Schlocktober 2019: Dinosaurus! | The Big Picture

Schlocktober 2019: Dinosaurus! | The Big Picture

Ah, it’s good to be back. Happy Halloween!
Let’s do a dinosaur movie! [roaring] Dinosaurs! – yup, that’s the title complete with exclamation point – was an independently-produced color monster movie made in 1960 by maverick
indie producer legend Jack H. Harris, a second generation son of Polish Jewish immigrants
from Philadelphia who’d worked his way up from vaudeville child-performer to publicist
to distributor and producer and ultimately planted his flag as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood as the man behind the out-of-nowhere surprise 1957 cultural-phenomenon The Blob
and thus (sort-of) the discovery of soon to be superstar Steve McQueen, in the main character role.
An eye for talent and an affinity for gently-offbeat but appealing genre fare would continue to
be Harris trademarks throughout his career, since he’d go on to put his name behind
previous Schlocktober alumni “Equinox” (which launched the careers of multiple Special
FX legends), John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon’s “Dark Star” (nuff said) and even John
Landis’ debut feature Schlock… so, okay I guess the legacy on that one might be a
little debatable at this point. Ahem. Anyway! Harris did quite a few different movies
in a few different genres over his lifetime, but he’s best remembered for his late-50s/early-60s scifi
movies; which makes for interesting pop-culture time capsules because they’re very much
of their time but also very different from other films of their type from same era… or
at least of any one type. They feel very typical and familiar, but not
all from the same place; and Dinosaurus! in particular feels like a hodgepodge of early-60s
entertainment options: It has the plot and characters you’d expect of a black and white
drive-in feature, “Well, what do you think Mark?” “Well thank goodness he’s not alive.” “You can say that again.” but it’s filmed in vibrant color and thus resembles less a “horror
movie” and, given the genre elements, nothing so much as a bizarrely dark live-action Walt Disney
feature of the time. “What in the world are you doing now?” “I’m going down to Davy Jones Locker.” “My mother’s portable ice-box, in which I had stashed all sorts of goodie for you guys to eat–.” “Betty wait the water’s not safe!” “Ain’t love wonderful.” “What’s happening?” “They just dove in for a swim.” “It’s dangerous. There’s still debris churning around down there.” “Yeah.” “Ain’t love strange.” The title and the staging clearly demonstrate that it knows
its bread is buttered on the kiddie-matinee side in terms of audience, but it also wants
to entertain grownups so there’s so uncomfortable “comedy?” about the female lead negotiating
her captivity with this caveman [woman] “Now, now nice caveman. You just sit here and I’ll go fix things in the kitchen.” …oh yeah, there’s also a caveman in this! I
should probably do the plot… Okay! So, Dinosaurus takes place on an unnamed Caribbean island
where the unnamed locals are thrilled by the presence of American workmen from an unnamed
construction company building a modern-style shipping-harbor on their coast – because it’s
1960 and that means Colonialism is blue collar and benevolent! “Si, very good. Soon big boats will land in our harbor. That much happiness.” The only guy who doesn’t like the Americans is our villain, Hacker – the Island Manager
who knows the arrival of bigger businesses to the island will interfere with his previously-unquestioned petty tyranny “…come another step closer boss man or I’ll “You’ll what?” “I’ll slash you to ribbons.” “Somebody bandage him up.” …anyway, the blasting for the harbor unearths a “freezing cold underground
river” and bodies of two perfectly preserved “frozen solid” dinosaurs; a Brontosaurus
(which, amusingly, was the correct name for that when they made this, then the wrong name for a while, then the right name again because paleontology is interesting) and a T-Rex. [boy] “Is he alive Senor Bart?” “No he’s not alive.” “Are you sure?” “Yes, I’m sure.” “Then why are his eyes open?” “Well, he just slept with them open that’s all.” …yeah, that’s how that works.
If nothing else, Dinosaurus! is efficient as hell about getting to this point – this
is basically the entire conversation about what to do about the dinosaurs immediately
after they found out that there were dinosaurs “Million year old dinosaurs?” “The same Bart. I don’t know what else it could be. But, I’ll tell you one thing… one look at him and you’ll never forget him.” [woman] “You see.” “This ought to be worth a fortune.” “Must’ve blasted through the rock and entombed him. Some compress gas cause the freezing, I guess.” “As Island Manager I demand you bring those things up.” “Ah, tread lightly. You don’t demand anything around here today. Is the governor still in Washington?” “So far as I know he is. And, that leave me in complete charge of this island.” “Well, we’ll send him a wire and have him contact the Smithsonian. “He’ll send Paleontologist down here right away. We’ll bring the critters up and put them on the beach. You think the big crane will handle them?” “I think so.” “Alright, get her setup and I’ll be with you in a minute.” Oh also Hacker finds a frozen Caveman and decides to keep it for himself so he can sell on his own, and everyone decides it’s
cool the just leave the frozen monsters on the beach for the night, so that they can go get dinner. “So, Larry I got a job for you tonight. Babysitting” “With who’s children?” “Those dinosaurs over there.” “Oh, Saints preserve us! Then they are really there? Oh, thank the good Lord. [laughs] I’ve been seeing them all afternoon and was to afraid to tell anyone for fear it was the [indistinct].” [both laughing] It’s nice that they spread some of the casual racism around
to the white guys, too. …like I said, this is not a movie that wastes time getting to the point: The lightning wakes up the dinosaurs and the caveman and we’ve got a “people
stuck on the island with monsters movie you’d expect; where the Caveman gets into weird
hijinks… [both scream] the workmen and islanders head for an abandoned fortress to defend themselves from the dinosaurs …and the main characters get wrapped up looking for “Julio,” an irritatingly-precocious,
constantly-imperiled dinosaur-obsessed little kid that Hacker is guardian to for some reason. “There he is. Now get the kid out of the way.” [boy] “No! No, caveman it’s not right to kill.” “You are friendly. We’re going to be friends, you and me.” “I know you don’t know which way to run, and I wish I could tell you. But, you see I’m just a boy and I’m lost.” The plot of such a film is, of course, perfunctory:
we’re here to see monster action, and Dinosaurus delivers the requisite kitschy but colorful
fights scenes [screaming] [roaring] …at least one bit that Jurassic Park seems to have reference …and it’s big “probably
the reason we made the movie” showpiece, a battle between the T-Rex and the hero driving
heavy-machinery that some have suggested inspired the finale of Aliens. “Come on…get up.” Dinosaurus is a movie that a lot of the monster-movie obsessing Baby-Boomer and Gen-X fandom has
a lot of fond memories of… generally until they re-watch the whole thing on video and later realize
that there’s not a lot of meat on it’s bones outside the dinosaur sequences themselves
(which are definitely charming after a fashion!) unless you have a real thing for the unique “real world
beginning to peek through the 50s facade” feel of early 60s kitsch movies. It is oddly
underseen today though, and worth seeking out for the completist. Plus, kids seem to dig it at any era. “You are in charge. I got an idea.” “Hey, wait a minute.” And, while this by seem a bit conventional for a Schlocktober film, don’t you worry – there’s 5 Thursdays this month… it’s gonna get weirder.

