Plot – Three men and a woman crash-land in a deep crater in Antarctica, where they find a prehistoric world – The Land Unknown.
Director – Virgil W. Vogel
Released – 1957
I thought I’d seen pretty much all the giant monster movies from the ’40s & ’50s, but it wasn’t until I was doing some research for One Million B.C. that The Land Unknown came to my attention, which was all the more surprising given how it was inspired by a real-time events when warm water (Sadly no dinosaurs)was discovered in Antarctica, a subject I’ve recently been reading about for another upcoming project.
The plot centres around an expedition to map and research the newly discovered warm water, however, the helicopter carrying a small team of explorers is hit a bad storm and is forced to land in this unmapped region. As you’d expect, this happens to be the home to prehistoric monsters, including man-eating plants and long-extinct dinosaurs. Not the most original of plots, and when coupled with the ‘man in a dino suit’ creatures, I wasn’t expecting big things.
So imagine my surprise. When the three males and a female disembark from their chopper and set about exploring these new surroundings, I was amazed at the set design and how expansive it all appeared. Sure, it was clearly a set, but this was to be expected, but there was clearly a lot of time and energy devoted to the little details including beautifully designed matte paintings for background landscapes, which along with the swirling mist and fog really helped to create a level of depth not normally seen in early creature-features.
Not only this but even the dinosaurs were entertaining to watch, were they realistic? No, not by a long shot. The use of monitor lizards on a small model landscape isn’t as seamless as the ones seen in One Million B.C., the aforementioned dino suits are clearly made out of plastic and paper mache and large Loch Ness Monster-like Elasmosaurus made using a mechanical puppet which clearly only had so many movements, with a mouth and eyes never move, but in a way, this adds to the movie’s charm,
Don’t go into The Land Unknown expecting anything groundbreaking and you won’t be disappointed and let’s face it, if you’ve seen one film about a group discovering a long-lost world, you’ve pretty much seen them all. But that being said, I couldn’t help but find the film enjoyable and filled with some cheesy monster moments.