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"Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's: Lost World" DVD Review
The recent BBC/A&E (2001 UK & 2002 US) co-production of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic dinosaur tale The Lost World is something of a mixed bag in this DVD release. While the adaptation is interesting in its own right, it is not a particularly faithful version of the classic text. Instead of being the Boys Own adventure tale of yesteryear it has become something of a special effects laden morality play that touches on the madness of religious zeal and makes an effort to have science triumph over belief. This moral quandary is demonstrated by the inclusion of Peter Falk's character - the Rev. Theo Kerr. Not only does Kerr become a catalyst for catastrophy in this teleplay, but he also changes the tone of the entire production with his religious zealotry and stance against evolution. While the character does give the viewer the benefit of a villain to jeer, the subplot does drag down the pace of the original storyline. The inclusion of the Agnes Cluny character is less of an imposition than one would expect, particularly surprising when one considers that her inclusion is only to make the whole thing more PC for the 21st century by including a woman into the storyline.

Bob Hoskins, while a talented and highly watchable actor, just isn't the robust and bombastic George Edward Challenger of the novel. Where were the outbursts of temper? The physical ejection of Malone from Challenger's home? In fact, where were any of the touches that make Challenger the specific character he is rather than just another nutty professor? A pity that Brian Blessed had not been cast in the part, for he was born to play Challenger.

Strangely, top marks in the characterization field go to James Fox for his portrayal of Challenger's academic nemesis - Prof. Leo Summerlee. Fox brought both a stuffy resistance and skepticism to the earlier scenes but grew into an integral part of the team as the story progressed.

So, what about the dinosaurs? In short, they are truly splendid. While not quite the slick work of Spielberg's Jurassic Park series, the viewer will see these creature effects as palpable, living and breathing dinosaurs. Beautifully executed at every turn.

The Special Edition DVD is as mixed a bag as the production itself. While the box packaging clearly states "
Exclusive Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1)" it is, in fact, no such thing. A&E screwed up, as this presentation is in the standard television broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1. I gather that stickers will be issued to retailers indicating the packaging error/correction. This is unfortunate as the film was clearly shot in a widescreen format which makes the most of the scenic vistas to be found in the New Zealand locations. The audio on this DVD is in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo which is fairly robust, but the dense jungle settings could have been favorably enhanced by a full 5.1 Surround track. Still, not at all bad for a "Made for TV" production.

The extras featured on Disc 2 are fairly straightforawd, consisting mainly of a superficial A&E behind the scenes promo -
Inside the Lost World and a complete copy of The History Channel's excellent Dinosaur Secret's Revealed. The former offers a fairly brief glimpse into the workings behind the making of the film (a few shots that include a look through the camera viewfinder make it clear this was shot in a widescreen format) with comments from Hoskins and crew members. The latter gives an in-depth look into the history of paleontology and the role of dinosaurs in film. Highly entertaining and informative. The biographies and bibliographies noted as extras are so poorly executed as to be hardly worth mentioning.

Overall, the double-disc special edition DVD is something of a let-down. If you've seen the television broadcast of the main film and the extras, there is nothing on this DVD set that you haven't seen before. Had this actually been a widescreen release, then it would indeed have been a "special" edition well worth the cost!
Reviewed by Charles Prepolec
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's: Lost World (2002)
Director: Stuart Orme
Encoding: Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Format: Color, Fullscreen, Box set
Studio: A & E Home Video
DVD Features:
- Two History Channel programs: "
The Making of The Lost World" and "Dinosaur Secrets Revealed"
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle biography and bibliography
Number of discs: 2
Bottom line: If you caught it on television give this DVD set a miss, but if you haven't seen it before, there are much worse ways of spending 4-5 hours.