I will be analyzing the film The Lost World, based on the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In the movie, Ed Malone’s fiancé tells him that he must do something dangerous and daring to prove that he is worthy of marriage. The reporter attends a conference where the explorer Professor Challenger is being ridiculed for his claims that there are prehistoric creatures still living in Amazon. In order to help establish some credibility to his claims, he offers to take volunteers from the conference with him on his next expedition, if they are willing to risk their lives. Ed Malone volunteers, along with the sportsman Sir John Roxton, Professor Summerlee, the butler Mr. Austin, Zambo the Indian servant, and the daughter of Challenger’s fellow explorer, Paula White. Malone’s paper funds the expedition to search for Maple White, who Challenger said was attacked and trapped by the dinosaurs they saw in the Amazon. On the journey, they find the dinosaurs, but unfortunately not Maple White. Ed Malone falls in love with Paula and the two decide to get married when the group is convinced they will be trapped on top of the plateau forever. When they descend and realize they can go back home, Paula feels that it is wrong for them to stay together since Malone is engaged to another woman. When the group returns to London, with a giant brontosaurs that collapses Tower Bridge, Malone realizes that his ex-fiancé has married another man. He and Paula are happy they can now be together, and John Roxton continues to conceal his feelings for Paula as he congratulates them.
In the 1920’s the film industry and Hollywood skyrocketed. The Lost World was released in June of 1925 right before the “first feature-length talking film, The Jazz Singer, was released in 1927” (Rosenberg). Although there is not a very strong female presence in The Lost World, we can see a relevant portrayal of flapper women values through Malone’s fiancé and Paula. The fiancé’s request that Malone prove his bravery for her reflects how women were taking more charge of their lives during the 1920s. At the end of the movie when the group has returned to London, we see Paula dressed in common flapper fashion with her short haircut and hat.
The Lost World’s sci-fi fantasy theme and the presence of monster theory helps to explain how Americans at this time feared history repeating itself and changes to what was seen as the social norm. From the late 18th century to the 1920s, a lynching terror spread across the country due to the economic downfall after World War I and the right for African Americans to vote (Ahuynh). In the film, we see the dinosaurs depicted as monsters since they wreak havoc on the group’s expedition and even when the brontosaurs escapes into the streets of London. Jeffrey Cohen’s Monster Theory: Reading Culture provides possible ties of American historical context to the film. First, Cohen explains in his second thesis that the monster always escapes, just as the brontosaurs that is brought back from the Amazon escapes into the streets of London, in order to come back. Cohen states that monster theory “must therefore concern itself with strings of cultural moments, connected by a logic that always threatens to shift” (Cohen, 6). We can say that the lynching terror that occurred before the film was released could be what Americans were afraid of reoccurring, just as professor Challenger’s critics didn’t want to believe that dinosaurs still existed. Another argument that could be made is that the changes in voting rights of women and African Americans symbolizes the fear people had about changes in their social norms. Cohen states in his fourth thesis “from the classical period to the twentieth century, race has been almost as powerful a catalyst to the creation of monsters as culture, gender and sexuality” (Cohen, 10). Just as the characters in The Lost World didn’t want to believe that dinosaurs still lived among them, people in the 1920s did not want to see themselves as equal to people they deemed as “the other”.
By Brianna Hernandez
Ahunyh, J. (2015, February 27). “Hack #2” [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://hackintohistory.org/author/jeanahuynh/.
Cohen, J. J. (1996). Monster Theory: Reading Culture. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com.libproxy.sdsu.edu/lib/sdsulib/reader.action?docID=10151042&ppg=16
Rosenberg, J. (2015, March 19). “Essay Topic – The Roaring Twenties” [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://hackintohistory.org/2015/03/19/essay-topic-the-roaring-twenties/.
Shepard, D., MacQueen, S., and Hudson, E. (Producers) & Hoyt, H. (Director). (1925). The Lost World [Motion picture]. United States: First National Pictures.
The Lost World (1925). (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2017, from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0016039/