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Planet of Dinosaurs

Entry updated 4 July 2022. Tagged: Film.

Film (1978). Deathbeast Productions. Produced and directed by James K Shea. Written by Ralph Lucas from a story by Jim Aupperle. Creature effects by Doug Beswick and Jim Danforth (uncredited). Cast includes Mary Appleseth, Louie Lawless, Chuck Pennington, Max Thayer and James Whitworth. 83 minutes. Colour.

When the Starship Odyssey's reactor goes critical, nine of the crew manage to escape just before it disintegrates. Their shuttle-craft reaches a nearby unexplored Earth-like planet, crash-lands in a lake and promptly sinks; one crew member is killed by an unseen aquatic Monster but the rest survive. Discovering this world is inhabited by Dinosaurs (see Life on Other Worlds), Captain Norsythe (Lawless) comments: "Why not? This planet is similar to Earth – similar elements bring about similar life-forms." (Suggesting a form of Convergent Evolution.) After witnessing the inevitable T-Rex versus Stegosaurus fight, he argues that they should seek shelter and wait for rescue. Jim (Whitworth) from Engineering disagrees, insisting they should build a civilization and begin by killing dinosaurs, arguing that "Centuries ago, on Earth, wolves used to wipe out whole villages, until men went out and hunted them. Wolves learned. We've got to go out and teach them." (See Survivalist Fiction.)

One by one, the survivors are picked off by dinosaurs until only five remain; but after killing a T-Rex that has been terrorizing them, they finally feel confident of making a life here. The film ends with the exchange: "Think we'll ever be rescued?" "Somehow it doesn't really matter any more." ... and the camera pulls back to reveal a scene that recalls settlers in the Wild West, with a stone cabin, fences and an artificial pond. A primitive colony has been established (see Colonization of Other Worlds).

This is not a good film; the plot, writing and acting are all poor. The women scream and are clumsy (one mislays the radio, another drops a laser Weapon into water – making it inoperable – and a third loses the case containing their rations). The men argue, fight dinosaurs and make decisions. The stop-motion dinosaurs are adequate for the era and budget, but are by no means memorable; nevertheless, they appear to be the reason the film won the 1980 Saturn Award for "Best Film Produced for Under $1,000,000" – the only other nominee being Parts: The Clonus Horror (1979). [SP/GSt]


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