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  1. AWWWW YEAH! Time for some new Schlocktober! I've been excited to see what crazy stuff he shows this year. Looks like we're off to quite a start, too!

  2. Huh. Just realized another more modern dinosaur-movie which swiped directly from this one: CARNOSAUR! (the t-rex gets into a fisticuff with two tractors in that one)
    I guess either John Corman or Adam Simon were big fans of this movie, huh? Along with Steven Spielberg, of course.

  3. I remember Bob saying he prefers his Dinos non-feathered, and even though I disagreed at the time and think realism (at least aesthetically) is something Dino films should aspire to, there's strong evidence at the mo that suggests the bigger beasties were mostly/completely scaley. Random comment, I know, but as Bob just said 3:46.

  4. I loved this film back when I was a kid, like Bob said, it's not got much outside the dinosaur parts, but it's a nice trip down memory lane, great to see it get a mention here!

  5. The dinosaurs found on a tropic island were…frozen?
    Sure, why the hell not.
    I hope the caveman survived, he was genuinely awesome and deserved a spinoff!

  6. That little spiderweb crack in the small side window of the mostly un-enclosed cab in the final fight? That's AUTHENTICITY! {g!}

  7. I remember my grandma bought me that movie on vhs from an old store chain called pic n save. I used to watch it so much as a kid.

  8. Jesus Christ, Bob, nobody thinks it's racist to do an exaggerated Irish accent. Mate you really got to drop the "wokeness" attitude. You'll enjoy life more

  9. Hey; It's one of the few Schlocktober feature I've actually seen before seeing the episode! That's a good but rare feeling this time of year.

  10. Oh, please do a retrospective on Dark Star! You know how everyone says George Lucas was groundbreaking by wanting spaceships to look "lived in"? Dark Star did that stuff like 3 years earlier! Weird and fun flick…

  11. Reminds me of looking through my old childcraft encyclopedias as a kid, which had a really cool picture of a Tyrannosaurus Rex locked in a death-match with a triceratops, and trying to figure out who would win! Good times…

  12. I'm not sure if it'd fit in with the Halloween vibe, but if you want a gore ridden and fun movie, check out "Hobo With a Shotgun." I absolutely guarantee you'll enjoy it. It's one hell of a ride. Oh and it has Rutger Hauer as the main character.

  13. I watched this when I was a child, and had totally forgotten it existed until now. I only remember being scared when the dinos awoke, and genuinely sad when they were killed.

  14. Wondering what Escapist's view of Blizzard is at the moment given they're caught red-handed eliminating dissent on behalf of the Chinese Government.
    Last I checked, their official stance, as portrayed by Moviebob, was when Diablo Immortal was announced and Escapist's official stance was that Blizzard aren't bad guys.

  15. I'm just amazed that a schlocky film like this was sharp enough to subvert the trope of the broken bottle weapon by actually portraying the realistic consequences of holding onto a glass bottle while you shatter it against a hard surface! That was always one of those acceptable breaks from reality that we just accepted in movies, that kind of subversion of accepted tropes in a film of this period is very clever.

  16. ‘Kids seem to dig it’ is 100% true! Loved this film when I was young – had it on a vhs taped off the TV – watched it quite a few times!

  17. I had this movie as a kid. I don't remember much about it, because it came in a VHS two pack with Planet of Dinosaurs, which I thought was cooler.

    I think I also get it confused with a third stop motion dinosaur movie where a bunch of kids find eggs that hatch miniature dinosaurs.

  18. Don't worry Bob, Brontosaurus is still wrong, it's just a Pluto effect where people complained so they changed it back.

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