Like most long time hobbies, my interest in Bad Movies(TM) began with easy stuff and got more hardcore as time went along. First I watched patently inept flicks like Curse of Bigfoot and It's Alive (not the mutant baby one). But now I can watch an expensive, technically proficient turkey and recognize how truly awful it is.
This task is more difficult, and more excruciating as well. It takes a lot more effort to dissect such a movie, whereas anyone can half watch Plan 9 From Outer Space and `get' how bad it is. My twentieth year of watching cinematic dreck rapidly (too rapidly) approaches. So I feel fully qualified to take an axe to expensive Hollywood stinkers like Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, MegaForce and On Deadly Ground. And boy, do they deserve it. Still, as I've indicated, such films can really take a lot out of you. Particularly when you live with them the way I do in writing these articles. So it's nice, every once in a while, to watch the really obviously bad stuff. Which brings us to The Last Dinosaur.
Much like its mighty sauropod ancestors, The Last Dinosaur once ruled its world. (I know a sauropod is a four-legged vegetarian dinosaur, as opposed to the title T-Rex. But I like the sound of the sentence that way. Sue me.) There was a time, during the late `80s, when our subject here was constantly on the air. Nary a session of channel flipping could go by without running across it. Particularly if you had cable, it seemed that two or three times a month you would stumble across this film playing in all its idiosyncratic glory. My friend Andrew Muchoney can back me up on this, as it was a running topic of some amazement. Whenever one of us would catch in on the air, we'd call the other and say, "Guess what's on?" There were other films like this. For instance, during the stand up comedy boom of the `80s, the movie C.H.U.D. was a familiar punchline. Because there were only a limited number of film titles sanctioned for cable at the time (like when the early MTV had about nine videos it could show), C.H.U.D. was seemingly shown ten times a month on each cable movie channel. You couldn't get away from it, and if you did, you'd usually run into The Last Dinosaur.
Why? Possibly the film was in the public domain. This means that ownership rights for the film have lapsed., Therefore, anyone with a print of it could run it for free whenever they liked. For years, It's a Wonderful Life was in the public domain. This is why it used to run about six dozen times each Christmas. (These repeat showings, by the way, transformed an initially unpopular flick into a beloved national classic.) Ownership of It's a Wonderful Life has recently been reestablished. This is why it's now telecast only once a year, on the NBC network. For the same reason, it's now only available from one video label. Old-timers like myself will remember when it was available in a wide array of cheaply reproduced video versions. Again, being in the public domain, anyone with a copy (say you recorded it off your local PBS station during the holidays) could dub it onto tape and sell it. Needless to say, most of these versions were poorly produced. The film, running well over two hours, was often substantially hacked up to fit on a standard two-hour tape.
I doubt, however, that The Last Dinosaur, or C.H.U.D. for that matter, was a public domain title. More likely in these cases, the films' owners believed that maximum profits could be accrued by selling broadcast rights that were both unlimited (you could run it as much as you liked during the contract period without additional payments) and non-exclusive (i.e., nobody would pay enough to "own" the broadcast rights, so the owners sold them to multiple stations at the same time). But it's not only that these films would have been cheap to run. You also must factor in a certain level of guaranteed viewership. For there is always a certain percentile of audience members who, while surfing along the broadcast waves, will stop at the first sight of a rubber monster or prehistoric beast.
Our film opens in the den of our antihero, industrialist and big game hunter Masten Thrust (!). That name should give you some idea of the script's quality. Thrust's the last of the manly men, an anachronism is today's girly-man world. He's played by long time TV star Richard Boone. Boone reaped his greatest fame starring in Have Gun, Will Travel, a surprisingly cynical `50s TV western. Part of the show's attraction was that the main character, Paladin, was played by the craggy featured Boone, rather than one of the era's typical pretty boys. Unfortunately, as age took its toll, Boone went from homely/handsome to just plain ugly. The weight he put on didn't help, bloating his face rather severely. Think of a fatter Roy Orbison with big `70s hair and you'll be in the right ballpark. By the time he appeared in this movie, Boone was pretty hard on the eyes. This was his last film, I think, and he played the part as broadly as it was written. Let's just say that I hope he provided a big ol' bucket of mustard to go with all that ham.
In his own way, Thrust is as much of a `last dinosaur' as the movie's title beastie. More so, in fact, as there are any number of dinosaurs running around in the `Lost World' we'll stumble into later. One can just imagine the screenwriter convincing himself that all this `subtext' somehow justified the crappy script. Setting the mood, the movie's theme plays in melancholy fashion in the background. Remember how they played the Brady Bunch theme real slow during the `sad' scenes? Like that. Thrust is showing slides of his kills to his latest bimbo, who comes accessorized with a little white dog. He rants on, bitching about people who bitch about people who hunt big game. She, in turn, stares in bewildered incomprehension at his little tirade (much like the audience).
