This is a superb, academy award winning film, directed by the late, great Frank Capra. Based upon James Hilton's book of the same name, it is as fresh today, as it was sixty six years ago when it was first released in 1937.
The film opens up in Baskul, China, somewhere near the Tibetan border in 1935, where a minor revolution appears to be occuring, and foreigners are being evacuated. A world weary and dashing diplomat, Robert Conway, magnificently played by the ever handsome, melliflously voiced Ronald Colman, is directing the evacuation efforts. He, his brother George, and three others, two men and one woman, manage to board the last plane out of this rife torn area of China. Unbeknownst to them their pilot has been overcome by another person, who comandeers the plane.
They finally realize something in wrong when they notice that the plane is traveling west instead of east. Moreover, they are unable to do anything about it, as no one on board other than the pilot can fly a plane. They seem to be flying in the Himalyan region, as they are surrounded by snow capped peaks, flying at an altitude of about 21, 000 feet. Suddenly, their plane lands in the mountains, the pilot dead at the controls. Strangely enough, they are met by a crowd of people, as if they were expected. At their head is a Mr. Chang, a very dignified gentleman, masterfully played by W.B. Warner, who provides them with appropriate clothing for a high altitude climb through a very daunting and precarious mountain pass. Fortuitously for all, Mr. Chang speaks English beautifully.
After a seeming death defying trek through the mountains, in what appear to be blizzard conditions, they arrive at a beautiful and peaceful valley protected from inclement weather. They have now reached the mythical and utopian kingdom of Shangri-La. It is here that Robert Conway meets Saundra, the woman of his dreams, played by a very young and beautiful Jane Wyatt. It is love at first sight.
He also discovers that his plane was comandeered with the express purpose of bringing him to Shangri-La, as it is the wish of their dying leader, Padre Perro, a Belgian priest, played with saintly spirituality by Sam Jaffee, that Conway should be the new leader of this utopian paradise, where people seem to live long, very long, lives. Touched by the saintliness of Padre Perro and in love with the beauty and peace he sees and feels all around him, Conway is very much interested in remaining. It is as if he had finally found that for which he had been searching all his life.
His brother, George, however, has no wish to stay, the only one on board the plane who feels that way. An attractive young woman whom he met in this idyllic spot, and who has fallen for George, professes to want to leave, as well. Together the two of them persuade Robert to leave. Giving in to them out of a sense of obligation, he leaves with them, but what happens on the way back to the world that they knew, convinces Robert that he must return to Shangri-la and the woman he loves at any cost. What happens next will not disappoint.
This film is a masterpiece that keeps the viewer enthralled. While some of the events that occur during the film are higly improbable, that does not dampen the enthusiasm that one is sure to develop for this well made movie. It is, without a doubt, a cinematic classic.
on 3 August 2006
I recommend to read the book before watching this movie.
The film gives the feeling as if it was a fast forward through the book (although it is over 2 hours long!). Many scenes of the book which would make the film a bit boring aren't included. In exchange there are many funny scenes which aren't in the book. Furthermore there are a few minor changes in the protagonists and there is a much more developed love story of R. Conway and Mallinson (George Conway in the film). The movie starts at Baskul and ends with R. Conway returning to Shangri-La.
Some parts of the movie (7 min) are only a slideshow of photographs with the original soundtrack because these scenes were cut out during the years and couldn't be recovered.
The Extras include the original trailer, a comparision of the restaured and the original movie, deleted scenes, an alternate ending and a commented selection of production photographs.
All in all it is a very enjoyable and exiting film you shouldn't miss!
"Lost Horizon" seems to been left in some neglect over the years, to the extent that sadly, some minutes have been lost for ever.
Thankfully then, Columbia has now produced an excellent restoration of this classic for us to savour. The film is based on James Hilton's fantasy novel, and marked a bit of a change of direction for director Frank Capra, who is best remembered these days for smart comedies such as "It Happened One Night". It was a massive financial gamble for the (then) tiny Columbia to take, but thankfully for us, the studio's faith in Capra overcame any reservations which might have existed. It stars the effortlessly elegant and charming Ronald Colman, playing a diplomat who leads a group of refugees out of a war torn China and into a Himalayan kingdom of seeming peace and enlightenment. Colman's diplomat must make a choice between staying in Shangri-la with his new found love (the ethereal Jane Wyatt) or returning to so-called civilisation, and this conflict gives the film its dramatic "heart".
It's very much a product of its time, with highly stylised sets and plenty of naive sentiments, but it also possesses a timeless, surreal beauty and quality which transcends the mere run-of-the-mill. Happily this "Golden Age" classic will now entrance and delight not just this generation, but those to come too.
