Friday, February 1, 2013

THE LAST DINOSAUR (1977) movie review

Last Dinosaur, The (1977) d. Kotani, Tom / Grasshoff, Alex (USA)

“His time has passed; there are no more. He is the last dinosaur.” From jazz vocalist Nancy Wilson’s warbling theme over the opening credits, we are assured that subtlety will not be the order of the day. Top-billed Richard Boone behaves as though he just crawled out of a whiskey bottle to assay the role of great white hunter and oil tycoon Masten Thrust, and his full-throttle performance elevates what could have been a C-grade Lost World retread into camp classic gold.

When one of Thrust’s drilling expeditions brings back reports of a prehistoric world, a scientific/hunting team is assembled to try to study and/or bag a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Chewing every bit of leafy scenery in sight, Boone is matched, hysterical line reading for line reading, by a supremely incompetent, pre Knots-Landing Joan Van Ark as a ditzy, sexy photographer who finds herself falling for the big galoot in spite of his egoistic and outdated notions of gender roles.

If the human histrionics don’t keel you over laughing, the painfully clumsy guy-in-a-suit dino action will surely finish you off. The loopy lizard radically changes in size from shot to shot – even towering over the treetops at one point – and cribs his roars directly from a certain Japanese radioactive fire-breather.

The best bits are when co-directors Grasshoff and Kotani decide to commingle monsters with minerals: One moment has a gigantic rock tied to the big fella’s tail with both rolling down a mountainside, while another features a catapulted boulder that sinks into and laughably rebounds from Rex’s latex cranium. Originally scheduled for theatrical release, wiser heads prevailed and the film premiered, in edited form, on network television.

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