harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

Review: The Land Unknown

land unk title

The Land Unknown

Starring: Jock Mahoney, Shirley Patterson (under alias Shawn Smith), William Reynolds
DIR By: Virgil Vogel

Blurb (by IMDB): Three men and a woman crash-land in a deep crater in Antarctica, where they find a prehistoric world.

Scene 01: We open with a shot of a steaming volcano in a mountainous region over which our credits roll as we circle from a helicopter.

The score is the usual 1950's bombast, but it isn't badly done.

Scene 02: We next zip over to Washington, DC where we get uptempo bombast[, because we actually liked government relatively well back during the Cold War]. We get a loving sweep from rooftop level of our government buildings all looking clean and gleaming. Yay, America.

Scene 03: Another fade brings us to a meeting room, where a roomful of officers and scientists are being updated on their mission by a Naval Officer. He's lecturing on Antarctica, where the U.S. Navy has decided to undertake a mission to study the interior of the continent. This is Captain Burnham who will oversee the operation on site [He doesn't get a first name, and I'm not typing Captain Burnham everytime, so let's call him "Doug"].

Our Adviser also reports that the mission will include the study of a phenomena reported by the Byrd expedition during a flyby of 1947, where in he reported an oasis of warm water in the otherwise frozen landscape.

Commentary: Rear Admiral Richard Byrd was a real person, and his Polar Expeditions expanded our knowledge of both the North and South poles. There is some controversy over claims by Richard Byrd that he was the first to reach the North Pole by air, but we will not visit this for this review. He was an exceptional man either way, but his WIKI page doesn't mention any reports of oasis in the frozen south. Must be an oversight.

The briefing is interrupted by all the men staring at a *gasp* woman, who arrives at the meeting late and takes a seat in the back.

Moments later a break is called.

Scene 04: With a break called for, it's time to break out the cigarettes and discuss the dame in the room. We find out that she's a reporter by the name of Maggie Hathaway.

Scene 05: Our briefing Captain greets Maggie, and she apologizes for being late, and the Captain gives her the opportunity to tell us about how she's used to dealing with lots of men, as she covered the war in Korea. {In other words, blah-blah, get on with the actual trip.}

Captain takes her over to introduce her to some (her co-stars) of the men she'll be accompanying. These are Commander Hal Roberts and helicopter pilot, Lt. Jack Carmen. Introductions are full of heavy-handed flirting, because she's a woman and they're men's men and this is the 1950's. [And I'm dreading that we're seeing the beginnings of a love triangle that will continually interrupt our actual story, but I haven't seen this one yet, so we'll have to wait to find out.]


These introductions are cut short (mercifully) by a film from Byrd's expeditions that is meant to introduce this expeditionary force to some of the conditions they'll need to be prepared to meet.

Commander Roberts lets us know that they'll be leaving in two months.

Scene 06: We skip two months ahead. Our ship is the Northwind, and she's joining 800 men to mount this expedition.

Scene 07: The ship rocks and sways as it makes its way south through the Roaring 40's, the Furious 50's and the Shrieking 60's. We eventually make it through the winds and continue toward land.

Scene 08: Aboard the Northwind, Hal and Maggie are on deck watching the ice breaking, where Hal continues making passes at Maggie because we all watch a Dinosaurs In A Lost World picture for the half-baked, instant romances, amiright.

Scene 09: Some time later, Doug joins Maggie, Jack and Hal in the mess hall. The ship is having a rough go of it through the ice. He reports they've run into an ice pack for the next several hundred miles which is going to put them behind by two weeks. He'll have to ask that Jack and Hal take longer flights than previously planned for in order to make up the lost time.

Scene 10: A ship sails through ice (presumably the Northwind).

Scene 11: A ship sails through ice.

Scene 12: Ice breaks up at the bow of a ship.

Commentary: Yes. It's just as dull as you may imagine. The "excitement horns" on the soundtrack are not changing this.

Scene 13: Finally, the ship break through to a patch of open water and it'd judged safe to launch the helicoptor. Pilot Jack, Maggie and Commander Hal (he's also a geologist/geophysicist... something-something) get ready to launch. Captain 'Doug' reminds Mags that if the coptor goes down, her chance of survival would be extremely limited. She's all grins as she says she's going.

Commentary: Stock footage palooza in this thing. It's not that it's badly inserted, excepting the usual differences in film stock, but somebody really wanted to stretch the running time with these inserted footage, instead of extending the run time through the damned script and a little something called character building.

