The Land That Time Forgot is a 1975 fantasy/adventure film starring Doug McClure, Susan Penhaligon, and John McEnery. The picture has reached near-cult status in the United States, and is based on the novel of the same name by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Recently, this writer interviewed Penhaligon about the making of the film, and about her career on stage, and in pictures:
Robert: You come from Cornwall, what was it like growing up there?
Susan: It was idyllic. Cornwall is a little like Sausalito, California but quainter and older. The coves, the sea, the granite rocks, the fishing heritage makes for a tough people. We are Celtic like the Welsh and the Scots and the Irish, although many people forget this, as Cornwall lost its language in the 18th century. I was brought up with the sea on my doorstep and salt in the air in St Ives, a town colonised by artists. There is an expression there, 'Cornish maids be bold and stubborn,' and I've certainly got some of that.
Robert: How were you cast for the part of biologist ‘Lisa Clayton’?
Susan: I went for a meeting with the producer and director, read some script, and that was that. Seemed much easier in those days
Robert: A large part of the film is dedicated to explosions, fire, and rocks dropping to the ground. Some is done with models, but much of it was done live. Were you ever hurt or occasionally frightened by some of the special effects? In some scenes, it looks as if the special effects people stretched the envelope a bit.
Susan: Yes, a good question. I'm not sure health and safety was so strict in the 70's. I was never hurt but Doug Mclure and I were often only feet away from explosions. He was fantastic, much more experienced than I and he looked after me. On one occasion, dragging me away from a hailstorm of cork blown up to represent a volcano erupting. Yes, I remember a lot of fire, and blue screen acting with no dinosaurs. It seemed very technical but nothing compared to today's effects. I think it was remarkable considering it was pre CGI.
Robert: Many of the early scenes in the picture were set aboard a German submarine, interiors and exteriors. I know a few shots were done with models, and perhaps stock footage. Were any of the scenes actually shot aboard a real submarine, such as an old Royal Navy boat?
Susan: No. We were in a huge tank at Shepperton Studios. (see picture) Apparently it was the largest tank in Europe, so large there were clouds floating across the ceiling. We were rowed out to the boat every day. I think the submarine was built in the tank.
Robert: Did you make a particular friend during filming who was closer to you than the other cast members?
Susan: I was very friendly with my 'stand in,' Sue. And her second name was Friendly. True :)
Robert: In America, The Land That Time Forgot has almost reached cult status. The picture is still shown regularly on cable television here, and was recently released in a Blu-Ray version to good reviews and sales at Amazon. Were you aware that the popularity of the movie has actually grown over the years in America? And is it the same situation in Great Britain?
Susan: That's fab to hear! I didn't realise it was so popular in the States. In the UK many people don't realise it was me in the movie as I'm mostly known for a 70's TV series called Bouquet of Barbed Wire.
(Bouquet of Barbed Wire was a 1976 UK television series based on a 1969 novel by Andrea Newman of the same name. It was created by London Weekend Television for ITV in 1976. The series was notorious for its treatment of family and sexual dynamics, and focused on the relationship between a father and daughter.)
Robert: In the years since the picture was released, do you still have contact with any of the other cast members?
Susan: Not really. It was a long time ago and some actors are still with us and sadly some are not.
Robert: Were you offered a part in the sequel, The People That Time Forgot?
Susan: I wasn't! What can I say :)
Robert: What was your least-favorite scene in the picture?
Susan: I didn't like wearing the wig. I was more vain in those days and I didn't think it suited me. Of course, now if I see the film I think why did I give myself all that angst over a wig? It's not what you look like, it's how well you can act.
Robert: Can you tell us a bit about your current life, and the things that you support today?
Susan: I have worked consistently in the UK for 44 years and never done another job. I consider that to be a success, not fame and fortune. I come from a theatre background and have always loved it, and over the last twenty years I've performed mainly in the theatre. This isn't a choice - and here I'm going to join the chorus of actresses speaking out about the lack of roles for mature women - it's because I do the best of the parts that are offered to me, and the TV and film roles have become less as I've gotten older. The theatre is much kinder to older actors, and the parts can be fantastic. Of course I'd love to do more TV and films. Interestingly I think the best parts are on Netflix and Amazon. They are making the best written drama at the moment. And there are so many British actors in the casts. I'm following Turn, and just finished The Man in The High Castle. I can't wait for the next House of Cards.
Robert: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
Susan: You're welcome.