Monday, June 30, 2014

Coming up this weekend:
Two screenings of 'The Lost World' (1925)

What happens when British literature meets silent film?

You get 'The Lost World' (1925), the ground-breaking adventure film that started Hollywood's long-lasting love affair with larger-than-life creatures.

The film is based on a 1912 story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who seems to have invented the "dinosaurs still living" genre after hearing lectures about expeditions in remote parts of Bolivia by British explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett.

Unhappily, 'The Lost World' nearly became 'The Lost Film,' as for years all we've had are severely truncated excerpts. But happily, in recent times film historians have pieced together a nearly complete version of 'The Lost World' that now gives us a good idea of what the excitement was all about.

And if you'd like to see 'The Lost World' as it was intended to be shown—on the big screen in a theater, with an audience and with music—well, you're in luck.

I'm accompanying 'The Lost World' twice in the next week: first on Thursday, July 3 at the Leavitt Theatre in Oqunquit, Maine, and then again on Sunday, July 6 as part of a double feature at the Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre.

I've done the film a couple of times before, and it's become one of my favorites because audiences really do respond strongly to it, even after all these years.

Yes, the stop motion animation of the pre-historic creatures is a little primitive by today's standards. But still, it's good enough for you to lose yourself in the story, and so the film still works.

My favorite screening came a few years ago at an annual convention for sci-fi and fantasy enthusiasts in Boston.

The audience was not your usual silent film buffs, but still hard-core into this kind of material. And everyone seemed to appreciate that this version of 'The Lost World' is the direct ancestor of so much beloved cinema to come—everything from 'King Kong' (1933) to Jurassic Park (1993).

So during the film's climax, in which a brontosaurus escapes and causes mayhem, everyone cheered lustily, as if they were present at the birth of an art form. Which they were, in a way.

One thing about 'The Lost World' is that I had no idea how many adaptations have been made since the original. Wallace Beery as Professor Challenger was succeeded by, among others, Claude Rains (1960); Basil Rathbone (1966); John Rhys-Davies (1992); Jonathan Pryce (2000); and even Bob Hoskins (2001).

But none of the adaptations that followed had an actor who really lit up the original: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself!

Yes, among the footage that's been restored is a prologue featuring scenes of the great author at his estate, smiling and apparently more than ready for his close-up.

Hope you can join us for one or the other of these screenings of a great movie. For more info, below is the press release for the Ogunquit screening. The Wilton screening is Sunday, July 6 at 4:30 p.m. and is part of a double feature, paired with 'Tarzan and the Golden Lion' (1927).

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For more info, contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Leavitt Theatre to screen restored 'Lost World' on Thursday, July 3

Ground-breaking first-ever dinosaur movie to be shown with live music

OGUNQUIT, Maine—Before there was 'Jurassic Park' or 'Godzilla' or even 'King Kong,' there was 'The Lost World.' The movie, a blockbuster hit when released in 1925, paved the way for Hollywood's enduring fascination with stories pitting mankind against larger-than-life creatures.

See for yourself when the Leavitt Theatre in downtown Ogunquit screens a restored version of 'The Lost World' for one showing only on Thursday, July 3 at 8 p.m. Admission is $10 per person.

'The Lost World' is the latest in the Leavitt Theatre's summer-long silent film series, which aims to show the best of early cinema the way it was intended to be seen: on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.

Live music for 'The Lost World' will be performed by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer and one of the nation's leading silent film accompanists.

'The Lost World' is a silent fantasy adventure film and an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 novel of the same name. The movie was produced by First National Pictures, a precourser to Warner Brothers, and stars Wallace Beery as Professor Challenger.

The film was directed by Harry O. Hoyt and featured pioneering stop motion special effects by Willis O'Brien, who would go on to create the effects used to bring 'King Kong' to the screen in 1933.

'The Lost World' tells the tale of a British exploration team that journeys to South America to confirm reports of long-extinct creatures still roaming a remote high plateau deep in the jungle.

The landscape they discover, filled with a wide range of dinosaurs and other fantastic creatures, was enough to astonish movie-goers when 'The Lost World' first hit movie screens in February 1925. Scenes of a brontosaurus on the loose in central London broke new ground in terms of cinema's visual story-telling possibilities.

Early viewers of the film were especially impressed by special effects breakthroughs that allowed live actors to appear simultaneously on-screen with stop motion models of prehistoric creatures. This led to rumors that the filmmakers had actually discovered living prehistoric creatures.

Arthur Conan Doyle's novel and the movie version of 'The Lost World' proved so influential in the dinosaur genre that the title was borrowed by author Michael Crichton for his 1995 novel, and then used by director Steven Spielberg for 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park' (1997), the sequel to the original 'Jurassic Park' movie of 1993.

In 1998, the original 'The Lost World' (1925) was deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

Despite the film's popularity, only incomplete copies of 'The Lost World' survived from its initial run in the silent era. In recent years, historians have been piecing together 'The Lost World' from fragments found scattered among the world's film archives.

The version to be shown at the Leavitt includes footage from eight different prints. At 93 minutes in length, it's the most complete version of 'The Lost World' available. The edition includes rare footage of Arthur Conan Doyle that has been missing from most prints since the film's original release.

To accompany 'The Lost World,' Rapsis will use a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra. The score is created live in real time as the movie is screened. Rather than focus on authentic music of the period, Rapsis creates new music for silent films that draws from movie scoring techniques that today's audiences expect from the cinema.

The restored 'The Lost World' will be shown on Thursday, July 3 at 8 p.m. at the Leavitt Theatre, 259 Main St., Ogunquit. Admission is $10 per person. For more information, call (207) 646-3123 or visit For more information on the music, visit

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