Disconsolate with his, uh, companion's lack of intellectual firepower, Thrust turns to go. When the girl moans for him not to leave her (eee-yuck!), Thrust leaves behind a truly garish zebra skin photo album for her to peruse. This item is so ugly that it looks like something stolen from a Chesty Morgan flick. We also see that Thrust has made the cover of the latest issue of "Newsworld" magazine. This comes complete with a helpful caption explaining that Thrust is the richest man in the world. As the photo album is picked up, we cut to an obviously bogus airplane that has "Bad Japanese FX" written all over it (The Last Dinosaur was an American/Japanese co-production). Now, I'm a huge Godzilla fan. Still, I've always found it strange how Japanese fantasy movies would use models to create not only fantastic elements like giant monsters and futuristic weaponry, but also real life stuff like airplanes and bulldozers. I assume that this was to increase visual "consistency" or something. I mean, wouldn't stock footage have been cheaper and easier, not to mention less obviously phony? (It should be noted that this technique has been largely abandoned in more recent Japanese fare.)
Hilariously, we're supposed to `get' that this trophy filled rec room, complete with working fireplace, is located on Thrust's private jet! Well, he's been identified as the world's richest man, I guess, not the world's most tasteful man. Our temporary heroine opens the photo album. This is the cue for an `artistic' transition to the opening credits. (Somebody's been to film school.) These play over the leafing of the album's obviously doctored photos of Thrust's past. As the camera records a series of improbably expositional photos and spurious `newspaper' articles, the film's theme song begins. As noted before, Thrust is metaphorically a `last dinosaur' himself, and the song's lyrics are `artfully' written so as advance this `meaning.' A Shirley Bassey sound-alike (at least I hope it's a sound-alike!) starts crooning: "His time has passed/There are no more/He is the Last.Di-na-Sore!"
We cut to a truly pointless shot of toy airplanes `taxiing' around an equally phony airport. Then we go to footage shot at a real airport. Thrust and his trollop deplane down one of those portable step deals. This is shot from the top of the steps, so as to `hide' the fact that there's no plane attached to them (renting actual planes costs money). Exiting the airport, Thrust takes leave of his companion. Before hopping into his waiting limo, he tosses her a return ticket and a solid gold bullet (!). Perplexed, she watches him drive off. This affords us a good look at her white pantsuit, complete with widely flaring bell bottoms. I'm no expert, but I'm beginning to think this film might have been made in the `70s.
The limo soon arrives at the cleverly monikered Thrust Industries. Amazingly, a real limo and building are used for this shot, rather than miniature models. Thrust is met by a large contingent of company yes men. They inform him that the media is waiting inside, per his instructions. The reporters have been kept in the dark, knowing only that Thrust is announcing some kind of expedition that will be "bigger than the moon walk." (Uh, I assume that they mean Michael Jackson's `moon walk'.) Thrust is accosted by girl reporter Francesca Banks, played by TV soap star Joan Van Ark. In a `hilarious' bit, the chauvinistic Thrust takes her to be a hooker, hired for his use after the press conference. She stalks off, giving us a good look at her own bell bottom pants, scarf and gigantic blouse and jacket lapels. The evidence for the whole `70s thing is rapidly mounting.
We cut to a lab. A `scientist' (I mean, he's wearing a lab coat and all) is watching a generator creating a small arc of electricity. This is supposed to represent an `experiment.' Thrust greets his old friend Dr. Kawimoto. Kawimoto then introduces him to geologist Charles Wade. Wade, we're expositoried, is the sole survivor of a `polar borer' expedition. Dialog alludes to something mysterious that he saw (gee, could it have been, oh, I don't know... a dinosaur?). Both these characters are obvious archetypes. Dr. Kawimoto is the Wise Old Scientist. For those who don't watch a lot of sci-fi films, this isn't exactly a role conducive to being around for the end of the picture. Wade, on the other hand, serves a number of roles wrapped into one. First, he's the Sole Survivor/Witness whose prior experience sets up the rest of the movie. Second, he, as a scientist, will represent `civilization' to counterpoint the outdated machismo of Thurst (i.e., he is Man's future contrasted with Man's past). Third, he will provide the obligatory third corner of the inevitable romantic triangle along with Thrust and Francesca.
Dr. Kawimoto asks for Thrust's assurance that this will be a purely scientific expedition, not a hunting trip. Thrust gives him his word. And since Thrust is a man's man, his word is his bond. Then they head out for the press briefing, Thrust striding ahead in cartoonish man-of- action style. They arrive in a room with milling reporters making loud `watermelon, watermelon' noises. Thrust yells at them to shut up, which they immediately do. This is meant as further evidence of how Thrust is a master of men. Thrust begins by explaining how his company has been drilling for oil `under the polar cap.' This has been achieved with a `Polar Borer,' one of those fat-pencil-with-a-drill-attached thingies that are so popular in these movies. Boy, good thing they didn't use one of those constantly exploding oil rigs instead. In a hilarious moment, Thrust points to the handy mmodel of the Borer on display. This `model' is in fact the miniature used for the, er, `special' effects inserts (!).
On a previous expedition, Thrust continues, Polar Borer 5 (yeah, like he has a fleet of these ridiculous things) disappeared with five men aboard. Only one would return. With this `dramatic' announcement, Trust turns things over to Wade. Wade speaks haltingly into the microphone, relating events from that fateful day. To the surprise of no one who's ever seen a `Lost Continent' movie, it turns out that the Borer broke into a subterranean area. Here, he continues, temperatures registered as above 90ø. This results in an another loud outburst of `cantaloupe, cantaloupe' noises from the reporters. A particularly funny insert has one guy sitting there for ten seconds and then forcefully saying, "Nyet!" Not only is this bad editing (you can actually see that the guy's waiting for his cue), but the attempt to indicate the `world-wide' interest in this story is a wee bit obvious. Finally, the blustering Thrust has to yell at the press again to regain order.
