Dinosaurs stomping across tropical islands are a sight that has inspired many filmmakers and moviegoers alike. A menagerie of creatures has been conjured up by some of the most imaginative people over the years to create ever new stories to bring these creatures back to life. Whether it is the dinosaur that Willis O’Brien created in "King Kong" or the countless beasts Ray Harryhausen breathed life into, for some reason, these films always have a weird charm that usually hinges more around the creatures than the film themselves. Now, Image Entertainment invites DVD fans to a ride to meet these prehistoric creatures in the 1960 feature "Dinosaurus!"
The film takes place on a remote Caribbean island where work on a new harbor is well underway. While the works set off blast after blast to make room for the harbor, they uncover two dinosaurs that had been frozen at the bottom of the sea. Not the least surprised about their findings it seems they bring the two creatures out of the sea onto the beach, by wrapping chains around their necks and hauling them ashore. Thoughts of keeping them untouched for science’s sake are not even brought up in the film, as it would have hampered to unfold the story, of course. So without any preparation or caution these creature are left in the sun to dry and while they slowly unfreeze a tropical storm brews over the island. With thunderous clashes, eventually the creatures are struck by lightning - lying flat on the floor with soaking wet trees and huts around, no less - and in the best Frankenstein manner, the electricity sparks new life within these monstrous creatures. While the Tyrannosaurus Rex immediately sets about to feast on the villagers, the Brontosaurus prefers to disappear in the dense jungle of the island.
In the meanwhile, the evil governor of the island also finds a frozen caveman who is also resurrected by the same lightning. Intent on selling him as a curiosity he tries to catch the cave man, unaware of the fact that giant dinosaurs are now roaming the island. For that one night, there is more life on the island than there ever was before, as the escape from the dinosaurs and the hunt for the caveman take villagers and creatures across the island and to their inevitable fate.
The story of "Dinosaurus!" is absolutely hilarious for two reasons. For one, the film is laid out as a comedy in part. The caveman has been installed for comic relief as he goes through a culture shock and learns to deal with modern day appliances - look out for the scene when he first finds out about the toilet flush! Many great moments come out of this scenario alone and coupled with the traditional dinosaur-resurrection and destruction story, the film has a very whimsical charm.
At the same time, the technical limitations and the absurd story, with holes so large you could bury ten dinosaurs in, is just a riot. In the end, you walk away from "Dinosaurus!" with a big smile and the knowledge that they just don’t make movies like this any more - or do they?
Image Entertainment has prepared a brand new 16x9 enhanced transfer of the movie from the film’s original camera negative. The result is a sparkling presentation of the movie that belies the film’s age. Crisp and clean and almost without defects, the presentation of the movie is beautifully rendered and highly detailed - too detailed at times, as it makes the low quality of the effects shots quite obvious. Whether it is the rear-projection effects shots or the stop animation blend using projection, unfortunately you are always keenly aware of the film’s limitations. However, I enjoyed that quite a bit because to me, that makes up much of the film’s charm, and I am sure many connoisseurs of classic monster movies feel the same way.
The colors of the transfer are well-preserved, giving the movie a bold and saturated look without bleeding or noise. Even film grain is held at bay and hardly noticeable to my surprise. The blacks in the transfer are deep and create a very pleasing image.
The disc contains a monaural Dolby Digital audio track that also holds up surprisingly well. With a very low noise floor, the track is very clean and without distracting hiss or other deficiencies. Although the track has limited dynamic range and very limited frequency response, it is always pleasing. Dialogues are clear and understandable, but contain a hint of sibilance on occasion. The music is harsh and thin, as we have come to love it from these films. Using full orchestral scores, the music in this kind of movie always has a stinging, searing quality during its crescendi that literally drills its way into your ears. "Dinosaurus!" does not disappoint in that respect. During some of the dramatic action scenes we get to witness some glorious moments of compressed sonic barrage that practically drowns out everything around it and becomes one with the screams and roars of the dinosaurs themselves. Absolutely authentic!
A poster gallery and the movie’s theatrical trailer can also be found on the disc, as well as some very informative liner notes written by film historian Tom Weaver. As usual, Weaver’s insight is revealing and informative, uncovering many of the long lost facts surrounding the movie and its production.
As you can doubtlessly tell from this review, I had a great time watching "Dinosaurus!" It was exactly what I expected and more. The presentation quality of the movie was significantly better than I would have imagined, giving this rather old movie a look that always feels authentically old, yet never neglected. With the anamorphic transfer you get to see every bit of detail in the production design of the movie, and the story itself will have you rolling on the floor at times. While certainly not the best entry in the genre, "Dinosaurus!" is a fun romp that every fan of the genre should see - especially if it comes in such a great presentation as this one from Image Entertainment.