Monday, 21 November 2016

The Man Who Turned to Stone (1957)

An interesting and well-paced film hampered by low-budget constraints

Directed by László Kardos
Produced by Sam Katzman
Written by Bernard Gordon
Music by Ross DiMaggio, George Duning
Cinematography: Benjamin H. Kline
Edited by Charles Nelson
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Running time: 71 minutes


Victor Jory: Dr. Murdock
William Hudson: Dr. Jess Rogers
Charlotte Austin: Carol Adams
Jean Willes: Tracy
Ann Doran: Mrs. Ford
Paul Cavanagh: Cooper
George Lynn: Dr. Freneau
Victor Varconi: Dr. Myer
Friedrich von Ledebur: Eric
Tina Carver: Big Marge Collins
Barbara Wilson: Anna Sherman


Spoilers Follow Below……

The film, The Man Who Turned to Stone begins with the title and credits over the shot of a man carrying a woman. It opens at night with a truck pulling up to the “La Salle Detention Home for Girls.”

In a dormitory room containing beds occupied by slumbering young women, the camera zooms in on one young woman who is apparently distraught and racked with sobbing. She is told by one of the other women. “Look kid, we all went through the same things at first.”

Suddenly a scream outside the dormitory flings off the covers of sleep and draws the other women to the dorm room window. One of the detainees by the name of Marge says, "They're at it again” and adds with a premonition, "There will be somebody dead in the morning."

The next scene reveals a Frankenstein-like character called Eric carrying a terror-stricken screaming young woman to the main house. As he ascends the stairs to the second floor, we notice on the walls various portraits of men from previous centuries suggesting a long lineage or genealogy surrounding those in charge of the detention home. Or perhaps the paintings are indicative of refined and expensive tastes in art? Odd for a detention home for girls!

Carrying his young burden, Eric enters an attic room which also serves as a treatment room or lab where Dr. Murdock instructs him to place the girl in a tub of water.

The next day Marge accompanies one of the girls, Anna Sherman to the Dispensary. Anna informs a cold and emotionless Mrs. Ford that she can't keep her food down. Marge is also there to have a bandage on her leg changed by Dr. Freneau. Mrs Ford’s responses give us an insight into her attitude toward those who are placed under her charge. “Take that one (Anna) to the Infirmary” and “Let her (Marge) bandage it herself.” In fact, Marge is sent to an isolation cottage in response to her insubordinate attitude. It is obvious that from Mrs Ford’s perspective, the inmates are less than human and are viewed as being little more than inanimate objects.

One of the female inmates, Tracy has a clerical job working for Carol Adams the Social Welfare worker who has been working at La Salle for about 3 months. There appears to be a good rapport between Adams and Tracy.

Tracy asks Carol if the screams from the night before kept her awake. Carol heard nothing as she had taken a pill which sent her soundly off to sleep. Tracy tells her, "I'll bet you a box of girl scout cookies that somebody died last night" and that “It happens much too often.”

Carol contacts Mrs. Ford and enquires if anyone has died. She is told that Angie Collins had a heart attack and died. Tracy then suggests that a review of the death records would make interesting reading. Carol agrees to look at them.

Carol finds the records in Mrs. Ford's office and begins to scrutinize them as Dr. Myer stealthily enters the room. He asks Carol, “What are you doing Ms Adams?” She then asks him if the records, or death certificates, are available chronologically, to which he responds with the question, “Did you get permission from Dr. Murdock or Mrs. Ford?”

Mrs. Ford suddenly enters the office igniting an apparent clash of opposing temperaments, attitudes and approaches. Adams declares that there seems to be “something unnatural about the number of young girls that suddenly die.” Ford quickly snaps back with the question, “Which girls?” Intriguingly for any impartial observer, knowing the identity of the girls in question seems to be more important than identifying and addressing an obvious problem.

Ford informs Adams that she is “part of the administration,” that she is to “stop fancy fripperies” like movie viewing sessions and that her “immature notions of discipline” are proving to be disruptive. Ford tells her to stay in her own department and mind her own business.

As a tub is being filled in the treatment room, Eric goes to the infirmary to collect Anna Sherman. With the light shining upwards into his face, he has the appearance of one those archetypal monsters from an old Frankenstein horror movie. When Eric returns to the treatment room with Anna, it is obvious that he is physically deteriorating.

The “staff” lie to Anna by telling her that they will not hurt her and that they are only going to give her a test, something like an ECG for her heart. Cooper, however, protests: “I’ve had enough of this!” He wonders how many young lives must be sacrificed to keep Eric alive.

