Lost Horizon (1973 film)
film poster by Howard Terpning
|Directed by||Charles Jarrott|
|Produced by||Ross Hunter|
|Written by||Larry Kramer|
|Music by||Burt Bacharach
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Release date(s)||March 17, 1973|
|Running time||150 minutes|
|Box office||$3,800,000 (US/ Canada rentals)|
Lost Horizon is a 1973 musical film directed by Charles Jarrott and starring Peter Finch, John Gielgud, Liv Ullmann, Michael York, Sally Kellerman, Bobby Van, George Kennedy, Olivia Hussey, James Shigeta and Charles Boyer.
This was the final film produced by Ross Hunter.
This version is much closer to the 1937 film than to the original James Hilton novel. It tells the story of a group of travellers whose airplane is hijacked while fleeing a bloody revolution. The airplane crash lands in an unexplored area of the Himalayas, where the party is rescued and taken to the lamasery of Shangri-La. Miraculously, Shangri-La, sheltered by mountains on all sides, is a temperate paradise amid the land of snows. Perfect health is the norm, and inhabitants live to very old age while maintaining a youthful appearance.
The newcomers quickly adjust, especially Richard Conway (Peter Finch), the group's leader. He falls in love with Catherine (Liv Ullmann), a school teacher. Sally Hughes (Sally Kellerman), a drug-addicted Newsweek photographer, is suicidal at first, but begins counselling with lamas Chang (John Gielgud) and To Len (James Shigeta) and finds inner peace. Sam Cornelius (George Kennedy) discovers gold, but Sally convinces him to use his engineering skills to bring better irrigation to the farmers of Shangri-La instead of attempting to smuggle out the gold. Harry Lovett (Bobby Van) is a third-rate comic and song and dance man who has a flair for working with the children of Shangri-La.
Everyone is content to stay except Conway's younger brother, George (Michael York). George has fallen in love with Maria (Olivia Hussey), a dancer, and wants to take her along when he leaves. Chang warns Richard that Maria came to Shangri-La over eighty years before, at the age of twenty. If she were to leave the valley, she would revert to her actual age.
Richard is summoned to meet the High Lama (Charles Boyer), who informs him that he was brought there for a reason, to succeed him as the leader of the community. However, on the night that the High Lama dies, George and Maria insist to Richard that everything the High Lama and Chang have said is a lie. They convince him to leave immediately.
Still in shock from the High Lama's death, Richard leaves without even saying goodbye to Catherine. Not long after their departure, Maria suddenly ages and dies, and George falls to his death down an icy ravine. Richard struggles on alone, ending up in a hospital bed in the Himalayan foothills. He runs away, back to the mountains, and miraculously finds the portal to Shangri-La once more.
Lost Horizon is considered one of the last in a string of box office musical failures which came in the wake of the success of The Sound of Music. Attempts to update the idea of Shangri-La with -- in the eyes of a liberal New York Times film critic -- its racial inequalities intact, coupled with old-fashioned songs effectively sealed its fate. Pauline Kael noted that Shangri-La was depicted as:
a middle-class geriatric utopia [where]... you can live indefinitely, lounging and puttering about for hundreds of years... the Orientals are kept in their places, and no blacks... are among the residents. There's probably no way to rethink this material without throwing it all away.
After derided preview screeningsColumbia Pictures re-cut the film, but to no avail. Critic John Simon remarked that it "must have arrived in garbage rather than in film cans." The songs were written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, whose long partnership hit rocky ground within months of this film's release. It was such a poor performer at the box office that the film was ridiculed as "Lost Investment." Bette Midler alluded to it as "Lost Her-Reason" and famously quipped, "I never miss a Liv Ullmann musical." (Ullmann later appeared in Richard Rodgers' last Broadway musical, I Remember Mama, yet another flop for the "Swedish nightingale," adapted from the John Van Druten play and dubbed "I Dismembered Mama.") 
The film was selected for inclusion in the book 50 Worst Films of All Time, co-written by critic Michael Medved.
However, star Peter Finch did say he enjoyed making the film.
Larry Kramer has publicly acknowledged that he is not particularly proud of his workmanlike job adapting the original film's script for this film. However, hot on the heels of Kramer's Oscar-nomination for the screenplay for Women in Love, the deal he engineered for this, combined with savvy investments, made it possible for him to live the rest of his creative life free of financial worries. In that sense, this film enabled Kramer to devote himself to the gay community activism and the writings (e.g., his ground-breaking AIDS play, The Normal Heart) which came later.
The soundtrack was moderately more successful than the film, peaking at #56 on the Billboard Hot 100. The title song was performed by Shawn Phillips. The song "Living Together, Growing Together" was a #32 hit for The 5th Dimension. The song "Things I Will Not Miss" was covered by Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye during recording sessions for the 1973 album Diana and Marvin.
Of the lead actors, only Sally Kellerman, Bobby Van, and James Shigeta perform their own singing. Olivia Hussey, Peter Finch and Liv Ullmann were dubbed by Andra Willis, Jerry Whitman, and Diana Lee respectively.
Ullman was later to do her own singing in Richard Rodgers' final Broadway musical, "I Remember Mama," with a supporting cast which included George Hearn as Papa and George S. Irving as Uncle Chris. Negative reviews and poor box office forced the show's early closing, and it is was mockingly referred to as "I Dismembered Mama."
- "Lost Horizon" (sung by Shawn Phillips over the opening and closing credits)
- "Share The Joy" (Maria)
- "The World Is a Circle" (Catherine)
- "Living Together, Growing Together" (To Len and Company)
- "I Might Frighten Her Away" (Richard and Catherine)
- "The Things I Will Not Miss" (Sally and Maria)
- "If I Could Go Back" (Richard)
- "Where Knowledge Ends" (Faith Begins)" (Catherine)
- "Reflections" (Sally)
- "Question Me an Answer" (Harry)
- "I Come to You" (Richard)
Large parts of the score were deleted after the film's road show release. The dance sections of "Living Together, Growing Together" were cut, and the master negatives lost. "If I Could Go Back", "Where Knowledge Ends (Faith Begins)", and "I Come To You" were cut, but restored for the laserdisc release of the film. All of the songs appear on the soundtrack LP and CD. According to the notes on the laserdisc release, Kellerman and Kennedy had a reprise of "Living Together, Growing Together" that was also lost.
On October 11, 2011, Columbia Classics, the manufacturing-on-demand unit of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, released a fully restored version of the film on DVD in Region 1, which reinstated all of the elements cut after the roadshow release. The DVD also contains supplemental features, including promos featuring producer Ross Hunter as well as the original song demos played and sung by composer Burt Bacharach. Some of these demos contain different Hal David lyrics than the final versions utilized in the film.
On December 11, 2012, Screen Archives Entertainment (Twilight Time) released an exclusive Blu-ray version of the film, with a 5.1 lossless soundtrack and an isolated film score.
- "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19
- Caporiccio, Joe Lost Horizon CD soundtrack liner notes.
- Kael, Pauline Reeling (1977) Marion Boyars
- Medved, Harry and Michael The Golden Turkey Awards (1980) Berkley
- Interview with Peter Finch for Australian radio
- Lost Horizon at the Internet Movie Database
- www.LostHorizon.org information about the book, movie, and real life Shangri-Las.
- Film Threat -Truth In Entertainment Modern critical commentary on the film.