Friday, February 7, 2014

Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition!

What a wacked out movie this is! To begin, this The Lost Continent is not based on the C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne novel about Atlantis, which I thought it was. It's based on a whole other book by Dennis Wheatley titled Uncharted Seas about a ship of assorted sailors and passengers who get stranded in a man-eating sargasso sea and have to confront the Spanish Inquisition. (Maybe Monty Python was right!)

The story begins when the "Corita", an aging tramp steamer loaded with a forbidden and exceedingly explosive cargo gets lost in a storm on the way to South America. The Captain (Eric Porter) is an irascible down-on-his-luck bloke who lies to his crew, who then abandon him and the ship before a hurricane blows in. The passengers are a motley lot full of folks running away from various misdeeds and misfortunes who somehow prefer the luckless boat to survival. At one point most folks do abandon the ship and lose a few of their number before finding it again after the storm and then sailing into a vast sargasso sea which seems to enjoy munching on those unfortunate enough to fall into its grasp. They then find a beautiful girl who walks on the deadly weeds supported by balloons. Then deadly Spaniards under the control of a deranged branch of the Inquisition attacks and the story gets started properly. Sadly by the time this happens there's only about thirty minutes left in the flick.

This Hammer opus might be considered goofy fun. It sure has the classic Hammer tendency to be mildly lurid with plenty attention paid to beautiful babes in distress. Whatever the danger, whatever the threat, the girls seem to find time to change clothes regularly always finding something which highlights their assets neatly. Hildegard Knef plays a gorgeous but aging ice maiden who is running from something and not afraid to use her body to make that trek possible.  The resident bombshell of the first part of the movie is the peculiarly named "Unity" (Suzanna Liegh) who struts around in a suitcase of backless numbers tantalizing a variety of guys who show remarkable restraint given where they find themselves. Later she's mostly replaced by sargasso sea native "Sarah" (Dana Gillespie) who bring her balloons aboard the Corita with devestating effect.

The monsters are a 60's cavalcade of mechanical beasties including a giant squid, a giant crab, a giant scorpion, and sundry seaweed tentacles of various stripes. In addition to the murderous threat of the Spanish Inquisition led by a ludicrous boy-king and a venomous and corrupt priest, the survivors of the Corita are up against a mighty nest of problems.

Weirdly the story is told in flashback, so we sort of know who will survive and who might not. It's a curious way to structure this tale which seems to wander through its various tropes with little momentum. The acting in this one is what keeps it afloat, as typically Hammer offers up a group of seasoned veteran actors (Michael Ripper, James Cossins, Nigel Stock, and suchlike) capable of chewing the most offbeat of scenes into submission. Few of the group are folks we'd admire in the world, so it's rather difficult to give two shakes about their fates here, most of which seem weirdly deserved. This is a boat of sinners indeed, like those forlorn sailors in Coleridge's poem, floating into the maw of their own inevitable demise.

But maybe I overstate it. I was properly distracted by this one, and even momentarily entertained. It's a proper diversion, if you find it for little or no money in the late night.

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  1. I wonder if it had an influence on the Sub-mariner 16 (1969) story by Thomas & Severin, set in the Sargasso Sea?

    1. I wondered the same thing. The movie's actual release date would be instructive, though the comic is summer of 69 so it's probably at least a half year later, the right lead time.

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