The 1925 Film | The Television Series | The 2001 BBC Adaptation
I have seen my work ruined, been attacked by dinosaurs, almost eaten by apemen, now I am going home to my family and you are not going to stop me!
- Professor Summerlee
The 2001 BBC adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's novel The Lost World is a stunning historical drama1, starring Bob Hoskins and James Fox. This married the breathtaking special effects pioneered for Walking with Dinosaurs and Walking with Beasts with the BBC's high-quality record on costume dramas to create the definitive adaptation of this classic tale for the 21st Century.
The Lost World was broadcast in Britain on Christmas Day2 and Boxing Day, 2001. Christmas Day is traditionally the day that attracts the most viewers and prime time slots are fiercely competed for; that The Lost World was broadcast then shows that the BBC considered it to be a flagship programme.
In 1911 Professor Challenger is returning from an expedition to the darkest heart of the Upper Amazon, when the canoe he is travelling in is unexpectedly caught in violent rapids and his bundle is swept over a waterfall and lost, except for a small bone fragment that he just manages to save.
Two months later, a young, enthusiastic reporter named Malone has been sent to cover a scientific talk about dinosaurs held in the prestigious Natural History Museum. His prospective fiancée Gladys is attending, as her father, Professor Illingworth, had arranged the event. Malone has recently proposed to Gladys and is awaiting an answer, but Gladys says she will only ever marry a heroic man, like Lord Roxton, another person attending the event. The glamorous hunter Lord Roxton is the toast of society and a notorious womaniser; he is immediately strongly disliked by Malone.
The talk is hosted by Professor Summerlee, but is interrupted by Challenger. When Summerlee states that the Iguanodon bernissartensis stood on its hind legs like a kangaroo3, Challenger interrupts the lecture and presents his fragment, the fresh bone of a Pterosaur shot two months earlier. Challenger claims that a Pterosaur colony is located in the Amazon and wants to form an expedition to prove it. Lord Roxton quickly volunteers and Malone, wishing to seize the chance to prove he is heroic to Gladys, volunteers also, stating that as a journalist his newspaper, The Daily Gazette, should have exclusive editorial rights in exchange for financing the trip.
En route, Challenger reveals that he has learnt of a doomed Portuguese expedition to the area they are heading to that took place in 1649. The one survivor, Father Luis Mendoz4, returned to civilisation claiming he had walked through a tunnel/cave to the top of a plateau inhabited by dragons. He left behind a map he had drawn, which Challenger plans to follow. Seven weeks after leaving England, one of the final stops on the route is a missionary station run by Reverend Theo Kerr, a famous author of anti-Darwin literature who is well-loved by the local Indians5. Kerr lives there with Agnes Cluny, his adopted niece. She knows Portuguese and the local dialects and languages as well as jungle medicine. Wanting to see more of the world than her sheltered mission station, and equally eager to get to know Lord Roxton, she offers to join the expedition. Although Roxton, Summerlee and Malone object, Challenger gladly accepts the offer.
Agnes persuades some locals to work as bearers to help the expedition reach the plateau that Mendoz described, but the natives soon flee. They are scared of 'Curipuri', evil spirits that take the form of giant lizards. Soon after, they meet Reverend Kerr, who was tracking the team to ensure their safety. The explorers find the caves that Mendoz described, which are decorated with cave paintings of dinosaurs, but the tunnel to the top of the plateau is blocked by fallen rocks, with traces of powder marks remaining as if the passage had been blasted shut. Fortunately Challenger finds a way to reach the plateau via a long, arduous climb up to an adjoining tepui6 outcrop and crossing over a makeshift log bridge. When Roxton, Malone, Challenger, Summerlee and Agnes have crossed over, Kerr knocks the log away, marooning them on the plateau.
While exploring, Malone spots a Hypsilophodon he calls 'Figaro', followed by a herd of Iguanodons, allowing the professors to finally settle their argument over how many legs they walk on (mainly four legs, but occasionally two). That night they are attacked by an Allosaurus. Malone spots a lake, which he names Lake Gladys, and also discovers an apeman in a tree. They soon learn that the plateau, which has been 'isolated from the mainstream of evolutionary development', holds many dangers. The following day Malone and Agnes are chased by an Allosaurus, which is killed when it falls into a trap built by someone unknown.