An electrical headband device is placed on Anna's head after which an apparatus transfers Anna's life force into Eric resulting in Anna’s death and Eric’s temporary revival.

When the girls return to the dorm after the film, they shockingly find Anna's body hanging above her bed. After the matron is called, Tracy tells Carol that Anna “was making big plans” and that “it just doesn’t add up” with her taking her own life. Carol remains dubious.

The findings of a coroner's inquest conducted at the main house show that Anna’s death was “due to a severed spinal cord” and was deemed to have been “self-inflicted by hanging.”

Carol informs the coroner of her doubts about Anna having been suicidal. Dr. Murdock then asks Carol a series of very strategic questions designed to cast doubt on her professional credibility and credentials;

“You have been at La Salle for 3 months?” (So brief!)

“Any incidents of unsavoury treatment?” (She agrees there weren’t any)

Murdock suggests that Carol was busy showing films and giving less time to inmates. (My, perhaps she wasn’t doing her job!) 

He also gets Dr Rogers, a psychiatrist for the State Department of Mental Health, to agree that an experienced psychologist would be able to detect signs of a patient being in a self-destructive frame of mind. (Clearly Adams is not an experienced psychologist)

The strategy to discredit Carol Adams has the desired effect as evidenced by such newspaper headlines as:


The next day an apparently resigned and defeated Carol begins the process of clearing out her office in anticipation of her losing her position at the detention facility. When Dr. Rogers arrives to take over her duties and asks her to stay and assist him with the inmates, Carol asks, "Weren't you sent here to whitewash the prison administration?" Rogers replies that he only wants to get at the truth.

Dr Rogers goes over to Murdock’s residence but finds that Murdock is absent. When Cooper shows him in to Murdock’s office, Rogers is immediately struck by the presence of exquisite antiques, especially a Rembrandt painting on the wall. Cooper says it was picked up for $100 in 1850, but he suddenly corrects himself by saying it was in 1950. Ah Ha! An interesting clue to add to Roger’s wondering as to “who’d ever dream of looking inside a prison to find all of this!”

Questioning of the inmates soon begins. Through their investigation, Carol, Rogers, and Tracy discover that the medical staff came to the facility about two years earlier "when all the funny business started." They also obtained the names of 11 girls who had died under mysterious circumstances. Ford even informed them that, as luck would have it, the death certificates were destroyed in a mysterious fire!

Rogers and Carol go to see Marge who is in isolation. Marge makes an interesting observation that lends weight to doubts concerning Anna’s supposed suicide: “Did you ever hear anyone scream when they hang themselves?” Anna was screaming but only Marge heard as everybody else was watching the movie.

Being unable to review the death records due to the “unfortunate accident” of the "mysterious fire" in the file room, Rogers requests a complete history of all the detainees. He also wants to obtain tissue samples of Anna Sherman to examine as well a full autopsy performed.

In the face of Murdock’s objections and orders, Rogers enters the morgue to obtain the samples and to perform the autopsy himself. While examining a tissue sample under a microscope, the staff come to the morgue to confront Rogers. He lies to them by telling them “I found some haemorrhaging…. I found nothing” and that Anna was alive when she hanged herself, and had therefore committed suicide as was concluded by the coroner.

Rogers later confides to Carol, “I’m convinced she was already dead, but I can’t prove it.” However, he had noticed that Cooper was not with the others at the morgue and surmises that there is some animosity between Cooper and the other medical staff.

Rogers goes to see Cooper. Their conversation occurs to the accompaniment of a steady audible heartbeat. It is coming from Cooper! Cooper warns Rogers to take Adams and leave the facility. Rogers tells Cooper, “Murdock is through with you” to which Cooper replies, “It is I who am through with him.” Cooper also adds, “I expect to die suddenly or disappear.” He informs Rogers that even though he wants to, he can’t tell him the whole story of what has been going on. Cooper tells Rogers that he has written it out and the information is contained in a book or journal. Should Cooper die or disappear, Rogers will receive instructions in the mail as to where he can find the information. In order to convince Rogers of the truth of what he has told him, he proceeds to repeatedly stab his hand with a pair of scissors. He then holds up his hand and says, “Look at it, not even a mark!”

