Rare Dinosaur films and where to find them

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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. Although some of these can be found on Youtube, my quest was to own copies. You never know when they will be pulled from Youtube because of some copyright dispute.

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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.

The animal world dinos small 3 The animal world dinos - harryhausen

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Journey to the Beginning of Time (1955) (1966 US) – 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.

journey-to-the-beginning-of-time-poster journey to the beginning of time pic 14

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The Lost World (1925)
The full-length silent movie can be found on the special features DVD of The Lost World (1960) (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 Lost World 1925 - pic 5 the-lost-world-movie-poster-1925

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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.

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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

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Gallery 2: Journey to the Beginning of Time (1966)

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Gallery 3: The Lost World (1925)

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Gallery 4: The Ghost of Slumber Mountain (1919)

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Gallery 5:  Dinosaurs, the Terrible Lizards (1970)

The Lost World (1960) – Movie review

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The Lost World (1960)

Directed by Irwin Allen
Screenplay by Irwin Allen and Charles Bennett
Based on the novel of the same name by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Starring
Michael Rennie
Jill St. John
David Hedison
Claude Rains
Fernando Lamas
Richard Haydn
Ray Stricklyn
Jay Novello
Vitina Marcus

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A brash scientist, Dr. George Challenge (Claude Rains), convinces the London Zoological Society to sponsor an expedition into the Amazon. There, he claims, is an uncharted plateau, cut off from evolution for millions of years and home to giant prehistoric creatures. We are introduced to a host of characters during the build up to this expedition, each with their own eccentricities and quirks, a hunter (Michael Rennie), a reporter The Lost World 1960 - dvd(David Hedison), a woman adventurer (Jill St. John), a Latino helicopter pilot who plays guitar (Fernando Lamas) and another jungle guide, Costa (Jay Novello), to name a few. Each have their own motivations for attending this trip. The dialogue is dated to the time and script reveals a comical edge, especially concerning Dr. Challenge and the Latino guide.

The dinosaurs: This is a film that would forgo the success of stop-motion animation of the preceding decade and regress to using live reptiles with matting techniques upon scaled jungle sets. One of the dinosaurs is a Monitor Lizard with a Cerotopian frill behind its head and Stegosaurus-like plates along its back. Another is an iguana with horns obviously glued to his head. Considering what they are the film does a good job at portraying them as giant creatures and the sound design helps to sell it as we hear roaring and trees snapping in their paths. However, they look nothing at all like real dinosaurs. They call the Iguana thing a Brontosaurus and it was laughable to think that they would even use a real dinosaur name for their Frankenstein creature design.

There’s a mega battle between the Monitor frill-head/Stegasaur lizard and an alligator with spikes on his head and a sail- fin back like a Dimetrodon. They seemed to have thrown these two reptiles onto the set and let them The Lost World 1960 - pic 18battle it out. They snap at each other, bite and claw each other in bloody battle. The gator finally grabs the lizards arm in its teeth and attempts the ‘death roll’ causing them to both tumble off the set…I mean, off a cliff. This battle is so wrong by animal rights standards, it would never be attempted today.

In the finale of the film, the crew is chased by a native tribe through volcanic caverns to the base of the mountain. Everyone falls in love with their suitors and Dr. Challenge gets his scientific proof of prehistoric creatures with an egg he had saved from the volcanic eruption. No one seems to consider that the plateau stood for millions of years, but a few days of modern man caused its demise, lol.

One of the big problems with the film, dinosaurs not-withstanding, was that the huge cast was hard to manage. You never really connect with any of the characters because so little time was available for their individual stories. I’d say that Irwin Allen got better at this aspect in future films such as, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, but in this film the viewer becomes a pedestrian outsider watching a bunch of strangers.

It’s a journey of adventure, but different than the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle book. It’s intentionally comical at points, at points unintentionally comical. Despite the drawbacks, I tend to overlook the many faults of the film and enjoy it on some level. It’s appropriate for the dinosaur adventure fan and fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

 

The Lost World 1960 - pic 1

Fun Facts:

Irwin Allen used stock footage from the film for his various TV shows, including episodes of Land of the Giants, Lost in Space, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

Jay Novello, the comical Latino guide, had played several small roles in I Love Lucy.

Jill St. John would go on to play one of my fave Bond girls in Diamonds Are Forever.

Michael Rennie was of course in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

Stock Footage of the frilled dino also used in Rod Serling’s The Night Gallery episode, The Painted Mirror (1971)