Lost Continent (1951) poster

Lost Continent (1951)


USA. 1951.


Director – Samuel Newfield, Screenplay – Richard Landau, Story – Carroll Young, Producer – Sigmund Neufeld, Photography (b&w) – Jack Greenhalgh, Music – Paul Dunlap, Special Effects – Augie Lohman, Production Design – F. Paul Sylos. Production Company – Tom Productions/Lippert Pictures, Inc..


Cesar Romero (Major Joe Nolan), John Hoyt (Dr Michael Rostov), Chick Chandler (Lieutenant Danny Wilson), Hugh Beaumont (Robert Phillips), Whit Bissell (Stanley Briggs), Sid Melton (Sergeant Willie Tatlow), Hillary Brooke (Marla Stevens), Acquanetta (Native Girl)


Scientists conduct the test launch of a rocket only for something to go wrong and the rocket go off course. US Air Force pilot Major Joe Nolan is recruited to fly a group of scientists to the South Pacific to find the rocket. However, something causes their engines to fail and they are forced to put down on an island. A native girl they encounter directs them to where the rocket landed on a forbidden mountain. The men climb the mountain to find themselves in a prehistoric world still inhabited by dinosaurs.

Sigmund Neufeld and his brother Sam (who Anglicised his name as Sam Newfield) were the sons of immigrants who went into the film business. Between them were responsible for making a prolific series of low-budget films throughout the 1940s in the crime, horror and Western genres. They even made several Long Ranger films. They headed PRC (Producers Releasing Corporation) between 1939 and 1947 and then went independent. Sam in particular has a reputation as the most prolific director of all time with 250 films to his name, many under various pseudonyms. (See below for Sam Newfield’s other genre films).

By the point of Lost Continent, the Newfield/Neufelds had sold out interest in PRC and went to work for Lippert Pictures headed by producer Robert L. Lippert, known for a great many Westerns throughout the 1940s and 50s, as well as occasional genre films like Rocketship X-M (1950) and Superman and the Mole-Men (1951). Lippert paired with Hammer Films in their early days and later made a number of genre works in the UK with The Earth Dies Screaming (1964), The Horror of It All (1964), Witchcraft (1964), Curse of the Fly (1965) and Spaceflight IC-1 (1965).

Lost Continent was made very early into the so-called Golden Age of Science-Fiction. The film that started the era Destination Moon (1950) had only been made the previous year; the first alien invader film The Thing from Another World (1951) had only come out four months earlier. It would be another couple of years until we had the first atomic monster film with The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953).

Chick Chandler, John Hoyt, Sid Melton, Cesar Romero and Whit Bissell in Lost Continent (1951)
Explorers on a prehistoric lost plateau – (l to r) Chick Chandler, John Hoyt, Sid Melton, Cesar Romero and Whit Bissell

The film boils an interesting pot in terms of the plot elements it stirs – it is set during the early days of the Space Mission; it uses the tropes of the Adventure Film with pilots and scientists heading into uncharted territories in the South Seas; there’s the discovery of a Lost World filled with dinosaurs and plentiful uranium. In the midst of this, there is also the suggestion of an enemy agent – Communism is never mentioned as the possibility but it is implied. However, the Neufelds, being Jewish immigrants, turn this on their head in interesting ways – where the scientist they suspect of being a spy turns out not to be and is in fact a Jewish survivor of both German and Russian concentration camps.

On the other hand, all of this befalls the usual cheapness of a Newfield/Neufeld film. The adventures onto the plateau and lost world take place on what is clearly a studio backlot. The natives encountered speak pidgin English and seem to have stepped out of some cliche South Seas adventure of the era. The dinosaurs are cheaply represented by optically enlarged lizards, while the effects scenes of the collapsing mountain and volcanic eruption are particularly shabby. The film is shot in black-and-white but in an odd novelty the screen becomes tinted green once the group reach the plateau.

On the other hand, in terms of the cheapness of the Newfield/Neufeld’s other films, this may well have represented something of a B-budget epic no matter how cut-price it looks today. (The film later turned up as an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988-99, 2017-8) where it became an object of ridicule). Having watched a lot of these films, I can say it is not entirely bad. The adventure element does get dragged out by an inordinate amount of shots with the group climbing the side of a mountain, which goes on for some 20 minutes as we see them climbing the same small studio-bound area of rocks.

Explorers vs dinosaurs in Lost Continent (1951)
Explorers vs dinosaurs (lobby card)

The film has an interesting cast. The lead actor Cesar Romero was a star of musicals and Westerns who later gained fame as The Joker on tv’s Batman (1966-8). As the suspected spy is John Hoyt, a regular film and tv actor who appeared in everything from When Worlds Collide (1951) and The Conqueror (1956) to the original pilot for Star Trek (1966-9), Hogan’s Heroes (1966-71) and Battlestar Galactica (1978-9). Whit Bissell is an actor with an incredibly varied career ranging from The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Time Machine (1960) to episodes of Star Trek. The native girl who helps the group is played by Acquanetta, the exotic-looking beauty who had gained some fame a few years earlier as the gorilla-turned-woman in Captive Wild Woman (1943) and sequels

Sam Newfield’s other genre films include:- the sf/Western Ghost Patrol (1936), The Invisible Killer (1939), The Mad Monster (1942), Dead Men Walk (1943), The Monster Maker (1944), Nabonga (1944), White Pongo (1945), The Flying Serpent (1946) and Radar Secret Service (1950).

The film is unrelated to the subsequent Hammer lost world film The Lost Continent (1968). One should also probably quibble with the definition of a ‘lost continent’ here as what we have seems at most to be a ‘lost island’.

Trailer here

Full film available here

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