The Last Dinosaur
|The Last Dinosaur|
|Directed by||Alexander Grasshoff
|Produced by||Arthur Rankin, Jr.
|Written by||William Overgard|
Joan Van Ark
|Music by||Maury Laws|
|Edited by||Minoru Kozono
|92 minutes (U.S.)
106 minutes (Japan)
The Last Dinosaur is a 1977 Japanese/American tokusatsu co-production, co-directed by Alexander Grasshoff and Shusei Kotani, billed as Tom Kotani, and co-produced by Japan's Tsuburaya Productions, and American interests for Rankin/Bass Productions. This B-movie first aired in the United States as a television movie in 1977 and shortly afterwards was released in Japan as a theatrical feature. The film stars Richard Boone and Joan Van Ark. The score was composed, as was most of the music for all Rankin/Bass specials and series, by Maury Laws, while the title song, with lyrics by Jules Bass, was sung by Nancy Wilson, and arranged and conducted by Bernard Hoffer.
Wealthy big-game hunter Maston Thrust (Richard Boone) has a multimillion-dollar company, Thrust Inc., which drills for oil under the polar caps with a manned laser drill, called the "Polar Borer". Following one expedition, only one man, geologist Chuck Wade (Steven Keats), returns; he explains that the drill was going through a routine check in the icecaps when it surfaced into a valley super-heated by a volcano. When the crew, except for Wade, began exploring the area, they were devoured by a giant Tyrannosaurus rex. Thrust decides to go there himself to study the creature. He brings with him Chuck; Bunta (Luther Rackley), a Maasai tracker; Dr. Kawamoto (Tetsu Nakamura); and Frankie Banks (Joan Van Ark), a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer selected by the Press Pool. Thrust, a sexist, is initially unwilling to let Frankie join the crew, but she manages to convince him to allow her on the expedition.
Upon arriving at the isolated valley using the Polar Borer, the group notices flying Pteranodons. Once they raft to shore, they are almost killed by a "ceratopsian" (though in reality, it is not actually a dinosaur but resembles the lesser-known extinct mammal Uintatherium). After setting up camp, Maston, Chuck, Bunta, and Frankie go out looking for the T. rex while Kawamoto remains at the camp. The party encounters the T. rex and narrowly escape from it. Afterwards, the T. rex comes across the camp, destroying it and killing Kawamoto. It then attacks the Polar Borer and throws it into a canyon containing a bone field. While he continues his attack on the Polar Borer, a Triceratops unearths itself from the canyon and the two clash. After a fierce battle, the T. rex kills the Triceratops, first by tearing into its side with its foot claws, then by biting into its neck.
The group returns to the destroyed camp and notice Kawamoto is gone, as well as the Borer, which they mistakenly believe was sunk. Enraged, Thrust vows to kill the dinosaur. After a few months pass, the group is now living in a cave and has a number of encounters with cavemen in the area, but are able to turn them away with a handmade crossbow. They also befriend a cavewoman (Masumi Sekiya), which they name Hazel. While Hazel helps Frankie wash her hair, the T. rex returns. Frankie is able to flee to a cave, with the T. rex trying to get in. Thrust, Bunta, and Wade are able to turn it away with a large boulder tied to its tail. Thrust decides to kill the T. rex once and for all with a catapult.
After building the catapult, they wait for the dinosaur. Out hunting, Wade finds the Borer and realizes it is still operable. However, Thrust refuses to leave, wanting to kill the T. rex first. Wade and Frankie leave the camp to get the Borer fixed and then leave, while Thrust and Bunta remain. Once the Borer is launched back in the water, Frankie goes back to convince the others to leave with them one last time. While tracking the T. rex, Bunta is eaten. Frankie reunites with Thrust and helps him use the catapult on the T. rex, but it only injures it. The T. rex then goes on a rampage and destroy their catapult.
In the wake of the destruction, Wade arrives and states that they have to leave now or they will be stuck in the valley. Frankie pleads with Thrust to go with them and to leave the T. rex, as it is the "last one". However, Thrust replies "So am I..." and is therefore left behind with Hazel.
(in credit order)
- Richard Boone as Maston Thrust Jr.
- Joan Van Ark as Francesca 'Frankie' Banks
- Steven Keats as Chuck Wade
- Luther Rackley as Bunta
- Masumi Sekiya as Hazel (cavewoman)
- William Ross as Hal (mother 1 chief technician)
- Carl Hansen as Barney
- Tetsu Nakamura as Dr. Kawamoto
- Nancy Magsig as Thrust's girl on plane
- Don Maloney as mother 1 captain
- Vanessa Cristina as reporter
- James Dale
- Hyoe Enoki
- Shunsuke Kariya as caveman leader
- Gary Gundassen
- Toru Kawai as T-Rex
- Katsumi Nimiamoto as triceratop (front end)
Unlike other bigger budgeted movies that have used state-of-the-art effects (i.e.: Stop Motion, puppets, etc.) for the dinosaurs, this movie uses the cheaper "man in a suit" method, much like the Godzilla movies of the 1960s and 1970s. (The sound department have even borrowed Godzilla's trademark roar and occasionally mixed it into the T. Rex's cry.) The "ceratopsian" (Uintatherium), as well as the Triceratops were done through the "two guys in a horse-suit" technique. The scale (size) of the Tyrannosaurus also changes literally from scene to scene, in some cases it appears to be over 40–50 feet tall (when it attacks the borer) and can carry it in its mouth, when the Polar Borer is easily well over 10 feet in diameter. However, they do correctly state in the beginning of the movie that a Tyrannosaurus Rex is 20 feet high and 40 feet long.
The suit of Tyranosaurus was created by Tsuburaya Production, and was later used for Ururu of the Tokusatsu Anime Dinosaur War Aizenborg. Also, while the film featured mostly an English-speaking cast a Japanese dub was created for the television release in Japan. The Japanese theatrical release as well as the Japanese laser disc used the English voice cast with Japanese subtitles.
On May 22, 2009, Toho Video released the movie on DVD for the first time. The DVD contains both English and Japanese audio tracks as well as an audio commentary in Japanese. This is the uncut Japanese release therefore it runs the full 106 minutes, rather than the 92 minute length of all the US release.
The DVD also contains a 13-minute interview with visual effects director Kazuo Sagawa, a photo gallery (which includes storyboards, production designs, and behind-the-scenes photos), it also contains a 15-minute behind-the-scenes production reel narrated by Kazuo Sagawa, and the original Japanese release trailer. For more info on special features and description of the DVD please referrer to the link below.
In the U.S., Warner Home Video released the movie on DVD through their Warner Archive Collection as a "made to order" DVD on March 22, 2011.