The two professors are kidnapped by the apemen, who are also holding Indian natives captive, including Achille, the son of the chief. The apemen plan to sacrifice and kill them all, but Roxton, Agnes, Malone and a party of Indians come to the rescue. Roxton is determined to exterminate the apemen but is finally restrained, leaving many apemen to be captured by the Indians.
The expedition is welcomed into the Indian village on the far side of the plateau for their aid in rescuing Achille. The Indians assume that Challenger is Mendoz, as he resembles a portrait they have of him. The chief reluctantly agrees not to exterminate the apemen but to keep them captive as Challenger requests, even though Achille predicts it will result in disaster. This village is located across Lake Gladys in a sandy, rocky area where nothing grows and dinosaurs rarely tread. It is also where the blocked tunnel came out, but a man fitting Kerr's description, who the Indians called 'The Devil', had blocked the tunnel with explosives after staying with them.
Safe from the dinosaurs, Challenger spends his time visiting the Pterosaur nest while Summerlee tries to devise a means of escaping the plateau. Agnes has realised that though Roxton is brave and handsome, he is not the ideal man she thought he was; he has no pity for the animals he hunts and wanted to exterminate the apemen. Roxton has become attached to Maree, Achille's sister. Like Roxton she is a brave hunter, daring enough to snare an Entelodon by being the bait. Yet disaster soon befalls the village, as the apemen summon an Allosaurus into the village, which attacks and kills many of the Indians.
Summerlee realises that Pterosaur guano mixed with charcoal creates an explosive and has used this to re-open the tunnel. Blamed for the dinosaur attack, the expedition flees. Roxton is stabbed by an escaped apeman and remains behind with Maree. The expedition waits in vain for Roxton, before finally sadly concluding that he has died. At the bottom of the tunnel they discover Kerr, who has gone mad and wishes to kill them all but accidentally shoots himself when struggling with Summerlee.
Although natives refused to go near the area earlier, Challenger spots a number of passing canoes7 and the expedition returns instantaneously (seemingly, according to the viewer) in triumph to London. There, Malone is informed that The Daily Gazette wants to bring a dinosaur back as an attraction while other companies wish to exploit the potential mineral wealth of the plateau. Gladys reveals that while Malone was away she became engaged to someone else, a dull man who describes himself as boring and plodding. Oh, and no-one seems to be missing Lord Roxton.
At the Natural History Museum, Challenger unveils a Pterosaur he has transported back from the plateau that he has named after Professor Summerlee. Startled by the press photography, it panics and escapes. Realising that the plateau, all life and all people on it are threatened with certain destruction by the progress of civilisation, Malone convinces Challenger and Summerlee to ruin their reputations. They agree it was all a hoax and the Pterosaur was merely a disguised Amazonian vulture, and so the Lost World is saved from being exploited. Malone and Agnes then reveal their true feelings for each other, while Professor Challenger speculates that Atlantis might still be out there.
Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals
- Allosaurus - Fierce carnivorous dinosaur first discovered in 1877 and believed to grow to over 10m in length.
- Brachiosaurus - Tall sauropod dinosaur first discovered in 1903. Its long forelegs give it an upright profile.
- Diplodocus - Long-necked sauropod dinosaur discovered in 1877 whose name means 'two beams' referring to its neck and tail. A Diplodocus skeleton is also seen in the film on display in the Natural History Museum8.
- Entelodon - Fierce, large prehistoric pig.
- Hypsilophodon - Small herbivore first found on the Isle of Wight in 1849, but initially believed to be a baby Iguanodon.
- Iguanodon - Medium-sized herbivore. The Iguanodon was the second type of dinosaur discovered, first found in 1825 by Gideon Mantell.
- Pithecanthropus challengeris - Fictional 'missing link' apeman.
- Pteranodon summerleensis - Fictional Pterosaur.
