The Land That Time Forgot (US-2009; dir. C. Thomas Howell)
The Asylum’s latest foray into the world of B-film genre mayhem is an enjoyable adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel, The Land That Time Forgot. Its blend of good-natured low-budget monster SFX, likeable and distinctive (if largely uncomplicated) characters, and familiar narrative (spiced up with a few unexpected turns) makes it an appealing evening’s entertainment — one that may not be on the dino-pic A-list, but which at least gets a table in the main dining area.
In the present day, a group of holidaying middle-class adventurers on a yacht piloted by the crusty Captain Burroughs (played with idiosyncratic conviction by Timothy Bottoms) find themselves caught up in a very strange storm at sea. Their boat is dragged into a tear in time and space and they are stranded on an island that is the enforced home of pteradactyls, over-sized T-Rexs, a WW1 pilot and the surviving crew of a Nazi submarine. They are consequently faced with some important questions: Can they avoid becoming dino-food? Can they escape the island? And who exactly can be trusted?
The Land That Time Forgot‘s clear and colourful cinematography — it’s filmed on location somewhere green and open, with at least the appearance of being an actual island paradise — gives it an expansive quality that makes the film look glossier than you would expect from its restrictive budget. Available resources are used effectively. Though director C. Thomas Howell (who also plays the narrator, pictured below) keeps the narrative moving with all due aplomb, the setting itself and the competence of the cast carry us over the gaps between monster action without feeling like the human drama bits are merely filler. I was actually impressed by some of the performances, and especially so when it came to the unexpectedly non-stereotypical depiction of the Nazis.
Not that the monsters lack presence. They turn up enough to keep all but the most attention-deficient satisfied and the SFX guys manage to work enough alternative perspectives into how we see them that their scenes are neither repetitious (a problem with many low-budget monster films) nor rushed in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it manner.
On the question of SFX, here at least the low-budget CGI is definitely watchable. The creatures may not sit as solidly in the scene as, say, Kong in Jackson’s remake or the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park — but they look pretty good and are a lot more convincing than the puppets of the 1975 Doug McClure version of the story (as effective as those were in context). Neither these nor 1975 director Kevin Connor’s look entirely “real”, but they are used imaginatively in both films and, failing an injection of an extra $100 million, that’s good enough for me.
It’s inevitable, I suppose, that The Land That Time Forgot will not be forgiven by many net-critics for being made by the notorious Asylum — but at the risk of sounding like an apologist for the company, I don’t think such an attitude is fair. The fact is, this is a decent and entertaining B-monster romp, infinitely better than many of the so-called “classic” creature features thrown together by B-film specialists in the past and now revered by the very fans who rubbish The Asylum for its often entirely acceptable exploitation endeavours. Sure, I’ve seen Asylum films that are more-or-less unwatchable, and others that are OK but rather more rough around the edges than one would like. But seen in the right perspective, this new straight-to-DVD version of The Land That Time Forgot needs little apology.
So I won’t apologise for it. I’ll just say that I enjoyed it. It didn’t bore me nor did it feel like a waste of 90 minutes of my time. If you like dino-flicks — and don’t carry grudges — check it out for yourself.