To many, the idea of making a musical version of Frank Capra’s beloved fantasy Lost Horizon (1937) was doomed. Released the year after Cabaret, this big budget, old-fashioned chintzy picture threw together a cast of (mainly) non-singers to recreate the tale of a disparate group of aircraft crash survivors seeking shelter in the Himalayan wonderland of Shangri-La, where time stands still.
Turned out to be a bit like an episode of the BBC sitcom Last of the Summer Wine. Without the thrills.
Director Charles Jarrott (Anne of the Thousand Days) had a curious cast to work with, including oldsters John Gielgud and Charles (“Come with me to the Casbah”) Boyer as Chang and the High Llama respectively.
A pre-comeback Peter Finch was ostensibly the lead, playing top diplomat Richard Conway, torn whether he should leave this Earthly Paradise. Michael York plays his brother George and fellow Romeo And Juliet (1968) alum Olivia Hussey is a local Shangri-La-ian lass Maria that York takes a shine to.
Also in the company are Sally Kellerman (‘Hot Lips’ in M*A*S*H) and Bobby Van (who?) who has absolutely no trouble playing a 4th grade comic and ‘song & dance’ man, whose antics enchant the local children. Obviously Shangri-La inhabitants don’t have much in the way of entertainment aside from lamissary chants and meditation.
Van performs perhaps the worst song in a stinker of a score:
George Kennedy is another crash survivor, seemingly having wandered in from Airport, Airport ’75, Airport ’77 or Airport ’79. And as Brother To-Lenn we have James Shigeta -- alias Joseph Yoshinobu Takagi, the Nakatomi boss in Die Hard (1989):
Here’s a few more songs from the movie, by way of explanation of why the once formidable songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David split up after the release of the picture.
David’s cod-Eastern philosophy lyrics are particularly nauseating:
Charles Boyer committed suicide six years later, which was hopefully an event unconnected to Lost Horizon. Surprisingly, Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross covered a tune from the movie, as did vocal ensemble The Fifth Dimension. I guess as tribute to Bacharach and David’s previous track record: