June 24, 1925 [The Lost World]

Is there another actor with as onomatopoetic a name as Wallace Beery’s? With his pushed-in mug and pushed-out chest--and, as Professor Challenger in The Lost World, a bushy head of hair and a beard like a jutting sack--he is a beer-barrel wonder, gruff and sudden like a friendly--albeit over-excited--circus bear, quite a sight to see--but don't get too close: He might squeeze more than you'd like.

It's a testament to Beery that I started off with him; after all, the movie's filled mostly with imaginary monsters molded and brought to hysterical life. Millions of years are bridged--in the minds of the film-makers first--and it's the lucky viewer who helps out, gapes at the dinosaurs munching away on leaves and trees--and of course each other, sending the children in the audience shouting in horrified glee. (Not to mention the startling ape-man/"missing link," as convincing a job of make-up and costume I've seen in a non-Chaney picture; the thing frightened one little boy near me, who actually left his seat in terror--then laughed and cried, happy to be there, wishing he could get out. Welcome to the movie-world, little man.)

Watching a movie is an act of faith--in not only the theatrical-technical abilities of those who produce the finished picture, but of course mostly on the part of the viewer, who must first be unconcerned with the everyday--because there it is, all around us as we leave the movies. No, I want to see a new life, a new Heaven and Earth--oh, the religious metaphor threatens even more; but I refuse to be embarrassed, because the well-worn love-and-rescue plot passed me by unnoticed, and I was all eyes for the next volcanic eruption, the next reckless Allosaurus attack--a dinosaur's dinosaur, leaping on anything that moves--not for food, but the sheer brutal hell of it: He'll leave a meal simply to take a swipe at a passing what's-it-osaurus, showing off his glistening, animated teeth--even the saliva animated, stretching from one end to another of his grinning maw. Life and the animated cartoon meet--and while I'm not sure they are yet fast friends, they do step up like troopers, encouraging each other's outrages. Between Beery and the Saurians, no quarter was asked, none given--thank goodness.

Not, of course, a great picture. But it made Coney Island look moribund in comparison; it's the kind of movie that does not so much unfold as unreel, like wits at their last end.


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