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25 August 2013 @ 06:14 pm
Review: The Land Unknown (continued)  
sci fi ult

Scene 41: Sometime later, Hal, Jack and Steve rendezvous with no sign of Maggie. Steve happens upon a bit of torn cloth from Maggie's shirt, but Hal doesn't find any animal tracks and no signs of struggle. But Jack finds a set of footprints sunk into some mud.

Hal draws his pistol and the men go after the tracks.

Meanwhile, we see a useless shot of man on wicker raft.


Scene 42: The men follow the tracks to the river side, allowing Hal to guess that whoever has Mags is in a boat.

Meanwhile, we see said boat pulling up to a rock cave.


Scene 43: Our men have retrieved their own raft and have headed downriver. They spot the rock cave.


Scene 44: Meantime, Maggie is starting to come around. She wakes up to what she assumes is a caveman. It is soon apparent though that the dude is just a regular guy... who has decided he owns the entire valley and doesn't appreciate the trespassers.

NewDude, and to save the "suspense" - this will be Dr. Carl Hunter, informs Maggie that since he owns everything in the valley, he also owns her. She blows this creepy statement off to ask after the others and Carl informs her that they're dead. She accuses him of murder, but he claims that the dinosaurs took care of the problem for him.

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Mags has a short-lived breakdown, as she happens to spot her dead friends nearly immediately through a fissure in the rock wall as the men are in their raft headed toward her location. With rescue imminent, Maggie turns her attention to distracting Carl and leading him away from where he may see her rescuers arriving.

He blah-blahs about how he's survived and she realizes the horn sounds were coming from his using his giant sea conch shell to scare the dinosaurs.

But, enough talk. Carl has been alone for however long and immediate rape is on his twisted mind. There is a struggle, and Mags is hit to the ground. But before things can get any ickier, our rescue team arrive led by Hal's sidearm. Carl is ordered off.

Carl and Jack exchange tough guy words, with Carl assuring them that when they've been trapped for 10 years the way he has, they'll be just as savage. Jack tells him he's insane, which Carl takes badly.

In order to get the situation back under control, Hal takes a different tact, introducing himself and his companions and asking for Carl's name. This brings Carl up short, as he remembers that he crashed with three other men [Jack assumes it's the four men lost during the earlier 1947 expedition] but isn't sure which one he is for several moments, but finally recalls.

Carl then turns to bargaining. He recognizes the damaged part that he retrieved from their encampment when he was stealing their food and offer them the site of his own wreckage where they should be able to locate the tube they need for their copter. In exchange he wants them to leave him alone... and leave Mags for him.

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Naturally, our men our outraged but Carl assures them that they'll all agree to his proposal and sooner than they think they will after they come to realize it's their only shot out of there alive. Jack reminds Carl that they have guns and they leave with Mags to search for Carl's wreckage without his help. But he shouts after them that they'll be just like him after the dark Antarctic winter hits and they're left for months at a time blinded, surrounded by the stink of the constant fog, and losing each other in the dark and being left utterly alone with the trampling beasts.


Commentary: And, I was right. Henry Brandon did indeed give us some nice energy and his speechifying was really engaging. But this scene is all kinds of problematic from a drama standpoint. Every single moment of tension is undone by a quick resolution that makes each moment of genuine tension too short. It would have been better for the story if Hal's team didn't leave, but instead used the guns to inform Carl that they were moving in for awhile and if he tried anything, he'd find out that they could be just as ruthless as he's become.

Then they could have played with that tension over the days of their exile as they try to force Carl to reveal the wreck site without preconditions, and he stubbornly tries to sabotage their every attempt to leave, while Maggie has the extra burden of being afraid to be anywhere alone where Carl may be able to get to her.

They could also deal with the question of what they may need to do to Carl if, in fact, they miss their window of opportunity to leave and are trapped in the cave-home for the duration. It would also be interesting [though obvs it can't be discussed openly and frankly since this is a 1957 flick] if we had a scene where Jack and Hal approached their mutual attractions to Maggie and how that might work if they're trapped indefinitely and what Maggie may be thinking about that. It must be crossing their minds.

