Valley of the Dragons (1961)

It was a decidedly strange moment.  The heroes of Valley of the Dragons look up in the sky and say that there’s a pterosaur.  But the creature we see is, in fact, very, very familiar.  Too familiar.

Which is probably why no one else ever tried to pass off footage of Rodan as a pterodactyl.

Even if that is what Toho claims he is.

Once again, we see yet another example of the basic, unstated ground rule of Jules Verne film adaptations:  it must have as little to do with Jules Verne as possible.

In this case, it starts off as an adaptation of Verne’s Hector Servadac (Off on a Comet), with the duel, and the comet snatching our heroes away when it passes too close to the Earth, before switching gears and turning into yet another version of One Million B.C. – complete with lots of footage borrowed from the caveman epic. Oh, and of course, the shell tribe and the stone tribe.  Is it even possible to make a caveman film without the shell tribe?

Of course most of this footage consists of “dinosaurs” – i.e., small live lizards – fighting each other in small sets, complete with flames, dinosaurs tumbling into fissures, and even a few added fins.  Supposedly, they didn’t shoot any special effects for this film, although there is a big spider which catches one character in its web.  However, the spider is the same silly looking prop from Cat-Women of the Moon, looking, if anything, even sillier here (supposedly it was made for Tarantula, but only shows up for an instant or two.  Which doesn’t make it any easier to believe this silly thing could ever have been in one of Jack Arnold’s SF films).

However, the dino effects are actual moderately impressive – which is probably why they’ve been stolen for so many other films (Two Lost Worlds, King Dinosaur, Robot Monster and more!).  What I find myself thinking repeatedly is that those are real lizards doing real damage to each other, real flames burning the real lizards, and real gaps those poor critters are falling down into – which happen to have real flames gushing out of them.  One feels a bit sorry for them – but I am also uncomfortably aware of the fact that the ASPCA would have slapped a lawsuit on these guys before “Ignatz and Rumsford” (to borrow Dave Sindelar‘s nicknames) ever got to do more than snarl at each other (after all, someone was probably poking them with a stick.  And there is a lot of snarling and yowling going on here).

Ironically, it had been a while since I’d seen One Million B.C. so the footage seemed quite impressive, even if I did recognize it.  And I think that is the best one can say for this one, that it has a few impressive moments, even though most of them were borrowed from other films.

The basic concept here is one that I suspect Verne engaged in as a bit of whimsy, giving him an opportunity to talk a little science, while creating a unique and strange world for his usual French military engineer to triumph over.  By the Sixties, it can really only be seen as a bit of a joke – which this film decides to play out straight.

But Karel Zeman’s comic, semi-animated version, Na komete (On the Comet, 1970), with its quaint, old fashioned tourist postcards style, is by far a better adaptation – even if it really isn’t one of Zeman’s better films.  So you might just want to try his The Fabulous World of Jules Verne instead.

After all, it isn’t so much that this American-made version is bad – or that it isn’t much like Verne.  The real problem is that it is only mildly amusing, even with Ignatz and Rumsford, and never does much to distinguish itself.

Well, other than, perhaps, that brief flash of light between the cavegirls breasts in that underwater scene, the one that everyone keeps making a fuss about.

But it really isn’t worth the effort.  You can see more skin in your average commercial these days.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.