The dinosaurs are very convincingly done. In previous adaptations that have stinted on the dinosaurs, for every second in which the dinosaur appeared the audience endured at least 20 seconds of cheap reaction shots from the cast. For this adaptation, when the dinosaurs appear, they stay on screen and dominate the scenes. We see flocks of Pterosaurs and herds of sauropods. When the dinosaurs move, they do so naturally right down to the realistic jaw movements and twitching nostrils. The main dinosaur, the Allosaurus, really does live up to its star billing. When one dies, we even see the light fade from its eyes.
Two years after Walking With Dinosaurs, the most successful documentary series of all time, it was perhaps inevitable that the next step for the BBC team was to adapt the greatest dinosaur story ever. After all the team had already gained the expertise and created the computer-generated models and physical puppet animatronic dinosaurs needed to convincingly bring the story to life. Tim Haines, the man behind those series, was a producer on The Lost World, and the executive producer was Jane Tranter, who would be key in bringing back Doctor Who in 2005.
Location filming began in New Zealand, which doubled for the Amazonian rainforest. Interior scenes and a few other shots were done in Pinewood Studios. As the crew involved in the filming was quite small they were able to get to unspoilt locations that had been considered too remote for even The Lord of the Rings crew to film in. This regularly necessitated transporting all the equipment by helicopter as the only way to access these areas.
The dinosaurs were made by effects company Framestore and began as computer sculptures, which the animatronic models were based on so that the physical and computer-generated dinosaurs could be seamlessly married together. When the audience sees a full-size dinosaur, this is usually computer-generated, with greater-detailed animatronics used for the extreme close-ups. Models of the head, arms, tail, and a claw were made of the starring Allosaurus. Director Stuart Orme explained why computer-generated images are needed in addition to the animatronic:
The problem is the animatronic isn't as free to move as the computer graphic is because the [full size model] is 11 metres long and the head is 4 feet long. For [the operator] to actually move that head so it is moving with the right amount of momentum is very difficult.
In order to give the impression that the dinosaur is interacting with the environment, tricks are used. For instance invisible fishing line was attached to the ferns along the dinosaur's path and pulled, giving the impression that dinosaurs have pushed by the plants. Similarly a paw-shaped device was devised to enable the dinosaurs to leave footprints, giving the illusion of them actually walking. The key to convincing the audience that the dinosaur is real is the actor's reactions, as William Bartlett, Visual Effects Supervisor at Framestore, explained:
When people don't look scared enough, don't leap out of the way enough, it makes the creature look unbelievable however well you blend it in and make the ferns move. If [the actors] don't look scared, you don't believe the creature's there.
In the making-of documentary Inside the Lost World, it was revealed that it was not only the dinosaurs that were special effects. The coral snakes were made out of rubber and equipped with servo-motors to move realistically, although some shots were computer-generated. In order to create the illusion of a plateau and a pinnacle, the locations were enhanced with computer-generated backgrounds, with bluescreen also used to make the jungle look bigger. In the dramatic log-crossing scene, two different locations were used. One had a dramatic view, with only a 4-foot drop beneath the log. The other was a former railway cutting with a larger 30-foot drop, but through the use of bluescreen the drop became a thousand feet, even though it was breathtakingly filmed from all angles with a 360° hothead camera on a 60-foot crane.
The paddle steamer was also built from scratch for the film, with various lakes in New Zealand doubling for the Amazon, with the rapids filmed in a water channel leading to a hydro-electric plant. The tarantula was also real, with actress Elaine Cassidy, who plays Agnes, overcoming her arachnophobia for the sequence in which she picks it off Malone's shoulder. Although producer Tim Haines had originally hoped to have an underwater sequence which would show the marine reptiles developed for Walking With Dinosaurs, this would have been too technically challenging, and also Elaine Cassidy couldn't swim.
As Conan Doyle himself had enjoyed camera tricks, he is likely to have appreciated the special effects. Conan Doyle had used trick photography to create the photograph in the frontispiece of the novel that purported to show the members of the Challenger expedition, when in fact the photograph shows Conan Doyle in disguise and by combining multiple images, Summerlee and Roxton are both actually Patrick Forbes.