But the amazing pronouncements aren't over yet (duh). The Borer surfaced on a lake, heated by your obligatory `Land That Time Forgot' volcano. The crew, minus Wade, who was on monitor duty, elected to row ashore. Watching through binoculars, Wade noticed an "enormous animal" nearby. Unfortunately, the crew was too far away to hear his warnings, and were quickly set upon. "And then they were gone,' concludes Wade, leading to another blustering `watermelon, watermelon' outburst from the assembled media types. Frankly, for professional reporters, these guys seem easily unsettled. Thrust takes over, making the startling (well, not really, but you know.) announcement that the crew apparently fell victim to a Tyrannosaurus Rex, the "largest carnivore that ever lived." (This was years before Roseanne became famous.) This, oddly, is greeted with less vocalizing than the 90ø temperature announcement. Thrust proceeds to show some amateur movies of a T-Rex skeleton, while he recites a few elementary facts regarding the species. After all, the screenwriter appears to have spent numerous twos and threes of minutes researching dinosaurs in the World Book encyclopedia. So you can't blame him if he wants to show off some of his hard earned knowledge.
Thrust announces that he will be leading a scientific expedition to find the T-Rex. This is designated (rather aptly, I might add) as the `Bore Expedition.' Answering an obvious query, Thurst responds that he won't be going to hunt the beast, but rather to study it. The expedition will include Thrust, Dr. Kawimoto, Wade and a member of the press. Also included will be a Masai tracker, `probably the best in the world.' Yeah, when tracking an eight ton, twenty foot tall creature, it's best to utilize the subtle skills of the best tracker in the world. With this, Thrust introduces Bunta (!), a seven foot tall black guy in a safari outfit. This, for some reason, results in another eruption of `crowd' noises from the Press. Apparently, the headlines will read, TYRANNOSAURUS REX EXISTS! REALLY TALL BLACK GUY TO LOOK FOR IT!! As Thrust departs, he is re-introduced to Francesca. She has been `unanimously' chosen to be the Press Representative. Thrust, of course, refuses to let her go. "No woman is going on this trip!", he grimaces. "Now I've been going on safari most of my life. I've never taken a woman, and I'm not going to CHANGE NOW!" The theme music blares in the background, Thrust stalks off, and the watching Francesca vows that she will be on the expedition.
Cut to a traditional Japanese dinner party, held in honor of the expedition. This features an ice sculpture of the Polar Borer (!), which probably represented about 3% of the film's budget. One would certainly think it cost more than the film's cheesy Borer fx miniature. Unable to get into the mood, a pensive Thrust stands alone. He is approached by (surprise) Francesca, done up in a traditional Japanese kimono (!). Walking off, Francesca lures Thrust attention by flinging off her robe from behind a bush. Hey, this is just like that scene in It's a Wonderful Life! Remember? When Mary Hatch's robe comes off and she's hiding in the bush and George Bailey. Well, OK. It's nothing like It's a Wonderful Life. She teasingly beckons him, then steps out, revealing that she's wearing a slinky black evening dress. Ha ha! Why, she's not nude after all! Tantalized by this display, Thrust makes his exit from the party.
Finding Francesca in a pagoda, Thrust apologizes for his bluntness. Francesca then attempts to cozen up to him by revealing her own affinity for hunting. It began when she was a child, and her father presented her with a .22 rifle. ".a walnut stock," she reminisces, "and nickel plated." (Nickel plating? On a rifle? Eee-yuck!) As she and Thrust giggle over their mutual love of firearms, we cut to Wade, watching them pensively. This is the first indication (for those who've never, ever, seen a movie before) that he will be part of an upcoming romantic triangle. Francesca vamps Thrust with the help of a truly awful Mae West impression. Weirdly, Thrust identifies it as a W.C. Fields impression (!), and she says, "Right!" Could actress Joan Van Ark not have known the difference between the two? More likely, Boone blew the line, and they were too cheap to reshoot the scene. Anyway, it really wasn't much worse of a W. C. Fields impression than a Mae West impression. The scene ends with them leaving the duck laden lake. The boisterous Thrust makes wacky `duck' noises (!), sounding much like The Penguin from the old Batman TV show. Apparently, they cut the part where Francesca says, "Hey, Cesaer Romero, right?!"
Cut to Francesca's apartment. The `Last Dinosaur' theme plays in a slow, romantic arrangement. Man, that's one versatile tune! Thrust is pleased when Francesca immediately heads for the bedroom. However, after a little smooching (frankly, no mere dinosaur has a chance of frightening us after this scene!) she turns the tables by activating a hidden slide projector. Her `Pulitzer Prize' winning photography appear on the wall. Given the lackluster quality of the photos, we can only surmise that it was fairly easy to procure a Pulitzer in those days. Perhaps she found it in a box of Cracker Jacks. Laughing, Thrust concedes defeat at this clever ploy, and agrees to take her with. Her goal achieved, Francesca in turn gives in to her longings for the manly Thrust (no pun intended). This would be a good time to chase any children from the room, before they are permanently turned off to sex.
