The Land Unknown (1957) is a sci-fi, CinemaScope adventure film about a naval expedition trapped in an Antarctic jungle. The story was allegedly inspired by the discovery of unusually warm water in Antarctica in 1947. It starred Jock Mahoney and Shirley Patterson and was directed by Virgil W. Vogel. The film is notable for its low-budget special effects, which include men in dinosaur suits, puppets and monitor lizards standing in for dinosaurs. William Reynolds recalled the studio spent so much money on their mechanical dinosaur that they couldn't afford to shoot the film in colour as they first planned.
A small crew led by Commander Harold Roberts and reporter Maggie Hathaway are on an expedition into Antarctica for the United States Navy. During a helicopter flight, they are called back to their ship via radio because of an unexpected storm approaching. At first they try to fly around the storm, but low on fuel, they fly into the storm, where they almost collide in mid-air with a man-sized pterosaur. Their rotor breaks and unable to stay in the air they start to descend, and are surprised when they end up landing well below sea-level in a warm volcanic crater. Inside, they discover a steamy tropical jungle populated by living dinosaurs, giant flesh-eating plants, and fresh human footprints. The crew encounter many dangers and perils in the jungle in a fight for survival.
The crew meet Hunter, the lone survivor of a plane crash from the 1947 expedition. He has learned to survive in this land with the aid of a conch that drives off the animals and by raiding the dinosaurs' nests. He offers the remains of his airplane to repair the helicopter, but only if the crew agree to leave Maggie with him. The crew refuses, but they also know that after 25 days their ship will have to leave before the Antarctic winter sets in. Unsuccessful in finding the remains of the plane, hidden by Hunter, the crew debate leaving Maggie, or forcing the information out of Hunter by torture. Commander Roberts refuses to sink to either low. Maggie is later attacked by an Elasmosaurus Hunter rescues her. After a fight and learning that the crew refuse to torture him for the location of the plane, Hunter gives them the map to its location.
After repairing the helicopter the crew take off in a hurry as a Tyrannosaurus Rex attacks their base. They fly to pick up Maggie, who is with Hunter at the time. Hunter is ambushed by the same Elasmosaurus that leaps out of the water, and the crew come to his rescue. They fly out of the lost world with Hunter. Once clear of the crater they are able to radio their ship and are guided in. Their fuel exhausted, their helicopter crashes into the water ocean before getting to the ship. They are rescued, and once safely on the ship Harold and Maggie declare their love to each other..
The animals featured in this film include a Tyrannosaurus, Elasmosaurus, Stegosaurus live acted by monitor lizards (which would technically make them Megalania), a pair of Pterosaurs and a giant flesh-consuming plant. The mammal found by the crew then later eaten by the carnivorous plant is referred to as a tarsier but is actually a loris.
Jock Mahoney (Cmndr. Harold 'Hal' Roberts)
Shirley Patterson (Margaret 'Maggie' Hathaway) (as Shawn Smith)
William Reynolds (Lt. Jack Carmen)
Henry Brandon (Dr. Carl Hunter)
Douglas Kennedy (Capt. Burnham)
Phil Harvey (Machinist's Mate Steve Miller)
Tim Smyth (Tyrannosaurus Rex)
Produced by William Alland for Universal International Pictures (UI)
Filmed at Universal Studios - 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California, USA
The Land Unknown was given a wide release on October 30, 1957.