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King Dinosaur

Entry updated 24 January 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1955). Zimgor. Directed by Bert I Gordon. Written by Tom Gries, based on a story by Bert I Gordon and Al Zimbalist. Cast includes William Bryant, Wanda Curtis, Patti Gallagher and Douglas Henderson. 63 minutes. Black and white.

A new planet named Nova wanders into the Solar System near Earth, so the United States rushes to build a Spaceship to visit the planet. Two male and two female Scientists (Bryant, Curtis, Henderson, Gallagher) land on Nova, and after two spacesuited members emerge to test the atmosphere and determine that it is safe to breath (although higher in oxygen content than Earth's atmosphere), all four scientists begin exploring the Earthlike planet. They discover many creatures similar to Earth animals, including a crocodile and a giant snake, and when two of them visit an interesting-looking Island covered with jungles, they also discover Dinosaurs, one of which traps the pair in a cave. When the others arrive to rescue them, they decide to blow up the island using a portable nuclear-powered power unit which can be turned into an atomic bomb. Upon witnessing the explosion, they ironically conclude that they have "brought civilization to planet Nova."

The first sf film made by writer/director/producer Gordon, King Dinosaur introduces his characteristic device of placing actors in front of rear-projected footage of small animals to create the unpersuasive illusion that humans are confronting enormous Monsters; here, some ordinary lizards are presented as dinosaurs, one of them even described as a Tyrannosaurus rex despite the fact that it walks on four legs. As another economical strategy, Gordon only used four actors, depicting the extended preparations for the space flight solely by means of narration and stock footage. This is one of the first films, if not the first film, to bring together two of the dominant tropes of 1950s sf films – giant monsters and Space Flight – a combination later observed in several films featuring Gojira from Japan's Toho Studios. Its other interesting aspect is the characters' odd response to their discovery of Alien lifeforms on another planet – namely their decision to destroy them with a nuclear Weapon – which might be explored as a commentary on American values if there were any evidence that it resulted from anything other than Gordon's desire to provide his film with a spectacular conclusion (employing stock footage, of course). [GW]


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