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Passengers aboard a small airplane discover that they have been kidnapped by someone posing as their assigned pilot. The plane crashes in the Himalayan mountain range along the border of China. The dying pilot's last words indicate there is a lamasery near by at Shangi-La and they will find help there. The passengers go to the lamasery and uncover a mystery.
The novel was filmed again in 1973 as a spectacular star-studded musical flop.
The 1937 film provides examples of:
- Age Without Youth: Averted - you live long and age proportionately in Shangri-La.
- The Chosen One: Conway was specially selected to go to Shangri-La, and the other passengers were considered wonderful, accidental additions to the lamasery who all (excepting Mallinson) found reasons to be happy there.
- Development Hell: More like post-production Hell - the production went swimmingly but it turned out to be six hours long. Eventually it was cut down to feature-length after several test screenings.
- Hidden Elf Village: Shangri-La
- Hurting Hero: Conway the protagonist
- MacGuffin Location
- Mighty Whitey: Featuring a modern Mighty Whitey in the 1930s, when the old-fashioned version was still in vogue. The mostly Chinese and Tibetan monks there prove themselves to be wise, intelligent, competent, and well-rounded characters. However, the white Conway turns out to be better at being a monk than the best of the Tibetans, and it turns out that the founder and leader of the monastery is a European who arrived in the 15th century.
- Missing Episode: The film had a running time of 132 minutes in its first release. When restored in 1973, only 125 minutes of film could be found, but they did have the entire soundtrack. The restored version shows publicity photos and stills in place of the missing film elements.
- No Immortal Inertia
- Rapid Aging: This may be Lo-Tsen's fate.
- Shamgri La
- Stock Footage: The 1937 film borrowed a few shots of snowy mountain peaks from a documentary to make it more realistic.
- Utopia: Shangri-La