The hiring of Caucasian actors to play Asian roles was still commonplace in the Hollywood of the mid-’70s, so it would be wrong to single out Walt Disney Productions for special enmity while discussing the race problem plaguing the company’s kiddie comedy One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing. Still, watching Peter Ustinov mug his way through a stereotypical performance as a Chinese master criminal is painful, and his portrayal reflects the overall stupidity of the picture. Even though One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing benefits from Disney’s usual lavish production values, to say nothing of Helen Hayes’ appealing star turn as an intrepid nanny, the picture plucks so much low-hanging fruit, comedically speaking, that it’s hard to imagine anyone but very young children enjoying the experience. Much of the film comprises an absurd chase during which a truck bearing a dinosaur skeleton roams the streets of 1920s London, with every imaginable sight gag used to attenuate the sequence. Other would-be highlights include a scene of multiple nannies crawling and leaping around the skeleton while looking for a hidden object, the same set of nannies hiding inside the mouth of a life-sized whale sculpture, and a bizarre throwaway scene in which a King Kong-sized yeti helpfully carries a man across a snowy Tibetan field. As for the plot, it’s idiocy about Hnup Wan (Ustinov) seeking the formula for something called “Lotus X,” which British explorer Lord Southmere (Derek Nimmo) has stolen from China. Through convoluted circumstances, Lord Southmere tasks his childhood nanny, Hettie (Hayes), with protecting the formula. She recruits fellow caregivers to foil Hnup Wan’s scheme. Basically a cartoon rendered in live-action, this is pathetic stuff, too silly for adult viewers to enjoy, and too racially insensitive for modern parents to share with their kids.
One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing: LAME