Conan Doyle's love of hoaxes inspired the environmentally-friendly ending9, in which Challenger, Malone and Summelee ensure the plateau stays safely lost by claiming that it was all a hoax. In June, 1922, Conan Doyle showed early footage of dinosaurs from the 1925 adaptation of the film to the Society of American Magicians, claiming they were real. Conan Doyle later wrote, 'It struck me that it would be very amusing if I could mystify the mystifiers'.
No dinosaurs were harmed in the making of this adaptation; however, a pet Brown Capuchin Monkey brought in to represent Amazonian wildlife escaped from its owner into the wild.
Although the dinosaurs are the stars of this adaptation, the magnificent cast comes a very close second. One of the delights of this adaptation must be the well-rounded, believable characters.
|Professor George Challenger||Bob Hoskins|
|Professor Leo Summerlee||James Fox|
|Lord John Phillip Roxton||Tom Ward|
|Edward Malone||Matthew Rhys|
|Agnes Cluny||Elaine Cassidy|
|Reverend Theo Kerr||Peter Falk|
|Achille||Tamati Te Nohotu|
|Gladys Illingworth||Joanna Page|
|Professor Illingworth||Robert Hardy|
|Indian chief||Nathaniel Lees|
|Indian leader||Inia Maxwell|
|Mrs Hilda Summerlee||Tessa Peake-Jones|
Despite appearances, not a burglar or pickpocket.
- Professor Summerlee
Professor Challenger is the open-minded, determined explorer who instigates the expedition, insisting on the possibility of prehistoric life still living in the Amazon. He is often mocked as a mad maverick by Summerlee; on one occasion Summerlee lampoons him for the paper he had previously written about the possibility of using a rocket to send man to the moon. As he is played by Bob Hoskins, there is a fascinating class aspect to his performance. Unlike Professor Summerlee he has not come from a privileged background but has had to fight his way up by his own achievements, which explains his determination to be recognised as a truly great scientist. Though he often spars with Summerlee he envies him, as Summerlee is a family man while he has an empty home.
BAFTA-winning and Oscar-nominated actor Bob Hoskins was the perfect Challenger. The skills at interacting with special effects not yet visible that he had developed for Who Framed Roger Rabbit allowed him to give a flawless performance. His career also involved films such as Brazil, Mona Lisa and The Long Good Friday.
[She] has adapted to the rigours of jungle life by wearing trousers at all times, even at dinner!
- Edward Malone
The newly-created female love interest character in this adaptation is Kerr's adopted niece. Although not actually related to Kerr, as her parents died when she was very young, she is highly capable, can speak numerous local languages, and is an expert on local medicines. Challenger respects her enough to allow her to decide whether or not she wishes to join the expedition.
Edward: She has the bluest, bluest eyes, the sweetest little mouth, and everything about her is neat, delicate. Very small hands, tiny little feet.
Agnes: Is she a midget, then?
Though only appearing at the beginning and the end of the story, Gladys plays a key part. It is the desire to impress her that encourages Malone to join the expedition. He thinks of her often, even naming a lake after her, but in the end they both realise that Gladys' desire to marry a hero was merely a girlish fancy and fantasy. She is not the clichéd Penelope who waits for the hero to return to her, no matter what, but instead never loved Malone and gets on with her own life in his absence.
Theo Kerr wrote a very silly book condemning Darwin.
- Professor Summerlee
Kerr is a man of many contradictions. His apparently strong, unshakeable beliefs are marred with serious doubt. Although he appears to be a good man, well loved by the people to whom he spreads his message, he is at heart a black-hat-wearing killer, willing even to sacrifice Agnes. The full extent of his diabolical behaviour is unknown. It is revealed he destroyed the tunnel leading to the lost world, but what else has he done? Did he spread the Curipuri rumours to deter people from exploring the area? Did he scare away the bearers? Did he put something in Professor Summerlee's bag to encourage the poisonous snakes to attack? Did Agnes' parents really die in a boating accident when she was five, or did he murder them for discovering the truth?
