It’s the dinosaurs that are the dead giveaway. Or the three moons that hover in the sky. Or maybe the monkey-men called Pakuni. Or the Sleestaks, reptilian humanoids who speak awfully good English for being, well, reptilian humanoids.
How did the Marshalls get to the Land of the Lost? Sometime after his wife died, Rick (Spencer Milligan) took his two children, Will (Wesley Eure) and Holly (Kathy Coleman), on a reckless and ill-advised white water adventure when, after a violent earthquake hit, they were sent over a waterfall and into a world where every background is created with green screen effects and every natural structure with Styrofoam and plastic.
It’s the utter phoniness of the sets, costumes, plots, acting, et al. that make Land of the Lost a cult classic, one best viewed [I hear] on the finest hallucinatory drugs. It’s from the fantastical minds of Sid and Marty Krofft, who made a living off of their colorful puppets and dream worlds. Prior to Land of the Lost, which ran from 1974-’76, the duo introduced a generation to H.R. Pufnstuf (‘69-’71), Lidsville (‘71-’73), and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters (‘73-’75), programs filled with talking flutes, maniacal hats, and living, breathing seaweed.
Land of the Lost is no different. Some of the trippier, more outlandish storylines, characters, and occurrences include (in rough chronological order, for those seeking them out): a Confederate soldier who Rick suspects to be tripping on shrooms; visions of the Marshalls’ dead mother; a romance between Holly and Pakuni Cha-Ka (Philip Paley) that borders bestiality; the kids turning into zombies; Holly conversing with a future version of herself; a Sleestak peace trade involving Rick and a polka-dotted hog; a talking Sleestak skull; Will becoming invisible; a 1920s-era hot-air balloonist bent on exploiting Cha-Ka as the Missing Link; and Will’s random folk songs throughout the series.
And that’s all without mentioning the Abominable Snowman; the Marshalls’ pet Brontosaurus, Dopey; fan favorite The Zarn, both telepathic and fragile to human emotions; Enik, a future ancestor of the Sleestaks; an appearance from a pre-Bond Richard “Jaws” Kiel; the pylons and skylons; Medusa and the ghost ship captain, whose behavior screams “child abductor”; or the controversial third-season introduction of Uncle Jack (Ron Harper) who, as convenience would have it, turns up in the Land of the Lost just as Rick is sent back home.
Few of the 43 episodes follow any form of what most would call “continuity,” which lets a series of nonsensical plot points slip into the series (none of which I’ll get into, so see this link). But the tangential storylines (attributed to poor writing), bizarre characters (attributed to creative minds), and suspicious happenings (attributed to sick individuals) all make up what Land of the Lost is really all about 35 years after it premiered: camp entertainment.
Most viewers have gone years (decades!) without having seen a single episode of what is arguably Sid and Marty Krofft’s last significant work, and the one with the greatest legacy, with one TV remake (‘91-’93) and a big-screen adaptation (released on June 5th) to its credit so far. So (re)discover Land of the Lost immediately…but don’t forget your blotting paper.
Unfortunately for fans, this collection lacks any of the special features from the 2005 set, which included numerous audio commentaries from cast and crew, interviews, and more.