We cut to a toy helicopter flying through a storm (apparently achieved with a hose set on `mist'). It proceeds to land on a rather desultory oil platform, which looks like something rejected by the talented artisans at TV's Thunderbirds Are Go! Our intrepid team heads down into the "Bore Room." Why this room should be singled out for this honor is left unexplained. Here they prepare to enter the inept looking "full-scale" model of the Polar Borer. Thrust gives the obligatory `if any one of you wants off the mission, now's the time.' speech. Needless to say, no one stays behind, even obviously doomed characters like Bunta and Dr. Kawimoto. (Oops, hope I didn't blow anything there.) We conveniently cut away while they climb into the Borer. It's obvious that all five actors couldn't possibly fit into this thing, unless they took the special `Midget Car' class at Clown College. Still, we do get to see Wade pull shut the foot-thick `metal' hatch, which wobbles around alarmingly for something that looks to weigh about two hundred pounds.
Next we get the `dramatic' launch scene. The Borer is fired down a tube into the water, like a bullet. As it approaches the bottom, the lasers are activated. This envelops the ship in kind of a laser sheath. In combination with the big drill on the front of the ship this is supposed to cut through the rock. One question: Since a laser is a compressed beam of light, why isn't it diffused while under water, rendering it useless? (I guess I'm just not a scientist.) Boring into the bottom of a convenient lake, the Borer floats to the surface. There we catch our first glimpse of prehistoric beasties, as a couple of cheesy pterodactyl marionettes are `flown' around the set. Let's just say that this doesn't convey the same sense of awe and wonder fostered by the first dinosaur scene in Jurassic Park.
Rafting to shore, the gang are given a couple of `gee, wow' moments before we cut to the chase. Loud noises turn out to be a weird looking dino, apparently a member of the Goofisaurous family, out for its morning jog. They all run for cover, except for Francesca, who keeps taking pictures of it. Finally, Thrust has to run out and knock her aside before she gets trampled. Landing in the mud, both break out laughing. Wade runs over to yell at them for their childish and dangerous behavior (remember, he represents reason and civilization as opposed to the physical strength and sheer will to succeed of Thrust). And while I'd be the last to suggest that Steven Spielberg stole the whole `female photographer gets caught up photographing dinosaurs and almost gets stomped on until her male love interest leaps to her rescue' scene for the oddly similar bit in The Lost World, well, I'll just leave that up for you to decide.
That night, we see them camped on the beach. You know, right where the first expedition got themselves eaten ten minutes after coming ashore. Bunta stands to one side, honing his machete and his spear (!). Talking to the others, Thrust explains that `Bunta' means `man with a hundred wives and a thousand head of cattle.' Apparently, his is an extremely concise language. Suddenly, danger rears its head, as the group is assailed by a backscreen effect of one of those pterodactyl puppets. Wow, that was an exciting two seconds. As the group bunks down for the night, the camera shifts, showing them being watched by, you guessed it, a cave guy. Hey, you wouldn't want to have missed a clich‚ or anything, right?
The next day, everybody except for Dr. Kawimoto heads off to look for the T-Rex. He stays behind to watch over the campsite (plot point!) Francesca's surprised and suspicious that Thrust is packing a rifle, since he promised that this wasn't a hunting trip. Thrust answers that he's bringing it with in case they get into trouble (which seems like a reasonably good idea). We see that the filmmakers have thoughtfully strung up some phony vines in the woods. This allows Bunta to hack at them with his machete and look like he's doing something. Meanwhile, Wade points out some woefully phony insert shots of `extinct' plants for Francesca to look at. Wade and Francesca are filmed in such a way as to make their growing mutual attraction rather, shall we say, obvious. Then we get the inevitable `huge footprints' scene, as they stumble over the tracks of the T-Rex.
Taking pictures, Francesca finds that she's stepped on a (moderately) giant turtle. Stumbling off to shore, we see that a couple of leeches have attached themselves to her leg. Oddly, the world-wide traveler Francesca looks at them and shrills, "What are they?!", as if leeches were some exotic phenomenon. Wade promptly proves that he's no biologist (or Roger Corman fan) by stating that they're "giant leeches". This in spite of the fact that they're clearly regular sized leeches. Francesca indicates that she's never seen The African Queen by asking what Bunta's doing when he starts pouring salt on them. So this woman, who's traveled all over the world photographing wars and whatnot, has never accumulated a Boy Scout's knowledge of leeches? Sounds to me like a prime candidate to be taken on a `snipe hunt.' And despite the fact that they give her an "I can take giant turtles and dinosaurs, but leeches.yuck!' line to address the situation, actress Joan Van Ark obviously lost the fight to keep a straight face during this scene. She's supposed to be grossed out, but you can see her barely suppressing laughter instead.
