MILL CREEK NIGHTMARE WORLDS: The Lost City (1935)

Kane Richmond went from being a football star at the University of Minnesota as Fred Bowditch to becoming a film salesman before testing and getting the lead in the boxing serial The Leather Pushers and becoming a fixture in serials like Spy Smasher and Brick Bradford as well as playing Lamont Cranston — otherwise known as The Shadow — in The Shadow ReturnsBehind the Mask and The Missing Lady. His career moved on to playing supporting roles as well as TV work before retiring in 1966.

In The Lost City, he plays a scientist named Bruce Gordon who climbs the Magnetic Mountain and descends into the secret world of the Lemurians who are led by the evil Zolok. He’s played by William “Stage” Boyd, who was tired of being confused with actor William Boyd and added the middle name to somewhat haugtily proclaim that yes, he had stage experience. He also had a major drinking and drug problem that got so bad that — keep in mind this was during Prohibition — he started not only losing roles, but cost the other William Boyd his RKO contract because papers would print photos of the non “Stage” Boyd every time “Stage” Boyd got in trouble. This was his final role. As for his namesake, he changed his name to Bill Boyd and overcame being penniless in 1931 when RKO fired him and got the role that would change his life: Hopalong Cassidy.

When that film series ended up in 1948, Boyd had nearly bankrupted himself again by buying the rights to every film, something few actors did. He sold or mortgaged everything he owned, which didn’t pay off until he took one of his older pictures to the local NBC television station and offered it at a low rental cost, hoping that people would start talking. They did. He became one of the first national TV stars with every one of his films sold to NBC, got a new radio show and rebuilt his personal fortune.

Back to Lemuria.

Zolok has gone full Ming and created natural disasters to weaken the human race before his takeover. He’s also keeping Dr. Manyus (Josef Swickard) — and his daughter Natcha (Claudia Dell) — and forcing him to transform Lemurians into mindless giants as well as making his enemies, the spider loving Wangas, into weak slaves.

Back to Hopalong Cassidy. One of the other actors in this film, George “Gabby” Hayes, who plays the sidekick of Hopalong named Windy Halliday from 1935 to 1939. He quit that role when he felt he wasn’t being paid what he was worth and left for Republic Pictures. He had to change the name of his character to Gabby Whitaker and ended up being even more successful, appearing in 44 Roy Rogers movies, 14 Wild Bill Elliot films and 7 movies with Gene Autry. He also became a TV star once westerns became big on the new medium. While in the movies he was a gnarled up old man who spoke in strange gruff phrases, he was actually an intelligent and well-spoken man.

Gorzo, the dwarf bad guy in this, is played by Billy Bletcher, whose career is filled with nearly a hundred roles. He’s best known for playing the Big Bad Wolf and Mickey Mouse’s enemy Pete in the early Disney cartoons. He also worked with Pinto Colvig to do the ADR voices of the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz.

The Lost City is not all that different from The Phantom Empire, taking that Gene Autry serial and moving it from a cowboy-friendly locale into the jungle. Producer Sherman S. Krellberg would edit the twelve episodes into four movies and added new footage to create new endings for each movie. The character Queen Rama and the Wangas, butthen made another version that had all of those characters and called it City of Lost Men. He also made another version of this in the 70s that is full of continuity issues.

Director Harry Revier made several early Tarzan movies but I know him best for the truly berserk Lash of the Penitentes, an early exploitation film promising women whipping themselves and, yes, delivering while cashing in on a then-well-known controversy.

As for Lemuria, it was a major obsession for occultists at this time. Theosophy founder Madame Helena Blavatsky had written a system of magic that involved Lemuria as the place where humans came from originally. We can also tie the underground world to another popular mid-20th century myth, The Shavers. Checkout films like The Mole People and the sort-of-doc Beyond Lemuria to learn more. Or ask me. I can talk about this kind of weird stuff for days.

The Lost City looks dated today but was state-of-the-art in 1935. Check it out for yourself and see how far movies have come.

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