Rare and Obscure Dinosaur films
Unknown Island (1948)
Directed by Jack Bernhard and shot in Cinecolor while most films were still in B&W, Unknown Island boasts some class actors. This is basically a King Kong movie in color without the Kong. The dinosaurs were a bit funky looking in this one, but it had a decent enough plot. Virginia Grey, Richard Denning, Phillip Reed and Barton Maclane provide above average acting for this kind of film albeit melodramatic at points. I was swooped up into the story drama and characters.
An airforce pilot, Ted, veered off course by a typhoon, spotted an island in the Pacific that had strange giant beasts living on it during WWII. Now, after the war, he and a well-to-do fiancé, Carole, are in Singapore to hire Captain TarnowskI, a hard-ass, womanizing, ship owner, to help them find this uncharted island. TarnowskI has heard of this island from a drunk, John Fairbanks (Richard Denning) and brings him along for his knowledge of the mystery. They find the island and have to battle a mutiny from the crew, dozens of Tyrannosaurus and a big ape looking thing they call a giant sloth.
They come ashore in a lagoon studio set that looks an awful lot like the set in Gilligan’s Island. Early scenes of Brontosaurus in a swamp look decent enough and several Dimetrodon look okay, until they start walking and its clear they’re being dragged by a rope. The T. Rex are men in costume and crappy ones at that. In early scenes, the crew are shooting at them from afar. As the film goes on, we get close-ups of the beasts and, oh boy, they are terrible costumes. The giant sloth/ape thing is clearly a modified gorilla costume. The sloth and a T. Rex have a ridiculous fight at the climax of the film which amounts to the two costumed actors bumping into each other over and over. It’s kinda‘, hilarious.
While Ted is interested in the discovery of the dinos and capturing them on camera, The captain is only interested in Carole and getting a piece of that action. He makes several blatant and unwelcome advances on her. Late in the film he attacks her and is saved by Fairbanks. Carole and Fairbanks fall in love. When they tell fiancé Ted, he is totally okay with it and wishes them luck ???? Anyway, with all this ridiculousness going on you may wonder why I like this film at all. I really can’t tell you for sure, but I suspect it’s the simplicity of the plot and a nostalgia for that 1940’s style storytelling. Or maybe it’s just Virginia Grey.
Can’t recommend it except for the completist dinosaur film fans.
Barton Maclane would later star in I Dream of Jeannie as General Peterson (1965-1969)
Even though they are calling them T. Rex in the film, these dinos have a horn on their snouts, which indicates they are Ceratosaurus.
In one scene, they throw grenades at the dinos and one falls over dead. In actuality, the guy in the dino-suit fainted from heat exhaustion and they left the shot in the scene.
Cinecolor was not true full color. Colors such as bright green, purple, and yellow could not be rendered properly using this process.