Tag Archives: The Lost Continent

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

Gonji: Dark Ventures

Detail from the GONJI: DARK VENTURES book cover
Detail from the GONJI: DARK VENTURES book cover

Okay, time for a book review! I know this blog focuses primarily on movie & TV monsters, but literary beasties can also receive some love on this blog from time to time…. and this particular book is FULL of weird critters!

GONJI: DARK VENTURES is written by T.C. Rypel and comprises two tales featuring the heroic fantasy character Gonji Sabatake, a wandering samurai with Nordic heritage.

First, a bit of background on the Gonji character…
T.C. (Ted) Rypel created this half Scandinavian/half Japanese samurai character in the 1980s, placing him in an alternate reality version of 16th century Europe, where firearms & gunpowder mix with swordplay, sorcery and supernatural beasts. Previous Gonji books include DEATHWIND OF VEDUN and FORTRESS OF LOST WORLDS. Here’s a painting by Joe Rutt, depicting a wyvern-battle scene from the Gonji novel RED BLADE FROM THE EAST…

A painting of a scene from Red Blade From The East
Now this is something I’d love to see depicted on the big screen!

And here’s a painting of the carnivorous Cave Worm from THE SOUL WITHIN THE STEEL…

Cave Worm painting by Woody Welch
Painting by Woody Welch

Anyway, let’s get back to GONJI: DARK VENTURES. The first story is the novelette ‘Reflections in Ice’, which is linked to a previously published Gonji novel and features a cool encounter with cannibal trolls. The yarn has the hero pursued by otherworldly foes and is basically a revised and expanded version of the opening chapter from the novel FORTRESS OF LOST WORLDS.

The second story, the novella ‘Dark Venture’, is the real reason you should seek out this book. It is an action-packed tale that follows Gonji and a disparate group of pirates as they become trapped in a truly weird ship’s graveyard zone.

Here's the GONJI: DARK VENTURES book cover in full
Here’s the GONJI: DARK VENTURES book cover in full

This place is filled with all kinds of dangers and horrors!

Instead of the ocean, this zone has a massive, white mass of sentient, evil-controlled, protoplasmic gloop that ensnares vessels. This gloop is able to form semi-transparent, pseudopod-like tentacles that swallow victims whole and digest them very, very slowly.

Gonji and his companions must also ward off ape-hound hybrids, dodge attacks from flying, razor-faced manta ray creatures, wriggling worm-lampreys, floating killer bubbles, rogue black hole discs (?!) and loads of shambling protoplasm-zombies. But that’s not all! Other dangers include blue lightning charges that can burn victims to a crisp, a wretched, multi-limbed being created by sorcery and a daemon that becomes a massive spectral cobra. Of these monsters I have to say the flying manta rays are my favourite critters.

Whilst reading this story it occurred to me that I could imagine Robert E Howard and William Hope Hodgson getting together to rewrite the script for THE LOST CONTINENT (1968) – and this would’ve been the result. Now believe me: that is a massive compliment!

Poster for Hammer’s THE LOST CONTINENT

That Hammer film told the story of a tramp steamer ending up in a Sargasso Sea full of killer seaweed and giant crustaceans. It’s certainly a colourful, sweaty, bizarre treat, but GONJI: DARK VENTURES is about a thousand times more outlandish and incident-filled!

Hermit crab monster from The Lost Continent
A giant hermit crab attacks in THE LOST CONTINENT

Writer Ted Rypel (a member of Monster Zone’s Facebook group) has told me that he is ‘a sucker for “Sargasso Sea”-type terrors’ and with this Gonji story, set in a twilight zone of corrupted magic, he has produced a very colourful, violent, acid-trip-mad, monster-filled, thrilling read set in a ghastly blob-sea!

Finally, here’s the GONJI: DARK VENTURES book cover illustration without the blurb. It depicts Gorgulho, who is revealed later in the story to have been made from the sewn-together limbs, torso and features of various men. It was painted by Larry Blamire, the writer/director/actor of such wonderful sf spoofs as THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA (2001) and DARK AND STORMY NIGHT (2009)…

Gonji: Dark Ventures book cover without blurb