The Lost World (1925) with John Garden’s new score

Originally published at X-Media Online

Composer John Garden’s electronic reimagining of the 1925 silent film classic, The Lost World, provided a raw, unique and truly cinematic experience at Exeter’s Phoenix theatre.

Why do we bother with the cinema anymore? In the age of Blu-Ray what’s stopping us from sitting comfortably at home, without the irritants of various strangers and the overpriced tickets, to enjoy a hassle free and personal movie experience? In the build up to The Lost World last Thursday I was reminded why I do make the effort to see films the way they were meant to be watched.

Firstly the Phoenix exuded a great deal more charm than the average multiplex. Secondly, and most importantly, the people that walked in were an extraordinarily eclectic and eccentric bunch. They were spearheaded by a loud elderly lady, asking questions to anyone that would listen and leaving various items accidentally in the reception area. Other audience members that stood out from my vantage point in the front row included a bubbly child dressed as Batman, a grey haired chap who resembled a decaying professor and the spitting image of One Day writer David Nicholls.

It really did feel as though I was a part of a wonderfully interesting cross section of society, gathered in one place, lured by the appeal of a very different evening of entertainment. And it certainly was different. A message on the screen informed us beforehand that this was the fullest version of the 1925 film possible, which seemed a daunting way of saying “this is going to be long”.

Length was definitely the principle problem with this version of The Lost World. By the end the yawn factor had infected me at least and I’d shifted position in my seat several times. The other main problem was John Garden’s modern music, which ranged from the incredibly dramatic and haunting, to the repetitive and out of place.

I don’t know anything about music. But at times the combination of synthesisers and electric guitar just did not seem to match the scene. Sometimes the flow of the film benefited from consistency and recurring themes, whilst elsewhere the drama was nullified by the same old tune. Despite being just a few feet away from a talented musician I could not help craving a more traditional orchestral accompaniment.

The film itself has aged remarkably well. I expected to find the effects cringe worthy but instead particular movements of dinosaur tails seemed more impressive than the CGI in many modern blockbusters. The team behind the effects here would go onto wider recognition with King Kong.

The acting, for the most part, is terribly dated but this is perhaps unavoidable. Special praise must go to Lewis Stone for his performance as Sir John Roxton. Somehow, without words, he delivers a performance that would not look too out of place today.

Despite its flaws The Lost World was a vibrant example of historical silent cinema, to which Spielberg’s Jurassic Park owes and enormous debt.

My rating: 3 stars out of 5

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