Pursuing rumors of fantastic beasts deep in the African jungle, a scientific team journeys to an uncharted plateau where they suddenly find themselves fighting to survive gigantic dinosaurs!
Directed by: Timothy Bond
. Starring: John Rhys-Davies
, David Warner
, Eric McCormack
, Nathania Stanford
, Darren Peter Mercer
, Tamara Gorski
, Sala Came
, Fidelis Cheza
, John Chinosiyani
, Innocent Choda
, Brian Cooper
, Charles David
, Kate Egan
. Music by: Isaiah Sanders
, Gerard Shadrick
, Lawrence Shragge
, Larry Wolff
Based on an original story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the same guy who wrote "Sherlock Holmes" novels so many years ago), this movie has a pretty good plot but is hampered by a low budget and television censorship (or so it would appear). I've never read the original novel, so I can't comment on how close the film tracks to the original story. I've seen another adaptation that glossed over some of the plotlines raised in this film, and between the two films that I've seen, this one probably follows the novel closer.
Dr.Challenger is on an expedition in a jungle when one of his bearers tries to steal a map from him while he sleeps. Challenger suffers a leg wound in the struggle and ends up killing the bearer. The next day he is poised to climb an escarpment and spots a winged creature flying over the cliff's ledge but because of his wound he is unable to continue his expedition and is forced to turn back. Returning to England, he makes a speech to a British scholar's society about how he came upon a land where a dinosaur life form thought to be extinct - a pterodactyl, a bird-like dinosaur that either flew or glided -still exists(interestingly enough, this book was written before the discovery of the pcelocanth (a dinosaur fish) caught in a fisherman's net off Madagascar in the 50s or 60s).
Back in England, the scholars scoff Dr.Challenger and rebuke his claims. A newspaper reporter in search of a story and some adventure calls out to the scholars, stating that they should launch an expedition to prove Dr.Challenger's claims true or false. The scholars retort that perhaps if the Society were to fund an expedition that perhaps the reporter would like to join them, along with a young boy in the auditorium. There is, of course, much laughter until their offer is accepted by the reporter, the boy, and a female photographer who happens to be a wealthy supporter of women's rights and offers to fund the expense of the expedition. Money talks and the expedition is prepared, on the condition that Challenger remain in England, to avoid any complications to the leadership of Challenger's rival, Dr.Summerlee.
Once at the jungle station, Dr.Summerlee opens an envelope that is supposed to contain the map to the escarpment, but the paper inside is blank! Ta-daa, Dr.Challenger arrives with the map and joins the expedition. Also joining the expedition is the boy, who stowed away in the ship from England, and an attractive native girl ("Malu") who is to act as an interpreter for the group. The group gathers up some native bearers and proceed up the river into the jungle.
In my opinion, the movie spent too much time getting our heroes into the adventure. I can understand the need for character development and motivation, but it just seemed too tedious, particularly since all of the characters are stereotypical and there really isn't any development anyway. But, I suppose when the story was originally written, all of this was new to the viewers so it had to be explained.
Once in the jungle, our heroes climb the escarpment, only to find themselves stranded when the brother of the bearer Challenger had killed earlier comes along and cuts their climbing ropes. The group makes a camp, but must battle fierce native warriors who capture Challenger, Summerlee, the photographer, and the native bearers and are going to feed them to a tyrannosaurus rex by placing leaves around their necks and pushing them off a cliff into the t-rex's claws. The boy figures out how to save them by making a balloon out of a shirt and natural gas from some hot springs nearby and scaring the native warriors.
Later, the group finds a friendly tribe and one of the young girls of the village has a baby pterodactyl that's dying. Summerlee reasons that perhaps the leaves that the warriors had placed around their necks to feed the t-rex might be some sort of dinosaur food, so he collects some and revives the baby pterodactyl. Challenger and Summerlee congratulate each other -Summerlee congratulates Challenger on discovering living dinosaurs and Challenger congratulates Summerlee on figuring out how the dinosaurs survived extinction - and they become friends.
John Rhys-Davies has become the prototypical explorer/adventurer actor. He did an outstanding job in the Indiana Jones films, this film, a remake of "Ivanhoe", the "Shogun" miniseries, and he recently did the narration for "Empires of Mystery" Inca/Aztec/Maya exhibit at the Florida Internation Museum. In my opinion, he carries this film. The actress playing Malu has one of the best smiles I've seen on camera, right up there with Erik Estrada and Donnie Osmond, and looks like she belongs in a steamy jungle of Brazil. She has a pretty good body in that sarong, too. The dinosaur scenes are mediocre. The puppets aren't going to win any special effects awards and in this day of Computer Generated Images they almost look ridiculous, but they get the idea across. The fierce native warriors look pretty good - their white paint makes them look like skeletons and look suitably ferocious. I was surprised that the adventurers managed to stay in full dress, complete with vest, long pants, and long coat, while the natives dress in sarongs and loincloths. I would think that they would "go native" for comfort, if not for practicality. But, I suppose the standards of Doyle's time didn't allow for such freedom. You can go forth wreck indigenous species and interfere with other cultures, but you can't take off your shirt.
No skin, no foul language, no gore (in fact, the gunshot wound to the bearer has no blood at all), nothing terribly frightening. A good movie for the whole family. Fans of jungle films may enjoy it, but you'd probably get more entertainment out of a good "Tarzan" film.
Review by Troy Whigham from the Internet Movie Database.