At a meeting with Murdock and the other staff members, Cooper is informed of their decision not to "renew" him due to his increasing “disaffection” and his becoming a “menace to the project.” Cooper’s changing physical appearance indicates that his time is almost up. He admits that “220 years is too long for any man to live" and reach a point whereby “you think you can give life and take life.”

Cooper suddenly panics and seems to have second thoughts. He pleads with the others, “I feel I’m close to an answer…. I just need a few more years!” Cooper then abruptly dies without divulging the whereabouts of his notes. The others suspect that either Rogers or Carol have his notes.

It turns out that Rogers received the instructions in the mail informing him that he will be able to “find his (Cooper’s) diary under a large rock near the cliffs” not far from the grounds of the detention facility. As Rogers goes off in search of the diary, he is followed closely by Eric.

As Eric follows Rogers, it is apparent that he is in physical distress as he keeps falling and clutching his chest through which the sound of his pounding heart clearly and loudly emanates.

Rogers locates the diary in a metal box under a rock. In the diary Cooper explains that he was born in 1733 in England. In the 1780s he came to Paris to work with the Comte de Saint Germain (an actual historical figure!), a scientist working on animal magnetism and a project to prolong life indefinitely.

After a brief tussle with Eric, Rogers continues to read the journal. In it Cooper explains the life-prolonging process which involves the transfer of bioelectric energy from one person to another, whereby the donor dies and the recipient lives. It was discovered that the best source of life is young women of child bearing age. The medical staff at the detention facility have been aiming to synthesize the life force by using copper sulphate.

Eric suddenly goes berserk and runs amok through the dorms of the facility. Meanwhile, Rogers discovers from his reading of the diary / journal that “except for the last few hours before transfer, we’re the same as other people” and that a stone-like shell encases the affected person when they are close to death. In Eric’s case, he had been a “casualty of our first experiment.”

After hiding the journal, Rogers returns to the facility where Eric has in the meantime gone to the Isolation section. Once there, he grabs hold of Marge and carries her back to the main house and the treatment room.

Eric physically forces Murdock to start the renewal treatment, this time using Marge’s life-force. The process results in Marge’s death and Murdock resorts to sedating an agitated Eric. From the others’ perspective, Marge’s death was not immoral but merely a “waste” and all that remains to be done is to “get rid of her.”

Meanwhile, Carol tries to telephone the State Police for help but is informed by the facility receptionist / operator that only Dr. Murdock can approve the call but that he's out somewhere on the grounds.

Rogers decides to take more direct action by kicking in the locked treatment room door. He finds Eric there who then chases Rogers until Murdock and Mrs. Ford find Eric and escort him back to the room.

After re-joining Carol and Tracy, Rogers accompanied by his two fellow mutineers make their way to the facility’s switchboard where Tracy and Carol try to put in a call to the State Police. However, before the call can be completed Myer shoots out the switchboard.

Mrs. Ford injects Carol with a sedative while Rogers armed with just a box of matches enters the facility’s basement where he finds a “stone” dead Cooper along with one of the girls who is totally devoid of her life-force. Man-of-action Rogers quickly shuts off the water supply to the house and pulls the fuses to the treatment room hopefully rendering it inoperable. Note the bundles of lovely combustible newspapers in the basement along with Roger’s profligate use of matches. A bit of foreshadowing perhaps?

While Eric fetches a sedated Carol, he manages to nab Rogers and drags both back to the treatment room. Murdock and Mrs. Ford tell Eric they are going to renew him, but they lie to him to reassure and calm him down. They’re counting on the fact that Eric “will die a natural death.”

While this is going on, Rogers surreptitiously pours a chemical into the tub containing Carol in order to neutralize the copper sulphate solution in the water.

When Eric’s body finally (and quickly) succumbs to the inevitable universal process of atrophy, Rogers is placed in the life-force transference chair. Before the others can bestow their gift of immortality on Rogers, he tells them that he neutralised the solution in the tub with sodium salts.

Freneau goes to the basement to reconnect the fuses and turn on the water main. However, the clumsy klutz manages to (you guessed it!) start a fire in the basement.

Revolution and anarchy ensue with inmates flitting about in their nightgowns and Rogers engaging in fisty-cuffs with Murdock, along with a bit of gun fire.

While their version of Rome burns down around them, Murdock and Mrs. Ford stay in the treatment room to complete their notes. The film closes with the girls returning to their dorms and Rogers and Carol walking away while in the background the house continues to be consumed by flames.

Points of Interest

Beware, Lest We Turn to Stone! 

