Lost Horizon (1973)
Oh, lordy, where to begin? Lost Horizon is about as mind-numbingly, slap-your-face-to-stay-awake dull and tortured as a musical could possibly be. It fails on just about every level imaginable in bringing a story no one asked for, no one wanted to see, and almost no one did.
By the end of the 1960s, the era of the creaky, big-budget, epic studio musical had passed. Several of them fell and exploded with such force (Star!, Hello, Dolly etc.) that the obituaries and eulogies were already written. So, apart from the fact that Lost Horizon just sucked by its own right, through a case of bad timing it already had no hope to succeed sight unseen.
Based on the original novel and Frank Capra's 1937 film, Lost Horizon tells the tale of a plane load of Americans who crash land somewhere in the Himalayas, only to find a secret passageway to the land of Shangri-La. Shangri-La is the happiest place (not really) on Earth; the sun is always shining, it's full of peace and harmony and everyone lives for many centuries. Essentially, it's a place that would send any normal, rational person screaming in the other direction. It's like being forever trapped on the 'It's a Small World' Ride at Disneyand for eternity. Anyway, the very thin story deals with how the Americans and the Shargi-la-ians learn about each other's worlds and learn to love and grow...or something. For the film's agonizing 150 minutes we get to watch a passel of stars be overcome by a terminal case of the cutes.
The Americans are played by such stars as Peter Finch, Michael York, Sally Kellerman and George Kennedy, and the featured Shangri-La-ians are Charles Boyer, John Gielgud, Liv Ullman and Olivia Hussey. How many of them strike you as capable singers? How about capable dancers? That's right. None. You'd really have to look far and wide to find a more inappropriate cast as this. And this doesn't just go for the stars; none of the background chorus of extras can sing or dance either. It's just a riot of gyrations, swinging arms and various attempts to mimic the movements of a chicken on a hotplate.
These 'dancers' and 'singers' get the songs they deserve. Burt Bacharach and Hal David provided the song score and it's just one forgettable and wildly outdated song after another, a miscalculated time-warp attempt to recapture the glory of The Sound of Music.
Neither audiences nor critics fell for it. Lost Horizon was such a cataclysmic box office bust that it was sentenced to movie exile for decades, being unavailable for home viewing until quite recently, and it's no wonder. It's true that Can't Stop the Music may be a worse musical, but Lost Horizon is far more unendurable. So, take your pick.