Rare and obscure Dinosaur films and where to find them
This post is for those interested in special FX, stop-motion animation, and for dinosaur film enthusiasts. The films here would probably not be considered highly entertaining in this day and age without the enjoyment of nostalgia and cinema history.
The Animal World (1966) – Documentary
The Animal World is a documentary by Irwin Allen (famous for his 1970’s disaster movies, The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure) attempting to show the scope of animal evolution from the beginning of time to date. It is all live footage except for a ten minute sequence in the beginning showcasing Dinosaurs. They hired Willis O’Brien for the project who then handed off much of the work to his underling (at the time), Ray Harryhausen. This ten minute sequence featured a Stegosaurus, two Ceratosaurus, a Brontosaurus, a T. Rex and a Triceratops. It is the highlight of the film with some wonderful bloody dino battles and an extinction meteor-hit/volcano sequence. I had originally seen these Dinosaurs on a View Master 3d viewer, because the film itself was rarely played on TV, nor was it easy to get in later years on VHS. Amazingly you can find the entire Harryhausen/O’Brien Dinosaur sequence in the dvd special features of The Black Scorpion.
Journey to the Beginning of Time (1966) – Documentary
The 1st time I ever saw this may have been either in school during a science class, or on one of the early educational public broadcast stations, like the ones Sesame Street plays on. Three boys leave the Museum of Natural History, get on a raft and as they float downstream they go back in time. Along the shore we see eras going from the Ice Age to the Age of Dinosaurs as the boys enter periods of misadventure trying to find their way home. This is a hard to get Czeck-made film but I found it on VHS after considerable searching. Hunt for VHS version on Ebay and I-Offer.
The Lost World (1925)
The full-length silent movie can be found on the special features DVD of The Lost World (1955) (Irwin Allen). This was Willis Obrien’s first feature film based on the Sir Author Conan Doyle classic adventure. In the end, the crew brings a Brontosaurus back to London. The beast goes on a rampage through the streets. This definitely feels like a precursor of things to come. Eight Years later, O’Brien would lead his greatest beast into the streets of NYC for the epic film, King Kong (1933).
The Ghost of Slumber Mountain (1919)
This is another early Willis O’Brien film, a short (approx. 20 minutes). It demonstrates Obie honing his skills at creating/animating dinosaurs while telling an entertaining story (for the time). A man tells his nephews a tale from when he was a boy. There was a mountain top that, if you climbed it, you could see the events of prehistoric times. It has quite a few dinosaurs in it and you can notice the progression of Obie’s rising talents by watching this great little film and comparing it to future movies. It is a silent film so it wouldn’t be to everyone’s liking, but there were aspects I enjoyed. I kinda’ enjoy most things with Dinosaurs, though. You can find the movie in the special features of Planet of Dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs, The Terrible Lizards (1970) – Wah Chang’s, – Documentary
The Terrible Lizards is a docu-film showing the life of dinosaurs, created and produced by Wah Chung. It was most likely a very good documentary at the time but now seems more applicable to children‘s viewing. A lot of the science is now dated but the visuals are interesting. Another interesting aspect about the film is one of the models was later used as the star dinosaur in the 1970’s children show, Land of The Lost (1974) (Grumpy). Wah Chang worked visual and special fx on a multitude of sci-fi movies including, Planet of the Apes (1968), The Time Machine (1960), Jack the Giant Killer (1962) and Star Trek (TV Series), and of course, the Land of the Lost TV series (1970‘s). He was also an un-credited puppet designer in both, The Black Scorpion and Tarantula. I hope to on day get a better quality version but for now, you can see the whole “Dinosaurs” documentary here on Youtube:
Gallery 1: The Animal World
extinction in 3D thanks to View Master
View Master set uses Animal World dinos in 3D
Another View Master set
Gallery 2: Journey to the Beginning of Time (1966)
Gallery 3: The Lost World (1925)
Professor Challenger and his team
Gallery 4: The Ghost of Slumber Mountain (1919)
Gallery 5: Dinosaurs, the Terrible Lizards (1970)