Eric Porter, Hildegard Knef, Tony Beckley, Suzanna Leigh, Nigel Stock, Neil McCallum, Ben Carruthers, Jimmy Hanley, James Cossins, Dana Gillespie, Victor Maddern, Reg Lye, Norman Eshley, Michael Ripper, Darryl Read, Eddie Powell
Script: Michael Nash : Producer: Michael Carreras Director: Michael Carreras
Release: 1968 : Duration: 104 mins : Cert X : Colour: Country of Production: UK
A funeral service is being held onboard a much-battered ship, and as the Captain (Eric Porter) speaks the eulogy, he wonders what has brought them all to this state. And, in a reflective mood, he looks back at a few days ago when he was trying to avoid customs - the reason being that he had secretly stashed an illegal cargo in the hold. Nobody aboard realised this until some of the crew happened to enter there and began speculating on what precisely could be in those yellow cans with the warning on the side. And with a hurricane approaching, the answer to that would become more pressing for crew and passengers alike...
The answer is that they're carrying high explosive that naturally reacts violently with water, not the kind of thing you want to be in the middle of the ocean with. The Lost Continent was one of Hammer's oddities, based on a Dennis Wheatley novel but unlikely to go down in history with classic status as the studio's version of The Devil Rides Out had done. Taken over from by producer Michael Carreras, who also adapted the script, it was one of the most idiosyncratic works ever to emerge from the famous fright merchants.
One aspect one cannot help but notice as the film gets underway is that there is a distinct lack of heroes among the main cast, with the Captain thrusting everyone into the jaws of danger and his first mate leading a mutiny when the ship springs a leak, but abandoning the passengers when he takes most of the crew with him. Those passengers appear to have stepped right out of a soap opera, each with a secret to equal the Captain's including fugitive from Eastern Europe Miss Peters (Hildegard Knef) and disgraced doctor Webster (Nigel Stock) and his wayward daughter Unity (Suzanna Leigh).
For half this film you would never know that there was a fantastical element, but once the remaining characters are forced to take to a lifeboat in the storm, we get hints that there are monsters on the march: something to do with the shark that gobbles up one of the passengers, represented in time-honoured fashion by a fin breaking the surface of the water. After that the story appears to be striving to see exactly how weird and wacky it can be, starting with the thick tendrils of seaweed that enclose the lifeboat and have a habit of grabbing onto any hapless human in the vicinity.
Whether this constitutes a continent or not is open to debate, certainly there's the odd island dotted about but nothing that major in size, but never mind that as there are giant crab creatures and a huge octopus to contend with, ambitiously but tackily realised as they are. Eventually, our protagonists find their ship again and climb back on, but there are more dangers awaiting them: they didn't expect The Spanish Inquisition but that's what they get when a ship full of Conquistadors, stranded from centuries ago, go on the attack. All these plot twists make The Lost Continent sound better than it is, as too often it gets bogged down in the uninteresting personal lives of the passengers, but in illustrating how even the most self-centred personalities can reform, it wins a few points in its favour. Not much of an ending, mind you. Did they ever get away? Music by Gerard Schurmann.
Images: Marcus Brooks