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Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Movies about dinosaurs in the modern world have traditionally been classified as sci-fi, though the science part has typically been thin. In Dinosaurus, the science is completely lacking. They're just there. No techno-babble is offered to explain them. But, since it's listed as a sci-fi movie, it's reviewed here. Dinosaurus was brought to you by the same team that gave you The Blob and 4D Man. This movie was crafted more as amusement and entertainment for a younger demographic, than any sort of statement or social commentary. The stereotype characters fit this task by being predictable. There's a brave hero, a pretty woman to be in peril (many times), a trusting boy, a cowardly villain (complete with bumbling sidekicks), drunk Irish guy, etc. etc.

Quick Plot Synopsis
A construction crew is blasting offshore on a caribbean island to deepen the harbor. The blasting uncovers two "frozen" dinosaurs, a T-Rex and a brontosaur. The workers haul them up on the beach. Lightning from a thunderstorm awakens them. A local villain also finds a "frozen" neaderthal in the seaweed. He too, is awakened by the storm. This same storm knocks out all power and communications on the island. A tangled mass of subplots consumes the middle of the movie. The villain wants the neaderthal so he can sell him. The hero and heroine search for a lost orphan (whom the villain abuses). The construction crew try to evacuate the islanders to the ruins of an old fort for protection from the T-Rex. There are comic scenes of the caveman discovering modern life, like wax fruit and mirrors, etc. The boy, caveman and brontosaur become friends. When Rex causes a cave-in of the abandoned mine everyone hiding in, caveman sacrifices himself holding up a timber so everyone else can escape. Eventually, Rex fights bronto and wins. Bronto staggers into quicksand, denying Rex his meal. Everyone has run to the fort. Rex turns on the fort, which cannot hold out. The hero duels with Rex with a steam shovel. Our hero delivers the roundhouse knockout punch with the big bucket and Rex falls off the cliff into the sea. The End. (?)

Why is this movie fun?
Fans of stop-motion dinosaur movies will be amused. The fact that the cast are relative unknowns provides some freshness (even if the characters are flatly predictable.)

Cold War Angle
There are no cautions about nuclear testing or commie spies or world domination. Dinosaurus is just good clean rampaging-dinosaur fun. Nothing deeper than that.

Big Budget B -- Color filming and CinemaScope were becoming a bit less expensive by the late 50s. This allowed some bolder independent teams, such as Harris', to dabble in what was once A-only territory. Harris saved on actors' pay, employing second and third tier talent. The stop motion, while not Harryhausen, got a fair amount of screen time. For a B-film, Dinosaurus was fairly plush.

Popular Anachronism -- Sober-faced science types pooh-pooh the mixing of "cavemen" and dinosaurs, on the assumption that they lived millions of years apart. The popular mind, however, has no such trouble. Cavemen and dinosaurs were natural neighbors. Q.v. Johnny Hart's "B.C." comic strip and "The Flintstones" cartoon.

Ahead Of His Time -- Harris and his writers included some comic scenes of the "Neaderthal" man encountering the modern home: glass windows, plastic fruit you can't eat, paintings, mirrors and flush toilets, etc. The scenes did not advance the plot at all, but were entertaining -- a sort of vignette skit-within-a-story.

Questionable Ending -- Producer Jack Harris seemed eager to keep his options open for sequels. Both The Blob and now Dinosaurus ended with the words "The End" morphing into a question mark. Sadly, Harris and his friends never followed up with "Return of the Blob" or "Rex's Revenge."

Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em -- The climax of the movie is worth the wait. The battle of T-Rex vs. Steam Shovel is fascinating for its quirkiness. Bart delivers several good boxer-style punches to Rex's jaw with the big steel bucket. The whole scene seemed based on the toy Rock 'Em-Sock 'Em Robots.

Bottom line? Dinosaurus is not deep in any way, but does manage to entertain. Don't look for any science amid the fiction. Fans of stop-motion dinosaur movies should find something to like.

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