Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH

WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (1970). Writer/director: Val Guest.

In another impossible world where humans and dinosaurs interact in the same time period, a pretty blond woman, Sanna (Victoria Vetri), finds she is to be sacrificed to the sun. Due to a fluke, she manages to escape, where she encounters handsome Tara (Robin Hawden), who belongs to another tribe. Trouble begins because Tara prefers Sanna to his chosen mate, and in due course he earns the enmity of most of his tribe. In the meantime Sanna runs off, takes shelter during a storm inside an eggshell, and finds herself befriended by a newly-hatched dinosaur even as it gets larger and larger. Reunited, Tara and Sanna wind up on the run from his tribe, until a cataclysm signals the creation of the moon.

Essentially a sequel or remake of Hammer's One Million Years, B.C., this is not really a better movie but it got more attention and better reviews,with some critics charmed by the business with Sanna and her pet dinosaur. When I first saw this in theaters on a double-bill with The Valley of Gwangi, I was confused, because it looked like a Ray Harryhausen movie but as soon as a triceratops thundered out of a cave, I could immediately see that the animation wasn't as good. That's because the animation wasn't done by Harryhausen but by Jim Danforth, who was certainly not untalented but never quite as good as the Master. While the animation of the aforementioned triceratops lacks that certain fluidity that marks the best of Harryhausen's work, there are still some very good sequences in this, including Sanna's "pet," who reminds one a bit of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and some deadly scuttling crabs the size of large dogs who even seem to have a bit of nasty personality. There aren't enough monsters in the movie, so a couple of clips from the 1960 Lost World are thrown in for good measure. Vetri, Hawden and the others manage some very effective pantomiming, and there's some limited language among the cave people. Oddly these savages seem to care for one another at times. Mario Nascimbene's score is better than the one he did for One Million Years, B.C., although his overuse of a sound like sticks hitting one another is annoying.

Victoria Vetri had quite a few credits before this picture under the name "Angela Dorian," including Rosemary's Baby. She appeared in Playboy and sort of reinvented herself as Vetri, winning a lead role in Dinosaurs that did nothing for her career. She later shot her husband and is in jail for involuntary manslaughter until 2020. Robin Hawden was essentially a British TV actor who later turned playwright and novelist. In this picture he had a lean, attractive swimmer's built but might have had an entirely different career if he'd had a few muscles! Val Guest directed The Abominable Snowman and many other movies.

Verdict: You get a little bored waiting for the dinosaurs to show up, but there are some good FX. **1/2.

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