B-Movies Inspirations: The Lost Continent (1968)
Part of the reason I wanted to do this series was because it was old movies like this that inspired my childhood imagination more than anything else. Yea, I know, reading probably should have too, but I spent most of my reading time in novels based on screenplays of the movies my parents would not let me go see. I have vivid memories, though, of watching old 50s and 60s sci-fi and horror on Saturday or Sunday, and I was fascinated by some of them. This was one that stuck out in my mind.
The film sees the crew and passengers of the dilapidated tramp steamer Corita heading from Freetown to Caracas. While the passengers all have their own reasons for getting out of Africa, the captain of the ship is also eager to leave, as he is smuggling a dangerous explosive cargo. Whilst en route to South America the ship is holed and eventually what’s left of the crew and passengers find themselves marooned in a mist-enshrouded Sargasso Sea surrounded by killer seaweed, murderous crustaceans and previously marooned descendants of Spanish Conquistadors and pirates.
The film’s opening theme song had me laughing at the start. It was some very jazzy tune by a band called the Peddlers. If I was from that era, I probably would know who that was but the music seemed pretty odd for this type of movie.
Watching this again now had it’s nostalgic moments but also felt like watching it for the first time. For some reason I remember two movies with similar premises but one did not have as much supernatural creatures, etc. Well, I think it’s because I watched the first half of this movie without completing it, at one point. Then I watched the other half at another time, thinking it was a different movie. Because in reality this movie feels like two different movies in one, but in a good way.
I should note that this is a Hammer Film. Hammer Films was well known during the 50s through the 70s for making Gothic-style horror as well as science fiction and fantasy films. This is just one of their cult classics. They are more well-known for their Frankenstein and Dracula movies. Next to Roger Corman movies, Hammer Films movies should be right up there in a GM’s library for good gaming inspirations.
This film, like I said, is like two stories in one. There is a ton of back story that is both explicitly and implicitly laid out. The first is a British film-noir mutiny story on board a boat. Enter a boat full of questionable characters leaving Africa in a hurry, on board what surmounts to be a smugglers trawler. The films takes its time laying out a few of the main characters’ back stories, showing you that these folks are not all as squeaky clean as they appear.
The second story is the survival story of those that were forced to abandon ship after a hurricane made it impossible to stay aboard. They stumble across an island of living man-eating seaweed that has been trapping boats in its grips for centuries. Also caught in the seaweed, as the description says, are descendants of Spanish Conquistadors and pirates. A society of religious zealots rule over those that inhabit the derelicts that live on the mysterious mist-covered island. There are also creatures that live on the small islands of rock littered throughout the seaweed.
There was so much potential in this story that was left unexplored, though. I feel that too much time was spent on the mutiny and the problems on board the ship and not enough on the seaweed island. In today’s quick-cut style, that first hour of the movie would have been told in 10 to 15 minutes. Regardless, it was an entertaining movie if you consider the time it was made and prepare yourself for a little slower pace, like many movies of this era.
As an RPG GM, what I loved most, of course, was the island and what they found there. An island of living seaweed, people trapped in it from various times and cultures, and a religious zealot using the seaweed to rule over the people. What is not to love? This entire movie can easily be a great adventure. It is structured like a pulp horror adventure and has a lot of juicy elements. A smuggler ship. Natural disaster encounters. Survival at sea. Sharks. Pirates. Boy kings. Inquisitors. Did I mention pirates? Giant crabs and scorpions. And Living Seaweed!
This can also be in any genre. The movie has its own noir/pulp feel to it, like many of the Hammer Films, but this could be in fantasy easily, or even space opera sci-fi. Imagine an asteroid field infested with some amorphous “space seaweed” type thing capturing starships from all over the galaxy. This movie leaves so much out there, I don’t really have to work hard to present the possibilities. If you can sit through a slower paced film with a lot of story in it, I highly recommend this for the ideas it will give you.