Lost Horizon, James Hilton’s paean to peace and spiritual life everlasting in a magical land called Shangri-La, was first adapted to film by Frank Capra in 1937. Thirty-five years later, MOR pop sensations Burt Bacharach and Hal David were hired by producer Ross Hunter to score this big-budget, semi all-star, musical remake. Alas, Lost Horizon fell prey to the prevailing twisted logic of the day which held that what modern musicals needed most was dramatic talent, so, Columbia Pictures, not having learned its lesson from Camelot (whose revamped set serves a Shangri-La’s lamasery), populated Lost Horizon with a cast of dramatic actors who could neither sing nor dance. To promote Lost Horizon, Ross Hunter—the comb-overed, leisure-suited, closeted-gay producer (his 40-years lifetime partner was frequent co-producer Jacque Mapes) responsible for the Tammy films, Douglas Sirk, and those Rock Hudson/Doris Day comedies—appeared in a flurry of self-congratulatory, back-slapping, print and television publicity declaring how proud he was of Lost Horizon, and how (in a subtle slap in the face to the new permissiveness in films) his musical was to be a return to the wholesome family films of yesteryear.
Lost Horizon is a 1973 musical film directed by Charles Jarrott and starring Peter Finch, John Gielgud, Liv Ullmann, Michael York, Sally Kellerman, Bobby Van, George Kennedy, Olivia Hussey, James Shigeta and Charles Boyer. The film is a remake of Frank Capra's film of the same name, with a screenplay by Larry Kramer. Lost Horizon‘s March 1973 premiere was such a big deal in Hollywood that Governor Ronald Reagan was persuaded to return to his roots to attend, and the picture was selected for a Royal Command Performance in the United Kingdom. But it was quickly savaged by the critical community, with Pauline Kael and Judith Crist among its many vocal.
Hunter, who had reason to crow, coming as he did off of the staggering blockbuster success of (1970), was about to get a none-too-subtle dose of hubris when critics and audiences nationwide met the release of Lost Horizon with a conjoined hostility that effectively ended his 20-plus years as a feature film producer. Had Hunter been a little less 'proud' of Lost Horizon, he may have emerged from the fiasco reasonably unscathed. Unfortunately (but rather helpfully), Ross Hunter chose to plaster his name in large type above the film's title in any and all publicity, making it easy for everyone to know just where and with whom to place the blame.These aren't the same guy?Disaster film producer Irwin Allen (l.), producer of disasters of a different sort, Ross Hunter (r.).
Even with the excision of several laugh-inducing musical numbers, Lost Horizon limped along at theaters before disappearing completely within weeks of opening. Soundtrack albums and truckloads of Lost Horizon merchandising items (comic books, paper dolls, etc.) filled the remainder bins. Denied a VHS release and airing on cable TV only in its severely edited-down form, Lost Horizon, a film otherwise destined for obscurity, has over the years risen to must-see status primarily due to its long-standing unavailability and a lingering public curiosity surrounding it actually being as awful as its reputation attested.
Now, for the first time since that calamitous opening week in 1973, the curious and devout alike can witness Lost Horizon in all its fully restored, digitally enhanced, wide-screen splendor, with all but one of its five deleted musical numbers reinstated (a brief Sally Kellerman/George Kennedy reprise of 'Living Together, Growing Together' is still MIA). Sure, the recovery of lost footage from Lost Horizon is a bit like a Bizarro World reenactment of the restorations of Stroheim's Greed or Lang's Metropolis; but it’s rare for a studio to treat one of its money-losing embarrassments with such respect.Peter Finch, most likely thinking of his paycheck.Liv Ullmann, adopting the universal 'Who knows?' Pose when asked why she agreed to appear in this filmSally Kellerman, upon hearing that her big solo number, 'Reflections' is to take place atop a big ol' rockMichael York, Shangri-La's snappiest dresserWHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM. Although I am very fond of Lost Horizon and have seen it many times, I don't number myself among those who actually think it’s a good film. I like it because of the nostalgia it invokes (the pro- Lost Horizon cult is comprised chiefly of individuals who saw it as children. Bless their undiscerning little hearts); my love of Burt Bacharach; and because I have a decided taste for cheese.
Lost Horizon is a banquet of tacky aesthetics, risible dialog, awkward performances, wince-inducing lyrics, and moldy choreography. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Movies this wrong-headed are just too much fun.Bobby Van and George Kennedy model the latest in caftan finery from the 1973 Ah Men catalogue: The Allan Carr/Fire Island collectionAs with many bad films which provide hours of unintentional entertainment, Lost Horizon’s cluelessness is one of its primary charms. It's just so darn earnest!
Fairly dripping with good intentions, EST seminar philosophizing, and Me Generation navel-gazing; Lost Horizon intends to be moving and inspirational, but in never adequately landing on a way of dramatizing its themes, the film talks about them instead (ad nauseum) and in turn feels needlessly preachy. For example: Lost Horizon never makes Shangri-La look particularly appealing. It's actually like a well-appointed rest-home. Seriously, the state of peace and enlightenment HAS to be livelier and more fun than this. With all those monks somnambulistically gliding about and everybody looking so gloomily content, the idea of an eternity spent here sounds less like a dream and more like one of those ironic twist endings from a Twilight Zone episode.Trying to read smutty subtext into schoolteacher Liv Ullmann offering Peter Finch her melon is about as exciting as things get in Shangri-LaPERFORMANCES. If there’s such a thing as the opposite of “The Midas Touch” then the late Ross Hunter certainly had it when it came to natural beauty.
