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DVD Review:
The Lost World
By Brian Jacks


Before Jurassic Park and Denver, The Last Dinosaur was the novel "The Lost World," written by "Sherlock Holmes" author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. One of the more influential books ever written, "Lost World" depicts a band of intrepid explorers as they trek through an Amazonian rainforest with the goal of reaching a remote plateau where, supposedly, sightings of dinosaurs have been seen. Doyle's novel was first brought the screen in 1925 with Harry O. Hoyt's classic silent film, and has since been adapted by Hollywood a few times by mostly B-movie directors.

By today's standards, the majority of direct adaptations have been nothing short of forgettable, and it may have well stayed that well if not for the A&E television network. By combining the classic tale with notable actors and state-of-the-art special effects (done by the team from Discovery Channel's Walking With Dinosaurs), A&E created a four-hour miniseries that stood out for its professionalism and its sheer enjoyment factor. And now they're releasing it as a two-disc collector's edition.

The Lost World follows the adventures of the eccentric Professor George Challenger (Bob Hoskins), who arrives in 1911's London with tales of a mysterious location in Brazil where dinosaurs still roam openly. Organizing an expedition to further explore this entrenched spot, Challenger heads into the unknown joined by a skeptical fellow scientist (James Fox), an adventuring, womanizing noble (Tom Ward), and young newspaper reporter (Matthew Rhys). Upon arriving in the rainforest, the team is joined by the beautiful and resourceful niece (Elaine Cassidy) of a local, stubborn missionary (Peter Falk). Thus starts an incredible, action-filled journey into the Land That Time Forgot. Whoops, I mean the Land of the Lost. Well, you get the point.

While man-meets-dinosaur tales are nowadays plentiful, it was Doyle that started the trend, and "The Lost World" is among the finest of the lot. The A&E miniseries follows the book pretty closely, and evokes the moral and ethical quandaries that derive from a discovery of such a magnitude. Hoskins is fantastic as a scientist hell-bent on proving his theory and gaining the recognition that would come from such a momentous breakthrough, and Falk's cameo appearances as a ranting Man of God are the finely tuned performances one would expect from the seasoned actor. Indeed, the entire cast is just as good, and really help to fill out what could have been just another television miniseries. Thankfully, with a great adaptation of an already great novel, A&E pulls in something noteworthy, and gives audiences a program worth watching.

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While The Lost World DVD was initially advertised as presenting the miniseries in anamorphic widescreen, the show is actually in its original 1.33:1 broadcast aspect ratio (A&E tells Slush that retail boxes will be stickered with the correction). In any event, while unfortunate that a widescreen aspect is unavailable, the video quality is very good with no noticeable print blemishes, although there are a few signs of compression throughout. Filmed in part on stage and elsewhere on location in New Zealand, some of the outdoor shots are rather breathtaking, such as one scene in which the team looks out upon a great lake with herds of dinosaurs walking along its shore. On that note, the dinosaurs look as good as they've ever been on television, but they're still a far cry from those seen in big-budget films. It's obvious when CGI shots are interlaced with models, but for their part the actors do an incredible job of interacting with the giant creatures, making it seem that much more realistic.

The Lost Sound is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, which is regrettable as a true surround 5.1 track would have added quite a bit to the action and suspense of the miniseries. As is, the audio is clear and a few positional sounds are evident on the rear channels, such as jungle noises or people yelling. Due to a few spurts of thick British accents, a few pieces of dialogue were unintelligible to my clumsy American ears, but those were far and few between. In the end, pretty typical of audio from a television program.

The DVD Collector's Edition comes with a variety of extras, headlined by two featurettes. The first, entitled "Inside The Lost World," is a twenty-minute "behind the scenes" teaser that aired on A&E. A standard "making of" program, "Inside" features cast and crew discussing their experiences on the set, as well as their characters. There is extended discussion of the special effects used to create the dinosaurs, and one of the more interesting moments of the segment occurs when they discuss how scenes were shot that involved both dinosaurs and the human actors. In addition, a look at the show's locations is also enjoyable, particularly when it involves a cliff sequence high up in the New Zealand mountains.

The second major supplement is "Dinosaur Secrets Revealed," an almost two-hour long documentary that originally aired on The History Channel. Customary of THC's programming, it's a fun but extensive journey through every facet of dinosaurs and the history of paleontology. Examining everything from dinosaurs in pop culture, to popular misconceptions about dinosaurs, to everything else one can think of, the program features interviews with numerous scientists, including Jack Horner, who is to paleontology what Robert Ballard is to oceanography. While the running time may be a bit too intensive for some, it's an enjoyable, and comprehensive, look at where we stand in dinosaur science today.

Also included are cast biographies of Bob Hoskins and Peter Falk, and a biography and bibliography of Arthur Conan Doyle.

The Miniseries: A. An enjoyable take on a classic story.

The Look: B. Exotic scenery and good human-dinosaur interaction make this fun to look at.

The Sound: B-. The lack of a true surround experience is unfortunate, but is typical of most television events.

The Extras: B. The History Channel documentary is a fascinating look at current paleontology, and stands out as an extra.

Overall: B+. A&E's The Lost World is one of the finest miniseries events of late, and well worth watching.


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