After they leave, cave guys come out and investigate Francesca's dropped purse. With an exaggerated look of disinterest (apparently, this is one of man's precursors that never developed method acting), they cast it away and waddle off. Then a cave gal wanders out. She also investigates the purse, but decides to keep it. Hmmm. Pre-human, perhaps. But still a chick. Meanwhile, our main characters know that they're close to their quarry. Bunta goes to climb a tree for a better look. In one of the movie's showstopper, pure hilarity moments, Bunta looks around to discover that the T-Rex is standing roughly ten feet away from him. Man, imagine how close it could have gotten if Bunta wasn't the world's greatest tracker! Adding insult to injury is that this scene of a guy in a tree menaced by a dino was directly stolen from the original King Kong. Not to mention that the T-Rex costume here would have been embarrassing in a Godzilla flick made twenty years earlier. (Speaking of Godzilla, I'm sure he'll be pissed off when he finds out that they stole his trademark yell for the T-Rex here.) Then there's the matter of the truly awful bluescreen effects. And like many Bad Movies of this sort, the scale (size-wise) on the dinosaurs keeps changing. We were told that the T-Rex was twenty feet tall, but in this scene it's clearly more like forty or fifty (more on this later).
They run off, but not before Thrust takes a shot at it, which has no effect. Perhaps the problem is that his rifle appears to be a deer rifle. Wouldn't an elephant gun be more appropriate? Also, this is one of those movies where the `expert rifleman' character keeps dramatically pulling back the bolt on his rifle, for no apparent reason. In real life, this would just expel live rounds from his rifle. And other than the movie rule that once the camera is off the monster it can move faster than when on-camera (as fully explicated in my review of The Beast of Yucca Flats), there's no reason why Thrust couldn't have gotten off three or four shots instead of the one he does.
`Trapped' by the river (which appears easily fordable), Thrust decides that their only chance is to kill the T-Rex. So he hunkers down to take another shot. We can't help but notice that lifetime hunting enthusiast Thrust is still having major trouble working the bolt on his rifle. In one shot, we even see him notice that he has left the bolt half pulled (!), and he has to stop and complete closing it. It's almost like Thrust were being played by an actor who never used a bolt action rifle before, and wasn't properly trained in how to use it. (By the way, I've never used a bolt action rifle, either. So that tells you how obvious all this is.) Hilariously, Thrust yells at his awkward and towering target to, "Stop moving!" How was this guy ever able to hit the deer and such that we saw lining the walls of his trophy room? Not only are such animals quicker than the T-Rex here, but they're also quite a bit smaller than forty feet tall.
Seeing Bunta readying a spear toss, Thrust yells to distract the T-Rex. Or something. The editing here is really confusing. He sends Wade and Francesca across the river, which indeed proves to be about three feet deep. So much for the `we'll never make it across the river' idea. Finally, Thrust announces, after shooting the bolt for about the dozenth time (after firing it once), that the gun is jammed. Gee, how did that happen? So what does he do? He throws away the rifle! This, from a guy who will later go to the trouble to make crossbows out of leftover parts! Yeah, boy, it'd probably take all of two minutes to clear out the jam later on. Might as well just get rid of it. Oh, and this is, by the way, the only weapon that he brought along on this dangerous mission. Yep, not even a sidearm. Good planning, bwana. Luckily, Bunta manages to turn away the dinosaur with a spear toss (yeah, right). The survivors then argue about Thrust shooting at the dinosaur. Considering the `skill' he displayed at this task, I wonder why they bother. Cave guys kick around the rifle after they leave, then split. Cave Girl then dashes out and grabs the rifle scope, sticking it into the purse (gee, she figured out the `bag' concept pretty fast. Maybe she's a relative of Ayla from Clan of the Cave Bear).
Next we see the T-Rex fishing. It grabs what must be a twelve-foot long trout, and munches at it with its rubber teeth. Turning away, it notices the campsite, and Dr. Kawimoto. Again, the gigantic beast manages to somehow sneak right up on the guy (this thing is much stealthier than you would have expected) and squish him. Why the T-Rex would abandon fishing those huge fish for the scrawny Dr. Kawimoto is left unexplained. Hmm, could it have been to further the `plot,' by giving Thrust a reason for launching a vendetta against the creature? Next we see that the beast has not only decimated the campsite, but has waded into the lake and grabbed the Polar Borer as well.
Again, I have to question the size of this creature. We were explicitly told earlier in the picture the T-Rexes stood about twenty feet tall (this is correct). You would think that if this creature was as large as it appears, the characters would make note of it. And yet, the T-Rex gets the (surprisingly buoyant) Borer out of the water by grabbing it in its mouth and tossing it. Now, since the characters could stand inside the Borer, let's be conservative and say that it stands eight feet tall. Obviously, no creature could grab something over a third of its height in its mouth (even for a fifty foot beast, the Borer, if scaled properly, would prove quite a mouthful). I mean, let's not kid ourselves, nobody watching these things expects them to be perfectly consistent. Still, this seems a bit sloppy.
The T-Rex takes the shiny Borer back home. This is a little valley filled with what appears to be the bones of hundreds of other beasts. The Borer, I must say, is mighty rugged. It is repeatedly tossed hundreds of feet though the air, and kicked around by the T-Rex like a football. It's thrown with such force that it bounces around like it only weighed about two or three pounds (hmm.). Yet, at the end of the movie, when the remaining cast escapes in it (oops, sorry if I ruined the `surprise'), it continues to function perfectly. Talk about `Ford Tough.' On top of that, our Saurian hero then begins to knock rock down on the Borer to bury it.