In Airport, Hunter’s old-fashioned notion of glamour turned 32 year-old stunner Jean Seberg into a well-preserved matron. And in Lost Horizon he works the same reverse alchemy on the luminous Liv Ullmann. The stiff, desexed, schoolmarm Lost Horizon fashions her into bears no resemblance to the lovely, earthy actress in all those Ingmar Bergman films.Along with an unflattering wardrobe, Liv Ullmann is saddled with a terrible dubbed singing voice in Lost Horizon.
To hear what her real singing voice is like (metered shouting, actually), check out this clip of Ullmann performing in the 1979 Broadway musical. Sally Kellerman, though ill-served by the terrible script and a few too many giggle-worthy dance moments, is my personal favorite in Lost Horizon. Perhaps it's the character arc that takes her from pill-popping neurotic to loose-limbed free spirit, or the fact that when she sings she at least sounds like herself (the soulless, antiseptic singing voices given to Finch and Ullman could have come out of a machine).
Mostly it's because there's a naturalness to her that I've always found very appealing. Unlike some of her costars who look only embarrassed, one senses that Kellerman liked her role, enjoys singing, and perhaps envisioned herself appearing in a better musical than the one she's actually in.Sally Kellerman and a very pregnant Olivia Hussey agree to disagree in 'The Things I Will Not Miss' number. A song one perceptive online critic described as a New-Age version of the 'Green Acres' theme.Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye tried their hand at itTHE STUFF OF FANTASY. The Holy Grail of lost footage for those with an affinity for the awful has been the infamous 'fertility dance' sequence of the 'Living Together, Growing Together' number. Legend has it that this sequence, highlighting greased-up male dancers in loincloths, caused so much audience laughter that it was removed from the film during it's opening week. The choreography in this number is hilarious, to be sure, but some of that laughter HAD to have been homosexual panic. After all, there have been hundreds of films with equally atrocious harem-girl dance sequences shoehorned into the plot for the sole purpose of displaying a little female pulchritude.
But I guess a big screen filled with gyrating, muscular, semi-nude male dancers was just too much to ask of audiences in 1973. Both confounding and fascinating, it stands alone as the sole moment of an asserted homosexual sensibility in a strenuously heterosexual 'family' entertainment created by a coterie of gay men (the aforementioned Hunter and co-producer Mapes; 63 year-old choreographer Hermes Pan; and screenwriter Larry Kramer).Stop! In the name of good tasteToo many rings around RosieIf they only wore skates, this would look like an 'Ice Vanities' number from The Donny & Marie Show. When it comes to Lost Horizon, I think American audiences betrayed Ross Hunter by acting like they expected something other than vulgar schlock from him (after all, he had been feeding them just that for 20 years).
But I also think Hunter betrayed American audiences by falling prey to that great Hollywood sickness: mistaking success for talent.The following year, Finch & Ullmann reteamed in the film The AbdicationAirport was a wildly popular film, but, no offense to fans, just add a few Bacharach songs and lead-footed dances and its every bit as awful as Lost Horizon. But since it was the biggest grosser of the year and garnered Ross Hunter his first and only Academy Award® nomination, it was inevitable that he wouldn't just see this as a case of giving the public what they wanted (like a fast food burger), but evidence of his talent. The thing that sinks Lost Horizon is that it just takes itself too seriously and tries too hard to be an important film. When Hunter was content to make glossy, easily-digestible, escapist fluff, he was perhaps the top of his craft. When he actually started to see himself as a messenger of spiritual uplift.well, delusion crept in, held the door open for pretension, and they both kicked Hunter in the pants. East Meets WestJames Shigeta & John Gielgud portray residents of Shangri-LaWe film fans are susceptible to our own variation of this sickness. If we like a film, we flatter ourselves by thinking it's because it is an unequivocally good film.
If we don't like a film, it obviously has to be because the movie is bad. Closer to the truth is that we each like what we like, then we try to attach objective value judgments to our subjective opinions, This kind of thinking ignores the very real fact that some truly marvelous films are just not to our taste, and some real stinkers are dear to our hearts. Such is Lost Horizon to me. It's not a good film, but boy, was I excited when I learned that it was coming out on DVD!
Hello PoseidonThanks very much for reading my post. I am glad to finally chuck my old TV-taped VHS of 'Lost Horizon' too.
I can't wait until you post about the film on your site. There are not enough good posts about the film online and you seem to have a library of backstory and little known facts about every film you cover.Sorry about the ID thing, which seems unique to my site.
For the record, someone told me that if you disable the 'stay signed in' box on the Google account page, your ID comes through (why? I have no idea but it worked when I went to your site). I'll be keeping an eye out for your Poseidon's Underworld site. Liv Ullmann is beautiful in this film and the dubbing for her singing is fine. She adds the mystic and the mystery to the story.