Finally, with us being down to the last thirty minutes, it would really help if one of our main characters died right about now-ish. Obvs Steve would be the choice, but I'd really like to see Hal or Jack buy it just for the surprising twist.



Scene 45: The following day, Carl is out on an egg bashing patrol. A lizardsaurus is nearby and comes threateningly close, causing Carl to reach for the Conch Shell of Horn Blasts. It looks for a minute that it won't work, perhaps because it is defending its nest, but the beast turns away. Fortunately for Dr. Hunter since he was in the open with no where to run.


Scene 46: Elsewhere, Hal and Maggie are wandering - presumably to look for Carl's wrecked craft. They don't notice the T. Rex, but it is watching them.

Hal sends Maggie off while he arm waves and shouts to draw the roaring beast's attention.


Commentary: Okay, about the T. Rex, because I simply can't ignore it any further. The thing is obviously a man in costume stumbling about, and I have to say how disappointing it is. I'm all for suitmation -- it is the technique used in the Toho Kaiju films and those I love beyond reason. Here though, the suit just isn't that well done, whenever the monster is walking around. I do like the touch of having saliva dripping from its teeth, though.

But ultimately, I just don't think it quite works. The lizardsauruses have problems, being live action critters filmed, embiggened and matted into scenes with the actors but they're still better than the attempt at an upright dinosaur.



The dinosaur ignores Hal to follow after Maggie, but this changes when Hal uses his handgun. He manages to lead the Rex until he can find a hollow to leap into, allowing the dinosaur to march right past him, and barely missing getting stepped on.

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Scene 47: Meanwhile, Maggie has run back to stand in front of the animal eating plant, still completely unaware that it is probably dangerous, what with the tentacle waving.


Commentary: OUCH. Complete film making fail. It is more than obvious that they took the scene from the first time Maggie was unknowingly endangered and inserted it here. But because they just had to do that for whatever reason, it makes it look like Mag's clothing time travelled and knitted themselves back together. Where just seconds before she had no sleeves on her shirt, and no legs on her former pants, now suddenly they're whole... for a minute.


Scene 48: Back with Hal, he's watching the dino wander away still roaring to itself. Suddenly there is a Maggie-scream, and he goes racing off in its direction.

Maggie has failed to escape the plant this time [she was probably in shock over what happened to her clothing between shots] and has gotten entwined. Dr. Hunter is closer and he clubs the plant enough for Maggie to be released, but on hearing Hal's closing shouts, he takes off back into the forest.


Scene 49: Hal arrives to find Maggie on the ground, where she reports what happened with the plant and her save by Hunter. She has a breakdown over never getting out of there, ever, ever, ever.

Maggie offers to trade her freedom to Carl for the location of his wreckage but Hal refuses. She pleads with him to let her save him, Steve and Jack. Hal's answer is a big, movie kiss.


Scene 50: The following day, Hal returns to the makeshift calendar. They're down to two days before the expedition team is expected to be pulling out of the area before the winter ice starts closing in.

Steve is being a dick about it all. He blames Maggie for not putting out to Carl Hunter so the rest of them can leave. Maggie again offers that the rest of them shouldn't be trapped here in the Land Unknown, but Hal cuts her off. Jack starts to agree that Mags should make her own choices, but when Hal calls him on it, he backtracks. Steve shoots sullen glares around.

The four separate to find Carl's wreckage.


Commentary: Pacing. It's an issue now. Probably because they've violated by unofficial rule about the number of scenes that should be in a 75-minute-ish movie by going way over it. But, the bigger problem is that nothing is really happening. Every conflict or danger that presents itself is resolved within a minute, except for the central 'trapped in strange land' problem. There simply isn't any sustained sense of wonder, or danger, or even a pervading sense of adrenaline over their dwindling time to escape. Everyone is simply far too lowkey for their situation and even simple survival is being treated as not all that difficult, and mostly kinda boring.


