The Lost Continent (1968)

Giant hermit crab!
Watch out for the pincers!
Giant hermit crab attacks
Crab attack!

The tramp steamer Corita sails towards a hurricane, which could prove more dangerous than usual because Captain Lansen (Eric Porter) is smuggling barrels of the explosive Phosphor B, which can detonate if mixed with water. His ship’s passengers, unaware of this explosive danger, are a varied bunch of characters who have their own reasons for sailing in this rust-heap of a ship.

A very sweaty Michael Ripper gets mutinous
A very sweaty Michael Ripper gets mutinous

After an accident causes a leak in the room that holds the explosives, some of the crew (including Hammer regular Michael Ripper) mutiny and leave in a lifeboat. Then, when it becomes apparent that a broken generator cannot be fixed, Captain Lansen decides the passengers and the remaining crew should also sail from the ship in a lifeboat.

Tom Chantrell artwork
Tom Chantrell artwork

After a death-by-flare-gun incident and a fatal shark attack, Lansen’s lifeboat becomes ensnared in a mass of killer seaweed, and the boat eventually drifts back to the still-afloat Corita, which is also surrounded by the almost sentient weed. Lansen and the others climb back aboard the tramp steamer as it floats towards a mysterious, seaweed-festooned ship’s graveyard littered with vessels from different time periods, including a Spanish galleon. In this mysterious, fog-shrouded zone of the Sargasso Sea, the protagonists will encounter weird monsters, the descendants of conquistadores & the Spanish Inquisition, fur-clad barbarian-types (working for the Spanish) and a young woman called Sarah (Dana Gillespie), who traverses the weed-scape using buoyancy balloons and snowshoe-type footwear!

Ship's graveyard
Ship’s graveyard

As you can see by the above synopsis, THE LOST CONTINENT is a truly oddball, pulpy Hammer production. The film, directed by Michael Carreras, begins with an incongruously apt jazzy-lounge-pop theme tune by The Peddlers, then maybe spends too much time in the earlier part of the story delving into the melodramatic lives of the dubious passengers on board the tramp steamer. However, once the mutiny happens and the weed appears, this movie becomes luridly enjoyable!

Suzanna Leigh publicity shot
Suzanna Leigh publicity shot

‘Uncharted Seas’, the original Dennis Wheatley novel that THE LOST CONTINENT is based on, is nowhere near as enjoyably madcap as the movie adaptation: in the book the villains are descendants of slaves, whilst the movie boasts marooned conquistadors and their boy leader who, under the influence of his Spanish Inquisition mentor, feeds people who fail him to a rubbery Lovecraftian weed-monster in the hold of his stranded galleon!

The Inquisition in the galleon
The Inquisition likes very pointy hats!
Leper-faced Spanish Inquisition dude!
Leper-faced Spanish Inquisition dude!

The movie is purely set-based (apart from some Canary Islands landscape stock footage taken from ONE MILLION YEARS BC used during the credits), which gives the production a heightened sense of pulpy artifice, the whole cast takes the production very seriously, with Eric Porter on fine form as the captain and, oh yes, as mentioned earlier, you also get Dana Gillespie trudging across the surface of the weeds with the help of her harness of helium balloons! Suzanna Leigh adds more Hammer glamour and gets attacked by a tentacled, cyclopean octo-thing that leaves her covered in slime.
Weed-festooned madness!

Octo-beast attack!
Octo-beast attack!

As this blog is called Monster Zone, we’d better talk a little more about the monsters…

Weed attacks the ship interior
Watch out for the weed!

There are actually several types of weed in the film: the constricting seaweed that entraps vessels in the nicely-done, misty ship’s graveyard, there’s a more mobile weed-plant (with flowers) that gets into the ship via a porthole later in the story and, best of all, there’s the aforementioned plant-fungi thing that the Spanish Inquisition keeps in the hold of the galleon to gobble up people who displease them!

The plant-thing in the Spanish galleon
The plant-thing in the Spanish galleon

Robert Mattey’s creatures are criticised very often in reviews, and there’s no denying the glowing-eyed octo-creature is a bit iffy, though it does nicely exude green ooze from its severed foam tentacles.

Behind the scenes shot of the cyclopean octopus creature
Behind the scenes shot of the cyclopean octopus creature

The fight between a giant scorpion and a giant hermit crab on a small, rocky isle is pretty cool. These arthropod beasts are brought to life via full-scale mechanical models that I think look okay: I like the scorpion’s rapidly moving legs when it zips towards the crab to battle it. Though the full-scale hermit crab monster is less than mobile as a whole, it’s facial movements are really impressive: when you get a close-up of its rapidly chattering, beaky face I think it looks pretty good.

Giant hermit crab vs giant scorpion!
Giant hermit crab vs giant scorpion!
Close-up of the hermit crab's face
Close-up of the hermit crab’s face

Though I admit the film would definitely have benefitted from stop-motion critters (as, say, featured in Hammer’s ONE MILLION YEARS BC), this fog-enshrouded production is a sweaty, colourful, bizarre, pulp adventure treat.

The octo-creature attacks
Tentacles everywhere!
Various posters and promotional art
Tom Chantrell pre-production art
Tom Chantrell pre-production artwork
August 1968 issue of 'ABC Film Review'
August 1968 issue of ‘ABC Film Review’
Dana Gillespie and the scorpion pose for a publicity photo
Dana Gillespie and the giant scorpion pose for a publicity photo
Dana Gillespie promotional still
Another Dana Gillespie promotional shot

If you’ve not already seen this movie, please search it out, I’m sure you’ll have a fun time viewing it.

Monster hermit crab gif

5 thoughts on “The Lost Continent (1968)

  1. Still love this under-seen little gem, with its parallels to my own story “Dark Venture.” It’s so oddly paced, seeming to go nowhere and then abruptly going everywhere at once in a mad rush of actions, shifting scenes, weird juxtapositions and monsters. And, of course, the cast is Hammer-reliable (and Dana Gillespie “pours” her charms into the mix with lusty gusto!).

    Coincidental timing, this post of yours, as just yesterday I was exchanging with a friend about Suzanna Leigh and her close friendship with tragic Imogen Hassall.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, Ted, I did review your book Gonji: Dark Ventures on this blog a while back, and I couldn’t help but see your story as THE LOST CONTINENT on steroids and acid! Great, imaginative stuff!

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    1. Thank you kindly, Ken. Doesn’t it seem as though a lot more eerie horror stores could be drawn from the miasmic depths of Sargasso Sea fantasy situations? Those wonderful long shots in LOST CONTINENT, establishing the ship’s entrapment amidst all those dead hulks and living, ensnaring seaweed, strongly establish the claustrophobic atmosphere that works so well in terror tales.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Netflix should make a THE TERROR-style adaptation of William Hope Hodgson’s THE BOATS OF THE ‘GLENN CARRIG’. If the show captured the atmosphere of that novel it’d be a fine thing indeed.

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