In 1977 Rankin/Bass Productions (the people who created a
lot of the holiday stop-motion TV specials like Santa
Claus Is Comin' to Town and Mad Monster Party
decided to make the jump to the silver
screen. They teamed up with Tsuburaya
Productions, the Japanese company behind Ultraman, to create The Last
Dinosaur. On paper it sounds like a
'can't miss' scenario. The script
concerns a lost prehistoric valley, just like the popular The
Land That Time Forgot which did very well at the box office two
years earlier, the cost could be kept down by using Tsuburaya's
'man in a suit' monsters, and there would be a lot of interest on both
Unfortunately the test audience ratings were so bad that the
studio cancelled the theatrical release and instead talked ABC into
it on TV, albeit in an edited version.
(The film did get a theatrical release in Europe and Japan.) Watching the movie today, it's easy to see
why the film was pulled from theaters (and why Rankin/Bass weren't able
a theatrical production for decades afterwards). The
dialog is horrendously bad, a lot of the
acting is atrocious, and much of the plot makes no sense.
Still, if you enjoy hokey SF movies and
especially kaiju (giant monster) films it's worth a look, especially
Warner Archives release is the original, uncut theatrical version
until now. (Oh, and be sure to check out
Stuart Galbraith IV's review
here, for a much more positive take on the movie.)
Craggy-faced Masten Thrust Jr. (Richard Boone) is the last
of a dying breed. He's not only a big
game hunter who has circled the globe in search of new and more
animals to hunt, but he's also the richest man in the world. As the film opens he's flying in his deluxe
private plane (complete with working fireplace!
I wonder what sort of draft he gets from the chimney.) along
bimbo du jour who comes complete with her own milky white lap dog. When he lands in Japan
he gives the dame the brush
off. He gives her a ticket back to where
ever it was that he found her and a gold bullet. "What
am I supposed to do with this? I
can't... I can't wear this!" she complains.
"Well, if times get really tough, you can bite on it!" replies
man (and that's the best line in the movie.)
It turns out that he's in Japan to meet with a couple
scientists who work for Thrust's oil company.
Dr. Kawamoto (Tetsu Nakamura) is a Nobel-prize winning
has developed a "polar borer" (a manned drill that can zoom around the
crust looking for oil) and Chuck Wade (Steven Keats) is a geologist and
sole survivor from the last polar borer expedition.
Wade's group found a warm spring coming from
deep under the Earth's crust that heated a valley in the middle of the
ice cap. While Wade stayed behind with
the borer, the rest went to explore and were eaten by a T-Rex. Yep, they discovered living dinosaurs.
This news really excited Thrust who immediately planned a
follow up expedition. After promising
Kawamoto that he wouldn't kill the dinosaur, only study him, Thrust,
African tracker Bunto (he never speaks and Thrust reveals that's
because no one
speaks his language. Bunto apparently
understands English perfectly well because Thrust issues complex
the tall man runs to fulfill them), Dr. Kawamoto, Wade, and a
When Thrust finds out the photographer is Francesca
'Frankie' Banks (Joan Van Ark) he blows a gasket and shouts that
there's no way
a woman is going on his expedition.
That evening, at a party held in Thrust's honor, Frankie
dresses up in a Kimono, gets the rich adventurer's attention, and then
strip tease behind a bush. She then
takes Thrust back to her apartment where she sleeps with him (oh yeah,
shows him some of the action shots she's taken) and just like that,
the mission! It's unclear whether it's
her talent as a photographer or her talent in bed that gets her the job.
In any case the group climbs in the polar borer and heads to
the mysterious valley. Once there they
quickly discover that there are dinosaurs, along with primitive cavemen
quite intelligent. Their first encounter
with the T-Rex is disastrous. They
almost get killed and when Thrust tries to shoot it, his gun jams. They manage to escape the beast, but the
dinosaur circles back to their camp, stomps on Dr. Kawamoto and picks
polar bores in its mouth and carries it away.
Now the quartet is stranded, with no hope of rescue (Thrust left
instructions that no one was to follow them if they didn't report back.) How can modern man survive in a world of
man-eating monsters, violent cavemen, and no modern weapons?
There was a lot of potential in this film, and with a little
bit of polishing it could have been pretty good. Unfortunately
as it is the best that can be
said is that it's so-bad-its-good. There
are a myriad of flaws that really harm the film. First
and foremost is the dialog, which is
hokey beyond belief. The film was written
by first time screenwriter William Overgard and
it shows. He has
exchanges like this take place when the group first encounters the
barely escapes even though Thrust shot at it:
Wade: You told me! You swore to all of us that we were not going
to harm the dinosaur! We were only supposed to take film and study it!
Thrust: You ding-dong!
I don't know what's worse, the fact that Wade is upset that
Thrust tried to defend them or that the worst insult the hunter can
with is "ding-dong."
There are a lot of silly plot devices too, not the least of
which is the T-Rex carrying off polar borer.
Thrust proves that he's got a lot of smarts when his rifle, the
they've brought, jams while the T-Rex ix closing in.
He throws it away, never to see it
again. What was he thinking??!
Richard Boone certainly looks the part of a grizzled big
game hunter, but unfortunately he overacts in every scene he's in. He doesn't recite his dialog, he SHOUTS
IT! He puts dramatic pauses in frequent
as if he's trying to do a bad impersonation of William Shatner on Star Trek. He actually looks
like he's drunk in several
scenes, but that could be the look he was going for.
There are some good parts to the film. The
special effects generally work very well,
and look much more impressive than the usual lizards with fins glued to
backs that was the standard not too long before this film was made. The scene where the T-Rewx catches a giant
fish and devours it on screen is quite impressive. While it's
obvious that the dinosaurs are
guys in suits, it's fun to watch them fight and chase Thrust and
The overall plot is also promising. Thrust
turns into a Captain Ahab character
after his friend is killed and it takes the others a while to realize
gone over the bend. The cavewoman who
joins the group is interesting too in the fact that everyone treats her
slave. A comment on the human condition
perhaps? And the most clever aspect of
the film is that the title doesn't refer to the T-Rex that is chasing
It's just too bad that the script didn't go through a couple
of rewrites to get the rough edges off of it.
It could have been a classic, but as it is, it's perfect MST3000
The full theatrical version of the movie is presented on a
single DVD-R with artwork and keepcase.
The stereo soundtrack is fine. I wish that
this was a large budget film that
received a decent multi-track recording when it was filmed, but that's
The 1.78:1 image looks good for an unrestored film from the
late 70's. The picture is a little soft,
but not too much. There are some bits
for dirt in a few places, but nothing significant.
This could have been a good film, but the bad dialog, bad
acting, and silly plot devices had me laughing or rolling my eyes. For that reason, if you're looking for a
so-bad-its-good film, you should definitely give this one a try. But best make it a rental.