This has always been one of my favorite dinosaur movies.
Yes, it’s cheesy. We know that. The T-Rex here has to be the worst screen dinosaur ever (how can it eat anything when there is no opening into its throat inside its mouth?), and the shot of a boulder bouncing off its head is so ridiculous that you shouldn’t ever watch it while drinking milk.
But, for those of us who can overlook some of its technical flaws, it offers everything you could ever ask for in a movie of this type: dinosaurs, a lost world under the Arctic ice, an earth-boring ship with a big cone shaped screw on the front, cavemen, dinosaurs, a famous hunter, a sexy girl reporter and, of course, dinosaurs.
What makes this one interesting is an extremely battered Richard Boone as Masten Thrust, the billionaire hunter who can have anything he wants – even a fireplace in his private jet! – who decides to go hunt the biggest of all game: dinosaurs!
And of course, he’s willing to sacrifice anything and everyone to get what he wants.
There is a nice contrast between the high tech (for the 70s) “mission control” on the ship that launches the borer, and the primitive and hostile world they find waiting for them, where all of civilization’s toys get swept aside in an instant. The T-Rex itself seems to be a symbol of the power of raw nature, which all of our preparations leave us utterly unable to stop. And ultimately this reinforces what becomes more and more obvious, that Thrust’s obsession can only lead to destruction for everyone involved.
Rankin/Bass, best known for their slew of stop motion TV holiday specials (like Santa Claus Is Coming to Town) made this as one of their rare ventures into more adult films, with the legendary Tsuburaya Productions (Ultraman, among many, many others) providing the creatures and effects.
The two also teamed up for the ghost story/giant turtle monster movie, The Bermuda Depths, which is just as cheesy, just as charming, but far more batty and unique.
So, if you are a nitpicker, the kind who complains if your movie T-Rex has the zygomatic bone all the wrong shape, then you’d better avoid this one. But if you’re looking for a fun and only mildly silly dino hunting film with a big name actor chewing all the scenery in sight…well, you won’t find too many better, no matter how many millions Speilberg dumps in them.
(movie available here.)