I'm getting the sinking feeling that this will not be like Dr. Cyclops, which I also dreaded, but then found that I liked watching. I sure am hoping that something interesting happens after the crash.

Scene 14: More Ice Floe. This time by air, rather than deck.

Wildlife on the Antarctic shelf. And then more. And then flying around Mount Erabus.

Commentary: Hey, was that a trick on my eyes, or did I just see through that helicopter??

Scene 15: Aboard the Northwind, in answer to the latest weather reports, Captain Doug orders the coptor to return to base at once.

He offers exposition to the men he's having coffee with, that a storm is moving in.

Scene 16: With the coptor, we're flying. Flying, flying, flying.

Commentary: Hmmm. I do believe the edges of the copter are see-through again and that we're over back projected mountains. I guess we don't have expedition stock footage for these scenes.

Jack reports that they're close to their destination. We fly over a (stock footage) crater lake. [I also just notice a third man in the helicoptor... he's mechanic, Steve Miller. He wants to get back to base because he has a kid on the way. Uh-Huh. DOOMED]


Scene 17: The weather report is called in to Jack and the coptor swings out to get back before the storm.

Commentary: Wow. Now our stock footage mountains, Antarctic life, sea ice and flat, white ice fields are supplemented with stock storm clouds. Unbelievable.

Scene 18: The copter is skirting to the west of the storm, but Jack determines they won't be able to outrun it. After a series of suggestions, all shot down by Jack for various legitimate reasons, he finds a break in the storm to try to fit through.

He warns the others to hold on, and worries about ice developing on the rotors, as they begin a descent through the surrounding cloud cover. Hal worries about their altitude with no landmarks visible, but Jack assure him they're at 3000 feet, safe from any Controlled Flight Into Terrain.

But from the cloudcover, shrieks of an unearthly beast (and also stock footage that you'll immediately recognize if you ever watched cartoons in the late 70's/early 80's like The Herculoids and Thundarr the Barbarian). It turns out to be a pterodactyl. It buzzes the copter, though no one aboard sees it, but it does cause a sudden burst of turbulence making Jack's job more difficult.

It's enough to damage the clutch control, and forces Jack to follow the coptor downward -- the only direction it is now capable of.

Scene 19: Steve tries to call into base, but the aerial is spotted banging against the passenger compartment window, having been torn off from its mounting. The helicopter continues its descent through thick cloud, that becomes ground fog without break, meaning Jack has to land blind into whatever is below them.

He reports they should be breaking through the fog at any moment, but they don't. Further, the altimeter reports that they've begun falling below sea level. Steve reports that the temperature gauge is now registering a heat rise.

As the copter continues its descent into a possible volcano crater, it descends into deep shadow. When they finally break through, they're in a tropical zone at somewhere below 2500 feet below sea level.

Commentary: And, it takes freakin' forever. We're over 18minutes in and we're just now landing. I think the extended helicopter-in-fog was a bit much.

Scene 20: Steve checks out the damage and finds a bent tube near the rotors.


Scene 21: Maggie and Hal wander off to look around while the repairs are underway. They wander... wander... wander... in a thick fog, in which you can't see more than three feet in front of your face. [Our military - surely the wisest of them all.]

Then they seperate.

Scene 22: As Maggie waits for Hal to return from wherever he felt she shouldn't go, we see something start to move behind her. It looks like a tendril-plant.

Scene 23: Hal wanders in steam (it's far too hot for fog, now). He comes across hot mud pits bubbling.

Scene 24: Mags stands in front of the tendril-plant without noticing all of the waving going on behind her back and is apparently not curious enough to look around herself.

She calls for ALAN?!? [WAIT, WHO?? G'ddamn it. Now, I have to wander around the internet to confirm that IMDB hasn't misnamed a main character!]

Commentary: Okay, so his name is definitely Hal. Maybe I'm just seriously mishearing her and she's calling Harold... or Ha-Al... I could swear she's calling for Alan.

Scene 25: Hal shouts back his location to her. She leaves the tendril-plant just before it can grab her. She manages to find Hal. He points out the bubbling mud pit and states they must be sitting on a volcanic plain and should return to the ship as soon as possible.

Scene 26: Slow pan over hot, steaming water where someone off screen blows on the steam for some ridiculous reason. We then see- not helped at all by the steam blowing, since it returns immediately- a shape and bubbles approaching the shore. We don't see exactly what it is. It looks like a plastic, Alligator head.

