As a young child, any kind of public holiday meant that the lunchtime airwaves would be alive with movies of varying genres and even more varying quality. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, James Bond or some sort of Jaws sequel would invariably be rubbing shoulders with classic westerns, war movies or even the odd disaster flick; but what I used to engrossed with, was the fantasy stuff.
Be it some sort of epic featuring Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion wonders featuring Sinbad or the Greek gods, or even Ralph Bakshi’s admirable, animated attempt at visualizing Lord Of The Rings, I watched them all – except one.
For some reason, no channel ever seemed to have The People That Time Forgot anywhere in their schedules, which was extra frustrating as it was a sequel to The Land That Time Forgot, Amicus’ endearingly rubbery adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ dinosaur laden fable. Anyone who’s seen it knows it ended on a cliff hanger, with our stranded leads literally standing on a cliff and for decades I never got round to finding out what happened next.
Major Ben McBride is leading a mission into the Arctic in order to find his friend, Bowen Tyler, who went missing after his ship was sunk by a German submarine during the First World War. He has vague coordinates from a note written by Bowen found contained within a container that was discovered bobbing in the ocean and after getting it verified by Norfolk, a jovial paleontologist and have his expedition funded by the owner of a newspaper, they’ve reached the general location and are ready to break out the amphibious aircraft to bring Tyler home.
While Ben grits his teeth at the presence of gutsy photographer Lady “Charley” Cunningham (her father is the one bankrolling this thing, so he’s stuck with her), he, Norfolk and his sidekick mechanic, Hogan, fly out to find the mythical land of Caprona, but they almost instantly regret it when they are soon grounded by a belligerent Pterodactyl who obviously saw them as food, a fight or a fuck.
While an understandably nervous Hogan tries to get the plane back in working order, Ben, Charley and Norfolk head on to try and complete their mission and, after spending some quality time with a saggy-arsed stegosaurus, eventually run into Ajor, a scantily clad cave girl with a distractingly glistening cleavage who knew Taylor well (Bowen, you old smoothie!).
It seems that after training her primitive clan english and farming, a more advanced race, mogul-like race called the Nargas slaughtered them all and took Taylor prisoner and soon they find themselves in a similar fix when they themselves are bodily brought before the sacrifice-happy chief, Sabbala.
However, lurking deep within the Nargas’ castle is a familiar face and with his help – and a lot of face punching – our heroes will manage to escape Carpona once and for all.
So, as I alluded to in my little story earlier, I always had something of a sizable soft spot for Kevin Connor’s The Land That Time Forgot, a movie that started that mini series of movies he made that saw Doug McClure escaping various rubbery monsters and half-naked henchmen by solving virtually every problem with a piping hot knuckle sandwich. However, what made this particular movie stick in my brain was the fact that it ended with something of a downbeat ending, with McCure’s Bowen Tyler and his female companion stranded in this world of evolutionary marvels and promptly growing himself a Grizzly Addams beard to look the part. Such an ending was unheard of to me and yet somehow, The People That.Time Forgot managed to elude me for decades, leaving Tyler’s fate in some weird void that I never bothered to rectify until recently – so was the wait worth it? I guess…
It’s not that The People That Time Forgot is bad… well, it sort of is in that super-cheesy way that these movies often are, but this wasn’t merely a case of just watching a movie. No, this was more like obtaining a sense of closure that my infant self never got round to and no film could possibly live up to that – especially not one that features a Stegosaurus that looks like a melted trash bag.
To be fair, it’s no better or worse than Kevin Connor’s other monster movies such as At The Earth’s Core and Warlords Of Atlantis, as they all feature the same, camp performances, hand-puppet beasts and fight scenes that make the ones from Adam West’s Batman look like John Wick, but they’re all fun in their own way. However, the fact that McClure only appears in this one as a glorified cameo takes a bit of a shine off things (think Charlton Heston’s screentime in Beneath The Planet Of The Apes and you’re on the right track) and if I’m extra harsh, Patrick Wayne’s charisma-intolerant lead simply doesn’t cut the mustard. Whether displaying all the emotional dexterity of an Easter Island statue or spending virtually the entire film launching weapons grande misogyny at a photo snapping Charlie, he’s a poor replacement. Luckily, he’s surrounded by quite an appealing supporting cast that includes Superman II’s Sarah Douglas in a Princess Leia hairdo, a typically blustery Thorley Walters, a panicking Shane Rimmer and infamous blues singer Dana Gillespie wearing a cave-girl outfit that would even make Raquel Welch blush.
It’s impressively goofy stuff, with villainous guard being knocked out with a punch to the face despite wearing helmets and faceplates and the dinosaurs looking about as threatening as the kind you’d find decorating a crazy golf course, but every now and then it evokes some potent, fantasy imagery, such as the Nargas and their skull-themed castle looking they stepped right out of a Frank Frazetta painting.
And what of Doug McClure? Well, with a Spoiler Warning fully in place, things get a bit dark, if I’m being honest. Off-handedly dropping the bombshell that Susan Penhaligon’s fellow survivor, Lisa bought it years earlier after being sacrificed to a volcano god, Taylor never actually makes it off Carpona thanks to the inconvenience of catching an arrow to the bread basket, essentially making the entire expedition a technical failure in an instant. Maybe it was a good thing that I never saw this as a child after all…
Blissfully ridiculous, yet weirdly reassuring for those who warmed to these kinds of things as a child, The People That Time Forgot is hard to recomend in these times of CGI and plots that usually have a point, but it’s disturbingly easy to forgive and just because something’s a bit shit – does that mean it deserves to go extinct?