Hungry for memorably, side-splittingly Bad? Then look no further! The infamous 1973 mega-bomb LOST HORIZON gives you 149 minutes worth, dished up faux Asian style by producer Ross Hunter. Hunter was already richer than Midas from producing such gems as Imitation of Life and Magnificent Obsession when he spent zillions to remake Frank Capra’s classic movie fantasy about Shangri-La into a Burt Bacharach/Hal David musical, all of it starring non-singing, non-dancing, non-actors.
The hilarity begins with a planeload of cardboard characters: diplomat Peter Finch, his surly brother Michael York, engineer George Kennedy, entertainer Bobby Van, and Sally Kellerman as a suicidal Newsweek photographer who, at first sign of air turbulence, starts popping pills. Hyperventilating, Kellerman swoons, "I feel we’re heading for outer space."
No such luck: Instead of a snowy death, our heroes’ plane crash dumps them in a smiley utopia apparently inspired by a Liberace theme park.
Resident guru, ancient John Gielgud (picture a mummy on Prozac), brings Finch to confer with the even more ancient High Lama Charles Boyer (picture a mummy beyond Prozac), who suggests that Finch linger forever. He doesn’t need much convincing; he’s already fallen for schoolmarm Liv Ullman. "Is there some delicious drug in our food?" Finch asks "or is this all a mirage?"
Drugs are the only possible explanation; in any case, only drugs can help get you past the sight of Ullman swinging her hands, bugging her eyes, thrashing in fields, and lip-synching "The World Is a Circle" – it’s enough to make one appreciate Cybill Shepherd in At Long Last Love. (Well... maybe not appreciate so much as tolerate.)
Everybody’s soooo bloody happy except York, who plots his escape with dewy (If obviously pregnant) librarian Olivia Hussey. Gielgud grumbles that Hussy’s youthful facade will shatter if she leaves this magical land – it’s only Shangri-La that keeps her from growing ancient, you see – but York eventually persuades Finch to escape with them. Just as Gielgud predicted, Hussey ages to, oh, about Gielgud’s age, and York tumbles to his death down a mountainside. Lucky them.
Finch, sadder but wiser, returns to his paradise "with its feet rooted in the good earth of this fertile valley while his head explores the eternal." We can’t vouch for where anybody’s head was at in making this movie, but we can hazard a guess.
Be sure to catch it on the recent 2012 issued (restored to its original Roadshow length!) Twilight Time Blu ray. Essential, if life-shortening, viewing.