This almost proves its undoing, however. For buried in that very rock face, there in the T-Rex's lair, is a triceratops (????!!!). Exactly what, or how, the creature was doing buried under a hill full of rock isn't gone into. Apparently, this was pretty standard behavior for a triceratops. Hmm, given the camouflaged Triceratops, as well as the T-Rex's demonstrated ability to sneak up on humans, perhaps there's a sort of Dinosaur Ninjitsu academy somewhere nearby. Anyway, the Triceratops (`realized' through the venerable `two guys in a horse-suit' technique) comes exploding out of the mountainside, setting up a surprisingly bloody `battle royale.' The Triceratops manages to gore the T-Rex in such a manner that you would think it fatal, but other than that the fight goes pretty much the way you'd expect. When this `epic battle' is completed, the T-Rex stands triumphant.
Back at camp, our remaining characters come upon the damage. Thrust, enraged that this idiot beast has destroyed one of history's great minds, vows revenge (duh). By the way, Thrust refers to the T-Rex as a `forty foot' animal, referring to its total length, not it's height. One wonders if the cast was aghast when they saw how big it was when the fx shots were inserted, or if they didn't even care (or ever bothered seeing the finished film, for that matter). Then they notice that the Borer is gone. Their immediate conclusion is that the T-Rex sunk it, which, after all, makes a lot more sense than the `carried it off' idea.
Thrust drops another bombshell. It turns out that he ordered that if they didn't return, no more lives should be risked by attempting a rescue. This is not only downright retarded, but utterly unbelievable. First of all, their vessel was earlier referred to as `Polar Borer 5,' so there are at least four others. Second, are we really to believe that, given the ability, no one would attempt to save `the richest man in the world'? Imagine that it was Bill Gates trapped down there (something, in fact, that Mac users have fantasized about many times). You'd also think that other scientists would want to check out this pre-historic wonderland, no matter how many people disappeared there. Besides, it's not like this place is really all that menacing, except to idiots. Hadn't our cast considered that living in canvas tents would be dangerous, what with giant carnivorous monsters running around? Finally, it really seems like this `no rescue' order should have been shared with the others. Perhaps, you know, when Thrust gave them that big `here's your last chance to skip the expedition' speech.
Well, if it's not one thing, it's another. By the next scene, our plucky foursome is already fighting the cave guys for food. The cave guys win, due to their superior numbers, and walk off with a dead rabbit (that should keep them going for a while). As they split, Thrust points out to Wade that the cave guys have adopted the use of sharpened sticks. They're imitating the spears that the Thrust group has fashioned. Back at home base, Thrust heads off, talking about a weapon he is developing to fight the cave guys. Wade and Francesca engage in a homey little domestic conversation, rich in expository dialog (if nothing else). It's now four months since they were stranded, although everybody's hair is exactly the same length as when they arrived. The local game is played out, but if they try to leave the general area of their cave, the cave guys will pick them off. Things are getting (*gasp*) desperate. Meanwhile, Francesca, tired of her housewifey duties, starts mouthing off to Wade. After a heated argument, they (surprise) fall into a romantic clinch. They are then surprised by Thrust. Francesca, confused about her dual attraction to both Wade and Thrust, goes off to sleep on her own. Uh oh. Trouble in Paradise. (Since Bunta's a black guy, I guess he doesn't enter into it.)
Thrust and Bunta spend the night working on their improved weapons, using scrap from the original equipment. This proves provident, for when Francesca arises, she spots the cave guys making a move on their position. Thrust emerges with his creation: a homemade crossbow, using recovered tent pegs as bolts (he has all of two of these). This seems counterintuitive. Wouldn't bows and arrows be a better idea? They not only could be fashioned and replenished from natural materials, but have greater range and power. Anyway, the three manly men go out to confront the cave guys. Their leader starts a little war dance, riling up the troops for the attack. Thrust takes aim and plants a bolt right into his chest, killing him instantly. (This seems like a mighty good shot. I'm sure that there aren't too many places on the body where this kind of wound would result in immediate death.) Freaked out, the cave guys run off. Then our heroes turn around and head back to the cave. Oddly (very oddly), they fail to retrieve the reusable steel bolt from the guy's chest. This despite the fact that it apparently represents half their supply. Between this and the tossed away rifle earlier in the flick (and again, wouldn't it have been easier to clear a jammed cartridge than fashion homemade crossbows?), well, let's just say that Thrust isn't coming off like a strategic genius or anything.
When next we see our protagonists, they've made a new camp up in the glacial mountains. This doesn't seem like such a great idea, but what do I know? Oddly, their food problems have apparently disappeared, even though you'd think that few animals would live up in this frigid area. Their larder is so full, in fact, that when Cave Gal shows up, Francesca casually tosses her an entire roasted chicken (or something). This makes one wonder: if there are edible fowl around, why don't they domesticate them? Wouldn't raising a ready supply of food be better than relying on the uncertainty of the hunt? Anyway, by the rather implausible next scene, sometime in the future, we see that the group has established a new, more hospitable camp. Cave Gal has joined the group, and we see the three guys returning with a rather unlikely cornucopia of fresh game. Thrust is singing (accompanied by `Aren't We Merry!' music on the soundtrack), sounding like Redd Foxx on a bad day. The girls, of course, handle the cooking and whatnot. Anyway, everyone seems quite happy and contented with their lot in life, cracking jokes and tossing around a hicken (don't ask). So you know that something is about to go wrong.