From the title of the film, The Man Who Turned to Stone, we gain the impression that it will likely be a horror film about some unfortunate soul who becomes petrified or who turns into a statue and perhaps launches into a murderous rampage. The film, however, does not neatly fit into just the horror genre. It also has elements of the science fiction and mystery genres, along perhaps with some social-political commentary ….

The importance of the film lies in its commentary on the potential dangers associated with any system that is created to govern the affairs and lives of people. This could apply to any political, bureaucratic, legal, religious, military, corporate, workplace and other system.

One of the dangers of such systems is that those who are in control may wish to perpetuate their positions and grip on power indefinitely by whatever means necessary, even at the expense of the lives and liberty of those under their authority.

The bulk of the people under the control of those in authority can run the risk of becoming objectified instead of being viewed and treated as human individuals.

The power and control of those in command of such systems often depends on various means of indoctrination and the active complicity of those engaged to enforce, manage and administer the system. There can be a tendency toward compartmentalisation of knowledge and skills instead of a wider holistic interconnected understanding of a particular system’s functioning.

The established authority may seek to sustain and perpetuate itself by resorting to lies, corruption and creating a climate of fear, thereby sucking the very life out of those under its control.

Opponents of the established order and system of authority often find themselves ridiculed, demeaned or can face far worse consequences. This, however, cannot completely not stop those who have the pursuance and uncovering of truth as their main focus.

The roll of whistle-blowers is essential in any process of resistance involving the investigation of deception and corruption by those in authority.

Another way to fight a corrupt system is to exploit its inherent contradictions and any signs of internal dissent.

A system that runs the risk of existing solely for the benefit of those in charge at the expense of those being governed, can be recognized by a rising tide of conservatism in which people soon become mired and stagnate in the self-perpetuating swill of mundane, close-minded and intolerant points of view and perceptions of reality. This can affect any organisation, institution or political system, from the most lunatic left-wing through to the most rabid right wing system. In either case, true creative and reformative thinking and approaches are replaced by a more restrictive and punitive mindset that focusses on more discipline and tighter control. Change and radical new ways of thinking and doing is an anathema to such a system that seeks to maintain the kind of status quo that serves the interests of those in charge. What remains is a petrified world view set hard in stone…….

To Reform & Rehabilitate or “Fancy Fripperies,” and “Immature Notions of Discipline”? 

The women in LaSalle Detention Home for Girls form a segment of the population that few people would care about. Being “bad girls” in detention, they would be considered to have quite rightly lost all their rights. They have in fact no power, are anonymous and largely forgotten.

On the other hand, there are those like Carol Adams, the social worker who thinks it is important that the girls are helped reform, instead of just being incarcerated and punished.

These diametrically opposed views of the purpose of imprisonment are still being debated at the time of writing. Take the issue of Aboriginal deaths in custody in Australia or the revelation in 2016 concerning the ill-treatment of juveniles in detention in the Northern territory. Also, community perceptions of the increasing incidence of juvenile crime, as well as the flaws in the bail and parole system has reignited debate about the nature and role of detention and incarceration.

Let’s hope we can come up with sensible solutions that stops us all on both sides of the wall from turning to stone….

The Comte De Saint Germain 

“A Man Whose Riddle Has Never Been Solved” 

(Frederick the Great) 

Who was this enigmatic figure from history who was mentioned in Cooper’s diary and who figured in the development of the life-prolonging process used by the staff in the girls’ detention facility? Yes, that is the question: Who was he indeed?

Suddenly appearing in the early to mid-1700s, this “man without a past” gained a reputation as a scientist / alchemist, philosopher, musician, artist, composer, diplomat and something of a religious figure.

Also known as Marquis de Montferrat, Comte Bellamarre, Chevalier Schoening, Count Weldon, Comte Soltikoff, Graf Tzarogy and Prinz Ragoczy, Saint Germain would tell people fantastic things about himself, such as that he was 500 years old!