I don't think the film takes itself too seriously. Charles Jarrott maintains a nice sense of intimacy once Shangri-La is revealed. LOST HORIZON is a strange quirky mixture of straight drama and pop songs. It's a wonderful film, entertaining and nice to look at. Why shouldn't paradise be a slightly goofy place? This is a BURT BACHARACH Shangri-La.
If you don't like Bacharach's music, it's doubtful you'll like the film. Personally, I love the score. Some of the songs evoke the giddy happiness that Hilton wrote about in his novel. True, the fertility dance is a bit jarring at first, but it's startling to watch. It literally comes out of nowhere.
Sort of a Cirque Du Soleil dance. I think it's fine in the film. Many of the numbers, despite their clumsiness are fun to watch. I originally had problems with Finch in the IF I COULD GO BACK number, but now that the sequence has been restored, I think it deepens the meaning of the character. Yes, the number could have been filmed better, but the song is important to the story. Sally Kellerman is the one that makes you believe that something like this could be real.
Her performance is amazing, because unlike Isabel Jewell in the original, she doesn't rely on make up to make her transformation believable. The release and restoration of this film is special and should be appreciated rather than condemned.
Thanks Clifford for reading the post and commenting on 'Lost Horizon.' I like that you sincerely seem to enjoy a film that I love exclusively for its flaws. But isn't that the point behind the song 'The World a Circle'? Taking a cue from another one of the Bacharach/David songs from 'Lost Horizon': 'Different people look at life from different points of view.' The experience of film is a subjective one.
There isn't a film made, no matter how excellent, that doesn't have its champions and its detractors. That's the way it should be. If I hold the opinion that a film is lousy or good, it's just that. I don't insist that it's the ONLY opinion or that it's even RIGHT.but I defend it as being authentically MY experience of a film, and therefore not a subject for debate.
If someone wants to share their opposing view, I love that. It's fun to learn how different audience response can be to the same film. It's illuminating of the moviegoing experience.
But differing views isn't a effort to convince one another of a position taken.it's the sharing of the uniquely personal points of view of the viewers. No more, no less.When I write that the dubbed voice for Liv Ullman is artificial and disembodied (which it is, to me) I'm not insisting that YOU find it to be so, I'm expressing my opinion. You can say otherwise, but you can't say that I'm wrong if I don't agree with you.
It sounds like you enjoy 'Lost Horizon' a lot, but in the spirit of the film's theme, I think it's totally wonderful that we live in world where some people can think this is a terrible film and some people really love it and that both opinions are OK. That feels like Shangri-La to me. Ken, you are correct about all film having it's 'champions and detractors'. In 1968 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY opened to many mixed and negative reviews. Every film has it's haters, no matter how great. The songs in Lost Horizon are about perspective.
I suppose I've moved passed what everyone gets stuck on when watching the film. Sure, there are a dozen things I would have done differently.
Split screen shots in the trek sequence to Shangri-La showing the characters on a narrow ledge with thousands of drop off feet next to them. IF I COULD GO BACK filmed with Conway walking back up the entrance path through the cave to the bridge on the other side singing or 'think singing' in a quiet very light snowy night. Maybe even with flashback dissolves to what he left behind. No floppy dance by Kellerman on the rock. Take that scarf off York's neck.
Have the brother die of frostbite rather than leap over a mountain, etc, but after all this time, what difference does it make? It is what it is and Lost Horizon above everything else is enjoyable. While people tend to put it down and pass off quotes that critics wrote in 1973 as if it's their own, I appreciate the ambition of the project. This film wouldn't have been made if AIRPORT had not been the hit it was. Hiring Bacharach to do the score was a risk. As you might know, Ross Hunter wanted Michel Legrand to compose the score. It was the studio who insisted on Bacharach.
For that reason alone, it holds the distinction (for better or for worse) of being the ONLY original movie musical score Bacharach and David ever wrote or will ever write.I suppose I get tired of reading the wisecracks about LOST HORIZON (unless they're funny of course) because the film is such an easy target. An anti war, anti capitalist musical fantasy adventure that doesn't even BECOME a musical until 45 minutes into the story. Up until that time the story has established itself as a straight drama. What musical in history ever did that? It asks the audience to change course midstream.
Besides the sequences shot in Arizona and Oregon, I respect Ross Hunter for wanting to keep it a 'Hollywood production'. He could have gone anywhere in the world to shoot this film. Nicer locales, but he was the type of producer that always wanted to keep the finance at home.
The Lost Horizon 1973 Dvd
I live in Los Angeles and I've been to many of the locations where this film was shot. To the average viewer it might appear that the filmmakers just set up their cameras and started shooting outdoors somewhere, but knowing what I know it's hard not to admire the amount of seeding and planting that went on months in advance to transform a usually dry Malibu State Park into a lush paradise. It is impressive. Now, what you wrote is EXACTLY what I find stimulating about film discussion!You offer insight into your personal experience of the film that illuminates for me your perspective and illustrates how terrifically personal the cinema experience can be. Trust me, as a fan of 1980's 'Xanadu', I'm no stranger to seeing a film I've always loved dragged through the gutter online.but I really get a charge (a quite a few laughs)reading about how deeply some people HATE a film that has only made me happy. The points you bring up about 'Lost Horizon' are points well-taken, well-observed, and intelligent, and I'm sure there are many who feel the same way. That you show some objectivity and are aware of the film's flaws yet still love it, speaks to what I try to call attention to in my posts: that no film is flawless, and that the enjoyment of cinema is not confined to the Oscar winners and 'prestige' films.
