During the 40s and the 50s many sci-fi and adventure movies were produced about giant monsters fighting brave adventurers. “One Million B.C.” (1940) is probably the best known example and the one that started the trend, but there were many low-budget films that tried to emulate the success of that film with less than spectacular results. “Two Lost Worlds” may be one of those lesser known films, but what makes it “different” from the rest is the fact that it contains basically every element of the action-adventure sub genre to tell its story. From pirates to dinosaurs, and from naval fights to cowboys, this one has it all.
James Arness is young Kirk Hamilton, a brave captain who is severely injured after being attacked by pirates on their travel to Asia. While his ship continues the trip, he is left in Queensland, Australia to recover, where he’ll find the beautiful Elaine Jeffries (Kasey Rogers) and her precocious sister Nancy (Jane Harlan), as well as earning the enmity of Martin Shannon (Bill Kennedy), a man who is also in love with Elaine. But adventure calls him even there, as the pirates return and raid Queensland, kidnapping Elaine and Nancy and taking James and Martin to adventure. In their rescue trip they’ll fight not only the pirates, but the strange creatures of a nearby island.
Well, this film is basically an epic adventure that includes basically every element necessary to be classified as “adventure”. While this is indeed as messy as it sounds, it has an explanation: “Two Lost Worlds” was made of two episodes (maybe three) of a failed TV series project blend together to work as a B-Movie. The origins of the film are very notorious, as the movie changes of “theme” as it changes of setting (aided by some rather poor use of stock footage), as the film goes from one adventure to another the pace feels at times disjointed and the constant narration doesn’t help to make it better.
The movie’s most notorious “detail” is the use of the famous footage “One Million B.C.”, and while it is in fact sold as the hook of the film, the actual scenes used are rather short (due mostly to the previously discussed factors). Technically, the film is rather poor and it probably would had worked a lot better as a TV show (as it was intended). This was director Norman Dawn’s final movie after directing a long series of adventure movies, some of them rather infamous like “Wild Women” (1951) and “Tundra” (1936).
If there is a redeeming feature in this movie (and one that’s worth a lot), is the acting. A pre-“Gunsmoke” James Arness carries the film with grace and makes charming a character that otherwise would be poor and stereotypical. Kasey Rogers (who would participate in an iconic scene later that year in “Strangers on a Train”) is equally effective although her character may be “too 50s” for today’s standards. Bill Kennedy is also good as the Kirk’s rival and has very good scenes (his character was probably the most developed of the cast).
It would be easy to point out the many problems of “Two Lost Worlds”, but one has to consider that it was a low-budget production (for TV) on a time where special effects were a novelty (it wasn’t the only movie to use “”One Million B.C.”‘s stock footage) and while this is no excuse for its disjointed storyline, the film is considerably more enjoyable than most films of its era.
“Two Lost Worlds” is by no means a classic. It may not even be a good movie. But at least it entertains, and for most movies that’s something. People looking for classy horror and adventure better look elsewhere, those interested in a strange novelty and/or the career of a young James Arness will find “Two Lost Worlds” an interesting piece of film.