Dinosaurus! (1960)

As anyone who has watched science documentaries like Frankenstein or Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives knows, you can’t go around leaving your monsters out in the middle of a lightning storm. All it takes is one or two magic bolts of lightning and presto, you’re in the middle of a dinosaur rampage and worrying about your girlfriend getting raped by a caveman!

In its defense, Dinosaurus! attempts to be even-handed in its portrayal of recently reanimated prehistoric life, showcasing the positive side of things as well. Take little native boy Julio for instance. What boy hasn’t always dreamed of playing house with a Neanderthal and teaching him how to eat pie with a fork?

But it’s not all cavemen trying on dresses and riding around with him on the back of a brontosaurus (this film was obviously aimed at a “unique” audience) because Julio’s evil guardian, Hacker is on the loose and looking to capture the caveman so he can make fortune on the mainland.

Hacker is also the island manager and he constantly butts heads with Bart, the man in charge of constructing a harbor in that tropical paradise. It is during the blasting of the bay that a pair of frozen dinosaurs are discovered. Hauled in and left on the beach until scientists can arrive to deal with them, they are guarded by a drunken Irish stereotype until a lightning storm brings them back to life.

Despite such little explanation about what is happening to cause any of this, it is a peer-reviewed treatise on how to bring animals back from extinction compared to what happens with the caveman. Hacker simply finds the body washed up on the shore elsewhere and later discovers the body is missing. But why waste valuable screentime on what would just be second grade level Star Trek-type science babble (surely involving some nerd droning on about metabolic rates and and electro-stimulation of the pineal gland) when we could be watching Caveman trying to eat plastic fruit?

Once Bart realizes the dinosaurs have woke up and are running roughshod over the island (kudos to him for handling the news with no more agitation than if his trusty sidekick and heavy machinery operator Dumpy had told him that the dozer had a cracked head gasket), a plan is made for the island’s inhabitants to hole up in an old fortress until help could arrive.

Solid enough plan and better than just trying to outrun the T-Rex all weekend, but what really made me like Bart was how the plan included a moat filled with fire! Okay, it was actually his brilliant second in command Chuck who came up with all that, but it frees up Bart to do the important stuff like fighting the T-Rex with a steam shovel on top of a cliff and pretending that the steam shovel is making too much noise for him to hear his girlfriend say that she loves him. It’s called delegating and all great leaders do it!

You know what else Bart delegated? Everything! When Juilo ran away from the abusive Hacker right at the same time dinosaurs were on the loose, who saved him from the T Rex? Caveman! And who saved him from Hacker when Julio was taking his pie break? Caveman! And who saved Julio and Bart’s girlfriend from a cave-in? Well Bart did go back into the cave after the roof collapsed and killed poor Caveman, but I think that was just a lame attempt to soak up some of Caveman’s awesome fumes!

Your tolerance for Dinosaurus! will depend heavily on your ability not to hate Julio’s antics and how forgiving you are with the special effects. The dinosaurs (there’s only two which is disappointing) are of the stop motion variety and you won’t ever mistake them as being done by legendary effects man Ray Harryhausen.

The dinosaurs were apparently built in half the time needed and it shows in their rather limited performance. Movement is not smooth and their faces are lifeless making them almost indistinguishable from the cheap dinosuar toys that Julio was playing with early in the film. The final battle between the T Rex and an obviously toy model of Bart’s construction equipment is only suspenseful in the sense you wonder how silly it’s going to look.

Dinosaurus! also suffers from an uncomfortably schizophrenic tone. It’s serious as Bart tries to ensure everyone’s survival, but some of the attempted humor with Caveman (he’s scared of a flushing toilet!) and Julio make you think it’s a movie for kids. Then again though, Caveman as a good guy comic relief character doesn’t really work when Bart’s girlfriend is clearly trying not to get raped by him to the point that she tries to sing him a lullaby to put him to sleep. And that is also tastelessly played for laughs!

Borderline kiddie matinee show stuff that suffers from dated effects, boring story and boring monsters, silly portrayal of the caveman and questionable climax (would a T Rex really be so slow and stupid to just allow itself to get knocked off a cliff like that?) limit the audience to people who died before Jurassic Park came out.

© 2017 MonsterHunter

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