If a film (ANY film) touches or inspires you.in my book, that is a successful film. Thanks very much for sharing your opposing voice on a much-maligned film.
It was actually refreshing to read a differing point of view! LOL @ 'I'm no stranger to seeing a film I've always loved dragged through the gutter online'. No truer words were ever spoken for LOST HORIZON. It is always blamed for killing off the musical genre, but I disagree with this.
I believe CABARET killed off the genre. Because it changed it altogether.
No longer was it acceptable for characters to break out into song to express emotion unless it was done in a believable way. Let's not forget that Lost Horizon is post Cabaret. Also, the times were changing. EASY RIDER ushered in a new wave of films that audiences weren't use to seeing before. Musicals were old hat.
Add to that all the bad variety shows on television at the time with their bad musical numbers, i.e. Carol Burnett show, etc., and audiences felt like they had seen enough of it.Dramatic musicals in the traditional sense like Lost Horizon, The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, Oliver!, Funny Girl and West Side Story are no longer made. Today to be a successful musical, it has to be a silly teenage comedy (Grease) or if it's dramatic, edited in an MTV lightening speed style like Moulin Rouge, Chicago and Evita with very little if no dialogue. For that reason I think its time to appreciate a brief period in history between 1960 and 1974 where traditional musicals were not only the norm, but were the most expensive ambitious films being produced by the studios. Very interesting observation you make about 'Cabaret' that speaks to what we were discussing about perspective. I think of Cabaret as 'rejuvenating' and helping re-imagine the movie musical (for which I'm grateful.I LOVE that film), but it IS true that in order for a new style of musical to emerge, another one has to fade. Even if it's a style of musical one prefers.As you indicate, the changing face of Hollywood and shift in what audiences wanted to see in the post-Bonnie & Clyde era made many of the old-fashioned musicals I also love (Camelot, On a Clear Day., and Oliver!) appear creaky and obsolete.Merely speculation on my part, but in a weird way, had 'Lost Horizon' been a bit MORE traditionally old-fashioned, it might have fared better.
A musical score more in line with traditional Broadway shows like 'My Fair Lady' or 'Man of La Mancha'; a cast of genuine musical performers who could both sing and dance; a director with some experience with musicals on stage or on film.there's no telling what it could have been. As it stands, it's one of my favorite guilty pleasures. And I have a confession that you probably wouldn't even cop to: 'Reflections' is my absolute favorite song in the film.
Terribly staged number, but I've always liked the message of the lyrics. In 1972 who would you have cast? Ross Hunter was thinking 'international markets' and he turned out to be right. What most people aren't aware of is that Lost Horizon made alot of money overseas. As much as I love SWEET CHARITY, Bob Fosse failed to pull it off with audiences and critics and he's a musical director. Gene Kelly directed HELLO DOLLY and despite high grosses, the film failed financially.
Vincent Minnelli directed ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER, another musical I like that failed. George Sidney with HALF A SIXPENCE.
Gene Saks knew MAME inside and out and failed to pull that off. The same with the abysmal THE PRODUCERS directed by it's broadway director Susan Stroman. There are other examples. On the other hand, Carol Reed had never directed a musical before OLIVER! And look how handsome that turned out.
William Wyler wasn't known for musicals when he did FUNNY GIRL. Robert Stevenson had never directed a musical before MARY POPPINS. Same with Robert Wise and WEST SIDE STORY.
Look at the nice things Ronald Neame did with SCROOGE. There are other examples. Charles Jarrott is a fine director. He was at the top of his game in 1972 with MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS and ANNE OF A THOUSAND DAYS. There's a nice sense of quiet intimacy throughout Lost Horizon despite it being a huge production. This can be credited to Jarrott.REFLECTIONS is a wonderful song, but my favorite of the score is I COME TO YOU.
I love that melody. I also like IF I COULD GO BACK.Lerner and Lowe might have done the score. Leslie Bricusse might have written a nice score.
Bacharach seemed like a good choice at the time.Again, in 1972, who would you have cast in these roles?? I think it's better to cast good actors and dub them then it is singers who aren't actors.
AnonymousO M G - The INFAMOUS Ross Hunter production of LOST HORIZON!Now, before I ramble on about my love/hate relationship with this film I have to say that I am a Burt Bacharach/Hal David addict!With that said I have to admit that there score is a very uneven one and dare I say one that feels so far out of left field for this film.I have to admit that I truly did not understand the need to musicalize this story and the casting choices made here are strange indeed? I'm a big, BIG fan of Bacharach and Hal David as well. I think I once read a comment from Bacharach comparing the process of writing a score for a Broadway show (Promises, Promises) with one for a film. Plays have so many previews that a lot of kinks get to be worked out with the songs. With a movie, you have to record the songs before you even begin filming so you don't get a chance to tinker as much.Goes a lot to possibly explain the uneven score.The cast is indeed odd.It feels like a cast appropriate to a disaster film (insert joke here).I think you're right in that the music being introduced only after they arrive in Shangri-La is a way of emphasizing the shift in reality.
