I recently got the restored copy of "Lost Horizon" (1973) in the Pioneer laser disc edition, and so I have seen--at last--the complete version of this film. Consequently, I would like to open a debate which should help us to rediscover this film.
At the time of its release, there were all the premonitions for a flop: pacifist themes, an exaltation of moral and life-affirming values in Hal David's lyrics, and a "European" organization of music and choreography more similar to an operetta than a Hollywood or Broadway musical. America at the time was going through the difficult years of the Vietnam War, and perhaps this film bothered American society by showing human desperation during war and preaching the comprehension of and ability to believe in ideals for the promotion of peace and tolerance.
In addition, the distributors of the film, in my opinion, made a mistake in shortening it; it became a bad copy of Frank Capra's "Lost Horizon," which (Don't let us forget!) was almost a flop.
Parts of Hermes Pan's choreography deserve to be rediscovered and reevaluated, but--above all--it is Burt Bacharach's music that reaches soaring heights in composition. In the orchestration of stringed and wind instruments, Bacharach's studies with Darius Milhaud become apparent, but the rhythm section remains very important as it generates a basis on which all the orchestra (which in some passages--"Share the Joy, "If I Could Go Back"--arrives at almost symphonic sonorities) is organized.
Bacharach revived this use of the orchestra on Woman (LP, 1979), turning it into a clever cocktail of jazz and learned music. This music is the best vehicle for the message of hope, which we can appreciate in the immediacy of songs like "The World Is A Circle."
Compositions range from the typical musical song "Question Me An Answer" to "Lost Horizon," in which the message of James Hilton, the author of the book on which the film is based, is summarized: hope for the future and a purpose for human life lead to a better world.
An important indication is related to the vocalist of the title song: Shawn Phillips has always used the song as a tool to communicate his pacifist ideas.
In the NME magazine of 13/4/1996, Bacharach declared that he did not love "Lost Horizon"; in his opinion, the efforts to make it had not produced his desired results. We should remember that it was the beginning of an unhappy time for the composer.
We should also remember that the reviewers at the time did not question the quality of the songs, but critiqued the direction, the cast and so on. By 1973, the musical was dead, and other examples of it during the '60s and '70s, even involving important authors, flopped.
Today, after 23 years, I think we should have the courage to see the film as it was and is: a beautiful musical with excellent songs, sometimes supported by a little heavy direction which works strongly in relation to Bacharach and David's songs.
A good sign in favor of the quality of the music is that the original soundtrack entered the Billboard charts and stayed there for 21 weeks, reaching the 58th position!
Finally, I think that we should see and consider again this film, in its complete version on the Pioneer Laser Disc, to rediscover the beauty and poetry of its impeccable montage.
I hope that Mr. Bacharach will eventually decide to authorize a new CD edition of the soundtrack, both in the orchestral and vocal versions (if only it were a double CD!)...
...Or...is this a Lost Horizon ?
P.S. I apologize for the bad English translation of my thoughts! Many thanks to my wife Antonella for her help and enormous patience!
Lost Horizon LP
Bell 1300, Bell Records 1973
Lost Horizon (sung by Phillips Shawn)
Share the Joy (Andrea Willis)
The World is a Circle (Chorus, Diana Lee, Bobby Van)
Living Together, Growing Together (Chorus, James Sigheta)
I Might Frighten Her Away (Jerry Hutman, Diana Lee)
The Things I Will Not Miss (Sally Kellerman, Andrea Willis)
If I Could Go Back (Jerry Hutman)
Where Knowledge Ends/Faith Begins (Diana Lee)
Question Me an Answer (Bobby Van, Chorus)
I Come to You (Jerry Hutman, Diana Lee)
Reflection (Sally Kellerman)
Orchestration: Leo Shuken, Jack Hayes and Burt Bacharach
Produced and conducted by Burt Bacharach.
Lost Horizon Laserdisc
Pioneer Special Edition PSE 92-25 widescreen edition, 1992
Digitally remastered, restored stereo soundtrack, multi audio: Digital channels: Film soundtrack in stereo; Analog left channel: Film soundtrack; Analog right channel: Music only track.
Specials notes: Sally Kellerman, James Sigheta, Bobby Van provide their own vocals for songs, while Olivia Hussey was dubbed by Andrea Willis, Liv Ullmann dubbed by Diana Lee, and Peter Finch by Diana's husband, Jerry Hutman.
"Lost Horizon" was cut by several minutes shortly after its initial release. Most of these cut consisted of musical sequences. An attempt was made to restore these scenes for this edition, but an exhaustive search through the Columbia archives proved only partly successful. The songs "I Come to You," "If I Could Go Back" and "Where Knowledge Ends" have been reinstated as they appeared in the original roadshow version of the film, although the reprise of "If I Could Go Back," two reprises of "Living Together" and the beautiful fertility dance sequence remain missing. The original stereo soundtrack has also been restored, reproducing the rich orchestrations with unprecedented clarity. As an added feature, the right analog channel of this edition features the musical numbers with orchestra background only, under direction of Burt Bacharach.
Parma, 19 /11/1996