"Bring on your mastodons! Bring on your mammoths!"
"I will -- if any of you spineless worms are brave enough to go back with me into the trackless jungle where these monsters live."
And so it begins, as Doctor Challenger recruits a team of Brits to explore The Lost World. The classic 1925 silent film will screen at the Castro Theatre as part of the 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival with the Los Angeles-based, hybrid-pop band Dengue Fever performing a live score. Get ready for some campy dinosaur battles, mischievous ape-men and khaki-clad adventurers bumbling around the Amazon. Many of the film's sets are reminiscent of the waterways that wind through the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland. Savages, gators, intrepid explorers and dinaosaurs collide in this adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic novel, depicting a land where prehistoric beasts still roam the earth.
But it's not all Mystery Science Theatre type of material. The Lost World marks stop-motion animatation wiz, Willis O'Brien's impressive Hollywood feature debut, which led to his most famous gig: animating the original King Kong. The technology may be dated, but imagine what it must have been like to see dinosaurs jumping around on screen in 1925. The Lost World contains the perfect mix of sheer artistry and unintentional humor -- similar to 1919's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
Dengue Fever describes its sound as "a Cambodian pop rock psychedelic dance party!" The band was formed after keyboardist Ethan Holtzman returned from a trip to Angkor Wat with a tape of '60s Cambodian pop music, which he used to infect his guitarist brother, Zac. The two discovered Cambodian singer, Chhom Nimol, performing at a Khmer restaurant in Long Beach, pulled together a group and recorded an album of covers. The band's subsequent releases have included more original material, expanding its repertoir and influences to include Bollywood, Spaghetti Western, psychedelic rock, ska, Ethiopan jazz and more.
Dengue Fever's surf jingles, electric piano and '60s inspired kitsch should fit The Lost World's mysterious, yet playful, tone well. It will be interesting to hear how singer Chhom Nimol integrates her vocals, often sung in both English and Khmer, with the film's dialogue title cards. Hopefully the written score leaves room for spontaneity. I'm optimistic. It should be a fun show.
The Lost World is playing at the Castro Theatre as part of the 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival on Tuesday, May 5, 2009. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., San Francisco, CA 94114. Screening at 8pm. Members $15, general $20.