. I’ll do a post on that one, too.
The third novel’s adaptation never emerged out of time’s abyss, and so the franchise sank.
Given the poor results of the adaptation of the first David Innes novel, At the Earth’s Core, any attempt on the part of Amicus of developing a Burroughs-verse went belly up. Plans to do a series of John carter movies never materialized, and shortly afterwards Amicus was no more.