Lost Horizons, Part I: The Films

July 1, 2013 | By

In the early 1970s, it was important that all actor hair be windy, and a film's narrative strands flow out in graphic detail from someone's giant head or from under a wide skirt.

Yes, it’s Canada Day, but instead of a tongue-in-cheek review of native-made fromage, I’ve got bigger fromage: the 1973 musical remake of Lost Horizon.

Now before we get into some basic facts and the review links, let me jump back a little.

When I was a movie-hungry teen, someone told me about The Golden Turkey Awards, one of the most hysterical chronologies of bad movies, written and first published in 1980 by brothers Harry and Michael Medved – the latter kind of lost his marbles in the nineties and advocated with religious groups not only an overhaul of America’s MPAA movie ratings system, but include brandings like “Evil.”

(The book in fact lists Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre as a worth Turkey, describing its special effects as “disgusting” – a portent of Michael’s pre-existing dislike for things horrific and visceral.)

Within the pages of this still Holy Book of Cinematic Awfulness (many titles remain unavailable on video anywhere) are nominees for the Worst Musical Extravaganza in Hollywood History: Peter Bogdanovich’s At Long Last Love [M] (1973), Ross Hunter’s production of Lost Horizon (1973), Robert Stigwood’s production of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978), and Andrew L. Stone’s Song of Norway (1970).

Pepper‘s been available on video for years, but the winner, At Long Last Love, was recently produced for Blu-ray by the Twilight Time team for Fox (and is currently available as an Amazon exclusive), while TT itself released a gorgeous BR of Lost Horizon, the Turkey nominee which had never been available on DVD until a recent MOD disc from Sony in 2011.

TT’s BR features full HD extras, and fans of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s music will be able to enjoy this Panavision spectacle in full DTS and HD.

Pre-release poster prior to drastic edits and optical changes where Ronald Colman was originally a giant white man wreaking horrific destruction on trembling Asians with his clod-hoppers.

Now, sometimes a problem film deserves a bit more examination than a long heralded masterpiece, and given the musical version is a remake of a Frank Capra classic, I’ve scribbled two very long comparative reviews to address the pros & cons of both versions: the restored 1937 roadshow version [M] released by Sony way back in 1999, and the 1973 musical [M] from TT.

Why is this called Part I? Because this segment deals with the films, and Part II will address the scores (although I will NOT be reviewing the ’73 version’s song soundtrack album for reasons clearly addressed in the review).

As for the last member of the aforementioned Turkey quartet, I’m scared of Song of Norway because it stars a singing & dancing Florence Henderson (“Mrs. Brady” from TV’s The Brady Bunch).

Still, if it ever gets a release, I have to see it.

Why? Because Andrew Stone was an important indie director-producer who made a set of notable crime films – The Steel Trap (1952), The Night Holds Terror (1955), and Cry Terror! (1958) – the latter made with wife Virginia Stone, often credited for a superior use of cross-cutting between converging narratives of kidnappers, cops, and those caught in between the crime carnage.

Stone’s career eventually decelerated to overblown musicals in an era when overblown, classic-styled musicals were dead – his last film was The Great Waltz (1972) – but he’s a forgotten filmmaker who deserves more spotlight on home video besides his best-known work, Stormy Weather (1943), and the water-borne disaster film The Last Voyage (1960), of which stock footage was appropriated for the CanCon fromage classique Death Ship [M] (1980).

Coming shortly: soundtrack reviews + composer interviews, and another weird & wacky piece of surreal video at Big Head Amusements that resembles fleshy blue marble with pink fire ejections shooting from the peripherals in surround sound.

I’m serious.

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Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com ( Main Site / Mobile Site )

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Category: EDITOR'S BLOG, FILM REVIEWS

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