Scene 51: Hal and Maggie are out searching their general assigned area. Mags is lookin' shifty behind Hal's back. She hangs back as Hal continue advancing. She then turns on her heel and rushes back to the raft, presumably to go make the deal with Carl Hunter.

Hal finally turns to tell her something and notices she's gone missing.


Scene 52: At that moment, Maggie is rowing herself toward Carl's cavehome. As she's rowing and looking along the banks of the river, we see a return of the mysterious bubbles and dark head in the water. It is presumably making its way toward the unsuspecting Mags.

Carl Hunter happens to hear Maggie's rowing and watches her as she's headed toward him. This allows him to happen to see the submerged dinosaur headed in her direction. He grabs a pair of torched spears and heads toward the water's edge.

As the bubbles continue, and Maggie remains unaware, Carl hops aboard his own raft and heads toward her.

The submerged dinosaur shows itself, as Maggie continues to head right for it without a clue.


Commentary: I do really like this shot, and I love the extra touch of having the dinosaurs flippers coming up out of the water. I could do without the annoying, overbaked soundtrack. It's too loud and overbearing.


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The dinosaur continues to close on Maggie, as Carl continues closing on the creature. Seeing that he can't make the distance, Carl resorts to the Conch Trumpet. This causes Maggie to look around for him, only to see the sea monster about to eat her. She screams and faints. Carl continues to blow his trumpet. [The monster gets too close to the camera, and the close up does no favors for it.]


Scene 53: Meanwhile, Hal had apparently found Jack and the two of them rushed to the raft landing site to find it missing, because both of them are standing there when they hear Carl's obnoxious bleating. They rush off down the river bank toward Carl's section of the river.

As they're doing this, Carl is faced with a river dinosaur that is attracted to, rather than repelled from, his Conch. He must've gone through this before though, since he brought along those long handled torches. He now turns to these.

Carl aims the first of this two torches into the monster's mouth and scores a direct hit. [And then the filmmakers fail again by very obviously running the film in backward so that Carl can take a second shot at the dinosaur, before losing this first torch to the dino's mouth.]

The dinosaur goes under but resurfaces to charge at Carl again. He is able to send the second torch into the monster's gullet. This third attempt is successful. Carl ties onto Maggie's raft and leads it away.


Scene 54: Meanwhile, Steve is wandering around. His search area happens to include the river bank right across from Hunter's Cave, and he sees the doctor carrying the clearly still unconscious Mags into his home.


Scene 55: At Carl's, he lies Maggie out and throws water into her face. Before they can exchange words though, Steve has managed to... leap the river?... make it to Hunter's Cave without a raft. Despite wearing a sidearm, he chooses to leap onto the doctor to beat the crap outta him, apparently deciding he was wrong earlier when he wanted Maggie to surrender to her fate.

Carl manages to toss Steve around, and then goes for a torch. Steve still has the firearm and draw it... but, DOH, it's empty. He's left with chucking it at Hunter. This misses. Carl Hunter tries to torch up Steve, but the other man dodges, weaves and retreats.

[Maggie? Oh, she's a 1950's woman, so she stands idly by out of the way.]

While bumbling around the room, Steve manages to grab one of the doctor's clubs from his cavewall. He and the doc continue sparring.

Steve is able to temporarily disarm Carl, but the latter gets his hands on a sharpened bone machete. He begins to overpower Steve, threatening to send the sharpened bone into his face [Maggie stands there pensively, but oh-so-passively]. Just as Steve is driven to the ground and is about to be shishkabobbed, he's able to kick Carl away. The doctor is sent falling backward, where he hits his head on a rock outcropping being used as a table and is knocked unconscious. [Maggie continues to stand silently by, being pensive.]

Moments later, Hunter starts to come around to see Steve looking a bit wild eyed. He's retrieved the torch and start threatening to torture Carl with it if he doesn't reveal where the wreckage is. Maggie makes a [half-hearted] attempt to intervene, but Steve pushes her away.


Scene 56: At the river bank, Hal and Jack reach across from Carl's cavehome to hear him pleading inside. They rush to swim across.

