Friday, May 6, 2011

LOST HORIZON 1973: A Lost Masterpiece?

Yesterday I had invited my pal Richard to come over in the afternoon to share with me my DVD of Ross Hunter's musical production of LOST HORIZON, a 1973 remake of the classic B&W film by Frank Capra made in 1937. We had a great time and I think he really enjoyed the film. Conventional cinema history still dismisses this multi-million-$ box-office bomb as a terrible film, an embarrassment to all concerned--a total flop. At present I am also reading the classic novel LOST HORIZON aloud to Tomas, and of course, it's one of the greatest examples of English prose in modern literature.
      Now that I've been studying the film and singing and dancing along with its tremendous score and choreography for some months now, I do beg to differ with the common opinion of the 1973 version.
      How did this negative view come about? The film itself is still virtually unavailable to contemporary audiences as Columbia Pictures has never yet released a DVD version. In 1992 a "Pioneer Special Edition" was released on the now defunct Laserdic technology, however it lacked 3 major songs, several reprises and the beautiful "fertility" dance sequence that Olivia Hussey did with a group of scantily-clad male gypsies. Sometimes you can find clips on youtube, only they also seem to disappear for copyright reasons.
      In official terms, only the soundtrack album of the OCR of LOST HORIZON 1973

Lost Horizon: Original Soundtrack (1973 Film)

is available on CD. However a few months back, frustrated to obtain the film, I discovered what may be a slightly "piratical" DVD version on eBay, which I joined exclusively so I could purchase the film. I was already enjoying the CD and learning the tremendous songs, so melodic and wise and still ahead of their time! I cannot responsibly provide a link to the restored DVD version I have, however I'll mention that it has a lovely image of handsome young Michael York and gorgeous young Olivia Hussey on the front cover. It includes those missing 3 songs, and is the next best thing to a fully restored studio version.
      There are many reasons the film flopped initially, despite an incredible cast that includes Liv Ullman, Peter Finch, Sally Kellerman, Bobby Van, Olivia Hussey, John Gielgud, Charles Boyer, Michael York, George kennedy and James Shigeta; a script by famous gay author and AIDS activist Larry Kramer; Music by Burt Bacharach and Lyrics by Hal David; plus fantastic choreography by Hermes Pan. This film is delightful, beautiful, inspiring and profound, yet due to its pacifistic message and theme of life-affirming moral values while the Vietnam War still raged + the fact the era of great Hollywood musicals had just ended, all conspired against it.
      It's time to reclaim this marvelous film.
      I plan to start an online petition for Columbia Pictures, as it's timely that they do a fully restored DVD release, and I also plan some informal local showings in the form of sing-and-dance-along events.
      The theme of this film, beneath the entertaining surface, is what really matters in life?! Also, in the midst of a world in which civilization is melting down, where do we find balance, happiness and peace?
      Within, of course!
      Shangri-La, the Valley of the Blue Moon is inspired by the Tibetan legends of the Kingdom of Shambhala hidden in a remote Himalayan valley. It is also what the great sage Jesus meant when he said, "The Kingdom of Heaven is Within you." It's Paradise on Earth.
      The only livable place left.

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