When is a dinosaur not a dinosaur?

Way back before people cared about what dinosaurs looked like there was Irwin Allen. His movies had lots of live action dinosaurs. OK so they were really lizards with horns and fins glued on them, but they were LIVE.

‘The Lost World” directed by Irwin Allen, is loosely based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel of the same name published in 1912. An expedition of unusual characters venture to a plateau in Venezuela reportedly inhabited by cannibals and dinosaurs. The party consists of Professor George Edward Challenger, Zoological snob Professor Summerlee, Jennifer Holmes the daughter of the owner of Global News, the paper that is funding the expedition, Jennifer’s brother David, Ed Malone a journalist with the Global News, Lord John Roxton a big game hunter, Manuel Gomez the helicopter pilot, and Costa, Gomez’s assistant. Oh. And Frosty the poodle.

Challenger has been mocked at the London Zoological Society for suggesting that there are still dinosaurs roaming around. The purpose of the expedition is to prove that Challenger’s claims are real. The motley crew takes off in Gomez’s helicopter for the plateau. During their first night there a dinosaur wrecks the helicopter. The group is stuck. So begins an adventure of jungles with man eating plants. Near death encounters with dinosaurs and giant spiders. Cannibals with ceremonial drums. A diary with clues to a previous expedition, and a volcano with fire monster that guards a large cache of diamonds.

Starring Michael Rennie, Jill St. John, David Hedison, Claude Raines, Fernando Lamas and Richard Hadyn “The Lost World” is an old fashioned family type movie. Made in 1960 Irwin wanted to use stop motion for the dinosaurs and had sketches prepared by Willis O’Brien, however, budget limits scrapped that concept and Irwin had to resort to monitor lizards, iguanas and baby crocodiles with plastic do dads on them. Of course the magnificent sets were still part of the production. The film was used as stock footage for some of his television series.

Granted “The Lost World” is 1960’s fluff with fake dinosaurs but there is one side that darkens this Fantasy movie and it was mentioned in the first paragraph of my review. The “dinosaurs” in this movie were alive. So when you see two dinosaurs fighting to the death it is really two live animals fighting to the death. For awhile, prior to Irwin Allen, most dinosaurs were depicted using stop motion. When Allen started using real living creatures it basically ushered in an era of live animals posing as dinosaurs in movies. That in itself is no problem providing the lizards are treated well and not forced to kill each other. I don’t think that was the case with Allen’s “The Lost World” movie. The scene where the alligator is fighting with the monitor lizard is real. And they are actually being forced to fight. How you feel about it is up to you, but you need to understand what is really on screen before you decide if this is a family movie you want to show.