Unless you're an absolute glutton for punishment, do not under any circumstances confuse the original Capra-Colman version with 1972's disastrous, unwatchable "musical" remake.
on 26 September 2010
I first saw this film on the TV very many years ago when I was a child (I'm now 58)so I was delighted to see that a restored version is available on DVD. It's astonishing how films of this quality were left to disintegrate so that there is no longer available a complete original negative, when things which should have been chucked out at birth are still in 1 piece. Having said that, the restoration is excellent, as far as was possible to achieve. Quite possibly this was the finest thing Ronald Colman ever did, in a very distinguished career of fine performances - heroic, noble, intelligent and at times painfully poignant. They really don't make them like him anymore.
on 26 September 2009
I was impressed by the book and later by the film. Naturally, the book is a trifle better if not better; as books usually are. However, the film, being of typical 1930s fare, and of Frank Capra's, was most enjoyable. I saw the film many years ago and found myself impressed. Many years later, as an old codger, it moves me all the more, though it is a film about Utopia a dream.
on 29 April 2012
Our story opens in far-flung Baskul, somewhere in the vast Chinese hinterland, with a minor uprising in full swing. Our hero, the phlegmatic, charismatic, suave, urbane, soigne, and handsome Robert Conway single-handedly organises an evacuation in the midst of chaos verging upon mass hysteria, nay, insanity. As aircraft after aircraft arrives empty only to leave crammed to the ailerons with panic-stricken refugees ( This is in the back of beyond so why on earth are all these non-natives milling about the place? It's as if the entire sea of humanity which fills Blackpool in high-summer had been dumped in some minuscule ghost town somewhat smaller and certainly less salubrious than Calico, Cal. Turn left on Ghost Town Rd approx 7 miles beyond Barstow.[ Sincere apologies to residents of Southern California for errors]). Talk about beyond the pale, this place is more than one step beyond.
Pausing only to destroy the airport's fuel store and rescue a dog, that clinches it good old Robert gets my vote every time now, he hastens aboard the last departing aircraft in the nick-of-time piloted, he thinks, by an old acquaintance. As luck would have it the last aircraft out just happens to be the 1930s equivalent of Concorde: the Douglas DC3, swift and, some might say, sumptuously appointed, oh how these diplomats suffer. Dawn finds our intrepid band Shanghai bound...or does it? A cursory glance out of the window reveals otherwise, a hurried attempt to ascertain what is happening is foiled by the cockpit door (No flight decks in those far-off days) which is locked, further attempts at communication result in a swift raising of the blind and a less than amicable waving of a revolver at the passengers, not so much as a 'This is your captain speaking', not even 'Take me to Cuba' ah! Happy days.
On, and on, and on, not unlike this review, our cargo of humanity is taken, a quick refuelling stop, no refreshments, nothing, just fuel, and up up and away again, talk about 'Go west young man' (Sincere apologies to Horace Greeley) until... cough, splutter, chug chug, silence, only the whistling of the wind as down, down, down (Just like the quality of this review)the aircraft descends into a snow covered wasteland... bang!
A mild dose of panic ensues with much bitter recrimination then...as if prearranged, strange, very strange, enter a column of rescuers laden with the necessary accoutrements for a days mountaineering, very strange indeed.
Following their recent vicissitudes, our ragged band are transported tortuously through vast snowfields until... voila! There in the middle of this vast icy wilderness is revealed a veritable Eden, a demi-paradise, a diadem if you will, set in an icy sea, a...sorry! Our weary band enter this Shangri-La, for that is it's name, a wide and deep valley of verdant, tranquil splendour above which sits an improbable Lamasery. Improbable? Yes! I was surprised, thunder-struck would be closer, to discover that it had been built at the behest of one Father Perot. This, approximately seventy years before the Art Deco movement occured to the rest of the world. Upon entering this exquisite Art Deco confection our hero Robert happens to glance up to one of its terraces and is smitten by a vision, the serene and lovely Sondra, I'm right with him on this one despite her advanced years 'I'm thirty'. Ok! I can live with that,I too was thirty once.
Despite the inordinately amicable welcome which awaits them, they almost to a man, are overcome with paranoic suspicion, especially the younger brother of Robert, one George Conway. If ever there was a petulant, foot-stamping, sulky, spoiled brat of a miserable ingrate it is he, the bright lights and Martini deprived little ratbag. Boy! If ever there was a ne'er-do-well, spongeing, coat-tail hanger-on of a worthless, prodigal scion it is he. Yes! Alright I know he's been kidnapped, so?
Time passes, as it does in these affairs, most of our party, especially the smitten Robert settle in right happily. Most that is, but not our George oh no, I won't, I won't, I won't, wouldn't you just love to slap his sulky little face, his and his twenty something 'girlfriend' Maria, twenty something going on sixty-nine, a right little Asp in the basket. Maria, a curious name for a Russian 'girl' I thought they were all called Ludmilla, or Natasha. These two pitiful herberts convince our Bob to decamp with them, back to the real world. Having trawled many of the less than salubrious hell holes on this planet and had close encounters with many of its less than stunningly beautiful femmes, some decidedly fatale, (Stunning yes! Beautiful...here I plead the fifth amendment on the grounds that a smack in the mouth is always somewhat less than wonderful) after all some of them are still extant you know, however I digress, as usual. Having, as I said earlier, encountered less than lovely females, I was somewhat non-plussed to see our Robert traipse off with the terrible twosome. Wild horses would not have dragged me away from an almost limitless time with the enchantingly lovely Sondra in her fabulous Art Deco haven. Too late our hero realises the folly of his actions and he strives to redress this foolishness... does he succeed? Buy the film and find out.