Scene 27: Maggie and Hal return to the copter, where Jack is attempting to call in their grid coordinates, while Steve is still working up top. Jack's attempts are for naught.

Steve calls down to report that he's got the bent tube loosened. But there is another problem. The tube is made out of magnesium. When they bring it over to a rock to hammer it straight, Steve is as gentle as possible, but still manages to break it in half with the hammer. Now, the copter is really grounded.

To forestall hopelessness, Hal insists that the search planes will be able to hone in on their signal as they flyby and looks to Jack to back him up. He does so, and then has Steve help him break out the survival packs.

After the two men go back to the copter, Mags tells Hal she isn't buying their imminent rescue story.

Scene 28: After the supplies are gathered, our troop wanders. Where they think they're going is anyone's guess. But, something fishy is up with Steve, as he climbs into the copter cockpit instead and powers up the generator. He makes a panicked call of mayday to base, which drains what little power is still aboard the helicopter.

[Uh-Huh. A kid on the way, and he isn't following orders, and he drains the transmitter battery of power that will bite them in the ass later? DOOMED.]

Scene 29: Sometime later, our four are napping. The steam/fog has cleared. They hear our Pteryldactyl call and the giant reptile swoops over their heads and off into the distance. Around them, there is regular booms of what sounds like eruptions or explosives.

With our troop up and about (and missing seeing the dinosaur that went over their heads), attention is turned to their surroundings, now that they can see around themselves. Hal opines that the heat from the volcano must melt the water at the tops of the surrounding crater, creating steam, which locks the heat into the depression, and keeps the tropical environment stable. He also points out trees that went extinct everywhere else on Earth eons ago.


Jack tries the water from the nearby lagoon, but finds that it tastes like sulfur and is unusable. Above their heads, they hear the drone of planes and the group rushes back to the helicopter [Which begs the question: Why did they leave the copter in the first place?]

Commentary: I think the major problem with this film thus far is how little personality any of our characters are given. Jock does the best as Hal, I guess. He's military, but he lets slip a few small smiles and there is some sly bits of humor from him occasionally.

William is okay, as well, as Jack -- but he's so bland. Phil as Steve makes very little impression and while Shirley/Shawn was a bit lively as the flirtatious reporter before, since their exile she's turned into a complete cardboard cutout.

There simply isn't anyone engaging. Also, there really isn't all that much going on and we're now 26 minutes in. I'm hoping things will pick up when we meet our resident mad scientist [not a spoiler -- there is ALWAYS a resident mad scientist], but they really need to pick up the pace.

Scene 30: Jack hops aboard and starts calling for the search and rescue team. While the search pilots are sharing shakes of their head with one another, seeing no sign of the copter, below them Jack is continuing to relay valuable information about their location and condition. Obvs, the transmitter isn't powerful enough to penetrate the cloud layer and the steep canyon walls.

With the battery running low, Jack gets off the radio. He expresses concern because he was sure the radio had more power the night before when he switched off [but no... it didn't; the amps on the dial are exactly the same as when Steve covertly used it -- what's more, if the signal isn't powerful enough to reach the search plane, I don't see what good a powerful battery would have -- okay, so they could transmit longer, but that doesn't help their signal strength any so they're still not going to be heard].

Steve hears the plane directly overhead and grabs the emergency flare. He fires up the crater. It doesn't get anywhere near the top, and Hal tells him the flare gun is only good for 400 feet or so.

Scene 31: A bit later, Jack is running the copter motor to charge up the battery for when they need the radio next. When he returns he catches Mags in her slip as she's "cleaned up a bit". Neither one of them treat it as a big deal (which is nice).

Meanwhile, Hal has been inflating a raft and getting the oars assembled. Jack asks after Steve, and Hal reports he's off to find fresh water if any is nearby camp. They do have provisions of water, but they don't know how long they'll be stuck there and there is four of them that will need to keep hydrated.

Scene 32: We join Steve, who finds a natural spring draining water into a rock formation that looks suspiciously fountain like in nature. He drinks deep from the water, apparently it being fresh. His eyes suddenly widen in surprise and we see a dead flying dinosaur chick laying on the rocks.

Steve gets panic face and rushes back toward camp.

Scene 33: Meanwhile, Maggie, Hal and Jack are putting the raft in their sulfur lagoon. Steve arrives out of breath to report that there is something back where he came from... something awful.