That night (or something), Cave Gal sneaks up on Thrust as he sleeps in their new cave. (Which, uh, how do I put this? Well, let's just say that it looks suspiciously like their old cave.) Is she a spy, planted to kill him? No, she has instead identified Thrust as Alpha Male, and seeks to share his bed. Although Cave Gal has proven to be surprisingly attractive once cleaned up (although she's no Daryl Hannah), Thrust awakens and kicks her out. Frightened, she runs off. His heart softens, however, when he finds that she has brought him his old rifle scope as a present. (Besides, if Thrust and Cave Gal become a couple, that provides a solution to Thrust/Francesca/Wade triangle without one of the two men having to die. As for Bunta, well, as a non-white servant type, I'm sure he's happy enough to do without. Actually, considering that he has `a hundred wives,' he probably finds the peace and quiet refreshing.)
We next see Francesca by the river, washing her hair. The camera indicates that something is stalking her, but it's only Cave Gal. By this point, she's been given a name. This occurred when Thrust suggested that, by teaching her to do chores, Francesca had turned Cave Gal into the `first domestic servant.' (Why do I get an image of Karl Marx nodding and saying, "Uh-hmm!"?) Wade then suggested that they call her `Hazel'. Ha ha. Anyway, it's obvious that Hazel has come to Francesca for help. Intuiting her needs, Francesca helps her wash and do up her hair and stuff. Gee, too bad they don't have any Barbie dolls to play around with. Unfortunately, this blissful scene is broken up when Hazel spots something reflected in a pan of water. Yep, it's that old stealthy T-Rex, who's again managed to sneak right up on someone without their noticing. Hazel runs off ina blind panic. To distract the T-Rex, Francesca runs between his legs. After outdistancing the T-Rex for an improbable length of time, Francesca makes it to their cave. This sets up the obligatory `Trapped Inside a Cave by the Giant Monster' scene.
The men show up. Getting an idea, Thrust sends Bunta off to find `two hundred yards of strong line.' Bunta comes back with a length of vine that looks oddly like a rope with leaves glued to it. One end is secured around a convenient boulder. The other end is fashioned into a lariat, which Bunta tosses over the T-Rex's tail (or a patently bogus representation thereof). They then lure the T-Rex into chasing them down an incline. Momentum causes the T-Rex to run right past them. The boulder is pulled free, and itself rolls down the incline. It continues to roll right on past the dinosaur, ultimately pulling the T-Rex right off its feet, whereupon it flies up into the air and crashes down onto its back. (Need I point out that, given the beast's mass, this would undoubtedly snap its spine?) You're probably thinking, from the above description, that this all looks rather silly. Well, let me tell you, buddy: You got no idea. Demoralized, the T-Rex stalks off.
Thrust irritates the others by demanding that they follow the T-Rex and find a way to kill it. There's no other way, he maintains. Now that it knows where they are, it'll keep after them. This scene introduces one of the movie's more humorous idiosyncrasies. They begin using this odd musical curlicue to punctuate `dramatic' bits or dialog. Unsurprisingly, however, they grossly misuse it (not that it was such a hot idea to start with). They do this by overusing it, ending almost every sentence this way. The effect, like much here, is comical rather than dramatic. Following the tracks, they come across a clearing where the T-Rex has smashed a trail through the trees on the other side. Thrust deems this area perfect, and reveals his plan. They'll build a catapult. Then they'll lure the T-Rex back the way it came. Since it'll come straight down the path it's already beaten through, they'll now exactly where to aim their missile. Construction begins.
Soon the catapult is built, and the trap laid. Vines have been strategically placed across the trail. The T-Rex will be momentarily halted by them, giving them a clear shot. (Again, Thrust notes that the missile will be aimed to hit `twenty feet high', so we get back to the question of scale.) Wade and Francesca are starting to become nervous about Thrust's obsessive behavior. Wade hopes that, once the T-Rex has been killed, Thrust will settle down. Then he goes off for a little reconnaissance. Climbing up a small rise, Wade is able to look down into the T-Rex's home area. A falling rock results in a metallic clunking sound, and Wade goes down to investigate. Running back, he excitedly tells the others of finding the Borer, which can quickly be made ready (like I said before, this is one tough piece of machinery).
Thrust, however, is now in full Ahab mode. This is another scene rife with those `dramatic' musical curlicues. Thrust listens to Wade's news, and then shouts, "No!" (Curlicue) He states that they can't leave until the T-Rex is dead. (Curlicue) Wade argues. Thrust reminds Wade that, "you work for me." (Curlicue) Wade replies that they're leaving anyway. Francesca tries to talk to Thrust, but Wade tells her not to bother. (Curlicue) Loyal Bunta, of course, stays with Thrust, although he does stop him from firing a crossbow bolt into the retreating Wade. (Curlicue) Now we really get silly. Thrust petulantly runs at Hazel, scaring her. (Curlicue) Then he kicks at the campfire. (Curlicue) Need I point out that this fails to add the dramatic `oomph' that the filmmakers were obviously striving for? And as a side note, looking at how bloated Thrust still is, well, you'd think that the year or whatever that they've spent here in Jurassic Park would have slimmed him down a bit. But if anything, he looks fatter than ever.