There are men of whom it can be said they can charm birds from the trees, but not so many, I think, that can charm a dinosaur.
Malone is an everyman character who joins the expedition longing for excitement. His career as a journalist for The Daily Gazette has been limited to writing obituaries and he wants the opportunity to impress his girlfriend, Gladys. Not at ease in the jungle, he is terrified of tarantulas, scared of snakes and petrified of piranhas. He isn't much better around women, with Agnes overhearing him warn Roxton not to take advantage of her because she is 'socially backward'.
Malone is honest, endearing and romantic. A natural family man, he is often surrounded by children when in the Indian village. He adopts a Hypsilophodon as a pet, naming him 'Figaro'. He even cares about the apemen, calling his fellows 'savage' for their treatment of them and releasing them from their prison when an Allosaurus threatens.
Lord Roxton is most at home here, and the Indians recognise him as one of their own; a hunter amongst warriors.
- Edward Malone
Lord Roxton's character has evolved quite considerably from his depiction in the original novel. Hunters are now no longer considered to be glamorous sportsmen, but instead are reviled as poachers slaughtering animals for their own amusement. Roxton, though brave, bores easily. He thrives on the thrill of adventure and is the first to volunteer to join the expedition. Though having a reputation as a womaniser, the truth is he is tired of society life, especially the women found there. Instead he longs for the profound stimulation found only in life-and-death situations. The Lost World of the plateau offers him that, as well as a woman with whom he can share the hunt as an equal.
Your mind is as fossilised as the exhibits in your precious museum!
- Professor Challenger
Professor Summerlee is a highly respected scientist who believes in adopting a rigorous, scientific approach to his studies and advancing the cause of science. He finds Professor Challenger's flamboyant approach to be annoying and unprofessional, threatening to give science a bad name. He does envy Challenger, though, as he recognises that as a methodical plodder he is unlikely to be remembered as a remarkable scientist.
Summerlee is initially the least adapted to jungle life. Having led a sheltered upper-class academic life, he is used to others doing any hard, physical work on his behalf. When the bearers flee, Summerlee asks, 'How far can we go without bearers?' This perhaps reflects not only an Imperial assumption but also how he personally has not needed to do such things before. Later on he gets himself injured by Pterosaurs through not taking the basic precaution of hiding when approaching their nest. Yet Summerlee is a remarkable scientist who learns to adapt. By the end of the journey he combines his knowledge with the physical application of hard work to be the one who finds a way out of the Lost World; by mixing Pterosaur guano with charcoal, he creates an explosive that unblocks the tunnel to the outside world.
Though not an individual, the apemen are a group of characters with their own identity. Though not human, they are a sentient species and know more about the creatures on the plateau than the Indians do. They know how to summon an Allosaurus and wipe dung on their heads to hide their smell so that it doesn't attack them. They are also able to communicate, drawing a dinosaur in the sand as a warning to Professor Challenger, who they realise has been keeping them alive. We also see them mourn when a baby dies, digging a grave and decorating it with flowers. That said, they do hunt and capture humans in order to feast on their flesh.
25 ape costumes were hand-woven to represent the apemen. Five were detailed ape suits that had complex masks, teeth and contact lenses, seen when the apemen needed to talk or express emotions, while 20 were basic suits and kept more in the background. The baby apeman was an animatronic puppet.
'Indians' and their Village
The Indians are a group of humans who have also adapted to life in the plateau, but not to the same extent as the apemen. They hunt with spears, bows and other weapons, and adorn themselves with brightly coloured feathers, although we do not see the animals from which these are found. Their village is located at the edge of the plateau, next to Lake Gladys, which they fish in for food, in a sandy, rocky area where little lives. Their village is in the shelter of some large rocks, described as 'a natural fortress'. The entrance to the village does have some wooden stakes spaced a fair distance apart. Curiously, despite the abundance of rock in the area, no stone wall or even a proper wooden palisade has been built. The natives do not even set a watch. This carelessness allows passing Allosauruses to just wander undetected into the village and exposes them to capture by the apemen, as at least two Indians had been caught when first encountered by Challenger.
