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Bonus Reviews: Swallow (2020) and The Lost World (1925)
Horror Bulletin Bonus for Week 153
For this week’s bonus films, we’ll look at a couple of fun films. First, we’l look at what may be the first full-length sci-fi film, and the inspiration of the entire genre of Kaiju Horror: “The Lost World” a silent film from 1925. We’ll also take a bite out of 2020’s film “Swallow.” Bon Apetit!
Don’t forget, the first week of each month, we publish ALL our reviews, including the bonus content in our monthly “Horror Bulletin” print magazine (also available as an ebook). If you don’t have time to read the website or email, here’s one more option for you! The “31 Days of Christmas Terror” issue is now available!
The Lost World (1925)
• Directed by Harry O. Hoyt
• Written by Arthur Conan Doyle, Marion Fairfax
• Stars Wallace Beery, bessie Love, Lloyd Hughes
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 50 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Before Godzilla, before King Kong, there were dinosaurs in The Lost World. As the first giant monster movie, it’s interesting to see where it all started. It’s a silent film, in black and white with many scenes having a color tint. Surprisingly entertaining with a decent story, it’s worth a watch just to see what movies were like almost a hundred years ago.
We begin with a quick introduction from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself.
Gladys tells Ed that she’ll only marry a man of great deeds. No wimps allowed. Where is Ed going to find adventure to build his dating resume?
At the London Record-Journal, a newspaper, Professor Challenger is threatening to sue the newspaper over his dismissing his wild claims of dinosaurs. Challenger has no proof, so the paper is skeptical; actually they think he’s insane. Ed asks for a dangerous assignment, so the editor sends him to Challenger.
Sir John Roxton, the famous explorer and hunter, also wants to check out Challenger’s dubious story. Challenger has made himself a very public laughing stock with his tales of dinosaurs. Then again, who knows what the Amazon really holds? They meet Professor Summerlee, an insectologist.
Challenger comes on stage, and he plans to go back to the Amazon, to the Lost World, for proof. He asks for volunteers. Roxton and Ed Malone both end up volunteering to go. Challenger takes a bit of convincing to accept a reporter on the journey, but Mrs. Challenger stands up to the old grouch.
Challenger shows Ed the notebook of Maple White, who remained behind on the previous expedition. Paula White was Maple’s daughter, as well as his assistant. She’ll go on the new expedition as well. Ed thinks he can get the newspaper to finance the expedition. Roxton is in love with Paula, but Paula clearly thinks he’s way too old for her.
Next thing you know, they’re in South America on the Amazon River. The five adventurers, along with Jocko the monkey, head off for the Lost World. They pass many strange animals on the route. An ape man drops a boulder to scare them off, and a pterodactyl lands nearby.
They make their way across the chasm and plateau and enter the Lost World while their helpers Austin and Zambo remain behind in camp. Almost immediately, they spot a huge brontosaurus. The brontosaurus destroys their escape route. They watch a vicious allosaurus kill another dinosaur in a bloody battle.
Summerlee loves all the new insects, while the others are terrified of the dinosaurs. The ape man watches from the shadows as Ed climbs a tree to find a safer camping spot. Ruction shoots the ape man before it gets Ed, but the ape-man leaps away, escaping. While he was up there, Ed spotted a nice cave they could move into.
They move into the caves, and Challenger says he will invent an anti-dinosaur weapon. Roxton finds Maple White’s bones— he didn’t survive. Ed and Paula are clearly falling for each other, which disappoints Roxton tremendously, but he’s a good sport about it.
Meanwhile, some other explorers in the jungle below the plateau notice a volcano is getting ready to erupt and could the whole plateau. Down below, Austin, Zambo, and Jocko work on a rope ladder to get the others down from the cliff. Roxton and Paula find a way out through the caves to an opening far above camp, but the others are outside and they don’t know about the volcano danger.
The men outside do see the dinosaurs stampeding away from the approaching lava. Forest fire rages, and the men are cut off from escape by the stampede. Jocko the monkey climbs the cliff face, taking the rope ladder along with him to Paula and Roxton.
Challenger, Summerlee, and Ed finally return to the cave, but they are followed by the ape man. They all descend the rope ladder, but the ape-man makes it pretty tough for the last man down. They shoot the ape man, and he dies this time.
Paula wants to break up with Ed because back in the real world, they both have obligations— him to Gladys, and her to Roxton. Roxton again overhears all this, and he gives her up. The two are free to get together. But Paula sticks with Roxton
Challenger spots a brontosaurus that had fallen off the cliff. Can they get it home alive? Yes. No one’s gonna doubt Professor Challenge now!
Except there’s a slight hitch. The cage broke, and the brontosaurus is now running loose in the streets of London. It eventually falls in the Thames and swims away. Ed connects with his girl who didn’t wait and meets her husband. Oof. Paula finally agrees to leave Roxton and go with Ed.