I think it's structurally a pretty good idea. Just as I think it's kind of valid to have made 'Lost Horizon' a musical.I just wish it were a better one.I love this film though and it sounds as if you do too! Hi Ken,I ordered this because, having seen the film opening day back in '73 (took my grandmother to see it) and not thinking too much about it, and since reading hilarious reviews and the wonderful Least Horizon Mad Magazine parody, I JUST HAD TO SEE IT AGAIN! Although I'm astounded that all the effort was made to restore it so beautifully, with extras to boot!, I'm so glad they did.I am not a Bacharach fan - anything but - although I've always loved the opening theme performed by Shawn Phillips. That aside, I see L.H. As a decent dramatic fantasy remake of the Frank Capra classic,saddled down with the clunky songs and dance numbers.
I watched the film, fast-forwarding through all the musical numbers, and really enjoyed it.The funniest part of the movie for me was not any of Bobby Van's 'hilarious' moments, but rather the scene where that annoying Michael York throws himself over the cliff, screaming like a banshee! I laughed out loud as I imagined similar scenes taking place in the crowded theaters where Lost Horizon premiered.Thanks for your great article! Hello CenturionOpening day in 1973?! You must have been one of the few who saw the film with all the original footage intact. At least your taking your grandmother was spot on, for 'Lost Horizon' is the kind of entertainment probably best suited for our older relatives (I am my own older relative, these days).Given that the songs all transpire in 'Shangri-La' and don't offer as much character insight as they might, I can well imagine that seeing 'L.H.' In fast-forward mode would be enjoyable.
Especially now, since the distance of time makes the film less oddly out-of-step with the revolutionary cinema of the 70s, and more like a quaint old entertainment from a more innocent time.That's funny that you bring up Michael York's death scene. It has always struck me as so ant-climactic and unfair to the actor. It doesn't leave him a few moments of dramatic grief in loving closeup.no, he just goes screaming and hurls himself off a cliff.My greatest regret is never seeing this film with an audience.I am sure it would be full of laugh out loud moments as you describe.Lastly, you make a good point about it being rather astounding that this poorly-received film has been so lovingly restored. Reminds me of the absolutely amazing DVD releases attended 'Valley of the Dolls'.I think some film companies have a lot of appreciation for fans of camp.Thanks so much for sharing your history and impressions of this film.
Makes me want to watch it again! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment, Jaime! I'm glad you enjoyed the post and that you are a fan of the good/bad 'Lost Horizon'. Had i seen this film as a child, I would very likely have fallen in love with it. Seeing it as an adult has its pleasures, but mostly of the unintentionally comic side.And yes, I wish I had devoted more time into talking about Michael York and some of the others. However, it's VERY easy to get carried away picking apart a film like this.
I tried to exercise a little restraint and keep the piece under 7000 words.:-)Thanks again for sharing your own history with this film Paired with 'Jaws'? What a double feature! Yes, another double was 'Earthquake' + 'Tidal Wave', a japanese film about the sinking of Japan (I think there has been a remake recently). All the children in the cinema were delighted seeing cheerfully how everybody died sinking into the earth; first the californian, then the japanese. What I enjoyed the most in Earthquake is that Charlton Heston wore his watch upside down!; for a child like me that was really amnazing; I admired Heston already, but that was definite. And another one: 'The World's Greatest Athlete' + a film about Robin Hood in which little John was a karateka (I've looked for this gem for years but I haven't been able to find it).COngratulations for your blog. AnonymousWhen I saw this in 1973, cut from its roadshow format, one thing I fixated on, besides Rex Reed's labeling it as Brigadoon with Chopsticks, was the awful choreography.
Hermes Pan stole from The King and I, The Sound of Music, South Pacific, his own Funny Face and most of the dancing looked like cheap shots. I read the book after seeing this ghastly mess, which I enjoyed very much. Keep in mind that two years earlier, MGM had done the same disservice to Goodbye Mr. Chips with Peter O'Toole and Petula Clark.
When I finally got to see the 1937 Frank Capra version, on a double bill with It's a Wonderful Life (which I never need to see again) I remember that it had me in tears. It was such a beautiful, heartfelt adaptation of the book. I later saw the restored version, which, frankly, wasn't as good. Now I am watching the musical, for the first time in over 40 years, and I remember how awful it was.
What led me to this blog is the question I had about Olivia Hussey, whom I fell in love with as a 16 year old when I saw Romeo and Juliet. I thought that she was pregnant when she did this, and she was. Her performance has no pathos, unlike Margo in the original. I hope that no one ever decides, like they tried to do with another disastrous movie musical, Star, that the film was misunderstood and deserves another chance. This doesn't!
I'm going to switch over now to a repeat of Married With Children! Oh, my gosh.even with 40 years between viewings you couldn't make it through to the end!
