Lost Horizon (1973 film)

Lost Horizon (1973 film)

Infobox Film
name = Lost Horizon

image_size = 200px
caption = film poster by Howard Terpning
director = Charles Jarrott
producer =
writer =
narrator =
starring = Peter Finch
John Gielgud
Liv Ullmann
Sally Kellerman
Olivia Hussey
Charles Boyer
George Kennedy
Michael York
music = Burt Bacharach
Hal David
cinematography =
editing =
distributor = Columbia Pictures
released =
runtime = 150 Min
country = flagicon|USA USA
language = English
budget =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
website =
amg_id =
imdb_id = 0070337

"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.

The film is a remake of Frank Capra's film of the same name, with screenplay by Larry Kramer. Both films are based on James Hilton's novel. However, the 1973 version was a notorious critical and commercial failure. It 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". [Caporiccio, Joe "Lost Horizon" CD soundtrack liner notes.] Attempts to update the idea of Shangri-La with 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. [Kael, Pauline "Reeling" (1977) Marion Boyars]

After derided preview screenings [Medved, Harry and Michael "The Golden Turkey Awards" (1980) Berkley] Columbia 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.

In a motif similar to the use of Technicolor in "The Wizard of Oz", the film only becomes a musical in the central Shangri-La sequence, with the framing 'civilization' sequences played as straight drama.

The film was not available on video for years until Pioneer Entertainment released a reconstructed version of the longer cut on laserdisc. It is out of print and now fetches high prices on eBay.


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 and 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 ages while maintaining a youthful appearance.

The newcomers quickly adjust to life in Shangri-La, especially Richard Conway (Peter Finch), the group's leader. He meets and 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 counseling with lamas Chang (John Gielgud) and To Len (James Shigeta) and discovers a new lease on life. Sam Cornelius (George Kennedy) discovers gold, but Sally convinces him to use his engineering skills to bring better irrigation to the famers of Shangri-La instead of attempting to smuggle the gold out. Harry Lovett (Bobby Van) is a third-rate comic and song and dance man who discovers he 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 with him 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 quickly revert to her actual age.

Richard is summoned to meet the High Lama (Charles Boyer), who informs him that the he was brought there for a reason, to take over the leadership of the community when he himself dies. However, the night the High Lama dies, George and Maria tell Richard that everything the High Lama and Chang have said is a lie, and convince him to leave with them immediately. Richard is still in shock from the High Lama's death, and 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.


The soundtrack was moderately more successful than the film peaking at #56 on the Billboard Hot 200. The title song was performed by Shawn Philips.Of the lead actors only Sally Kellerman, Bobby Van, and James Shigeta do their own singing. Olivia Hussey, Peter Finch and Liv Ullman were dubbed by Andrea Wills, Jerry Whitman, and Diana Lee respectively. The song "Living Together, Growing Together" was a minor hit for Fifth Dimension. The song "Things I Will Not Miss" was covered by Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye for the 1973 album Diana and Marvin.


• Lost Horizon (sung by Shawn Philips 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, Sally Kellerman and George Kennedy had a reprise of "Living Together, Growing Together" that was also lost.


Olivia Hussey appeared previously with Michael York in Romeo and Juliet. Hussey and George Kennedy would be seen together again in the 1978 film Death on the Nile and the 1980 sci-fi flop Virus.Even though they play brothers, Michael York was in fact 26 years younger than Peter Finch. Much commented at the time, including in the New York Times review, was the fact that John Gielgud's eyes were taped back to play the part of Chang.

External Links and References

*imdb title|id=0070337|title=Lost Horizon (1973)

* [http://www.losthorizon.org www.LostHorizon.org] information about the book, movie, and real life Shangri-La's.

* [http://www.filmthreat.com/index.php?section=features&Id=1723| Film Threat -Truth In Entertainment] Modern critical commentary on the film.

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