Meanwhile, Maggie rushes out of the cave lair to look for them for help in stopping Steve's torture campaign since Carl Hunter is too stubborn to give in and reveal the crash site.


Scene 57: In the cave, Carl is telling Steve he'll rot. Hal leaps into the action and orders Steve to stand down, but Steve intends to do whatever it takes to get the hell out of there. Jack is on Steve's side, but Hal has the sidearm.

Hal does the "Commander Inspiring Speech" about not finding escape through flesh and Steve stands down. Maggie's entreaty gets Jack to help Hal with getting Carl to his makeshift bed-rock. [Heh. Bed-rock... bedrock... heh... eh. Good Lord, please get over.]

The gang set about to help Carl with his injury to his objections. He learns a valuable lesson on remaining human in the most dire of circumstances and pulls out a lunch box with the information he'd been hiding. He orders them to leave him alone. This inspires another "Commander Inspiring Speech" and then the three men take off. Maggie offers to stay with Hunter temporarily to see to his head wound. He gets all woobie-eyed at her over this [But, thank God, he doesn't talk in this moment. One can imagine the embarrassing drippy dialogue that someone was surely tempted to put in his mouth].


Scene 58: Our men follow Carl's map. They find another natural cave, where inside they find three graves of Carl's companions. They also find the salvaged bits of wreckage that Hunter squirreled away, including the needed magnesium tube.


Scene 59: Meanwhile, Carl's being tended to by Maggie.


Scene 60: Back at their own landing site, Hal returns with the parkas that they'll need when they take off. Steve has just completed repairs, and Jack starts up the engines [a nice touch was William crossing his fingers first]. It's sounding rough causing looks of concern.


Scene 61: In Hunter Homestead, Maggie gets a smile as she hears the copter turning over. Carl has come around again and sits up to listen to the gang's attempts to get their copter going. Maggie's face falls in disappointment as she hears the motors cut out again.


Scene 62: Back at the copter, Jack tells them they'll have one more shot and then the battery will be a deader. He and Steve go to check the ignition system again for damage.


Scene 63: Maggie heads out to go back to camp and find out what has happened with the copter, but as she reaches the cave entrace, the river dino has made its return and his interested in the cave home of Carl. Maggie falls back off the ladder and is again knocked out. Carl makes the river beast go with a torch in the cave opening.

Hunter hears the copter motor start up again, and after a moment's decision, hauls up Maggie to take her back to her campsite.


Scene 64: The rotors are spinning, but too roughly for takeoff. Steve reports that this isn't a big deal and the new rod just needs some adjusting, which he climbs up to do. What the men don't know, because of the rotor noise, is that the T. Rex is also interested in the racket going on caused by the motor/rotors. It comes roaring into camp, as Steve is attempting to make the final adjustment.

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Hal tries to hold off the Rex with his sidearm.


Scene 65: Meanwhile on the river, Maggie is awake again and she and Carl are rafting up river.


Scene 66: The copter's rotors get moving again, and the men take shelter inside the copter as the T. Rex continues marching forward, having not learned its lesson from the first time it walked into the spinning blades. Before it reaches them, Jack is able to get them off the ground.

They hover over the river, where Maggie and Carl meet them. A winch is lowered for Maggie. She's brought on board, as Carl heads away downriver again.


Scene 67: The river dino makes another return [even though you'd think having its throat burned would cause swelling and the last thing it would want to do is try to swallow something -- it should be having trouble breathing]. Carl tries to get the raft to move fast enough to outrun the thing.

With this obvs failing, he turns back to the torch poles. Dino has learned its lesson about fire though, and submerges before Carl can strike out at it. It comes up from under the raft, knocking Carl into the water. As he tries to outswim it to shore [while not actually heading toward shore] the coptor swoops in to help him. But, one of the monster's huge flippers pounds Carl underwater.

Our crew spot Carl floating face up in the water, and Hal has Jack swoop in close to the river dino. Hal then fires a flare gun into the river dino's mouth. He dives out to check on Carl's condition.

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Meanwhile, Jack lowers as much as he can, while Maggie lowers the winch harness. Our two are squeezed aboard and the copter makes its escape from the Land Unknown.


Scene 68: [After far too many precious seconds are wasted with shots of men smiling and the copter going transparent again], the expedition crew is able to intercept the fleet, including a grateful Carl Hunter. But, oh noes! The coptor has run out of fuel before landing, and they have to ditch in the subarctic sea!

But everyone is rescued. Yay! [And, I turned out to be completely mistaken -- Steve was not DOOMED.]


Scene 69: [Oh, c'mon, we're not done, yet??] In the moonlight on the bridge, Hal and Mags talk. [It's all cutesy 'marriage on the horizon', or 'we are having a baby, by the way' and I want to vomit.] They big kiss.



The Good: They did a really good job on the sets and with the mat paintings. The jungle setting is very well realized, along with the cloudy river running through it.

I liked Henry Brandon as Dr. Carl Hunter, but I do wish he'd had more to do.

I liked the dilemma of Maggie's choice to stay behind and sacrifice her freedom to Carl in order to save her compatriots. Especially in the way that Steve and Jack were ready to let her make the trade for them.

I liked (mostly) the work done on the River Dinosaur.

I also found the fight scenes between Steve and Carl to be good, as it offered some really needed energy to what was going on.


The Bad: The horn-heavy score really becomes an annoying presence about half way through, and it doesn't stop. There is very little variation and it becomes wearying listening to it - which you can't avoid, because the volume on it is cranked up, making it intrusive.

Too much stock footage from Byrd's expedition... we get it, Antarctica has ice and seals and penguins. Enough.

I HATE a movie using a staged, real animal fight for false drama/danger. There was no reason for those two big lizards to be filmed in a fight to the death. It's cheap, manipulative, unnecessary and doesn't have any impact on the characters.

There are some points where 'Shawn Smith' just doesn't emote when it is really needed. Her face is largely immobile in places where you'd think she'd be suffering some real terror. And this could have been interesting if the script was tweaked to take advantage of it by placing Maggie in a surreal state of shock through the movie, but that isn't the reason that she shrugs off everything.

There are some real obvious continuity errors caused for no gain by the editing in of shots from earlier in the movie into new scenes, and from rolling film backwards and replaying a scene. The scenes where this was used wasn't needed, so why do that!


Other Thoughts: A problem with the film is the pacing, but I can't quite put it in "The Bad". Enough happens to keep you relatively engaged, but very little of what happens has any meaningful impact on the characters. Every dilemma they face is solved much too quickly for there to be any angst or fear for them. Also, it takes too long to get into the savage land, and too long to wrap up the film once they escape. This probably could have been overcome with at least one dynamic actor in our main four to hold our attention, but they're all so bland and none of them are given a serious story arc to keep us invested in them.

Matting issues - especially with the coptor, also drags things down a bit.

There is a lot of weird story elements that don't pay off. On the one hand, at least we're avoiding the cliches, but on the other, you have to wonder why our attention is being drawn to them, if nothing was to be done with them. One example is Steve draining power from the battery to call for help, after Jack has told them that it wasn't useful: Nothing ever happens because of this and they aren't inconvenienced nor do they have the ultimate escape threatened by this... and no one ever knows about it. Hal particularly mentions that they're sitting on top of a volcano, but it never erupts or threatens erupting and killing them all even though we hear the rumbling throughout the movie and we don't end with a near-escape as the oasis self-destructs. Steve gives all the signs of suffering a tragic death both because he has a 'son on the way' and because of his duplicity, but it never happens and he doesn't suffer any consequences. The same can be said for Carl Hunter -- he's set up as a sacrifice to help Maggie escape after having wanting to enslave her, but nothing comes from this and he gets rescued as well.


The Score: I really thought I was going to give this a below average grade, but there is enough here to keep you watching through the plodding scenes. The shots that include Dr. Hunter have energy and I liked the escape sequences, especially involving the River Dino. I think I can score this as average:

3.0 out of 5 stars


Next Review: Movie Review: "The Monolith Monsters"


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