Fantastic Dinosaurs of the Movies
Reviewed by Jeff DeLuzio
Rating: 7 Beans
o many schlocky special effects films; so little time to waste.
But that's okay, because the good folks at Good Times Video hastily compiled clips from an assortment of old monster movies and released them back in 1992, just in time to cash in on the hype surrounding "Jurassic Park."
The video begins with a very brief overview, featuring clips from early dino-cinema: "Gertie the Dinosaur," "The Lost World," and "King Kong." This is the only background the film provides, and one wonders if it wasn't just pirated from another documentary. From there, we head straight into an unedited stretch of mid-70s promo for "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" by Ray Harryhausen, a man who was doing faux-Saturday-Afternoon-Serial long before Lucas and Spielberg made it trendy. His trademark model animation features prominently, as does the film's model starlet, animatedly posing for cheesecake shots when she isn't needed on the set. All of this has, of course, pretty much nothing to do with dinosaurs, but pay attention, because it's the film's last attempt to explain anything. Following the "Sinbad" sequence, the video presents uncontextualized film trailers, run one after another in No Particular Order.
That's right. Nearly the entire 75 minutes of this video consists of trailers. Instead of sitting through minutes of mood-setting foreplay, viewers can jump right to the Monster Movie money shots: second-rate actors in rubber suits trashing cities, lizards in glued-on fetish fins trashing each other, explorers in ripped clothing discovering eruption- and earthquake-prone lost worlds. Propelling all of this are hyperbolic announcers, superlative titles, excited exclamation points, overbearing music, and overblown statements.
Rodan gets called "the science-fiction masterpiece of all time!" and the trailer nicely includes the scene where the giant pteradactyloid menaces an Asahi brewery. "Journey to the Beginning of Time" is "acclaimed by Dr. Edwin H. Colbert of the American Museum of Natural History as 'Absolutely Authentic,'" right down to the wooly mammoth that coexists with a "brontasauris." The dragon-like Godzilla knock-off, "Reptilicus" gets called a "mastodon!" "The Land Unknown" treats us to the sight of its heroine being felt up by an authentic intelligent prehistoric plant. "When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth" presents the well-documented practice of ritually sacrificing only blonde women to giant reptiles. The forgotten "Nessie" receives praise as "the world's most treasured story!"
Although footage from the 1960s "One Million Years BC" appears twice, the 1940s original is conspicuous by its absence. Instead, we see the trailers for several of the movies that sampled that films dinosaurian stock footage.
"Fantastic Dinosaurs of the Movies" also features trailers lacking even the most tenuous connections to dinosaurs, such as "Jack the Giant Killer" and "Tarantula," but, hey, they're fun to watch.
What makes this hasty compilation work is the charm of these old films, the sheer cheesiness of the special effects and the utter incoherence of the marketing strategies back in the days before Hollywood accountants took fantasy seriously and computers made effects easy. Hell, the collective budget of these things probably wouldn't cover the opening credits for a Lucasfilm.
If you find "Fantastic Dinosaurs," give it a look. You, too, can Marvel at the Cheesy Ethos, the Dino-Geist of Saturday Afternoons Past!
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