The Indians have been on the plateau since at least 1659 (when they encountered Mendoz). In all that time, did it never occur to them to build some sort of defence for their village to protect them from the flesh-eating dinosaurs as well as carnivorous apemen? Even a large wooden wall with a Kong-sized gate would do. Was it the Indians who had set the trap that killed the Allosaurus in the jungle, and if so, why have they not defended their village the same way? Even if it was the apemen who dug the trap, surely they could copy their behaviour?
It is possible that the natives are nomadic in nature, as their homes are made around basic wooden and bone frames, covered in dinosaur hide. However, this seems unlikely considering how well preserved the Portuguese armour they have on display in the caves is. Even if their village is not a permanent settlement, surely it would make sense to defend the entry to their temporary home with walls, traps, ditches and pits dug in the sand and people keeping watch?
Differences from the Novel
There are numerous differences from Conan Doyle's original novel, yet none detract from the spirit of adventure that the novel created. New characters are introduced, namely Agnes Cluny, forming the role of added love interest, and her adopted uncle, the Reverend Theo Kerr. Kerr replaces the novel's villainous Gomez; the novel had made the main non-European character a villain, so his removal deletes a painful stereotype.
Some of the minor differences are: making Gladys the daughter of Professor Illingworth, which gives the character and actor an added dimension; Malone is more an everyday character rather than someone who plays international rugby for Ireland in his spare time; Roxton is younger, and less heroic and sympathetic than in the novel, however views on hunters have changed substantially in the last century; Professor Challenger is not married12 but Professor Summerlee is, and as a family man he is more sympathetic. He also unsuccessfully designs a glider, replacing the sequence where Professor Challenger fails to construct a gas balloon.
Other characters are better served. The Indians have a greater presence than in the novel. The missing Maple White, who discovered the plateau in the novel, has been replaced by Father Mendoz. This means that the Lost World is always referred to as 'the plateau' rather than 'Maple White Land'. The blink-and-you'll-miss-him character of Samuel replaces the novel's Zambo. Another difference is that the apemen deliberately summon the Allosaurus, rather than in the novel when the Allosauruses were chanced upon by the Indians who live in caves, not huts.
Science & Religion
One major theme in this adaptation is the relationship between science and religion, which is perhaps inevitable in a series featuring 'missing link' apemen. The new character of the Reverend Kerr represents fundamentalist beliefs and an inability to question, while Summerlee represents science. Professor Challenger is totally open-minded, a middleman between the two views. He is revealed to be the double of the legendary Father Mendoz. Like Mendoz he is a meticulous explorer, and like Mendoz is called a mad man for telling the truth.
Kerr is desperate to preserve his fundamentalist belief. He states that Earth is exactly 6,000 years old13 and that fossils are the remains of creatures deposited by the flood. Although a good man, well-loved by the natives, he is willing to commit murder to preserve his beliefs and the Indians on the plateau consider him to be the Devil, as he had cut off the tunnel into the outside world. It is not the dinosaurs that Kerr objects to, but instead the apemen, who he feels would lead to questions over whether or not man was made purely in God's image, although why the existence of apemen threatens his faith more than, say, the fact that gorillas exist14 isn't really clear.
Professor Summerlee comes across as the embodiment of pure science. He calls the Bible 'twaddle' and states that it is 'not a textbook'. Is it perhaps indicative that in the final struggle between Summerlee and Kerr, the personification of Science accidentally kills the blinkered fundamentalist? Yet for all Summerlee's scientific convictions, when his head is placed on the apemen's sacrificial altar and is about to be smashed in with a rock, his body torn limb from limb and every bone in his body stripped of its flesh, he prays out, 'God, help me!' This prayer is answered - Summerlee is, indeed, rescued.
When The Lost World was made, science and religion were more co-operative. The scenes of the Natural History Museum lecture theatre, the very heart of the bastion of science, were actually filmed in the Round Chapel Church in Hackney.