The Land Unknown

Movie Information

In Brief: Bargain basement cheesy 1950s sci-fi horror of the finest kind. It's all about a tropical lost world that's somehow (don't ask) in Antarctica, and which is discovered when a group of intrepid explorers' helicopter goes down. This leaves them prey to man-eating plants, a guy in a Tyrannosaurus rex suit, a puppet sea monster and a sex-crazed scientist. Who could ask for more?
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror with Dinosaurs
Director: Virgil W. Vogel
Starring: Jock Mahoney, Shirley Patterson, William Reynolds, Henry Brandon, Douglas Kennedy
Rated: NR

There is no earthly way that any rational case can be made for Universal’s The Land Unknown (1957). It’s irredeemably silly and cheesy (even by 1957 standards). The acting ranges from wooden (Jock Mahoney’s standard) to over-the-top (Henry Brandon). The special effects aren’t very special, and the Land Unknown looks a lot like the Soundtage Unknown augmented by fanciful, but very obvious, matte paintings. This, however, is exactly the sort of thing that makes the movie fun to watch — especially when you toss in menace provided by enlarged footage of a couple of annoyed lizards having a fight, a puppet sea monster, not very active woman-eating plants and, best of all, a Tyrannosaurus rex played by some poor guy in a very rubbery dinosaur suit. Anyone who can resist all that is made of sterner stuff than I am. The plot has something to do with exploring Antarctica where, for their peril and our amusement, our heroes crash land in the title Land Unknown. This is one of those lost world places that movies seem to have an uncommon number of. The one here is your standard dinosaur-infested tropical jungle (sans cavemen for a change). Its most notable difference is that this particular one is somehow or another in Antarctica. There’s some supposedly scientific flapdoodle explaining it all that seems to have some relation to climate change, but it sounds more flapdoodle than science. Really, I would expect nothing less from a movie where a Tyrannosaurus rex is kept at bay with a helicopter blade.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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