Planet of Dinosaurs

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Planet of Dinosaurs
Planet of Dinosaurs.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by James Shea
Produced by James Shea
Written by Jim Aupperle
Ralph Lucas
Starring Max Thayer
Louie Lawless
Music by Kelly Lammers
John O'Verlin
Cinematography Henning Schellerup
Edited by Stan Gilman
Maria Lease
Distributed by Cineworld Pictures (1978) (USA) (theatrical)
Citadel Films (1980) (Canada) (theatrical)
GoodTimes Home Video (2001) (worldwide) (DVD)
Retromedia Entertainment (2007) (USA) (DVD)
Release date
  • November 18, 1977 (1977-11-18)
Running time
84 mins.
Country United States
Language English

Planet of Dinosaurs is a 1977 science fiction film. Set in an unspecified future, the film follows the journey of Captain Lee and his crew after they crash land on a planet with similar life conditions as Earth, but millions of years behind in time. Encountering a wide variety of dangerous dinosaurs, the crew decides that its best chance for survival lies on finding higher ground and setting up a defensive perimeter on a higher plateau for refuge to wait for when or if their rescuers arrive. They soon encounter a deadly Tyrannosaurus and must figure out a way to defeat the creature and survive on the planet.

The film's director, James K. Shea, instructed most of the budget to be spent on the special effects for the film, which included an array of award-winning stop motion dinosaurs, leaving little money for props or even to pay the main actors. James Whitworth and Max Thayer had the most film experience of the actors. Modern reviews have generally been negative, although there is agreement that the stop motion dinosaurs were the most notable and enjoyable aspect of the film.

Plot[edit]

After a mechanical failure aboard the spaceship Odyssey, Captain Lee Norsythe (Louie Lawless) is forced to crash land on a planet with atmosphere and conditions much like that of Earth, although it is many light-years away. As the ship sinks into the lake that it landed in, communications officer Cindy (Mary Appleseth) realizes that she forgot the radio in the ship and attempts to retrieve it, with the assistance of fellow crew-member Chuck (Chuck Pennington). En route, Cindy is attacked and killed by an unidentified aquatic creature, prompting Chuck to return to shore without the radio.

Realizing that they are stranded, the remaining eight people aboard the ship decide that survival is their primary goal and begin to explore the planet that they have landed on. Derna Lee (Derna Wylde) slipped while going through a swamp dropping the laser gun that Mike (Max Thayer) had given her in the water rendering the gun unusable. They eventually come across a Brontosaurus, which leads them to deduce that the planet is following a similar evolutionary track as Earth, but is millions of years younger. Later, Charlotte (Charlotte Speer) determines that the plant life, especially the berries, is poisonous. After another dinosaur encounter, Lee decides that the best option is to climb the mountains and reach a higher plateau, where he believes the large creatures will be unable to reach them.

During the ascent, Nyla (Pamela Bottaro) slips and loses the entire supply of food rations, which Lee refuses to retrieve. Near a cave higher up the mountain, Vice-President of Spaceways Incorporated Harvey Baylor (Harvey Shain) discovers a nest full of eggs. After stealing an egg, Harvey is attacked and killed by a Centrosaurus. Soon after, much to ship engineer Jim's (James Whitworth) dismay, Lee decides to halt the expedition and settle at what he considers to be a defensible area. Lee expects to hold out until they are rescued, but Jim believes them to be trapped forever on the planet, and advises that they begin a new civilization. Lee triumphs and the remaining crew begin to build a defensive stockade around a cave. After several more encounters, a large Tyrannosaurus arrives and kills Derna, demolishing the stockade in the process.

The crew finally agrees with Jim that the best way to survive is to kill the predator. Their first plan, devised by Lee, is to attempt to poison the dinosaur by smearing berries on a dead Polacanthus and leave it outside of the Tyrannosaurus's lair. The plan backfires when the beast attacks from behind, killing Mike. Jim's plan is to set up large, wooden stakes and coat them in the poison, then lure the predator into them. After some initial troubles the plan works, killing the Tyrannosaurus. Years pass and the survivors have set up an agricultural settlement. Chuck and Charlotte now have a son. Charlotte wonders if they will ever be rescued, to which Nyla comments that it does not seem important anymore.

Cast[edit]

Actor Character
James Whitworth Jim
Pamela Bottaro Nyla
Louie Lawless Captain Lee Norsythe
Harvey Shain Harvey Baylor
Charlotte Speer Charlotte
Chuck Pennington Chuck
Derna Wylde Derna Lee
Michael Thayer Mike
Mary Appleseth Cindy

Production[edit]

Most of Planet of Dinosaurs' budget went towards the special effects, particularly the stop motion dinosaurs. Included among the dinosaurs was a model that paid homage to Ray Harryhausen's Rhedosaurus from The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.[1] Since most of the budget had been spent creating the stop motion effects, all of the actors had to sign partial deferments for their contracts and at least one actress (Derna Wylde) claims that she never received the balance of what was owed to her. In addition, the low budget was reflected in many of the props. The "fermented berry juice" used in the film was grape Kool-Aid, but it tasted "like liquid cardboard."[2] Filming took place in the Vasquez Rocks area of California's desert, in an area previously used to film several episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series.[2]

Planet of Dinosaurs did not have a theatrical release.[1] The film is registered as copyright to Deathbeast Productions, in the United States Copyright Office database.[3] Works published after 1978 do not need a copyright notice displayed to be considered copyright, so long as there is a registration in the Copyright Office database.[4]

Reception[edit]

The film won the 1980 Saturn Award, presented by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, in the "Best Film Produced for Under $1,000,000" category, taking specific note of its stop motion effects.[5] The film garnered was first released on DVD in 2001 and again by Retromedia Entertainment on September 25, 2007 as a "30th Anniversary Edition" in widescreen format that was initially mislabeled as the "20th Anniversary Edition." The latter contains bonus features unlike the former. Reviews of the film were negative, with a particular focus on the acting, dialogue, and overall aesthetic, although the stop motion dinosaurs were praised generally. When the film was released with a RiffTrax audio commentary in 2010, Steven Biodrowski of Cinefantastique reviewed the movie and called it "pure 1970s camp", but claimed that the dinosaurs "are fun to watch in a nostalgic kind of way".[1] Both Allmovie[6] and TV Guide[7] gave it 2 stars out of 5. The film maintains a rating of 4.1 out of 10 on the Internet Movie Database as of December 2016.[8]


References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Biodrowski, Steven (2010-04-13). "Rifftrax: Planet of the Dinosaurs". Cinefantastique. Retrieved 2016-12-03. 
  2. ^ a b Delahoyde, Michael. "Planet of Dinosaurs". Washington State University. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  3. ^ Hirtle, Peter B. (2016-01-03). "Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States". Cornell University. Retrieved 2016-12-03. 
  4. ^ "Awards for Planet of Dinosaurs". Internet Movie Database. 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  5. ^ Planet of Dinosaurs at AllMovie
  6. ^ "Planet of Dinosaurs". TV Guide. 2013-04-21. Retrieved 2016-12-03. 
  7. ^ Planet of Dinosaurs at the Internet Movie Database