Planet of Dinosaurs

 

I went trolling the interweb a couple of weeks ago looking to watch a good movie. Instead I found Planet of Dinosaurs. Okay, maybe that is a bit unkind. It’s not a terrible movie. And to be completely honest, I almost revel in some of the film’s cheesy 1970s cheapness.

James Shea is the man responsible for this gem. In allocating his limited funds, Shea blew the budget on stop motion dinosaur effects– a perfectly reasonable decision in my book. The result? A Planet of Dinosaurs with almost Harryhausen-worthy prehistoric beasties.


I have to applaud Shea for his production choices. He could have easily gone the Irwin Allen route– which would have taken him by a pet shop on the way to the set. There he’d want to purchase a baby caiman and a couple of iguanas for the prop department, who’d take the poor lizards and slap on some plastic horns or fins. So much for the big “dinosaur” scenes. Nope. Shea has too much integrity as a filmmaker. He made his monsters the old fashioned way.

Unfortunately, after paying for dinosaur effects, that left a budget large enough to almost fill the tank of a 1978 Honda Civic at 1978 gas prices (a total fill up of about $4.25). Shea does what he can with no resources left and it shows.

“Stand by for power thrust! Everyone strapped in?”

We’re in deep space with the crew of the exploration ship USS I Don’t Remember the Name and It Really Doesn’t Matter. Something goes terribly wrong and the crew escapes to a nearby planet with an Earth-like atmosphere. The crew, with their fabulous 1970s hair and Hanna-Barbera futuristic space disco jumpers, sets out to explore this new world. Half of the crew is made up of vintage 1970s hot chicks, the other half are guys who look like Ron Burgundy except one, who reminded me, oddly, of Ron Jeremy.

Stiff dialogue, bad acting, weak characters, and poor production values caused me to wonder briefly, “Is this a porn movie?” I waited for the guy who looked like Eddie Rabbit with a Lou Ferrigno body to announce, “We need to populate this virgin world.” There would be an orgy. Maybe a girl wearing a strap-on tyrannosaurus rex tail would show up to join in the fun. The mind boggles.

Instead of a poorly constructed narrative connecting bouts of hot sex action, we get a poorly constructed narrative connecting bouts of hot dinosaur action. People get eaten . . . by prehistoric monsters! Yea!

Planet of Dinosaurs is a bad movie; but a good bad movie. The dialogue is terrible and acting is bad but played with a total earnestness that makes it work. The dinosaurs are awesome. People get devoured. The mix is entertaining. It’s the sort of cheap 1970s drive-in trash that a guy like Rob Zombie wishes he could make.

James Shea, as far as I know, never made another movie. Bummer. As far as I’m concerned, he made all the right choices here. If you’re going to make a movie called Planet of Dinosaurs, it better have dinosaurs and this movie does.
 

Starring:
James Whitworth
Pamela Bottaro
Louie Lawless
Harvey Shain
Charlotte Speer
Chuck Pennington
Derna Wylde

Directed:
James Shea

Screenplay:
Jim Aupperle
Ralph Lucas

 

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