Theodore Lytton -
Jonas Lytton -
Alice Hastings -
Casper Hastings -
Written by -
Directed by -
OTHER MINI SERIES
Mists of Avalon
Sword of Xanten
Jules Verne's Mysterious Island
Theodore Lytton is an offbeat scientist struggling to finance expeditions to prove his more outlandish theories, so when Alice Hastings asks him to take on a trip into the heart of the deepest caves in New Zealand, he jumps at the chance and takes his rather fearful nephew Jonas along for the ride. In New Zealand, they are joined by a shady bloke by the name of McNiff and by Mrs Hastings herself, much to Theodore's dismay. Making their way through the heart of the Maori uprising, they descend into the caves and find many strange and wonderful things, but none so strange as the tribe of humans who appear to speak English.
This mini series (the number of episodes depends on where you're seeing it) claims to be based on the novel by Jules Verne and goes on to change just about everthing in the novel. No academic from Edinburgh here, but a square-jawed american hero from the stable of Indiana Jones. The descent through Iceland's extinct volcano is switched to caves in New Zealand which means that there is a whole bunch of wandering around through the Maori uprising that is far more dull than it has any right to be and leans heavily on the use of real Maoris to create some sense of place and scale. Even the driving force of the novel, the journal of Arne Saknussen is reduced to a name check on a dismissed theory.
Eventually, the team get underground and things return to the source novel for a while including the rising heat, the lack of water and a giant underground sea. The fact that they are descending hundreds of feet on ropes that they have casually wrapped around their bodies that are clearly not even a tenth as long as they need to be is just one of the many problems with the plotting and direction.
It gets worse when the subterranean humans show up, in the incredibly attractive shape of Petra Yared, along with some lizard men who have walked straight out of old time US show LAND OF THE LOST. The lack of fidelity to the source wouldn't matter if what had replaced it was exciting and interesting, but it is plodding, dull and predictable and that's being generous.
The special effects are OK throughout, though the budget means that they aren't on screen for very long. The long shots of the underground sea are pretty good, but the rest of the subterranean world looks just like the world above having been liberally spray painted blue.Top
The Lytton expedition has found Casper Hastings, the target of their search, but lost his wife, the financier of the expedition, to the lizard men. Casper, it appears, has been leading the human tribe and teaching them english and some very strange traditions, not least having more than one wife. A rescue mission is mounted, but this leads to enmity with the lizard people. Enmity with the other tribe of humans that live nearby is earned when Jonas spends the night with one of the underground human women who just happens to be betrothed to someone else. Casper decides that it is time to go back to the surface, but he has gold and something much more valuable to take back with him.
Forget the Jules verne connection before watching this second episode as the script writers clearly have. Filled from the start with the inane politics of the underworld, some silly rescue action sequences that are on a tiny scale and never any more than totally unbelievable. The tangled relationships are as dull as the rest of the story and it's hard to actually give a damn about any of the characters by the end.
That end is stolen from LOST HORIZON and also manages to include a route back to the surface that would clearly have drowned everyone rather than brought them to just where they wanted to be.
The 1959 James Mason film version remains the definitive version of this story and would reward any viewer with more entertainment in much less running time than this.Top
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