Dinosaurs! Exclamation points! Cavemen throwing pies in people’s faces! – Dinosaurus!
Dinosaurs have been a major part of science-fiction adventures for a very long time. For as long as their bones have been dug up and pieced together, the one-time rulers of the Earth have fascinated their puny human successors. And long before Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg set the modern “dinosaurs in the present day” standard with their respective iterations of Jurassic Park, there have been sensational dinosaur stories that have crossed mediums. You have classics like The Lost World, a splendid non-Sherlock Holmes adventure from the pen of Arthur Conan Doyle, which was converted into celluloid form in 1925 in a silent film of the same name, itself a stop-motion trailblazer. (The Lost World has been re-adapted numerous times, but nothing quite equals its fresh buoyancy.)
And then you have Dinosaurus!. Yeah, Dinosaurus! wasn’t so great, exclamation point notwithstanding.
A general barometer for cinematic dreadfulness is whether or not a film made it onto Mystery Science Theater 3000, into the refuse pile alongside such gems as Manos: The Hands of Fate. It was the bellwether, the canary in the crap coal mine. That show is sadly no longer on the air, something I’m still gnashing my teeth over a decade-plus on. But RiffTrax, a successor sans puppets and silhouettes yet featuring the trifecta from the final MST3K iteration, is still doing the Lord’s work. And earlier this year they released their relentless skewering off Dinosaurus!, that rare film where even the title insults your intelligence. So if you need more confirmation of how bad this B-movie is, beyond what your eyes and ears tell should you ever have the misfortune to waste eighty minutes on it, there you go.
Wait, but there’s a comic book! Let’s waste a few more minutes on that!
The plot? Contractors on an isolated island dredge up two intact dinosaurs, a Tyrannosaurus and a Brontosaurus, from the deep, dark, icy depths of a lagoon. Plans are made to share this tremendous find with the world, the monsters are struck by lightning, come alive, yada yada yada there’s your movie, all replicated very faithfully by the Dell Movie Classic. (Never was the “Classic” stretched so thin.) Scripted by Eric Freiwald and Robert Schaefer with art by Jesse Marsh, it replicates the rote characterization for the benefit of all mankind. There are women doggedly bringing lunch to men and said men lamenting silly stubborn fe-males:
There’s an oily villain named Hacker, composed entirely of a beard, beady eyes and cigarettes:
And there’s the cute kid, Julio, imperiled by said villain and stuck up for by the handsome hero, Thompson:
The real star of the comic, as he was in the movie, is the caveman. Yes, the caveman. Dredged up accidentally along with the dinosaurs he was frozen with (there’s so much dubious science at play you don’t know where to start), the villain of the piece discovers him and intends to keep him a secret so that he can sell him and pocket all the profit. But our delightful troglodyte thaws out, wakes up, doesn’t become a lawyer, and terrorizes doughy old maids with his spectacular unibrow:
Really, who’s getting the worst of that exchange?
The caveman is actually quite gentle, and, in a surprise to no one with functioning neurons, befriends Julio. There aren’t many highlights in this clunker, but a caveman throwing a pie in a man’s face goes on the plus side of any ledger:
As for the rest of the plot, you’ll have to watch the movie (or the RiffTrax) or track down the comic if you want to know the senses-shattering events of the final act. Suffice to say there are a lot of underwhelming dinosaur “effects” in one (which are somehow markedly worse than those from 35 years earlier) and stupefying pages in the other. There’s one thing worth noting, though: there’s a battle between heavy equipment and a Tyrannosaurus Rex, which might sate the appetite of anyone hungering for a Killdozer vs. Godzilla match-up:
(Or maybe that’s not Killdozer up there. Maybe it’s Plastic Man in disguise. Whatever.)
Lost World and Jurassic Park — you can rest easy. Your places on the multimedia perch remain secure.