Forgotten Films: Dinosaurus! (1960)
This is the 18th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
In the summer of 1960 I was 8 years old, living in Alaska and was fascinated by dinosaurs. The previous Christmas I had received a plastic model of a brontosaurus to assemble. It was too complicated for me so my dad put it together and I watched! Anyway, I was in love with the things. I saw a Dell comic entitled Dinousaurus! And bought and read it. A kid, a caveman, two dinosaurs, heavy earth moving equipment! What more could a kid want? Then I noted that this was based on a film. I was ready.
I loved the film as a kid! Dinosaurs! Really what more did it need? So this week when I saw it listed on the TCM schedule I decided this was the perfect Forgotten Film.
It is amazing what the passage of more than 50 years can do to your mind. All those elements were there in the film, but, boy, was I disappointed when I watched it again. The plot was way too simplified. American construction workers enlarging a lagoon so that it can become a harbor uncover a Tyrannosaurus and a brontosaurus with their explosions. The frozen beasties are hauled up from the bay using a crane. Unknown to them, a caveman has also been uncovered. The island where they are working is Caribbean and pretty small. The island manager Mike Hacker (played heavy handedly by Fred Engelberg) is corrupt and hindering the operation. He is the guardian of a young boy, Julio (played by Alan Roberts who had a brief 5 year run playing Mexican children on TV and movies and is best remembered for his role as Chuey on LEAVE IT TO BEAVER). Julio is forbidden to be at the construction site, so, of course, that is where he is always located, usually around bulldozer operator Dumpy (played by Wayne C. Treadway) or construction manager Bart (played by Ward Ramsey in his first role). A lightning strike brings the monsters and cave man back to life and terror happens around the island. The caveman (played by Gregg Martell) wanders around, scares a woman, does a little B&E, acquires an axe, and destroys the only radio on the island. Somehow he then takes himself and Julio on a brontosaurus ride ala Alley Oop. The dinosaurs immediately begin a fight to the death. The islanders retreat to an old Spanish fortress with the heavy equipment. The meat eating tyrannosaurus defeats the relatively docile brontosaurus. The evil island manager tries to kill the kid, steal the cave man, but fails and gets his just reward. The cave man is crushed when the mine where the kid and Bart’s plucky girlfriend have been hiding from the dinosaurs caves in but not before Bart is able to rescue the others. The brontosaurus, gravely wounded, wanders into a quicksand bog. The tyrannosaurus attacks the fortress and is momentarily deterred by the flaming moat. Bart, in a daring move, battles the monster with a steam shovel and pushes it over a cliff back into the sea.
The film is marred with really bad dialogue (particularly that of Julio), clichés, inconsistencies, and awful acting. What it does have is dinosaurs. The models were made by Marcel Delgado, a great stop motion technician who is uncredited in the film. According to IMDB, he was given less than half of the agreed upon time to create the miniatures. The stop motion work was done by Tom Holland, Phil Kellison, Don Sahlin, and David Pal, none of whom received credits in the film. They all later worked on The Time Machine (for George Pal, David’s father) and Jack the Giant Killer (except for Sahlin). Holland, Sahlin, and Pal also worked on The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (again for George Pal).
According to IMDB, director Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr. wanted to cast Steve McQueen in the role of Bart. He worked with McQueen on The Blob the year before and McQueen was such a pain that he was ever even offered the role.
The music score is from Ronald Stein who did a number of B Movie scores over the years. I was not very impressed by this one like I was with others of his scores.
All in all, I think I had a great time at age 8 and pretty much wasted my time at age 59. It was, at least, better than Eegah!
Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.