Ever since the expedition by Byrd found a warm body of water in Antarctica, there has been much curiosity about it, and so a new expedition is commissioned. Arriving in Antarctica, Commander Hal Roberts, Lt. Jack Carmen and Steve Miller take off in a helicopter to do some recon along with a reporter named Maggie but get much more than they bargained for when they are forced to put down in a seemingly tropical land in the middle of what is supposed to be the coldest place on Earth. There, they meet all sorts of monsters and beasts, including a man named Dr. Carl Hunter who has been stranded there for ten years.
The Land Unknown is a great science-fiction movie continuing man’s fascination with lost lands and giant dinosaurs. Taking a page out of Pellucidar and The Lost World, we are treated to something quite similar and the better for it as it is so well done. The story is quite good and the script fairly decent giving our actors something to work with unlike most B-films of the day. There was a lot of action to be found, which really helped the film move along at a fairly quick pace with some great directing by Virgil Vogel.
Jack Mahoney’s character, Commander Roberts is the hero of the film, and even though he is a bit of a chauvinist as well as a know-it-all, he does a good job and turns out to be a man that people would most likely follow including Shirley Patterson who plays our female lead. Patterson manages to get herself in no amount of trouble over the course of the film, needing to be rescued a number of times both from man and monster. In the end of course, she falls for Hal and they end up together, which even though cliché, almost always works.
The effects in the film were quite fantastic for the time. There was some pre-filmed footage of lizards fighting, which looked fairly seamless, and some of the footage from the actual 1940s expedition to the Antarctic. There was some rubber suit theatrics, possibly combined with some sort of machinery to give us our Tyrannosaurus Rex, which looked more like a barrel on legs than a dinosaur, and a giant sea monster which looked much better than the T-Rex, and even menacing at times.
The great thing about most science-fiction movies of the 1950s was the uncomplicated nature of them. They were exactly what they seemed to be almost all of the time, though of course there were exceptions. This one is what it advertises – a movie about men lost in a secret land filled with dinosaurs. There are no allegories to the human condition or to any other larger theme or cause and that is perfectly fine. Sometimes all you need is pure entertainment, without any thought going into it to understand what is going on, and this movie was pure entertainment.
4 out of 5