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DVD Review: Dinosaurus!

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A young boy named Julio walks into a restaurant in which the two adult leads are having dinner. Julio interrupts their meal to show them his two toys, a brontosaurus and a tyrannosaurus rex. He says he got them by sending in cereal box lids. One would think toys this cheap would have came inside the box.

What follows is an awful piece of exposition, wherein Julio explains that the brontosaurus is an herbivore and the T-rex likes to eat meat. You know, just in case anyone in the audience wasn’t aware of this fact. Oh, and wouldn’t you know it? A dive to the bottom of the ocean just off the island has found those same two dinosaurs frozen in time! Wow!

Sadly, that brief interaction is the highlight of the dialogue in Dinosaurus!, an oddly titled 1960 disaster from Universal. It’s the story of a small island populated by natives and a group trying to turn it into a vacation spot. When they try to clear some of the land underwater for no apparent reason, their bombs reveal the dinosaurs.

Instead of leaving them down there for a scientific crew to excavate, they grab the bulldozers and pull. What could possibly go wrong with two dinosaurs frozen in suspended animation being pulled onto land? Apparently nothing if you lived in 1960.

A massive lightning storm awakens the beasts, along with a caveman, who somehow must have frozen to the dinosaurs way back when (even though the two never existed in the same era, but let’s give that one a pass). The caveman, played by Gregg Martell, invades a home and is amazed by the sights. It’s one of the few bright spots in the film as he discovers mirrors, plastic fruit, a radio, and kitchen utensils.

The dinosaurs begin to rampage through a plastic forest, animated poorly via stop motion (or controlled via puppetry). Not all of the blame lies with model creator Marcel Delgado. Steve McQueen was originally planned for the lead role after his performance in The Blob, but he was deemed too difficult to work with. Undoubtedly, the budget dropped when he did.

Universal also cut the model time short as well. Delgado worked on the 1925 Lost World, ’33 King Kong, ‘53 War of the Worlds, and more. There is no loss of talent, but Universal only gave him two weeks to design the models when they promised up to six. It’s hard to imagine any executive seeing these creations on screen and giving them thumbs up.

However, you have to deal the cards you’re given, and in this case, the cards are two stiff, barely mobile dinosaurs with zero realistic features. Thankfully, the film is barely played straight, aiming young and staying there. You can’t possibly take a movie seriously when one of the main characters is called Dumpy. He must have been the lost eighth dwarf…

The T-rex munches on a few people, tries to invade a mine holding some of the key cast, and fights the brontosaurus (or here is it brontosaurusus?). Eventually, it leads to an “epic” showdown between the T-rex and Ward Ramsey inside a power shovel that doesn’t end well for the dinosaur side of things. It’s all a very forgettable, shoddy spin on a giant monster genre that was already knocking on deaths door at the time of release. At least it ended with a question mark, indicating a sequel was on the way. We’re still waiting.

Dinosaurus comes to DVD from Image Entertainment, the first time home video has delivered an accurate 2.35:1 transfer. Video is fair, with sporadic print damage, including excessive lines running through the frame in the underwater segments. Edge enhancement and mosquito noise are a regular problem.

Colors are bold, although the image carries an over-processed look. Undoubtedly some grain reduction was performed here. There is an odd encode error around the 59:30 mark, where digital white artifacts creep into the frame. It doesn’t seem to be a problem with the effects since previous shots performed fine.

Inside the restaurant, a small band bangs on some metal drums and it is quite evident here this mono track needed some extra cleanup. The soundtrack is heavily strained on the high end, although the dialogue is clean and free of distortion. The dinosaur roar also sounds tinny, although it’s not exactly the highlight of sound design to begin with.

Extras include the original trailer and small stills gallery, including some lobby cards.

The brontosaurus model apparently lived on after the shoot, appearing in an episode of Twilight Zone, “The Odyssey of Flight 33.”

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.