But at least you got to see it in a theater before it's reputation grew.I really should read the book. Like you, I really enjoyed the Frank Capra version, but for some reason this 70s remake didn't surprise me in its awfulness. As you noted, Hollywood had really begun to lose the knack for musicals by this time, and this one indeed fit the mold of 'Mr. Chips', 'Doolittle' and alas, 'Star.' I honestly can't picture this film ever being given the revisionist treatment, but I thought that about 'At Long Last Love' as well.Thank you for a VERY amusing summation of your thoughts on this film. And its gratifying to read that I'm not the only who finds 'It's A Wonderful Life' not so wonderful.
Miss RoriWatching some of this DVR-ed from TCM the other night (I first caught it on cable in the 1990s) I think your comments on why this doesn't work are spot-on. Though I think comparing this film's Shangri-La to a Vegas theme hotel isn't fair to Vegas theme hotels; I visit Sin City at least once a year and some of those places are actually extremely pretty in their campy ways. The pool area at Caesars Palace beats those sets hands down!;)I agree that Sally Kellerman is one of the better points of the film. She and George Kennedy have some nice chemistry, and I liked their character arcs.
It's a much more interesting romance than the other two love stories in the film, which fall prey to that common musical mistake of being based mostly on each other's looks.Your comment on how its attempting to be an important film is its undoing reminds me of what happened at Disney in the 1990s. They brought out all those engaging fairy tale films and 'Beauty and the Beast' got a Best Picture Oscar nomination. And then everybody got self-important.
Did you know that 'The Lion King' was regarded as a B-level project when it was being made? All the A-list animation talent was working on 'Pocahontas' because that was going to be the IMPORTANT film. As first conceived, it was going to be a light, historically-inspired fantasy with a preteen heroine, teen John Smith, and some talking animals. It was completely retooled to become awards bait, and while it did get that Best Song Oscar, it pretty much killed the momentum of the Disney animation revival, along with the fact that their next film was the split personality noble misfire 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame'. Come to think of it, what is 'Colors of the Wind' but a long-lost sibling of the 'Lost Horizon' songs - a paean to good values rather than words from the heart of a character? Hi RoriAs a fan of Las Vegas myself, I know what you mean.this Shangri-La would never pass muster in Sin City.I love the point you make about those self-serious Disney films and comparing it to this. With 'Mary Poppins', Disney was able to get across many humanistic messages while still entertaining.
With 'Pocahontas' it just too message-minded, and entertainment went out the window.Had 'Lost Horizon' just told the tale with an eye towards making us care for the characters and finding ways to make Shangri-La seems like a joyful alternative to the turmoil in the real world, they might have had a chance, but no one is more boring than a former hedonist who's found 'the meaning of life', so instead of fun songs, Bacharach and David churned out all those odes to tranquility. Zzzzzz.Seems like nothing sounds the death-knell for entertainment louder than the call of higher purpose. Thanks for another great comment, Rori! Hi Ken,Well it took me a while to finally catch up with this, thank goodness I wasn't waiting with bated breath!
It showed up this week on that savior of obscure cinema TCM during their salute to roadshows hosted by the annoying but knowledgeable Michael Feinstein. I really didn't know that much about it aside from its horrendous rep and the Bette Midler joke about how she NEVER missed a Liv Ullman musical, and I had seen the original '37 version.It wasn't quite the train wreck that I anticipated but since I went in fully expecting something that would make me slack jawed with incredulity I don't know if that's really saying anything positive.The film had no sense of purpose or propulsion and it just seemed very dour for a film about heaven on earth and the casting could not have been worse. Like you I think Sally Kellerman came off best and she was borderline terrible but at least she was giving it the old college try. I love her and I don't even think it was her fault that she was bad but her songs were rotten and the dancing such as it was uninspired.What was Liv Ullman thinking?! Perhaps she saw it as a challenge but then she's never had the best luck with her American films so perhaps she doesn't have a sense for what works for her outside her native land. Peter Finch was a great actor and he is very earnest here, really too earnest, like everyone else except Kellerman he doesn't seem too happy in paradise.
Hopefully he was well paid.The worst offender for me and again I'm not sure it's even his fault is Bobby Van. An elfin personality who was very appealing in some minor MGM films of the 50's but he doesn't register strongly on screen although he is probably the only professional dancer in the film, at least of those with speaking parts. He irked me pretty much from the first moment he showed up in the film and his big number with the school children was EXCRUCIATING! When he was swimming away past the others at the end of it I was hoping he would get caught in the current.I read that Bacharach and Hal David were in the process of ending their partnership when they were signed for this so maybe that explains why this is some of the worst work either ever did together or apart.I enjoyed your take on this as always and I'm glad I finally saw it for myself but I can't imagine ever putting myself through it again. Hi JoelI'm glad I'm not the only one who finds Michel Feinstein annoying. I think you cite one of the main reasons 'Lost Horizon' is looked upon more kindly now than when first released: people have heard such awful things about it for so long, the actual film HAS to play better than what one expects.In a weird way, I do think Lost Horizon lends itself to musical treatment, but with a better thought-out idea of what Shangri-La can be.
People dream of a place of peace, but is mind-numbing dullness the only alternative to violence and social turmoil? Who WOULDN'T want to escape from this vision of paradise?As usual, your observations are amusing and well-taken. There really has to be something off about a musical in which the only verified song and dance man in the entire cast is the most insufferable. We needed a 'always on' showbiz charm of a Gene Kelly in 'For Me and My Gal'.what we get is Eddie Haskell in white slacks. That 'Question me an Answer' number is so awfully staged.it looks like a Disneyland theme park number.Anyhow, I'm glad you finally saw it. The only way to ever watch it again is in the presence of friends. This movie has the power to turn the average person into a Fran Lebowitz.Thanks, Joel!
I am very fond of this film too. But I'm a BIG fan of 'Camelot' and never can find anyone to compare notes with. Everyone hates it!I always find it interesting to see in what ways movies change the shows they're adapting.' Bye Bye Birdie' virtually rewrote itself, as did 'Cabaret' (I really didn't that 'Pineapple' song or 'Meeskite.' Sometimes the changes are refreshing, as fans of 'the Sound of Music' seem to feel, but others can make your jaw drop (they cut so many songs i liked out of 'On a Clear Day').
But I guess you can't please everyone. I suppose that's why we have cult films!
Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Mark! Im so glad I stumbled across your blog/movie appraisal of LOST HORIZON (1973) this morning.I read an article on FB this morning about an alleged 257 yo Chinese Man, and for some reason the movie LH came straight into my mind and here I am.I first saw the movie at a drive in theatre in Melbourne Australia. I was 8 years old in 74. I have no idea how long it ran for, but the effect that movie left on my innocent and impressionable mind was long lived.To put some things in perspective, I grew up watching old musical movies with my Grandmother, and they were pretty much the norm back then, so there was nothing unusual for a movie to break out in sudden song and dance in my young mindlol I must confess, I also thought that Living Island and Pufnstuf were normal (That is a whole other story in itsef). I carried these soundtracks in my mind to this present day.Even though I loved the soundtrack for LH, and can still remember a fewof the songs to this day, simply from one viewing, and would often catch myself singing “the world is a circle” while doing my dishes 30-40 years later had no idea who did the sound track until a few years ago when I looked for it on YouTube – YAY YT!But the real devastating effect for me was the scene where Olivia Husseys character turned from young to old. I swear, I had nightmares for YEARS because of that scene. I relived it, hid under bed covers for years, terrified.
I can laugh about it now but it was frightening to a child. I replayed that scene in my head for years. Ive never been able to track the 73 version down, but now thanks to finding your blog, I know it exists.I did end up watching the original 37 version in my mid 20’s.
Now THAT was weird for melol Having said that, I completely appreciate the original, and have grown to love it even more than the one I saw as a kid. Ive been lucky to watch it several times now on Foxtel, and it well and truly cured me of my childhood trauma of seeing that wrinkly old woman flop lifelessly after leaving Shangri-La a beautiful young lady.It’s funny how movies shape our reality as kids, and how, when we re-view them with adult eyes, we laugh, or cringe and wonder “what the f%$# was I thinking!”lol. Hello DiviniaThank you for sharing such a sweet and funny memory of 'Lost Horizon'! I'd do anything to be able to watch the 73 version again, and I totally get what you mean, purely for the fun of it.Sure, we can all pick a movie to pieces intellectually, and believe me, I can as well. But you are right, there is something truly cool about the element of pure escapism, when we indulge the senses, and we override our mental processes, getting purely LOST in it.I have this strange ability to watch both intelligent arty movies and get completely absorbed in dialogues and concepts, that leave me pondering the philosophical questions of life for days/months/years.
Ive had friends watch the same movies with me, and we saw completely different things, almost like we watched it from two different dimensions.I also must confess, and not to many, that I have no issues in indulging in kitch, politically incorrect, b grade, disgusting cliched humor with tragically trashy soundtrack movies.Yes discernment is great, and necessary. So is a bit of mindless guilty pleasure.lolGreat review and painstaking effort to find the amazing pictures you added Ken. Hi DiviniaThat quality you possess; the ability to enjoy art/trash with equal abandon, is one of the characteristics of may favorite film critics.
Never knew about this remake. I've seen part of the original movie. I noticed that Ross Hunter produced the remake. I recently saw his 'If a Man Answers' starring Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin. Despite the dated depiction of gender relations, you can't deny that Sandra Dee was one of the most underrated actresses ever.I see that Olivia Hussey co-starred in the 'Lost Horizon' remake.
You may remember her as Juliet in Franco Zefferelli's 'Romeo and Juliet'. She nowadays spends a lot of time drawing attention to animal welfare issues. I've just seen the last half or so of this movie on Turner Classic, which I had never heard of before.
And I'm old enough to remember that time, when I was in college. I very much enjoyed your review/tribute column here, which I choose out of so many because of its wonderful title, after checking out the whole cast on IMDB.I noticed that one of the schoolchildren was the young actress who played the half caste child who saves Charleton Heston's soul in 55 Days At Peking, one of my favorites of the old historical epics! I've never noticed her in anything else.
Raves for Dreams Are What Le Cinema Is For.: 'I suggest that everybody who loves movies — and has a good sense of humor — visit this site, which has been around for about five years. Anderson writes lovingly, intelligently and wittily about movies he adores.
And not just the usual suspects, either, although they are abundant. He takes seriously, more or less, 'bad' films such as 'Valley of the Dolls' or Elizabeth Taylor's famously campy 'Boom!' This is a great site, with fine writing and an unusual perspective.' (Click on banner for full article). BLOG: Dreams Are What Le Cinema Is For.
Ken Anderson's hypnotic blog — fabulously illustrated with movie screen caps — takes its title from a lyric from the musical Nine, so it's not surprising that his insightful writing about his lifelong love affair with movies is so deliriously entertaining. You'll fill up your Netflix queue after reading Anderson's reappraisals of an eclectic mix of films, including the heretofore unappreciated Ann-Margret vehicle Kitten With a Whip and one of Streisand's lesser musicals, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, which are written with the same zeal as his takes on acknowledged masterpieces such as Robert Altman's sprawling Nashville.
Capra's masterpiece, a welcome change from his usual feel-good Americana. Ronald Colman is the only actor for the role of Conway, and Jane Wyatt is cuter than anything. The supporting parts are expertly handled, and Capra has somehow gotten the ham actor Thomas Mitchell to keep it down to a dull roar.
This restored version has some interesting supplemental features. The movie was vastly expensive for its time, and every buck shows up on the screen, especially the breathtaking Streamline Moderne architecture of the lamasery in Shangri-La.
The black and white cinematography is luminous, and the music score by Tiomkin is fine. This is not the 1973 musical remake, which was just awful. A wonderful and mysterious journey, with some problems in the ending. There has to be a reason for leaving Shangri la, but the actual reason doesn't really make sense. Another thing I take issue with is the brother of the main character.
Lost Horizon 1973 Full Movie
The main character is a brit and the brother speaks like a yank. This doesn't make any sense and isn't explained. This edition has some audio that has been recovered, without accompanying film. Stills are inserted in those places and that gives it a bit of added flavor, almost like a partially existing Doctor Who episode. I could not wait for it to be over!The overacting brother; the shrieking blond woman; the weasel paleontologist - I wanted to scream. And then the main crux of the plot - 2 hours to get the protagonist to agree to stay to be the next leader and builder of the community and then POOF, he decides to leave based on the illogical minor character, Maria, who really is 90 years old but wants to leave Shangri La (an utopia where everyone is happy and cared for, wants for nothing, and lives a long healthy life) for some reasons that are never revealed. But wait, it all works out in the end because after the sherpa guides leave him for dead, he manages to get back to the place where he wanted to stay but decided to leave.
Frank Capra’s classic tale of a snowbound Utopia may seem a bit trite by today’s cynical standards yet it’s vision of a kinder, gentler society should make us all the more fed up with the status quo. Released just as WWII was gathering on the horizon it is easy to appreciate the film’s call for non-violence even though the American Military added some anti-Japanese propaganda to the opening scenes which were thankfully removed for this restored version. The plane passengers themselves provide a small cross-section of greater society’s ills from the skeptical scientist and oily conman to the weary prostitute and George, Conway’s brother, who ends up being the proverbial snake in Eden.
Groundbreaking for the time, the cinematography and Oscar-winning set design use refrigerated sound stages, rear projection and life-sized plane models for realism while the clever use of miniatures and stage lighting adds a touch of magic. A pipe dream perhaps, but produced with a great deal of flair and intelligence. Robert Conway: 'By the way, what religion do you follow here?'
Chang: 'To put it simply, I should say that our general belief was in, uh, moderation. We preach the virtue.
Of avoiding excesses of every kind. Even including. Excessive virtue itself.' Robert Conway: 'Well that's intelligent.' Chang: 'We find in the valley it makes for greater happiness among the natives. With moderate strictness, and in return we are satisfied with moderate obedience.
As a result, our people are. Moderately honest, moderately, uh, chaste, and um, somewhat more than moderately happy.' High Lama (to Robert Conway): '.It is the entire meaning and purpose of Shangri-La. It came to me in a vision, long, long ago. I saw all the nations strengthening, not in wisdom, but in the vulgar passions and the will to destroy. I saw the machine power multiplying, until a single weaponed man might match a whole army.
I foresaw a time when man, exalting in the technique of murder, would rage so hotly over the world, that every book, every treasure, would be doomed to destruction. This vision was so vivid and so moving, that I determined to gather together all things of beauty and of culture that I could, and preserve them here, against the doom toward which the world is rushing.' High Lama: 'Look at the world today - Is there anything more pitiful? What madness there is! What blindness!
What unintelligent leadership! A scurrying mass of bewildered humanity, crashing headlong against each other, propelled by an orgy of greed and brutality. A time must come my friend, when this orgy will spend itself. When brutality and the lust for power must perish by its own sword. Against that time, is why I avoided death, and am here.
And why you were brought here. For when that day comes, the world must begin to look for a new life. And it is our hope that they may find it here.
For here, we shall be with their books and their music, and a way of life based on one simple rule: Be Kind! When that day comes, it is our hope that the brotherly love of Shangri-La will spread throughout the world. Yes, my son; When the strong have devoured each other, the Christian ethic may at last be fulfilled, and the meek shall inherit the Earth.' Robert Conway: 'I understand you father.'