Tentacles #2: The Lost Continent


If William Hope Hodgson’s The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig’ represents the Sublime of tentacular sea fiction then The Lost Continent, a 1968 Hammer film based on Dennis Wheatley’s 1938 novel Uncharted Seas, is the correspondingly Ridiculous end of the subgenre. The Lost Continent is an irritating film for Hodgson enthusiasts since it’s still the most Hodgsonian film out there, at least where the Sargasso side of things is concerned.


Illustration by SR Boldero (1960).

Despite its Wheatley origins the similarities to Hodgson’s sea stories are no coincidence: Wheatley chose two Hodgson titles—Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder and The Ghost Pirates—for the Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult series that Sphere Books published in the 1970s. In the introductions Wheatley notes that Hodgson was a favourite writer whose work he discovered in the 1920s; he also mentions having collected a set of Hodgson first editions. Wheatley could have justifiably claimed that the “Weed-World” as a location wasn’t unique to Hodgson but Uncharted Seas also features the giant crabs, marauding octopuses and besieged castaways familiar from The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig’ and the short stories.


This film starts out like The Love Boat on acid, as a cast of varied characters, with various issues, take Captain Eric Portman’s leaky cargo ship to escape their troubles. When a violent storm strikes, the ship is swept into the Sargasso Sea and our heroes find themselves trapped on an island of man-eating seaweed, populated by giant monster crabs and some Spanish conquistadors who think the Inquisition is still on. Features songs and music by ’60s “cool group”, The Peddlers.

Précis for The Lost Continent at IMDB

Hammer made The Lost Continent in the same year as their other Wheatley adaptation, The Devil Rides Out, a superior film in every way. The Lost Continent suffers by promising much not only in its title—there’s no continent at all, merely a large tank filled with weed and a wrecked ship—but also in the poster art where the grasping tentacles look a lot more convincing than the rubbery reality that comes lurching out of the studio mist. The last half-hour is an improvement on the first hour at least, most of which is occupied by the actors bickering their way through a bad script while they sail into trouble. Consequently it’s a relief when they start getting killed off. Eric Porter, my favourite Professor Moriarty, does a commendable job of staying resolutely serious in the face of some ridiculous sights.


Oh look, a signifying text! Nigel Stock, fresh from appearing in The Prisoner, checks the novel to find out what fate will befall him and his daughter (Suzanna Leigh, left).


Suzanna Leigh isn’t impressed with her date.


“The cemetery of the oceans.”

It’s worth staying with The Lost Continent mostly for the Sargasso atmosphere unless you’re a Hammer completist or watching it for Dana Gillespie. Thinking about this film in relation to William Hope Hodgson makes me wonder what other films might be labelled Hodgsonian. The ghost pirates in John Carpenter’s excellent The Fog (1980) come to mind although that film is on dry land for most of its running time. There’s the Pirates of the Caribbean films, of course, although—Kraken aside—they’re too light-hearted. Anyone have any other suggestions?


Ms. Leigh and tentacled friend in post-coital embrace? Probably best not to ask…

Previously on { feuilleton }
Tentacles #1: The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig’
S. Latitude 47°9′, W. Longitude 126°43′
The art of Robert Lawson, 1892–1957
Weekend links: Hodgson edition
Druillet meets Hodgson

9 thoughts on “Tentacles #2: The Lost Continent”

  1. It’s not an exact fit, but I get some Hodgsonian vibes from the Bernard Herrmann-scored Jules Verne films. The crab/cephalopod/shipwrecked scenario in “mysterious island” (1961), or the giant mushrooms in “journey to the center of the earth” (1959).

    and then there’s Matango (1963)!

  2. recently read Jean Ray’s “Mainz Psalter” and Michel Bernanos’ “The Other Side of the Mountain” in the Weird anthology, which struck me as hodgsonian in a powerful way. Wish there were more films/stories in this weird excursion vein.

  3. While I can’t think of anything Hodgsonian cinema for the life of me I did like the mention of Nigel Stock in the film and on The Prisoner. I’ve always really enjoyed the exchange of British character actors in shows of that period. Especially Peter Bowles’ role in my favorite episode “A, B, and C,” after I had previously saw him play a low level thug on The Avengers, and the lovely Georgina Cookson.

    Oh and thanks for the link to the Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult, while I’ve looked into it before I can’t remember looking over a complete list. Seeing it today brought Powys’ Morwyn to my attention; I look forward to reading that.

  4. I ought to have remembered Matango since I knew that was based on The Voice in the Night. Not sure I’ve ever seen it since I was never keen on the Toho films. The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig’ also features some an island with sinister fungal growths.

    Hodgson’s favourite situation was having people besieged by monsters so The Mist probably counts as Hodgsonian as well. That scenario is a very common one, however; ideally there needs to be some other element.

    G: For a while I was collecting the books in that Dennis Wheatley Library series, when paperbacks from the 1970s were still easy to find. A very odd collection; lots of novels then you get the whole of Goethe’s Faust and the Cheiro and Zolar books.

  5. The Mist is one of the handful of Stephen King stories I have ever read to this date because a friend of mine said that parts of it (probably the tentacles in the stockroom) reminded him of Lovecraft. So by proxy I can vouch for the Hodgson connection.

    Has there ever been anything close to his “House on the Borderland” or Carnacki stories? I’ve never read any of his sea stories but I really enjoyed both of that novel and short story series. Earlier I wanted to say I’m sure there’s at least been one Hellboy one-shot that’s paid homage to Hodgson’s Glen Carrig or his nautical horror in general so I guess I’d probably bet there’s something along the lines of the other two books as well…

    After looking over the Dennis Wheatley library I find that it’s really “dated,” or maybe that’s just the covers. I don’t have much respect for Wheatley either though so that may be influencing my opinion. I guess the whole tone reminds me of that movie on the occult you had up earlier this year (which I really enjoyed for its kitchy value.) It seems to come from a time when goat’s head and naked women was how neopaganism was viewed, instead of today where it’s a pass time for teenagers and bored housewives. I don’t know, I guess I wouldn’t particularly say that, save for the Goethe and a handful of the novels, that any of those books have any lasting occult value.

  6. Donald Pleasance played Carnacki in an episode of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. Still haven’t seen it but the whole thing is on YouTube:


    House on the Borderland poses a problem for adaptation because it ends so abruptly. And there’d be a temptation to explain some of the things that Hodgson leaves mysterious.

    I think when I first read Dracula it was the Dennis Wheatley Library edition so I have him to thank for that. I also have two of the Charles Williams novels in the series. My mother enjoyed Wheatley’s Satanist novels but I was never interested in them. Despite the clichés and nonsense surrounding the occult boom of the 1970s it did have the advantage of bringing to the surface many books which had been out of print for years.

  7. I’ll will definitely check that out, thanks. I was actually just thinking about “Escape from New York” earlier today.

    I saw “War in Heaven” on the list and that reminded me I need to read that particular novel; I’ll probably save it until Yuletide when I read my George MacDonald (also my yearly reread of Masks of the Illuminati). I’ve only looked into “Descent Into Hell,” ironically when I was going through an affair of unrequited love.

  8. One last thing: Although I’m sure I’ll enjoy his performance Pleasance is not the best choice for the role; or at least in the way that Hodgson describes Carnacki. Trivial detail, I imagine.

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