Note: We watched the 2016 reconstruction that combines various film elements that had been missing for decades. Most previous editions of the film were only about an hour in length.
The dinosaur stop-motion animation is actually really smooth even compared to many later films. My assumption is that since these old films had a slower frames-per-second rate, the stop-motion animation may have been easier to do since even the regular film was a bit jerky at times. There is a lot of dinosaur action here, which was certainly the big draw of the film.
I’m not going to go on about Zambo, the white actor in blackface, but— wow. Times have changed
The film moves quickly, but I suspect a modern audience would find the extensive stop-motion dinosaurs get old fast - they spend a lot of time on them. We’ve all simply seen too much of this in other films. Still, it was unique and exciting at the time. You can see many things here that influenced later films, everything from “The Land of the Lost” to “Godzilla.”
• Director: Carlo Mirabella-Davis
• Writer: Carlo Mirabella-Davis
• Stars: Haley Bennett, Austin Stowell, Denis O'Hare
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 38 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgement Zone
An odd story about a woman in an unhappy marriage who tries to take control of her life by eating things. It’s not horror, not really, but it’s an interesting look at how guilt, power - and the lack of it - can drive a person to all sorts of strange behaviors.
As credits roll, we see Hunter fishing leaves out of the pool while Richie gets dressed for work. Richie’s father makes him a VP at the company at a fancy dinner party that night. They have a nice new house, new car, and seem to be doing very well for themselves. We soon get the impression that Hunter is very OCD, needing everything arrangedjust so. She tries to have a conversation with Richie, but he’s always busy with work. Soon, the couple is pregnant, but she feels inferior to Richie and his important family.
She gets more and more uncomfortable, and finally lets her OCD take over. First, she starts crunching on ice, then she eats a marble. She’s proud of herself for doing something unexpected. She wants to tell Ritchie about it but knows that’s not going to be acceptable and lies about her day. Ritchie passive-aggressively picks on her for ironing his necktie, and she feels bad about that, so she fishes the used marble out of her poop the next day.
Hunter’s mother-in-law asks whether Hunter is happy or just pretending to be happy. We see that this clearly isn’t the case. Later, she eats a pushpin. What could go wrong? OK, she changes her mind and spits it back out. The pushpin weighs on her mind until she storms back in and swallows it down. It hurts, but it also feels good.
That night, she bleeds profusely. Is Hunter having a miscarriage? No, it’s just the pushpin working its way out. She cleans up the mess and doesn’t tell anyone. She swallows a battery. Then the pages from a book. She starts to build confidence. Before long, we see that she’s got a collection of a dozen little items that have passed through her: a thimble, chess piece, padlock, keys, buttons, and even a little statue.
Hunter and Ritchie go to the doctor for an ultrasound, and the doctor sees something else in there. They go in surgically and pull out a safety pin, a battery, a jack, and a few additional items. Ritchie is furious, and they argue. It’s something called Pica, and she starts therapy.
Ritchie hires Luay to stay with Hunter during the days he’s at work to keep an eye on her. She hates the idea of having him there all the time, watching her. Luay has to frisk her before allowing her to go to the bathroom alone. Once she’s in there alone, we see she has a little stash of metal trinkets taped behind the toilet. Bon appetit!
They have another dinner party, and the guests all seem to know about Hunter’s problem. Hunter tells the therapist about her mother being raped; she’s a rape baby. She does some gardening and wants to eat the dirt, but she resists. The therapist tells Ritchie everything, and Hunter knows that he knows.
One day, Luay goes to sleep, and Hunter swallows a screwdriver. She chokes, and he calls 911. After another surgery, they pull it out. The family wants her to go to a psychiatric hospital, but Hunter swears she’s better now. Luay feels bad for her and helps her escape into the woods; before long, she gets a motel room. She watches TV and eats dirt.
Hunter calls her mother, who doesn’t have any time for her, so then she goes looking for her father, Erwin, the rapist. She crashes his birthday party; he’s married with children now. He realizes who she is but is terrified that Hunter is going to ruin his new life. She makes him say that she’s in charge. She asks why he did it, and he explains, “A secret makes you strong,” he explains. “Am I like you?” she asks. “You aren’t me. You didn’t do anything wrong,” he tells her. She decides he’s become a good man and leaves him alone.
She gets some pills from her doctor to end the pregnancy. Now she’s taking control and is finally happy.
Ritchie and his family aren’t evil, they’re just not exactly sympathetic since we see everything from Hunter’s inferiority-induced point of view. It’s quite late in the film that we see just how controlling and manipulative they really are.
It’s all brightly colored and well-lit. There are no monsters in the closet or serial killers with knives here; just one woman with an apparently more-or-less harmless mental illness. About halfway through, I had an inkling of how the film would end, but it was a lot more benign than I was expecting.
I’m not sure that this really falls into the classification of “horror,” but it was really well done, and I enjoyed it more than I expected.
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