The following have been attributed to him either by himself or by others;

  • Of unknown origin but claimed he was the son of Francis II Rákóczi, the Prince of Transylvania. 
  • Educated in Italy by the last of the Medicis. 
  • Arrested in London on suspicion of espionage during the Jacobite rebellion but released without charge. 
  • Could sing, play the violin and compose music. 
  • Described as being odd but well-bred. 
  • Employed by Louis XV of France for diplomatic missions. 
  • Excellent conversationalist who was “everything with everybody.” 
  • Was a linguist who spoke or understood Italian, French, Polish, English, Spanish and Portuguese. 
  • Never ate any food in public. 
  • Claimed that he had a mastery over nature, that he could melt diamonds, and even form one large one from ten or twelve small diamonds without any loss of weight. 
  • Was said to possess the elixir of life and could to make gold at will. 
  • That he had invented a new method of dyeing or colouring cloth. 
  • He would tell listeners that he was actually present during historical events, or would describe things in such detail that led others to believe that he had personal and intimate knowledge of those events. 
  • Was reported not to have physically changed by elderly people who knew him when they were younger. 
  • For an entire century, it was claimed that he kept the physical appearance of a man of between forty and fifty years old. 
  • That he died on 27 February 1784. 
Such a man may have been The Comte De Saint Germain;

"A man who knows everything and who never dies,” 

Recommended Reading:

Jean Overton Fuller, The Comte De Saint Germain, Last Scion of the House of Rakoczy., East-West Publications Ltd, 1988.

We have seen Victor Jory who plays Dr. Murdock, appear in the sci-fi film, Cat-Women of the Moon (1953) which is featured in this blog.

We have also seen Friedrich von Ledebur who plays Eric, appear in the sci-fi film, The 27th Day (1957) as the self-sacrificing scientist. That film is also featured in this blog.

©Chris Christopoulos 2016

Monday, 7 November 2016

The Land Unknown (1957)

A rather simplistic sci-fi adventure film

Directed by Virgil W. Vogel
Produced by William Alland
Written by Charles Palmer, William N. Robson, László Görög
Music by Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter, Herman Stein
Cineatography: Ellis W. Carter
Edited by Fred MacDowell
Distributed by Universal-International
Running time: 78 minutes


Jock Mahoney: Cmndr. Harold 'Hal' Roberts
Shirley Patterson: Margaret 'Maggie' Hathaway
William Reynolds: Lt. Jack Carmen
Henry Brandon: Dr. Carl Hunter
Douglas Kennedy: Capt. Burnham 

Phil Harvey: Machinist's Mate, Steve Mill


Spoilers follow......

The Land Unknown

A Children’s Story 

Once upon a time three men and a lady crash-landed in a deep crater in the far off great continent at the bottom of the world called Antarctica, where they found a mysterious land unknown to the rest of the world.

Antarctica is very, very, very cold!

Before these three people went on their big adventure, they first met up in the capital of the United States of America, Washington, D.C. where an important soldier called Capt. Burnham was telling a lot of other soldiers all about Antarctica.

Capt. Burnham told everyone there that Antarctica is "Five million square miles of terra incognita." That just means it is really, really big and pretty much unknown, even these days!

The captain told everyone there that their job was to sail to Antarctica and make a lot of maps of the place so it wouldn’t be so unknown anymore. But even more importantly, they were meant to explore a warm area that was surrounded by all that ice.

How did the warm area get there? 

It wasn’t supposed to be there!

Suddenly, in came a pretty lady called, Miss Margaret Hathaway, a reporter with Oceanic Press. We’ll call her Maggie. She was a bit naughty for being late but she did the right thing and apologised for arriving late.

All the men suddenly stopped looking at Capt. Burnham when Maggie walked in and turned to stare at her as if she were a beautiful princess. I think maybe the silly men had never ever seen a lady before in their lives. Their mummies had certainly never told them that it is rude to stare.

Capt. Burnham asked Maggie, “Now would you care to meet some of the men you'll be working with?”

Maggie seemed very happy about this when she replied, “I always love to meet men, Captain.” In fact, Maggie must have been really used to men because she told the captain that she once “was alone with half a million of them for three months in Korea.” Imagine that! My, she must have been VERY busy getting to know all those men!

So, being alone with only 800 men in Antarctica would be a cinch for Maggie!

Maggie soon met some other people who were going on the expedition to the big land of ice and snow. Funnily enough they were all men, which probably explains why they were so shocked to see Maggie when she walked in.

First, there was Commander Alan Roberts. For some reason, he was also known as Harold or Hal. He was a geophysicist which means his job was to work out what it was like inside the earth from what was happening on the outside or the surface of the earth. He was a very important man.

To make sure they got around quickly in Antarctica and that they could land in difficult places, there was also the whirligig copter pilot, Lt. Jack Carmen.

Pretty soon the expedition ships sailed off to Antarctica. But just as they were approaching the coast of the Ross Ice Pack, a humongous lot of ice blocked their way which meant that the expedition would be two weeks behind schedule.

