Wednesday, April 27, 2011

“I brought the atom bomb; I think it's a good time to use it!”

There’s just something about 50’s-60’s Atomic Age Sci-Fi that I can’t help but love. Maybe it’s the sleek tech designs, maybe the goofy costumes and robots, maybe it’s the ham-fisted social commentary that gets (mostly) ineptly jammed down the audience’s throat about the benefits or dangers of SCIENCE! It was a time where not a whole lot was known about space exploration, so “anything goes” was a general theme. 1955’s King Dinosaur kind of misses the boat on that wide open promise.

Astronomers discover a new planet that has moved into our solar system. Dubbing the planet Nova, a team of four astronauts, Dr. Ralph Martin (Bill Bryant), Dr. Patricia Bennett (Wanda Curtis), Dr. Richard Gordon (Douglas Henderson) and Nora Pierce (Patti Gallagher) travel to the planet and discover it’s pretty much just like Earth, only with GIANT MONSTERS! Most of the movie is padding as the two couples flirt around with each other and then two of them decide to explore the scary looking island in the middle of a lake that contains “dinosaurs” like an iguana and a caiman fighting each other with frills taped onto them.

Directed by Bert I. Gordon, a man famous for his quick shooting in B movie circles. This was actually the first movie he directed and, well, there’s not a whole lot to it. Four actors in fairly simple costumes in Southern California occasionally interacting with animals. The set piece of the movie is the “dinosaur” attack, and, well, they’re lizards. Regular reptiles with the actors chromakeyed in front of them. The reptiles themselves look like they’ve been goaded into attacking each other for real, so I guess animals WERE harmed in the making of this picture. Now, I’m not huge on animal rights or anything, but seeing a caiman/small crocodile biting down on an iguana in the name of a bad movie is a little uncomfortable to watch. Simpler times, I suppose.

Story by Bert I. Gordon and Al Zimbalist, written by Tom Gries. The story is pretty damn light in terms of anything at all of consequence. Some of the humans get pretty injured but nothing really comes of it and Planet Nova is conveniently Earth-like, so the astronauts get out of their spacesuits as quickly as possible. Simply put, the story feels like a rush job. And there’s some of the standard “nukes=bad” elements common to the genre.

Original music by Louis Palange & (Uncredited) Gene Garf. It’s your standard B movie soundtrack.

It’s a movie called King Dinosaur for crying out loud. You should know whether it’s something you’d want to watch or not. For my part, that answer is yes, because I like bad movies and this fits the criteria: It’s a movie. It’s bad.

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