Home > Uncategorized > Planet of the Dinosaurs (1978)

Planet of the Dinosaurs (1978)

“Planet of the Dinosaurs” can best be described as a watered down lecture on human motivation with kick ass dinosaur special effects.  Pay no attention to the cool Frank Frazetta-esque movie poster, because the movie the poster sells is not even close to being good.  The dialogue comes out like a philosophy syllabus that poses questions like, ‘why do we follow the people we follow,’ or ‘should personal safety come before come before environmental dominance?’  Somebody who has never seen the movie before may say, ‘these are good questions,’ and ‘these questions should make for an interesting movie.’  This is true; these questions should make for an interesting movie, but they don’t.  Half of “Planet of the Dinosaurs” is made up of montages of people walking through the Vasquez Rocks, and the other half is comprised of the most wooden acting ever caught on film.  By the end, I was hoping the stop motion dinosaurs would just eat everybody.

A group of space explorers are able to jettison from their mother ship just before a hot reactor explodes.  Judging from the uniforms and hair styles of the crew, it seems like they all signed up at the Haight-Ashbury Space Exploration recruiting office.  Anyway, the life pod crashes on an alien world that looks absolutely nothing like the Santa Clarita Valley. Within the first ten minutes, the film makers decided that it would be a good idea to kill off the hot, busty blonde who stripped half naked to retrieve a radio transmitter from a lake.  True, she was killed by a cool aquatic dinosaur, but, more importantly, the blonde was killed.  In my humble opinion, it was all downhill from there.  The next forty minutes of the film consist of a seemingly never ending walking montage as the characters search for higher ground, and ultimately, rescue.  Once the characters reach the perceived safety of a high plateau, (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World, anybody) they set up a flimsy base camp and are systematically picked off by a huge Tyrannosaurs Rex.  The only thing better than watching hippies try figure out how to kill dinosaurs, is watching hippies getting eaten by dinosaurs.  The group finally gets their shit together, and kills the T-Rex by impaling it on a big, poisonous stake.  With the angry carnivore gone, the hippies tame the landscape and make revealing clothing out of animal pelts.  The general consensus of the group seems to be that rescue is not important anymore.

I loved this movie as a kid.  The reason for this is that when I was a kid, I only cared about dinosaurs.  The movie could have been a Jane Austin costume piece, but as long as it had dinosaurs, I would have loved it.  That philosophy doesn’t work so well for me anymore.  It is true that the stop motion dinosaurs in this movie are pretty cool, but that can’t save it.  Every scene without dinosaurs is laborious and didactic as it lays out the characters and their conflict.  The awful soundtrack could be likened to a rejected Kraftwerk B-side, and it perfectly embodies the movie’s shoe string budget.  This sad combination of elements lands “Planet of the Dinosaurs” in that post-Star Wars era of film, where directors either spun gold, like “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” or shat filth, like “Flash Gordon.”  After watching “Planet of the Dinosaurs” for the first time in fifteen years, I began to wonder how many other classics from my youth were simply pure junk.  It think it’s time to find out.

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