Alan, Jack, Maggie and another man, a mechanic called Steve Miller took off from their ship in the whirligig copter. Suddenly an angry looking storm approached which meant they had to return at once. I don’t blame them. I’m terrified of lightning! Are you? At that moment, they caught sight of the warm region of Antarctica that wasn’t supposed to be there.

Just as Jack spotted a break in the clouds to get through the passing storm, a pterodactyl or flying dinosaur swooped at the whirligig copter damaging it. Oh No!

Down, down they slowly went way below sea level, all the way to 2500 feet as the temperature rapidly climbed to 91 degrees.

At last they broke through the clouds and landed in a strange yucky sticky humid place filled with plants and trees and blanketed by a thick fog or mist. Until the whirligig copter could be fixed, this is where they would have to stay.

It seemed like it was a spooky and dangerous place with odd plants that had tentacles, bubbling mud springs and pterodactyls. One of the plants almost got poor Maggie but she moved away in time. It turned out that they were trapped in a primitive prehistoric forest.

How did the forest get there?

Clever Cmdr. Roberts told the others, "It's my guess that this valley is still in the Mesozoic Era." The Mesozoic Era occurred a very, very, VERY long time ago: 252 to 66 million years ago. The dinosaurs are thought to have become extinct about 65 million years ago.

Well, the repairs to the whirligig copter weren’t going very well and there was no luck with trying to contact the base using the radio. All they could do was to set up a camp nearby.

What would YOU do if you were lost and stuck in a strange place and couldn’t get home? 

The next day the sound of a search-aircraft’s engines could be heard above the cloud layer. HOORAY! Jack tried using the radio to contact them but, oh my gosh, the signal was too weak to be heard. What a shame!

The four grown-ups soon realised just how much danger they were in when they came across two giant lizards fighting. The fight also attracted a T-Rex. That was a dinosaur called Tyrannosaurus Rex. Tyrannosaurus walked on two powerful legs and was a meat eater that measured up to 40 feet in length and weighed up to 10 tons.

So, when Jack fired his revolver at Thumper Rex, it had no effect. All the grown-ups could do was to rush into the whirligig copter and fire up the engine.

Now, your mommies have probably warned you about NOT putting your fingers near the blades of fans, right? Not so for Mr Thumper Rex! He just kept THUMP -THUMPING and GGRRR - GGRRRING toward the whirligig copter until the spinning blades sliced through his skin - OUCH! - making him awfully mad.

As Mr Thumper Rex got ready for another attack, the loud mysterious sound of a horn startled him and caused him to retreat.

What was that sound? 

Where did it come from? 
What had made it? 

The grown-ups felt it was safe to leave the whirligig copter and move their food and supplies to the copter’s cabin. What a surprise it must have been when they discovered that many of cans of food had been opened! Who could have done this? Oh, no! That would only mean they were not alone!

Later on, Jack, Alan and Steve discovered footprints and a scrap of Maggie’s clothing. 

What could this mean? 

It turned out that Maggie had gone off to get some water for a small monkey they had earlier found. When she was returning to the copter, she was surprised by a large lizard. This caused her to drop the poor little monkey which was captured and eaten by the tentacle plant.

You would never ever wander off by yourself, especially in a strange place, would you? Maggie unfortunately did and this is what happened…

Just at that point, Maggie was kidnapped by a stranger who put her in a raft and rowed away with her. 

Maggie’s kidnapper took her down river to his cave shelter. When she woke up he said to her, "The whole valley is mine. Everything in it belongs to me, including you." He sounded like a very bad man. He also lied to Maggie when he told her that the others were dead.

However, Maggie soon noticed the three men rowing towards the cave in their raft. Luckily Jack, Alan and Steve managed to rescue Maggie when she screamed just as the stranger began grabbing hold of her against her will.

Maggie was very clever to make as much noise and commotion as possible to attract attention to her.

It turned out that the man was called Dr. Carl Hunter, that he had been part of the 1945 expedition to Antarctica and that he had survived a plane crash in which three others had been on board.

Dr Hunter had been alone for an awfully long time. He even wanted the others to agree to leave Maggie behind in return for the location of the plane’s wreckage and the parts that could be of use.

Alan said to Hunter, “We'll find the wreck without your help.” Hunter then replied:

“Maybe you will if you aren't trampled to death first or eaten alive or die of starvation. Wait till the Antarctic night comes and for nine months the black air hangs round you like a rotten rag and your eyes are blinded from the dark and from your own sweat, and you lose each other - and you're alone – alone!”