I am aware of the excellent work done by Mr Robert Gitt and others in restoring this, one of Capra's masterworks, however, I felt more than a little discomfitted by the insertion of stills images with soundtrack over. For me a grafting on of general footage with the soundtrack would have worked better, however, I am no film technician or historian. Despite my misgivings in this regard this is still an excellent film and another example of the greatness of Frank Capra.
on 27 October 2009
Lovely old film with a great story
very old so some bits have obviously been damaged but this doesn't spoil any of the joy
If only Shangrila existed
as usual delivery was prompt
This is one of the great romantic movies; perhaps the best movie of Frank Capra's career; probably the best of Ronald Colman's. It runs about 2 hours and 34 minutes and never seems slow, even in the reflective scenes.
Robert Conway (Ronald Colman), a diplomat and soldier, his brother and three others escape on the last plane out of a war-torm Chinese town. The plane is highjacked and heads for the Himilayas, where it crashes. The crew is dead, the passengers stranded in freezing weather and deep snow. A band of natives appears with warm clothing, rescues them and they set out on a long trek. Eventually they come to a nearly inaccessible crevice in the mountains. They go through and find a valley that is warm and green, with people working cooperatively and happily, where streams run and fields are tilled, where governance is from monks who are wise and fair. They have been brought to Shangri La, but for what purpose?
Conway is curious, meets a young woman with whom he falls in love, has discussions with one of the monks he assumes is the one in charge. His brother is resentful, unhappy and longs to go back to civilization. The other three at first agree, but gradually they find themselves discovering a kind of peace within themselves. And then Conway is brought to meet the High Lama (Sam Jaffe), an ancient man who, he realizes, is the person who first discovered the valley and began the community...over two hundred years ago. The High Lama describes Shangri La as a place where time has slowed to the point where it is meaningless, where peace is the natural condition. "It came to me in a vision, long, long ago," the High Lama tells Conway. "I saw all the nations strengthening, not in wisdom, but in the vulgar passions and the will to destroy. I saw the machine power multiplying, until a single weaponed man might match a whole army. I foresaw a time when man, exalting in the technique of murder, would rage so hotly over the world, that every book, every treasure, would be doomed to destruction. This vision was so vivid and so moving, that I determined to gather together all things of beauty and of culture that I could, and preserve them here, against the doom toward which the world is rushing. Look at the world today. Is there anything more pitiful? What madness there is! What blindness! What unintelligent leadership! A scurrying mass of bewildered humanity, crashing headlong against each other, propelled by an orgy of greed and brutality. A time must come, my friend, when this orgy will spend itself. When brutality and the lust for power must perish by its own sword. Against that time, is why I avoided death, and am here. And why you were brought here. For when that day comes, the world must begin to look for a new life. And it is our hope that they may find it here. For here, we shall be with their books and their music, and a way of life based on one simple rule: Be Kind!" He tells Conway that even in Shangri La death comes, and that he is dying. He chose Conway to be his successor, hoping that Conway would find the same peace which he had, and that Conway would agree.
But Conway's brother is determined to leave with a young woman from Shangri La. Conway reluctantly agrees to go with them because he knows his brother couldn't survive the trek without him. Tragedy occurs but Conway survives and is returned to civilization. But then he disappears. He will search for as long as it takes to find Shangri La again.
I've gone on about this movie because it is a near-perfect example of the kind of sweeping, romantic, powerful film Hollywood could make in its prime. The combination of, especially in the Thirties, the idea of a Shangri La with Frank Capra's immense gifts as a director able to hit people in their hearts and Ronald Colman's skill at portraying noble, brave and believeable heroes all comes together in this movie. An equal player in the excellence of this emotional film is Sam Jaffe's portrayal of the High Lama. He is intensely believeable as a gentle and wise man.
The movie pulls you emotionally. It has an ending that might make you tear up and will certainly satisfy you.
The film for the most part looks great. It had been chopped and diced after it was released to reduce playing time and, during World War II, to reduce the pacifist elements. The original negative and about seven minutes of film were never found. This restoration was pulled together from several sources and, except for a handful of places, looks just fine. Where the bits of film were lost, the soundtrack was kept with stills inserted to match who was speaking. This works very well. There are extras about the restoration that are interesting.
This is the original version so don't get confused with the DVD cover shown of the musical remake.
The HD picture quality is pretty good considering the age of the film (1937) and has stills in it where the original footage has been lost.
Enjoy your trip to Shangri-La.
on 6 June 2016
A really good film based on one of my favorite novels. I suppose with the busy lives we tend to lead it is wonderful to dream of a place like this. The film has been extended and restored back to its near original full length release.