The Land That Time Forgot was original published in 1918 as a three part serial for Blue Book Magazine and starts as many of Burroughs’ books do with someone finding a manuscript belonging to the hero, in this case it was found in a thermos that had been tossed into the ocean by Bowen Tyler in the hopes that someday it would be found and someone would attempt a rescue.
The story takes place during WWI and begins with Tyler and his Airedale terrier Nobs aboard an American passenger ship that is struck by torpedo from a German U-boat. The ship goes down quickly and many of its survivors are killed by the cruel deck guns of the German crew with eventually only Tyler, his dog and fellow passenger the beautiful Lys La Rue seemingly to be the only ones left alive. They are soon rescued by a passing tugboat but their good fortune does not last long as the very same sub that sank Tyler and company attacks the tug, but the brave captain of the tugboat will not go down without a fight, and before the tug sinks beneath the waves he manages to engage the enemy sub so that his crew, with the help of Tyler and Nobs, overtake the Germans and capture the sub.
As an author Burroughs wasn’t above using coincidences to help move the narrative along but in the case of The Land That Time Forgot he may be stretching the bounds of credulity a bit too far, not only do we find out that the German U-Boat, U-33 happened to be manufactured by Tyler’s family shipyard but that the captain of said U-Boat is the ex-fiancé of Lys La Rue. I know it’s a small world but that’s a bit much. U-boat commander Baron Fredrick Von Schoenvorts was made to be Lys’s ex because this allows suspicion to fall on her when small acts of sabotage begin to plague the submarine and thus throws a roadblock in Tyler’s romantic life. Of course it turns out that the saboteur is not Lys, or even one of the German crew, but one of the tugboat crew that just so happens to really, really hate America.
With a destroyed radio, a broken compass, poisoned provision and now low on fuel the occupants of U-33 find themselves off the coast of the mysterious sub-continent of Caprona with their only hope of survival is in finding supplies beyond its apparently impenetrable cliffs. Lucky for them a warm current is discovered that leads them to a passage under the cliffs and into the primitive land of Caspak a world rife with prehistoric life ranging from the age of dinosaurs to the dawn of man.
The only surprising thing here is that it took until 1975 for this story to be adapted for the big screen. Produced by Amicus Productions and with a screenplay by noted fantasy author Michael Moorcock, but unfortunately this film did not set the world on fire as its low budget dinosaurs were more laughable than threatening.
What is shocking is how faithful this low budget movie is to the source material, which is hardly the case when such studios adapt popular books to the screen, with the most notably missing thing being that of Tyler’s dog Nobs, other changes can be argued as an improvement as director Kevin Connor wisely leaves out such tidbits as this particular sub being built by Tyler’s family and that the German commander previously being engaged to Lys, though in the movie she is now named Lisa Clayton (Susan Penhaligon) and given even less to do than the Lys in the book. The movie also streamlines the taking of the sub by removing the tugboat rescue and attack and replacing it with Bowen Tyler (Doug McClure) leading a group of survivors to capture the sub when it unknowingly surfaces close to their lifeboat. Also missing is the anti-American traitor and saboteur and so such of machinations are now left to the Germans alone.
Finding a way in.
A horrible encounter of the prehistoric kind
Quest for Ahm.
A world of titanic struggles.
“What kind of postage should I put on this?”I must say I highly enjoyed both versions of this story and can recommend them to any fan of the genre. Doug McClure is not so much an actor as a he is a walking piece of beef, but in the role of stalwart Bowen Tyler he is well cast. Actually the whole cast does a remarkable job trying to sell this prehistoric world that is clearly large rubber puppets and creatures hanging from strings, and that is no small skill. If Kevin Connor had been given a bigger budget they may have been able to afford to use stop motion techniques instead of silly rubber suited monsters and this film would be looked at more fondly.