Being so alone in such a dangerous situation for so long must have had a big effect on Hunter who no longer thought and behaved in a civilized way. I guess he also must have liked Maggie very much and would have preferred her company probably as much as those half a million men in Korea would have!

As it turned out Jack, Alan and Steve took Maggie back with them and left the cave leaving Dr Hunter all alone again.

While Dr. Hunter spent his time smashing dinosaur eggs and blowing his conch shell to make a strange sound to drive dinosaurs away, Alan and Maggie were harassed yet again by bad-tempered Mr Thumper Rex. Now we know where that earlier sound came from. Maggie also managed to fall into the clutches of the tentacle plant. Luckily she was saved by Dr Hunter who was nearby watching her. After doing that, he quickly left.

It wasn’t long before Jack, Alan, Steve and Maggie realized that they only had about three days left before winter time and the freezing of Antarctica and the end of any rescue attempts that might be made. TICK-TOCK: Time was running out!

While Jack and Steve went off to search for the 1945 expedition wreckage, Maggie managed to slip away from Alan and row off down the river using a raft.

Can you work out what she was planning to do and why it was so brave of her to do so?

Unknown to Maggie, a huge prehistoric creature was lurking under the water - a Plesiosaurus. That creature was aquatic which means that it lived in the water. Let’s call it “Nessie” after its famous relative in Loch Ness, Scotland.

Maggie could not see Nessie slowly but surely approaching her raft. Hunter could see it though! He moved in closer with his raft which had two lit torches attached to the front of it. He also blew his conch horn to frighten Nessie away and warn Maggie of the approaching danger.

When Nessie was close enough, Hunter threw a lit spear right into its mouth – good shot! - but Nessie was clever enough to put it out by going under the water. Nessie once again had another lit spear thrown into its mouth. Meanwhile, Hunter with Maggie's raft tied to his raft rowed back to his cave shelter.

Steve saw Hunter carry Maggie into the cave and followed him in. Steve and Hunter then had a big fight which Steve won. Steve then did a very bad thing: he used fire to get Hunter to tell him where the site of the wreckage was. Sometimes grown-ups can do some very wicked things if they’re desperate enough. This never makes it right though!

Jack and Alan arrived at the cave in time to stop Steve’s cruelty from going any further. Hunter then gave Alan a map showing the site of the wreckage. While Jack, Alan and Steve went to find the wreckage, Maggie stayed behind with Hunter and helped to take care of his injuries.

It looks like Alan was right when he said, “It is true that you can't live among beasts without becoming one. It is just as true that you can't live among human beings without becoming affected by their humanity.”

At the wreckage site, Jack, Alan and Steve found the graves of the men who had died in the 1945 expedition. They also found an aircraft spare part that would work on their whirligig copter.

A bit later Maggie heard the sound of the copter’s engine and decided to return to camp. As she approached the cave shelter’s exit, Nessie appeared and Maggie was knocked down to the cave floor. Luckily, Hunter managed to pick her up and take her outside.

Back at camp, Mr Thumper Rex decided it was pay-back time and steadily made his way toward the men and the repaired whirligig copter. Just as he got there, the copter lifted off. Never mind Mr Thumper Rex!

The three men then flew a bit further on towards the river where they used a winch to pull Maggie up off Hunter's raft and get her aboard the copter. Just like in those helicopter sea-rescues you sometimes see on the news on TV!

Meanwhile, Nessie and Hunter battled it out on the river below. When Nessie caught sight of the flaming torches he ducked under the water and then WHOOSH! resurfaced under Hunter’s raft causing Hunter to fall off into the water. Then KABAM! Nessie smashed Hunter with his flipper.

Just in the nick of time, Hunter was saved from certain death by Alan who fired a flare into Nessie’s mouth. By now Nessie’s mouth must have felt like yours would if you had eaten chillies, wasabi or a hot pepperoni pizza.

As Nessie sank under the water, brave Alan jumped into the river from the copter and put the harness around Hunter. After both men were aboard, the grownups flew out of the strange land unknown.

As they approached the ship, they realized that they were very low on fuel. OH NO! Don’t tell us it was going to end like that! Not after all they had been through! To crash in the ocean so close to the deck of the ship? Yes, they did crash but luckily all five grownups were rescued.

