Dinosaurus! (Review)


Ward Ramsey as Bart Thompson
Kristina Hanson as Betty Piper
Alan Roberts as Julio
Fred Engelberg as Mike Hacker

This relict from the 1950’s type of cinema bursts into the swinging sixties trying the same formula that had worked for 15 years. Unfortunately for them it fails to work. At all. Ward Ramsey is a third rate Peter Graves wanna be. In fact, according to rumor this was supposed to be a Steve McQueen role. Yeah, sure. Bullitt vs. Dinosaurs, that would be entertaining, but the director here couldn’t pull off a paint by numbers picture. Neither could the special effects department, the effects are particularly bad on this film considering the age. If you aren’t Ray Harryhausen don’t even try to pretend you can do his skills. The film tries to cover the cheap effect with terrible comic relief insulting the only interesting character (the caveman) and factors in an annoying island kid, a lazy black guy, a drunk Irishman, a woman who faints underwater, and The White Man saving the day thanks to White Man technology. Yeesh. I will repeat that the kid was annoying as he is terrible. Imagine any of the Kens from the Gamera movies, make him Mexican and named Julio, and you get this kid.

On some island somewhere where people are Mexican, a diver is diving offshore to Godzilla rip-off music. As the title card pops in one letter at a time, the diver searches. What is he searching for? Lost Spanish Gold? Pirate Treasure? The Titanic? Atlantis? A good script? By this time his lungs were aching for air…. Actually, he’s just laying dynamite so the bay can be cleared and used as a harbor for the island. A bulldozer driver named Dumpy tells his boss Bart Thompson (Ward Ramsey) that the native workers haven’t arrived yet. Bart Thompson is played by Ward Ramsey as Peter Graves, but he can’t pull off Graves correctly. Graves was in dozens of low budget movies at this time, why the producers didn’t budget an extra $5 to pick him up I’ll never know. Instead we get this imitation so pale it gets sunburnt at night. Bart Thompson is our boring white hero whose boring whiteness shows the natives that American technology is the best. Bart also discovers Julio in the bulldozer with Dumpy.

Julio is the movie’s ethnic child character, someone the writers felt the children watching the movie could identify with, as well as being a poor minority character that is protected by white boring Bart, especially from his evil guardian character. Julio is quite simply one of the most annoying child characters in sci-fi history, and that is saying a lot. You WILL want to murder him the second he starts talking. Not only is he annoying, but you can see what the writers were trying to do with him in the sympathetic category and it just makes you madder for their failures to write him better, and actor Alan Roberts for being an inspiration for Jake Lloyd forty years later in the crappy child actor department. Julio was told to stay away from the workers by his guardian, a guy named Hacker. Not a computer hacker, this Hacker is a guy dressed in a white suit with hat who basically runs the island, and he’s evil. Think Big Daddy from The Simpson’s Spinoff Showcase. Enough of Hacker now, a woman has piloted her boat right into the blast zone! Oh, Betty, you vamp, women shouldn’t drive boats! Luckily Bart is there to be white, male, American, and save the day.

A container of food fell into the bay as she was being saved and things were blowing up, so she goes to dive in after it. Bart follows her down, as Betty is liable to get into more trouble. And she does, as she sees a giant Tyrannosaur head in the water, and quickly faints. I was unaware that you could faint underwater, but apparently you can if properly motivated by dinosaurs. Bart gets her out, but missed the giant lizard head that should have been right in front of him. Bart sends in another diver to look around. Meanwhile, Julio gets smacked around by his guardian Hacker for bothering the workers. Hacker storms into Bart’s hut, his white suit telling everyone he can afford a white suit (it needs a red carnation, though). Bart and Hacker fight, but the diver returns saying there are two frozen dinosaurs in the bay.

The workers set up a crane to extract the dino-sicles as only Americans can. People stand in front of projection screens as the six inch long dinosaur models are hauled ashore. Julio asks annoying questions after the first dinosaur comes ashore, a Tyrannosaurus rex. The T-Rex is soon followed by a Brontosaurus (Apatosaurus — but this is 1960 before the name fix.) Because Brontosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex were around at the same time, this makes perfect sense. What? They were alive sixty million years apart? Well, then never mind! Luckily things frozen for millions of years stay perfectly preserved, yet have absolutely no possibility of becoming alive and eating islanders. Nope, not at all. To ensure the dinosaurs are protected from any hungry native islanders, they put a drunk Irishman in charge. Now this is Bart’s third mistake so far. The first was not immediately shooting Julio dead, the second was pulling the dinosaurs ashore. The third is his insistence of hiring only stereotypes to fill company positions. We got the drunk Irish guy and the stupid woman who always needs to be rescued. Also the fat construction guy roll is filled by Dumpy. The movie doesn’t get into if Dumpy blows his paychecks on beer, hookers, and strippers, but I’d wager yes.

While the fate of the island is being left up to a drunk, Hacker is snooping around like cheap villains are want to do. He comes across a frozen caveman. So Hacker does what anyone decent would do, hides the frozen caveman in a bush and goes to get some henchmen. As cavemen and dinosaurs existed at the same time period, it is not surprising that a cave person was discovered. In fact, the Romans used to ride Dinosaurs into battle when they fought Hannibal, and continued until dinosaurs became extinct in 1145 AD due to AIDS. Hacker takes some time off from recruiting henchmen to sexually harass a waitress, then tells his henchies “Of course he’s dead, he’s Prehistoric!” You can’t argue with logic like that. Sadly, this frozen caveman will not become a Frozen Caveman Lawyer.

Logic is not this film’s strong point as we shall soon see, but first we get to see Drunk Irish Guy be drunk and say drunk things. Ha ha, drunk people are funny. As are Irish people, who are all drunks, unlike Americans. Back at the cantina where all the other characters have migrated to, a blackface mariachi band plays (buh???) while Julio shows off his plastic dinosaurs to Bart. That is until an enraged Hacker destroys them, and Julio is so upset her runs away. Bart searches for him, but fails to find him, and returns empty handed. Hacker injures himself trying to threaten Bart.

Back at Frozen Dinosaur Land, Drunk Irish Guy puts down his Rip Van Winkle comic (hey, something clever, I’m SHOCKED!) long enough to notice the dinosaurs are smoking. I guess lung cancer really killed the dinosaurs! HA! Wait, not that kind of smoking, nor the kind where the dinosaurs are really good looking and you want to jump their bones. The dinosaurs are just having smoke come out of them, because all things emit smoke when they thaw. At least they do in this island, where people lived with dinosaurs and they can live being frozen for millions of years. The dinosaurs wake up all groggy, while the Caveman smashes the door of Drunk Irish Guy’s hut. Drunk Irish Guy counters by grabbing a stick of dynamite. Is he going to suicide bomb the caveman? I take it this guy isn’t a member of the IRA. The Caveman runs away, as Cavemen all had an instinctive fear of dynamite, which is how the Irish defeated them at the Battle of Austropithicus.

Drunk Irish Guy runs outside, only to find the dinosaurs gone, as they have thawed out and are busy doing other things, like probably peeing, as I’d really have to go after a few million years of sleep. LOOK OUT, DRUNK IRISH GUY!! Too late, he’s eaten by the T-Rex stop motion puppet. He should have so much alcohol in his blood he’d kill the dinosaur, or at least get him a DWI (Dinosaur While Intoxicated) Drunk Irish Guy did manage to light the dynamite, but he dropped it immediately, and it rolled back into his hut, blowing it sky high. That explosion is loud enough it is heard at the cantina, and the whole place goes to investigate. They find no dinosaurs, no Drunk Irish Guy, no hut, footprints of dinosaurs, and hear T-Rex screams in the jungle. As that isn’t enough, the island is cut off thanks to some convenient plot developments, such as a storm knocking out the phone lines. Very convenient, don’t you think?

Bart tells his workers his plan, which is to hole up the entire town in the nearby fort, while he looks for a ham radio at Betty’s parents’ place. Julio witnesses the T-Rex destroy a bus. After some Caveman comic relief, Julio also befriends the brontosaurus, and by befriend I mean he tells it he is his friend and keeps talking, not shutting up, ever, no matter what happens, Julio keeps talking and talking and talking and SHUT UP, JULIO! I’LL CUT YOU! Excuse me… Caveman heads over to Betty’s parents’ place as well, he precedes to destroy the ham radio in a fit of caveman rage, gets himself a new axe, and had more comic relief sequences involving book eating, cross dressing, and toilet flushing terror. Julio arrives at the house as well, and gives the Caveman some food, befriending him and teaching him proper table manners. But then Hacker shows up! Is there a convention at this house? Why are all the actors converging here? Anyway, Hacker tries to re-capture Caveman, but Caveman uses Caveman Fu on them, and is about to axe Hacker a question when Julio interrupts: “No, Caveman, it’s not right to kill!” Julio and Caveman run off, and Hacker and his men are in hot pursuit. Bart and Betty arrive just in time to have missed everything. Peter Graves would have showed up on time! After seeing the radio destroyed, Betty sees Julio and Caveman riding the Brontosaurus. Cavemen have an instinctive knowledge of Brontosaurus riding, as evidenced on The Flintstones, and it works out here. The T-Rex also sees Betty, and is in the mood for some Kibbles-n-Betty. Caveman saves her by axing T-Rex in the toe, then runs off with Betty.

Caveman makes Betty cook and does some caveman comeons such as “Uhhh!” and “Nuhhh!” showing he is at least a better catch than Bart. Betty has heard those lines a thousand times before, and is less than impressed. She sings a song to try to get the Caveman to sleep. T-Rex tracks down brontosaurus and wants some dino-bites, and they fight. Bronto isn’t one to be eaten without a fight, and it’s time for the money shots! Julio also “helps” by chucking rocks at the T-Rex ineffectively. Bart and Dumpy see him, but don’t get to him in time. T-Rex is about to finish off Bronto when he is distracted by Caveman saving Julio. Great, T-Rex must have Attention Deficit Disorder or something. T-Rex chases Caveman and Julio to a cave, where Betty is as well. Hacker sneaks into the roof of this cave and shoots Caveman in the arm. Bart and Dumpy toss Molotov Cocktails at the T-Rex, giving him hot mouth. T-Rex goes berserk, which is understandable as his mouth is on fire, and smashes part of the cave, and the walls start collapsing. Hacker is crushed (Hacker more like Flatter!) and Caveman sacrifices himself to save Betty and Julio. Why did this movie have to kill off the only likeable character? Because the director hates you. Outside, Bronto is still alive! Except he immediately wanders into a quicksand pit and dies. D’oh! Again, the director hates you.

Back at the fortress, everyone is inside, defenses are prepared and everyone awaits the mail boat’s arrival so they can get help. Also black guards are lazy and need to be reminded to look out for the dinosaur that will eat them. Thanks, movie! Your NAACP award is in the mail! Luckily Lazy Black Guy has Bart the Great White American Male to remind him to stay awake. T-Rex arrives, as we knew he would, and they set pits ablaze to scare him off. The extras stand around unconcerned that there is a giant dinosaur and a giant fire just off camera. Bart gets an idea, he is to use the Steam Shovel to knock the T-Rex off a cliff. There is a mighty battle between Machine wielded by man and Dinosaur evolution 65 million years old. Bart makes the Steamshovel do a 360 degree spin and it knocks the T-Rex into the sea. Sorry, Matrix, Dinosaurus had cool moves forty years before you! The Death of the T-Rex proves that Man, by that I mean Straight White American Christian Males and their machines can destroy anything Nature dishes out at them. Take that, Mother Nature! Kneel before the mighty power!

Julio ends the film asking why Caveman had to die, in a scene that sounds like today would have been added after test audiences went berserk over a beloved character’s death. Bart answers: “How would you like it if you awoke in the 21st century? No house, no friends, even the town gone, just a strange world.” Julio responds “I would like it!” First of all, if that stupid town can’t last forty years, then it deserves to rot on that island. Second, Julio, get your lame ethnic stereotype behind out of my century! If I see you alive today, having just been pulled frozen out of the ocean somewhere, I will feed you to sharks. You can’t act, you explain everything constantly, and you won’t shut up. Hacker should have killed you when he had the chance, no wonder he was evil, I’d be evil as well having to take care of you. Stealing the Caveman was the least evil thing he did compared to giving you food and shelter. Julio? More like Juli-NO! The twenty-first century hates you and hopes you die.

Rated 4/10 (Betty’s boat, Cross-dressing Caveman, Dino Riders, Hacker Dragging)

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One thought on “Dinosaurus! (Review)

  1. I loved Dinosaurus as a kid. You judged it by adult 2017 standards. You must realize that the imagination of a youngster makes adult judgements moot. A kid gets to ride a dinosaur, the Brontosaurus. It was a dream come true for me. All those years collecting small plastic dinosaur toys and then came this movie. It was heaven.

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