Tirano’s Claw is a South Korean film about caveman life with no dialogue, much like One Million BC. When one caveman’s love interest is about to be sacrificed to the tribes God, a huge Tyrannosaurus, he risks his life to save her, getting them both banished from the tribe. They battle a Pachycephalosaurus, a giant man-eating rat, and their fellow tribesmen as they fight for survival. There’s some nasty and grotesque scenes depicting the savagery of prehistoric life. The worst part is watching them eat. Despite its sometimes sub-par special FX it’s somewhat engaging as you root for the young couple to escape the clans relentless, and often silly/comical pursuit to bring them back to the sacrifice stone.
As far as dinosaurs are concerned, there’s a very rubber looking, man in a suit Pachycephalosaurus(slightly more realistic than Barney the purple dinosaur), a man-in-suit Pteronodonand a large animatronic Triceratops. However, the star of the show is a full-sized Tyrannosaurus, mechanical/animatronic dinosaur. I can imagine that this ungainly monstrous contraption most likely killed or maimed some of the stuntman making the film. Tirano’s Claw might only be enjoyable for Dinosaur completists, but I found it entertaining. For a long time it was very difficult to get your hands on a copy, but now you can watch the whole film on YouTube. see link(s) below.
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.
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 (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.
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 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)
1977, in the shadow of Mount Fuji, lay the unspoiled land of lakes, mountains, and caves. Camps hold activities, people fish, people explore, and people get eaten by a giant Plesiosaur in the lake. Two marine biologists go out exploring on the river to investigate the legend of a sea serpent. There’s a violent attack as the monster grabs one woman out of the raft by her leg. She fights, screams, punches and kicks, hanging upside-down, her leg bleeding profusely. Meanwhile, two explorers at the base of a mountain explore some caves. They enter a big cavern and discover some giant eggs. The explorer says, “Hey look, a giant egg,” to which the egg replies, “Hey look, dinner.” Out comes this giant flying reptile which resembles a Rhamphorhynchus. (Fossils of the actual creature show it as the size of a small dog, but in this film it’s the size of a plane.) The flying reptile heads straight for the populated beach area to cause havoc and terror. Eventually the Plesiosaur and the Rhamphorhynchus fight, as a volcano erupts, an earthquake hits and the land reclaims the dinosaurs. All we’re missing is a tsunami.
The film was produced by Toei Productions (a Toho rival) that had sci-fi success earlier with The Green Slime. The two dinos in this are not men in suits but puppetronics. In the fight scene, they try to ramp up the action but the lack of control of these puppets becomes awkwardly noticeable. Some impressive scenes make up for the less aesthetic parts. The film has blood and angry gnashing of teeth, not recommended for young children. Rolling human heads, half bodies, bloody deaths, it’s a real dino-feast going on here! There are some incredibly hokey parts, too, including a Japanese country singer at a festival honoring the lake monster.
Many reviewers call this a rip-off of Jaws. I don’t agree. They may have glommed a couple of ideas from Jaws but it’s like saying any movie with a monster with teeth is a Jaws rip-off. I have an idea what the studio was aiming for. At the time, Godzilla went into the age 6-9 market catering to pre-teens (Godzilla‘s Revenge, Godzilla vs. Gigan). Gamera had already been in that market for years. So there was a void to fill – some adults may like monster movies, too. The whole film had that loose 70’s melting pot vibe exemplified by the soundtrack (jazz, disco, and country music). It was loaded with bad pseudo-science. There’s a decent enough story about a reporter and the biologists but this film would probably only be enjoyed by dinosaur enthusiasts. (Like me)