Later on, when Alan and Maggie were together on the ship’s deck, Alan told Maggie there might be another expedition the very next year and he asked her if she would like to come along. And guess what Maggie said: "No thanks, I've had it!" Who could blame her!

Maggie went on to ask Alan, “Well, who'd stay home with the baby?” Alan didn’t at first get what she meant when he replied, “Sure, who'd stay... What baby?” He finally got it when she said to him, “Ours, silly. Why by this time next year...” As they kissed they knew they would live happily ever after…….

Points of Interest

The Land Unknown does have good direction and pacing and has managed to create a convincing fog-shrouded prehistoric landscape, but the low budget special effects are very ordinary. The Tyrannosaurus looks like nothing more than a man wearing a costume. The lizards are just….lizards! How many times have we seen enlarged lizards battle it out on the screen?!


Jock Mahoney as Commander Harold Roberts, is your typical square-jawed hero.

Shirley Patterson as lady reporter Maggie serves pretty much as eye candy and plays the usual fainting damsel-in-distress who needs frequent rescuing from those who wish to possess her.

Mechanic Steve is a more realistic character combining essential elements of humanity with human flaws we are all subject to.

The main stand-out character would be Dr. Carl Hunter played by Henry Brandon. Brandon manages to adequately convey the impression that he's been stuck in the prehistoric unknown land alone for so many years. Rather than evolving, Hunter has devolved!

Byrd expedition: Historical Fact & Fiction

The Land Unknown does manage to cleverly incorporate the historical incident of the plane lost in the Byrd expedition of 1946. In the incident of the lost Antarctic plane in 1947, six men survived and were rescued 13 days later.

Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, Jr., USN (Ret) organised a United States Navy operation called, Operation High jump, (The United States Navy Antarctic Developments Program, 1946–1947). Operation High jump commenced on 26 August 1946 and ended in late February 1947. Task Force 68 included 4,700 men, 13 ships, and 33 aircraft. Its primary mission was to establish the Antarctic research base Little America IV.

Operation High jump's objectives were said to include;

  • Training personnel and testing equipment in extremely cold conditions. 
  • Maintaining and extending United States' sovereignty over the largest practicable area of the Antarctic continent. 
  • Determining the feasibility of establishing, maintaining, and utilizing bases in the Antarctic continent and investigating possible base sites. 
  • Developing techniques for establishing, maintaining, and utilizing air bases on ice. 
  • Adding to knowledge of electromagnetic, geological, geographic, hydrographic, and meteorological conditions in the region.
The Byrd expedition has also managed to generate its share of fairy tale conspiracy theory stories. Stupidity and gullibility abhors a vacuum especially if that vacuum is the product of secrecy and misinformation.

Questions have been raised concerning the haste with which a huge military so-called scientific expedition was mounted merely one year after the Second World War ended.

Prior to the war, the Nazis supposedly explored a portion of the Antarctic coast, naming it New Swabia. They then were thought to have constructed underground bases where Nazi scientists commenced working on a flying saucer, the construction of which was allegedly based on a crashed UFO found in Bavaria in 1938. Sounds perfectly reasonable, right? Right?

With the war going pear-shaped for Germany, Nazi scientists and other personnel were whisked away by U-boats to the secret bases in New Swabia to continue work on the Nazi flying saucer super weapon.

Enter Admiral Byrd. His mission, it was claimed, was to locate the saucers along with the remaining Nazis. Somehow Byrd managed to meet with some aliens during a missing three-hour period of a flight. Shortly thereafter, the Byrd Expedition was called off prematurely, without much explanation.

Life - 
“A tale told by an idiot” 
A story written for a child? 

This leads me to the question of why I decided to present the plot of the film, The Land Unknown in a format similar to that of a children’s story (with a lot of cheek and tongue in cheek).

It struck me just how much of life we experience occurs at the level of a children’s story especially when it is stripped of its complexities and frequent dire consequences for individuals, communities and humanity itself.

Take for instance, our interpersonal relationships; conflicts; wars; arguments; disputes; concerns; worries; stresses; preoccupations; economic, social and political arrangements; work place politics; social and other media representations of and commentaries on reality and so on.

Hey, take the 2016 US Presidential election campaign! Now there’s a prime example of a children’s story. Strip away all the bluster, the angst, the extraneous detail (not policy detail!) and minutiae and what are we left with? Goodies and baddies; heroes and villains; one dimensional cut-out characters; simplistic plot lines. The question we are left with at the end is:

Who if anyone will truly live happily ever after?

©Chris Christopoulos 2016