Scene 34: The group backtrack to where Steve found his something awful. With them in scale, we can see that the dead flying lizard is actually Rodan sized. Hal orders everyone back to camp, as the dead thing is smelling ripe and that is sure to draw something to eat it.


Just then, a fight breaks out between two lizardsauruses nearby, that somehow remained camoflaged and silent... like dino-ninjas... until this moment.

Commentary: HEY! Nobody told me there was going to be real animal violence in this flick! I DON'T LIKE THAT. Here we have two big lizards in a fight to the death. I'm suddenly thinking that I should have skipped over this movie, but I'm 31 minutes in now, so let's just hope this isn't going to be a thing. I was really hoping that our dinosaurs were going to be more of the stop-motion kind.

With the loser lying dead (GROSS & UNNECESSARY), the huge survivor turns its attention on the more ripe dead thingie. Our folks start to flee from the oncoming beastie. They hear another (stock) roar, and find another dinosaur making the scene. This one notices our folks scurrying around and comes for them, but there is that lagoon between them.


Hal, never the less, sends Steve and Maggie ahead to the copter. He and Jack dawdle to keep the dinosaur's attention off the woman. Jack tries to stand his ground with his sidearm, but this doesn't appear to do much, so Hal hauls him away.

As they run for it the Tyrannosaurus Rex follows, the lagoon actually being quite shallow for it.


Scene 35: The four group inside the copter. They use the copter blades to act as a deterrent to the dinosaur, using up precious fuel.

Commentary: And, I have to say that Shirley/Shawn is turning out to be the least expressive actor here. Nothing seems to penetrate Maggie's dull exterior, including being threatened with being eaten by a giant dinosaur. Now, I'm glad that she's not the wilting violet that spends the whole film screeching her fool head off, but can we get just a bit of actual fear on her expressions??

She just looks barely interested in what is happening around her, except when she's being flirty with her male co-stars.

With the helicopter blade slicing into the dinosaur, it decides that this meal is going to take too much work and wanders off. Or was it the wound?

As the helicopter blades power down, the gang hear a strange noise outside that they can't identify (Sounds like a trumpet or french horn to me) and wonders if that is what drove the monster away. Hal decides that the only way they can survive out there now is by staying with the copter. They decide to move their supplies back to the copter.

Scene 36: When they return, they find that their supplies have been burgled, which leads Jack to conclude that they're not alone. Hal insists that there weren't any humans during the age that this Land Unknown is frozen in, despite the fact that the cans of food have obviously been opened using the tab keys with the cans.

Scene 37: Sometime later, Maggie and Hal are out scouting the cliff faces for a way to climb out. It looks hopeless. Hal stops at a makeshift countdown calendar and pulls a stick from the sand. He reports they have 25 more days before the expedition team will have to leave without them, presuming they're dead. Maggie doesn't want to believe they'd leave them there. Hal has no such illusions. At the least though, the horn is sounding at regular intervals and keeping the T. Rex away from them, so there is that.

Jack and Steve wander upon them, with Jack having given a name to their new home: Hell's Chimney.

The steam/fog is rolling back in on them, sweltering and heavy as a constant blanket.

Commentary: And yet our men won't strip down. I'm deeply disappointed.

Steve has picked up an animal companion along the way, which Hal identifies as a relative of the Tarsier. There is some boring talk about evolution and Maggie wanders off to give their new mascot some water.

Scene 38: When Maggie returns to the copter, she finds that giant monitor lizardsaurus nearby thrashing about and roaring. [She does the screeching thing that I just said I didn't want to see.]

She drops the Tarsier and runs with the lizardsaur on her heels.

Meanwhile, Hal hears her and calls her name. She yells for help.

Scene 39: We swap between Maggie in the bushes, where she hears the return of the Pterodactyl and the Tarsier making its way for the trees. Alas for the cute/ugly fuzzy ball, it comes across the meat eating plant first. It grabs hold of its extended stalk and the plant reels it into its maw.

Meanwhile, Maggie is unexpectedly grabbed from behind by a very human arm. She gets throat squeezed to keep her from screeching until she can be rendered unconscious, and then we see her hauled away in a fireman's carry.

Hal continues yelling for her. Jack and Steve apparently don't care much one way or the other.

Scene 40: As Hal continues to look for Mags, she's being dumped into a wicker canoe and rafted away.

Tags: review land unknown

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