We cut to Wade and Francesca. By building a trail of logs to slide the Borer along, they have managed to get it back to the water. I'm presuming that this took another, oh, six months or so. (Assuming that it was possible for two people to move this thing in the first place.) Luckily, in spite of the fact that the Borer was nested in the T-Rex's bone strewn lair, the T-Rex apparently never showed up during this period to interfere with their work. And again, looking at the `full-size' Borer prop, I must reiterate that it looks a mite on the smallish side. In fact, it's frankly impossible to believe that five normal people could fit inside this thing, much less a group including the bulbous Thrust and the towering Bunta. Soon after `launching' the Borer, Wade has managed to activate it. He's really pretty handy, when you consider that he's a geologist by training, not a mechanic or an electrician. (Of course, Sci-Fi Movie Cliche‚ #29 stipulates that any Scientist will have functional knowledge of any and all scientific fields and disciplines, no matter what his specialty may be.)
Francesca, against Wade's wishes, goes off to offer Thrust one more chance to leave. Meanwhile, we cut to the oil platform from which the Borer was launched earlier in the movie. In a jaw-droppingly obvious bit, the captain tells the remaining monitor guy that the board of Thrust Industries has decided to shut them down. At eight o'clock the next morning, he muses, "Mother 1," which is apparently the platform itself, will move on to other job sites. (How the hell does an entire sea-based oil rig platform get moved from one location to another?! Are you telling me that this entire thing is mobile?) And gee, what are the odds that the Borer, lost lo these many months, now only has six hours before the platform leaves and they are lost at sea? Wade and Francesca themselves, of course, are unaware of these events. No, the `clock' element is only there to create `suspense' for the audience. (Nice try. Not.) Not that it makes sense anyway. Doesn't the Borer carry a radio? Emergency rations? We know it floats (not to mention that it's practically indestructible), so even if Mother 1 takes off, couldn't they broadcast an SOS and wait for rescue?
Bunta's out traipsing in the woods. He's using all his `world's greatest' tracking skills, honed by months of life or death struggle in this savage land, to find that wily ol' T-Rex. Needless to say, at one point he looks up from the ground, and there it is, towering right over him. (How it's able to maneuver silently through the heavily wooded forests is left to our imaginations.) Bunta leaps up and tosses a spear, but nails a tree instead. Gee, maybe if he had a bigger target. Anyway, that's it for Bunta. Back at Thrust's camp, Francesca shows up, still trying to get Thrust to come back to civilization with them. Thrust tells her to get out. (Curlicue) She asks him to go. He asks her to stay. Thrust now has his Big Speech, relating his belief of how life is better, purer, here. Although attracted to his vision (yeah, right), Francesca knows that she must return to the real world. She offers to stay with him anywhere else he may choose, but not here. This is the picture's big `romantic scene,' and the omnipresent theme song plays again, in a lush, `haunting' version in the background. They kiss (yuck!).
This is interrupted (thank goodness!) by the T-Rex, finally coming down the trail as planned. The catapult is locked and loaded, and Thrust runs to the trigger to wait for the right moment. The boulder flies, smacking the T-Rex directly in the crown of the head. However, we now get a clue as to how this beast managed to live so long. For the skull visibly indents when struck by the missile, but once the stone bounces away, its head miraculously pops back into shape! Amazing!! (This is handily shot in slow-motion, so that we can't help but notice this phenomenon.) The monster falls. Yet, when the dust settles, we see that the T-Rex is back on its feet. Enraged, Thrust tosses some kind of presumably homemade gas bombs at it (where the hell did those come from?). Despite this fusillade, the creature comes on and destroys the catapult. The scene ends with the couple hiding in a flimsy shelter, apparently at the mercy of the T-Rex.
So how do they escape? I don't know. In the next shot it's morning, and Thrust and Francesca are examining the splintered catapult. Wade runs up, warning them that the Borer's limited power supply necessitates an immediate launch. Francesca makes one more effort to persuade Thrust to leave. He's given it his best shot, she tells him, but it's time to go and leave the dinosaur in peace. "It's the last one!", she gasps. He looks at her, and gives the inevitable line: "So am I." Hey, now I get it! It's a whole `duality' thing. Wow, amazing how they cleverly kept this subtle theme as subtext, waiting for this climatic moment to bring it to the fore. Bravo! (In actuality, I have to wonder at the statement that the T-Rex is the `last one.' Are you telling me that this pocket of pre-historic nature has nurtured these animals for all these millions of years, and that Trust and company just happened to come upon them right at the exact time that they are completely dying out? Does this seem likely?)
Heartbroken, the tearful Francesca goes with Wade. They run back to the Borer. Up on Mother 1, the Captain asks the Commander (or something) for permission to `raise anchors' and make way (again, can anyone explain to me how Mother 1 can possibly be mobile?). Suddenly, right in the nick of time, the radioman announces the receipt of a signal. Down below, Thrust watches from shore as the Borer takes off. I can't help but notice the pterodactyls flying around. Aren't they, well, dinosaurs? Doesn't that blow the whole `The T-Rex is the Last Dinosaur' thing? As Thrust heads off, he sees Hazel nearby, watching him. Rather grumpily, he finally accepts her presence (after all, Francesca is gone, so what the heck?). As they walk off-camera, we hear T-Rex roars on the soundtrack, then a reprise of our theme song. Hey, let me try some lyrics! "It made me laugh/it made me snore/It is The Last.Dina-sore!!"
Permission to reprint this article was granted by Ken Begg
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