Long before the very funny Will Ferrell decided to destroy the memory of a ’70s classic with a horrible remake, Sid & Marty Krofft’s Land of the Lost was breaking ground and blowing our tiny minds. Despite its limited budget, the show managed to create an epic prehistoric landscape in which a fragmented family battles dinosaurs, unseen forces and the coolest of all TV demons, the Sleestaks. As a child, I found Land of the Lost the most entertaining and mind-twisting show on the tube.
The premise was simple yet incredibly complex: A family of three takes a rafting trip, crosses through some sort of multi-dimensional portal, and crosses into a world ruled by giant dinos, inhabited by strange primates and lizard people, and filled with magic temples and ruins. The 2009 remake, aimed at adults and co-produced by the Krofft brothers, was a torturous and unfunny reminder to many of us now-40 somethings to reconnect with the show, and I subsequently purchased the series on DVD.
If you decide to turn your child on to Land of the Lost, and you somehow were not a fan during its original run, you just recently discovered it and have a cursory knowledge of the characters and plotting, or you only know of the stupid-idiot remake, there are a few things you should be aware of. First, Wildlife Marshal Willenholly is not really a character in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
Well, technically he is, and obviously Will Ferrell is a fan, but Marshall, Will and Holly are the three protagonists at the center of the series. The doting father Rick Marshall, is overacted by Spencer Milligan, daughter Holly likewise overacted by Kathy Coleman and brother Will, yes, overacted by Wesley Eure. If by reading this it isn’t sufficiently clear that the acting is atrocious, the intro sequence should leave no doubt.
But the important part isn’t the acting. It’s the interaction between the family in this high-stress situation they’ve found themselves in. They rarely succumb to the daily anxieties of defending against swooping pterodactyls and advancing tyrannosaurs, not to mention potential starvation, demonic lizards with crossbows and crazy-insane flying crystals that manipulate the weather and cause all sorts of mayhem. Instead, they spend their days working out protective strategies, tending their crops and trying hard to bridge the time/space gap housed mysteriously in a glowing pyramid in the middle of the jungle.
The whole familial aspect of Land of the Lost is good for kids, but the real treat is watching — and explaining — the process of stop-motion puppetry to a child. Kids are so used to CGI that a crash-course in how it used to be is always a good thing, and the Krofft boys did it right. Not too many shows featured what looked like full-scale dinosaurs attacking a family in the middle of the woods. Granted, in retrospect, the effects seem cheesy and the scares are nearly laughable, but for a youngster, it’s a wonderful way to connect with the past and safely venture into another decidedly bizarre dimension.
My 6-year-old loves the show, asking me a litany of questions whenever we watch it together. Some I can answer: Why does Holly have to go get the water all the time? Some I cannot: How did they get back in time like that? It’s great fun, a nostalgic trip for me, remembering how much I loved the ridiculously entertaining shows of my youth. What better way to relate to my kid as she discovers her own youthful novelties, ones she’ll someday share with kids of her own.