Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Last Dinosaur (1977)



          While the folks at Rankin/Bass Productions are justifiably revered for having made several beloved holiday-themed TV specials—Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), and so on—Rankin/Bass also collaborated periodically with Japanese companies to make monster movies. The results of these creative unions were not pretty. In addition to the abysmal King Kong Escapes (1967) and the bizarre The Bermuda Depths (1978), Rankin/Bass helped create The Last Dinosaur, a boring creature feature in the Edgar Rice Burroughs vein. Veteran big-screen tough guy Richard Boone, giving a performance so half-assed he seems like he never rehearsed a single line, stars as super-rich oilman and big-game hunter Maston Thrust. No, seriously. Maston Thrust. Whose last name is emblazoned on jets and underground boring vehicles that look like missiles. Yes, the man’s empire features countless giant phallic objects labeled Thrust.
          Anyway, Maston announces a spectacular new expedition because one of his oil-drilling teams accidentally discovered a hidden valley inhabited by a surviving T-Rex. After disingenuously pledging to study the creature rather than kill it, Thrust and his companions—including an intrepid photojournalist (Joan Van Ark), a mute African scout (Luther Rackley), and a square-jawed scientist (Steven Keats)—head to the dinosaur’s lair. Upon arrival, they discover many prehistoric beasties, as well as a tribe of primitive humans. The less said about the film’s dramatic scenes, the better, since the only thing worse than the acting is the patronizingly stupid writing. (“Maston, please, you’ve done all anyone could, and you’ve been magnificent,” Van Ark says breathlessly at one point. “But let the dinosaur go—it’s the last one!”) The monster scenes are no improvement. Actors in rubber suits flounce around elaborate scale-model sets of caves and jungles, with the leading players badly matted into the foreground.
          The Last Dinosaur is deeply dull, especially when Maury Lewis’ grating score pastiches together blues, jazz, and orchestral flavors into sonic sludge. Plus, God help us, there’s a theme song, performed by noted jazz crooner Nancy Wilson. Although released to cinemas in Japan, The Last Dinosaur originally reached American audiences as an ABC movie of the week in 1977. Whether the folks at Rankin/Bass previously envisioned a U.S. theatrical release is a mystery.

The Last Dinosaur: LAME

3 comments:

Will Errickson said...

Hilariously bad, yes, but man, for a seven-year-old kid like me at the time, it was still like dinosaur manna from heaven.

William Blake Hall said...

Ohh, I remember this wreck. Will's right, for a kid it's a campy time-killer. I vaguely recall some alleged subtext about Boone himself being the last of a bold rugged breed, yearning to finally get away from it all in a world that's less and less fun. Boone is asked not to kill the dinosaur because "it's the last of its kind!" only to rumble back "So am I." My dad made the speculation -- which terrified me even back then -- that this might be intended as a pilot for a series. Hey, Boone's still alive, he has a cavewoman to hang with, and there's more of that crazy world to check out. For Antarctic dinosaurs, I'd go with 1957's "The Land Unknown," and for a billionaire rediscovering himself through a struggle for survival, I'd go with the Mamet-penned 1997 curiosity "The Edge" starring Anthony Hopkins, featuring one of Bart the Bear's greatest performances and one of the best damn Jerry Goldsmith scores you'll find anywhere.

Cindylover1969 said...

Rankin/Bass also did an updated (to 1983) and gender flipped adaptation of "The Picture Of Dorian Gray" called "The Sins Of Dorian Gray" with Dorian being a model and her 'portrait' being a screen test. Mm.