Amicus Productions are well known and even now respected for their portmanteau horror anthologies, afforded more love for films like Asylum and having undergone a modern critical reappraisal much like their main competitor Hammer Film Productions. And also, much like Hammer (although it wasn’t quite as varied a catalogue), Amicus didn’t just do horror and branched out into other genres. By the early seventies, the blood had drained from the traditional British horror market and two main options remained for companies: try and compete with the new wave of vivid modern terrors like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist or diversify.
For Amicus, this became a proposed series of adaptations of adventure stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Three were eventually made and this first film (a direct sequel and a further Burroughs adaptation would later follow) from director Kevin Connor attempts to tell the story of a WW1 U-boat, a power struggle between surviving crew members of a British merchant ship and the submarine crew and how they come to ultimately work together and discover the land of Caprona, a prehistoric subcontinent anomaly stuck in time inside a huge volcano.
It does this on a tiny budget and the resulting mix of live-action film, puppet work and miniature special effects have come in for some stick over the years. But there’s a reason this film became a Sunday-afternoon staple on TV. It’s great fun, as well as remarkably serious-minded and quite bleak in its approach. Connor’s direction is solid, everyone involved takes it seriously and this attempt at a fantasy adventure actually works. Of course, the special effects are cheap and if you’re in the wrong mood, you could find it all quite silly. But if you take this in the way it was intended, it’s grandly ambitious for a film made for nowt, and is never less than entertaining.
As for this release by Australia’s Umbrella Entertainment, it’s another in the good news/meh news pattern we’re used to now. The good news is this Blu-ray has a decent print that’s sharp, clear and magnitudes better than the fuzzy TV showings from decades past. The meh is that the film is all you get, with no extras (a shame when other releases have a commentary at least), nor even a menu to the disc. It really is only worth getting if you want the film on Blu-ray and only then if you can’t find a better version. Hopefully, Umbrella Entertainment will be able to license or produce extras for other releases of classic films, as it does give more of a reason to pick them up. A fine and entertaining film, a sadly inessential release.
THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1974) / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: KEVIN CONNOR / SCREENPLAY: JAMES CAWTHORN, MICHAEL MOORCOCK / STARRING: DOUG MCCLURE, JOHN MCENERY, SUSAN PENHALIGON, KEITH BARRON, ANTHONY AINLEY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW