For about the first three minutes with its widescreen full color presentation, Dinosaurus! (1960) looks like it might be a fairly well budgeted film. But soon enough its cast-of-nobodies & its B budget are evident in every shot.
Although some of it was shot on location in the Virgin Islands it manages most of the time to make its tropical paradise look far less convincing than Gilligan's Island, perhaps because it had to stick to fairly austere settings that could be very loosely matched to the stop-motion miniature dinosaurs.
It's terribly boring whenever the primary cast is talking, & of course the premise is idiotic: two quick-frozen dinosaurs & a cave man are discovered at the bottom of a cove of an isolated island where construction for a future tourist spot is in progress. When the brontosaurus & tyrannosaurus are dredged onto land & struck by lightning, they come back to life. The cave man merely has to thaw out.
All communications are downed by the storm so the land developer hero (Ward Ramsey), an ex-patriot villain who runs the local bar (Fred Engelberg), a drunken Irishman (James Logan), the damsel in distress (Kristina Hanson) & a host of islander extras, have to cope with the situation on their own.
It has three things that would likely hold a child viewer rapt, & can do the same for whatever remains of a child in an adult viewer. Foremost of those three things is the stop-motion animation of the minimally articulated dinosaurs. It's not something on the order of Ray Harryhausen or even George Pal stop motion work, but it's charmingly dopy just the same.
Second is the heroic Neanderthal man played surprisingly well (compared to everyone else's performance) by Gregg Martell, who is a handsome pumped up hunk despite that he really does look like a Neanderthal. The antics written for him are as simpleminded & dumb as for the Three Stooges, like the gag about the toilet when he's exploring a modern-day house, or when he figures out what clothes are but selects an old lady's dress. But when it turns out the gentle brontosaurus is his domesticated steed, & when he befriends & protects a kid & a woman on the island, Martell is always strongly into his role & makes of the Neanderthal quite a delightful fellow.
The third effective component is a performance by child actor Alan Roberts who provides exactly the point of view such a silly story requires. He's first to realize the brontosaurus is gentle; he quickly befriends the cave man; plus he's an orphan, so what more could you want from a kidflick.
Ya gotta be in the mood for cutesy & ridiculous, but approach this film in the right frame of mind, it's worth the effort.
Greg Martell got to reprise his Neanderthal role the following year in Valley of the Dragons (1961). This was quite an oddity directed by Edward Bernds, & starred Cesare Danova, Joan Staley & a lot of footage recycled from One Million B.C. (1940), footage already recycled in Two Lost Worlds (1951). Some of this footage was also recycled in King Dinosaur (1955).
Based hardly at all on Jules Verne's Hector Servadac; or, Career of a Comet (1878), in Valley of the Dragons a comet swept over the Earth transforming it into a prehistoric world of Neanderthals & petshop lizards posing as dinosaurs. Pretty hard to figure out if our heros have time-travelled or if the comet magically changed the future, but in Verne's book (wherein none of the film's premises happen) most of action takes place in a post-catastrophe future.
Dinosaur films form a veritable genre of their own, most of them obviously descended from Arthur Conan Doyles' The Lost World & which I categorize as "Lost World wannabes" as the majority of these imitations seem to have issued from the exhaust pipes of a crap-o-mat.
One of the worst of a bad lot has got to be Unknown Island (1948) directed by Jack Bernhard & starring Philip Reed, Richard Denning & with top billing, Virginia Grey. This matinee filler starts out with an interesting enough character array who get together in a Singapore dive tavern, & as the adventure is planned out in the dialogue, it seems as though we're being promised something disneyesque & pleasing. But by the time they get to the prehistoric island, the film has already run out of steam.
In between having the girl on the expedition menaced by the insane sea captain, we get "look over there!" cuts to dinosaur action. The brontosauruses are barely articulated models. The finback dinosaur appears to be a puppet with hardly any moving parts. There are several encounters with awkwardly shambling & easily killed Tyrannosaurus rexes & a missing-link ape-monster/giant sloth, or flesh-eating giant slow loris, if not a 1920s varsity guy in a raccoon coat.
A climactic battle sequence between the guy in the raccoon coat & the guy in a rather scrawny tyranosaurus outfit is enough to make one appreciate how comparatively real-looking Japanese rubber-suit monster movies are.
The Lost Continent (1951) directed by Sam Newfield stars Cesar Romero, John Hoyt, & Hugh Beaumont the dad on "Leave it to Beaver." The misnomered "continent" is a plateau on a small uncharted jungle island in the Pacific complete with dinosaurs.
This "Lost World" variant might not be remembered but that Mystery Theater 2000 breathed new life into it by making fun of its every funnable sequence.
An expedition searching for a downed atomic rocket makes a crash landing on the volcanic island. One of two Oceanic natives encountered is aboriginal actress "Acquanetta" who frequently played such roles. She points to the "sacred mountain" on which the rocket landed, & is never again seen in the story.
Our stranded crew continues their mission & discover hungry dinosaurs, which consist of three of the corniest stop-motion dinosaurs ever put to celluloid, a brontosaurus & two tricertops, not counting the foreshadowing "monster" which was a quick cutaway to a little Cuban anole lizard. Knowing how lame their dinosaurs were, the posters showed a tyrannosaurus instead of anything actually seen in the film.
Most of the film is black & white. But when after many tedious mountain climbing scenes the explorers reach the mountain plateau, the film turns green & white during their stay in the prehistoric jungle. They find the rocket, make some noise so the dinosaurs will stop hanging around the rocket, & recover its recorded data (a piece of paper in a box).
At that moment the volcano coincidentally erupts. It turns out that it's easier getting back down from the high plateau than it was climbing up, as they quickly run away from the exploding volcano & find handily situated native boats so they can sit in calm waters & watch the destruction.
Just about every poster, dvd box, or ad for Two Lost Worlds shows two Godzilla-like dinosaurs fighting, but there are no dinosaur FX of this type, the prehistoric animals being exclusively modern lizards from the local petshop.
Even the title is a bit inapropos, as I can't guess what the second lost world would be, unless they mean the lost world of the clipper ships rather than "a" lost world. Certainly the first half of the film & the second half of the film bare no relationship to one another & could well have been two different scripts, the beginning of one getting mixed up with the end of the other.
Two Lost Worlds begins as an historical swashbuckler about merchant sailors vs pirates on the high seas. James "Gunsmoke" Arness is the son of the ship's sole investor, & first mate to the captain. Several plot ingredients seem to imply the whole film will be about this ship's trade mission which, if it falls prey to pirates or is late for any reason, will bankrupt the hero's father & family.
But during the first pirate attack our hero is injured & has to be left off on the Australian coast to be cared for by a physician, while the clipper ship continues on its mission. The next act of the film is about sheep farmers who fear pirate raids along their coast. Our recovered hero decides to set out after the pirates on board an Australian ship, for the pirates have kidnapped a damsel he's fond of together with her baby sister.
Both ships are sunk in the resulting encounter & the few survivors wash ashore on a desert island, the center of which looks from the distance to be a jungle that should provide food & water.
The final act has the remaining cast wandering about in a Lost World jungle with a "look over there!" attitude or standing in front of backscreen projections of petshop lizards with whom the cast never interacts.
The first "dinosaur" fight is between a South American tegu lizard (which really do grow to a couple feet in length) & a baby caiman which is a relative of the crocodile that used to be sold for a couple bucks in every petshop of the 1940s through 1960s. The caiman has been tricked out with a rubber sail-fin stuck to its back, cute as hell, though no other reptile is at all changed from its petshop appearance. The close-up cinematography of the caiman vs tegu fight is well done, but the most disturbing thing about it is that these are real animals, caimans are notably ill-tempered little bastards, & that tegu is really getting hurt.
None of the other encounters are as nicely filmed but include brief shots of a young water monitor & an iguana. Often lost worlds of this type automatically blow up if white people appear, though no film has ever speculated why it is that these isolated environments could last millions of years beyond their time then be wiped out the day castaways arrive.
As the volcano & earthquakes destroy the prehistoric jungle, our main cast makes it safely to the coast, & are picked up the next day by a vessel that came looking for them.
The film is awful but the swashbuckling seafaring half is less corny, more convincing, & better photographed than when Two Lost Worlds goes all science fictiony. I liked the initial b/w photography, but the grainy backscreen stuff to convey giant petshop lizards didn't match well with the earlier footage of clippership models. The mismatched footage becomes more explicable when one recalls the "dinosaurs" were all spliced in from clips taken from Hal Roach's One Million B.C.
Untamed Women (1952) directed by Merle W. & James R. Connell has World War II bomber pilots (Mikel Conrad, Morgan Jones & Mark Lowell) discovering a South Seas island remnant of a lost civilization of beautiful women (Doris Merrick, Midge Ware, Autumn Rice, et al) who speak an English dialect which can only be described as pidgin quaker, plus horny degenerated cavemen. There are also dinosaurs & man-eating plants.
After sundry ridiculous antics an active volcano destroys the island, a volcano that was never mentioned until a cataclysm was needed to get the film over with, but it's pretty easy to believe since most such islands coincidentally blow up & sink shortly after white guys get there.
One guy survives to tell the tale, not even getting to save one girlfriend for himself. This film is bad enough to be fun, with the accent on "bad."
Dinosaur Island (1994) was directed by Jim Wynorski & Fred Olen Ray with a no-star-cast including Richard Gabai, Ross Hagen, & Peter Spellos & featuring Toni Naples as busty Queen Morganna, Nikki Fritz as the High Priestess, & as the warrior princess calander girls: Antonia Dorian, Griffen Drew & Michelle Bauer.
The military airmen while being transported to their intended court martials are luckily downed on an island that is a Lost World of dinosaurs & a tribe of sneaky but attentive bikini-clad babes.
It's an unpretending T & A joyride with the Tyrannosaurus rex recycled from Roger Corman's Carnosaur (1993). As on Kong Island, the T-rex is worshipped under Jackie Gleason's god-name The Great One, & receives human sacrifices, while the babes await the arrival of the prophesied male who can kill god.
The stupidity quotient with a dose of intentional humor thrown in makes Dinosaur Island tolerable fun if you're in that sort of mood, but personally I like arch crud to be a bit more vintage, say circa 1965 & before.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl