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King Dinosaur


Title: King Dinosaur
Year Of Release: 1955
Running Time: 63 minutes
DVD Released By: VCI Entertainment
Directed By: Bert I. Gordon
Writing Credits: Bert I. Gordon, Al Zimbalist, Tom Gries

Starring: Bill Bryant, Wanda Curtis, Douglas Henderson, Patti Gallagher
Taglines:
1. SEE...A prehistoric world of fantastic adventure come to life!
2. Terrifying! Fantastic! Startling!
3. NEVER A THRILL LIKE THIS!
Alternate Titles:
None Found

Review Date: 4.15.16

Shadow's Title: "King Misogynist"


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DVD
50s Sci-Fi Double Feature: The Jungle/King Dinosaur

Characters
Dr. Richard Gordon - This fool is the zoogeography expert chosen to be part of the crew travelling to a new world for the first time in mankind’s history. All that work with animals must have rubbed off on him as he doesn’t interact well with others and is a colossal misogynist. He is constantly pushing and shoving the female crew members in addition to yelling at them until they’re in tears.
Dr. Nora Pierce -She is the mineralogist/geologist chosen to go to Planet Nova. It is her curiosity that ends up getting them all in deep trouble with the local fauna when she just won’t let go of the idea of exploring an island in the middle of a big lake. Of course, when have you ever known a woman to let anything go? Exactly!
Dr. Ralph Martin -This bigshot is the one chosen to be the medical officer on the trip. Apparently he has quite the record of treating all sorts of maladies. One condition that he seemed to avoid himself was blue balls. He hooks up with Patricia and the two even discuss marriage, though why buy the cow when you’ve been getting the milk for free the entire way to planet Nova?
Dr. Patricia Bennett - This is our poor chemist, sent to test the atmosphere of the new planet and see if it’s viable for human habitation. Why do I say poor? Because she ends up on the receiving end of Gordon’s raging misogyny, getting pushed, shoved, and yelled at throughout the entire movie as if she had just dumped a boxful of rusty nails on the hood of his brand new corvette.
King Dinosaur -This is of course an iguana, which will get no longer than six to seven feet in length and weigh around twenty pounds. In this movie it is supposed to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex dozens of feet in length and weighing multiple tons. Yeah right. I think John Wayne was utterly convincing as Genghis Khan in comparison.
The CLOWN - UGH. Never seen but all too often heard, this moron starts talking as soon as the movie starts and doesn’t stop until nearly twelve minutes have elapsed. All he does is provide a seemingly endless barrage of exposition to accompany the seemingly endless barrage of stock footage that comprises those first twelve minutes.

 

The Plot Hold your cursor over an image for a pop-up caption

What I wish I had is a King DinaSour egg. Who remembers those?We start with a still photograph of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Yes, you read that right…a still photo. Right off the bat this shows you just how cheap this production is going to be when Mr. Big himself, Bert I. Gordon, cannot be bothered to actually shoot some footage of the observatory himself but rather, rely on stock footage scrounged up from somewhere. Hell, this isn’t even stock footage, it’s a still image lifted from stock footage. Now that is cheap.

Before we go any further, a voice interrupts the proceedings. Yes, the true horror of 1950’s monster and science fiction flicks has once again popped up…a CLOWN. For any first time readers who may wonder what a CLOWN may be, I will now do the old copy and paste trick from an earlier review:

A CLOWN is a Continuously Lurking Omniscient Wearisome Narrator. You know the type…they chime in unexpectedly, more often than not at a film’s beginning, to impart some piece of obscure arcana that the film’s producers thought was vital information relevant to the movie’s story. This is usually comprised of references to some past event involving atomic bombs, twisting known scientific principles into near unrecognizable technobabble to better fit the movie’s ideas or just prattling on aimlessly about a whole lot of nothing. CLOWNs have been known to interject their often near incoherent ramblings into the film in question at all manner of junctures – the beginning, throughout the middle as well as the end. In essence, they represent the producer’s contempt for the audience, personifying their efforts to explain things for the idiots the filmmakers perceive the audience to be (and often they are quite right). Thusly, CLOWNs infest B-Movies from the 1950’s at only a marginally lower degree than white trash at your local Walmart.

Of course CLOWNs are not to be confused with another breed of annoying narrator – the type that physically shows up in the film, usually only once and at the very beginning. Most times they are located within a laboratory or library of some kind and lecture the audience on all manner of pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo, occasionally opening a book or playing with their nearby chemistry sets in order to stress a point. These narrators are known as a PAIN or Pontificating Attendant Irksome Narrator. There is of course that rare specimen that is a mixture of the two breeds, but they are so seldom seen and heard that a name has yet to be coined for them.

So the first of many (and I do mean many) words from the CLOWN now assaults our senses. “On the morning of March 18th at precisely 7:48 AM, a coded message directed at our president was cabled from this observatory. A message of such vital importance that our congress was called into an emergency session.” As he talks we switch from a still image of the Griffith Observatory to a still image of the Capitol building in Washington D.C. I told you this movie was cheap! Believe me, you ain’t seen nothing yet (and nothing is a good way to describe what you will be seeing as we progress). And what could be so important that congress has to be called into an emergency session? Did the nation’s supply of donuts just run out? Is there an alien armada about to land and vaporize us all? Oh, I know what it is! It must be that the pool of illegal immigrants has thinned out and maids, gardeners and chauffeurs are in short supply in our nation's capitol.

“A phenomenon out there is space was the subject of these top secret communications.” Now we get a couple shots of twinkling stars. It’s not much, but at least we have some movement rather that those static shots. “It wasn’t long until the astronomers of other nations also discovered what had happened.” What? What happened?! Did an asteroid fly by the earth, narrowly missing us and averting mankind’s extinction by mere miles? Did the moon just crack open, revealing that it was a colossal alien egg this entire time and thus disgorging an enormous space creature? Did an alien spacecraft fly though our solar system trailing a huge illuminated sign that read, “Eat At Gomflarg’s?” What?!!

Now we get a shot of Earth and as is always the case in these old films, North America and by extension, The United States of America, is clearly highlighted. “Earth now had a new neighbor. A new planet had moved into our solar system and had established its orbit around the sun so close to Earth that for the first time it was conceivable to believe that man on Earth could actually travel to another planet. A planet that had every indication that its atmosphere would support life.”

Another planet? That’s the freakin’ moon!Oooookay. Well, we are only 66 seconds into this film and already my bullshit detector has exploded from the sheer magnitude of the crap being thrown in our direction. Where did these guys learn their science? Was it from watching old Looney Tunes cartoons with Marvin the Martian? I might have swallowed this idea when I was six or seven but even by age ten, I knew that planets just didn’t swing into the solar system and park themselves in a comfortable orbit near Earth like some drunk cozying up to a hot chick at a bar. At least, not without major consequences and repercussions. First of all, an object with that much mass is probably going to disrupt the orbits of every planet in the system. While that might not mean too much for all the others in the long run, for everyone on earth it could mean lot of things, all of them bad. From catastrophic changes in the weather to tectonic activity that could re-arrange entire continents. It would not be a good time to be an inhabitant of Earth.

As for the atmosphere on that other world, I’m pretty sure it would be frozen solid. This planet has just rolled into our solar system from interstellar space and to say that it is cold out there is akin to calling Bruce Banner a man who has slight temper tantrums. It can get down to -270.45 degrees Celsius (that’s -454 degrees Fahrenheit for my fellow Americans) in deep space. Of course, if there is a lot of geothermal activity on said planet, it might warm up the surface enough for the atmosphere to remain unfrozen during its long trek across space, but I doubt it. I’m sure the planet would arrive in our system as pretty much a huge giant frozen rock. But then again, I’m no astrophysicist. I do know that the chances of it arriving with a thriving, naturally maintained ecosystem in place are pretty much zero.

“Many of the mysteries of this vast ocean of space would soon be solved. It would be a race between countries to see which one would the first, the first to bring our civilization to another planet in space.” Well, we all know what happened to the guys from NTI and Richter Dynamics when they were racing to exploit another world. SPLAT best describes it.

After this last bit, the views of Earth and the stars fade out and we finally get to the opening credits. Wait…it’s only been a minute and twenty-one seconds since the movie began. That’s all?! I feel like I’ve been here an hour already! It should be noted that aside from the actors who will forever be ashamed of this mess, the film also lists “Little Joe- The Honey Bear” as being featured in the movie. We also get a name for the CLOWN: Marvin Miller. I knew he sounded familiar! He was also the CLOWN in The Deadly Mantis (1957), but more importantly, he was the voice of Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet (1956), The Invisible Boy (1957) and Gremlins (1984). He also seems to have performed CLOWN duties and voiceover work on dozens and dozens of films and television shows before his death in 1985.

The credits also inform us that this movie is based on an original story entitled Beast From Outer Space by Bert I. Gordon and Al Zimbalist. Wouldn’t the word "from” seem to imply that the titular beast comes to Earth for a visit rather than us going to where it is located? I’d think so, but what do I know.

So the credits end and the barrage of stock footage begins. The CLOWN returns. “On April 23rd the word to start comes from Washington and immediately our finest research laboratories change over to this all important project. The building of a passenger-carrying rocket ship. Every security measure is taken.” We now get shots of what looks like an airbase or large national laboratory type installation. And isn’t it just like the federal government to be on the ball like that? It took them thirty-six full days between learning of the new planet until they gave the word to go ahead with efforts to explore it. The only time they move faster is when voting themselves a raise.

Moving inside, we see a guy sitting at a u-shaped work station, a bunch of dials on the machinery that half surrounds him. I don’t know why, but when I see him, I get an image in my head of Homer Simpson asleep at his work station at the Springfield nuclear power plant. “Test upon test must be made to develop, improve, create, invent.” Now we see a guy that looks like he is sitting at a telephone operator’s switchboard.

Now we move outside to stock footage of rocket engines being fired up and tested. “A jet engine must be built with the thrust great enough to launch the spaceship through the many miles of Earth’s atmosphere. It must also be able to withstand the pressures found in outer space.”

“June 3rd. With the aid of unusually favorable atmospheric conditions Professor Albert Garnat is able with the world’s largest telescope to photograph an extremely clear view of the new planet. It is now certain that plant life of some kind definitely exists there. The Professor, incidentally, is also credited with naming the new planet: Planet Nova.” For this entire part we return to shots of observatories and men working with big telescopes. Again, I must reiterate my stance that plant life on this new world would most likely be frozen solid after its long voyage through deep space. You thought your bag of Jolly Green Giant Vegetable Medley that got left in the freezer for a year looks bad, I’m sure the flora of Planet Nova is far worse.

Now we get some shots that look to be in an advanced machine shop or foundry. “New metals must be developed with tensile strength capable of withstanding great atmospheric pressures.” Then it’s back to the engine tests outside (for goodness sake, I hope they’re conducting those outside). “Switch on for jet engine test number eighty-seven.” We see a prototype engine being fired up and pretty much tearing itself apart. “Structural weaknesses are studied, tested. Every conceivable test for man and machine alike is run the gauntlet; there is no margin for error.” We actually see a shot of an airplane being dropped several feet to the ground from a hoisted position, one wing-mounted engine snapping off when it impacts the ground. Bad news if someone was planning on taking an atmospheric craft on an interplanetary expedition.

Apple’s first iPod was a just a tad unwieldy.Now we come to some actual footage shot for this movie! As the CLOWN blathers on with this next bit, we see the prop in question, the size of a small suitcase, with several dials and switches on its surface. “Special equipment is developed. This nuclear power plant will serve as an auxiliary source of electricity while our people are on the planet. Actually, because it is activated by atomic power it could supply their needs for many years if something were to go wrong and their return to Earth were delayed.” Great! They’ll have enough power for their tools for years, but what about food? I’m sure they’d easily trade all the electric razors, hair curlers, vibrating dildos and strokers on the planet for another box of wheat thins or something.

“Naturally, the people must be careful in using such equipment because if the atomic power were allowed to go unharnessed, an atomic fission reaction would take place. An atom explosion.” You know, there just might be an atomic explosion at my house in a moment or two if something doesn’t start happening in this damn film other than all this needless exposition!

“A time clock is the controlling mechanism for this reaction. They of course will understand its use and therefore minimize any danger.” Are you freakin’ kidding me? Half the morons out there could never even learn how to set the clock on their VCR’s, leaving them blinking 12:00 for all eternity, so how are they going to manage a clock on what is in essence an atomic bomb without blowing themselves and everyone within five miles to kingdom come? This has disaster written all over it.

Now we see what looks like a bunker of some kind, only it’s located indoors somewhere. “Pressure vaults are constructed to simulate the pressures found in Space. Record every vibrating pulse.”

Next up is a shot of a large bomber lifting off a runway. “Turbo jet engines used in assisting take offs of our giant bombers are studied, for there lies the greatest problem: blasting the ship off the ground and out of Erath’s gravity pull.” Problem? Just have everyone on board eat a big bowl of chili with beans before liftoff. There will be enough gas in the ship to produce plenty of thrust.

Now we get all sorts of stock footage of rockets being launched from ground installations. “The First test rocket is ready. Rocket test number two. This rocket carries animals, white mice. As the rocket zooms upward gravity is still present to hold the mice and little ball downward toward Earth.” Yep, we see some mice in a glass container. Next up is that classic footage which shows the ground from the rocket’s point of view as it flies straight up into the heavens, the ground rapidly receding below. “Now the mice are floating in air since they are now beyond Earth’s gravity pull. The test proves out. Animals can live in space. It’s man’s turn next to take the calculated risk. The spaceship is ready now for its passengers.”

You know what is really killing me at this point? EVERYTHING!! The voiceover, the stock footage, hell even the goofy music in the background…it all mixes together and reminds me of old science movies we were forced to watch in elementary school. Since I went to elementary school in the mid to late 70’s, instructional films considered old at the time were from the 50’s and early 60’s. I remember seeing a slew of them. Hell, many were not even science films. Some were exactly like the stuff seen on MST3K in the 90’s, with subjects like how to be confident, how to deal with your voice changing, how to have proper manners and other such stuff. Back then we loved watching such crap because it took us away from our schoolwork, even if it was for just a few minutes. Watching this segment of this movie now, it is making me have flashbacks to those years. I’m half expecting to be hit by a spitball at any second before rushing out of the door for recess and a rousing game of tetherball or four-square.

Okay, so where was I? Oh yeah…the movie is about to introduce the four morons who will be selected to make the trip to Planet Nova. First we see a dork holding up a skull from a large animal with sizable fangs. Did it belong to a Lion? Tiger? Bear? Giant mutated Tasmanian Devil?

“If animal life is found on the new planet, Nova, an expert on zoogeography would be a most important member of the space expedition. On August 10th, Dr. Richard Gordon was chosen to fill that position. He became famous with his discovery of the giant prehistoric tar pits near Salt Lake City just two years ago.” Oh, boy. Where do I even begin with that last bit? First up, it’s now August! The planet was discovered in March, the government approved the expedition in April and four months later no one has been assigned yet? They are really dragging their asses on this one. Second, I’m going into my broken record phase here, but any animal life on the planet would have to be so different from anything we know, so as to be able to survive the freezing journey across interstellar space, that I don’t think his expertise is really going to matter, especially if he is an expert on Zoogeography, which is defined as the branch of science that is concerned with the geographic distribution (present and past) of animal species. How can earth-like animals be distributed across the surface of a planet that is basically a giant ice cube (okay…sphere)?

Next up is a woman digging at the side of a hill with a small pickaxe. Her car is parked close by and she is dressed in a skirt, which just makes it appear as if her car broke down on her and she decided to start digging for buried treasure while waiting for the tow truck to show up.

“The study of rock formations and its minerals is like reading the reading the personal diary of a planet. Dr. Nora Pierce joined the space expedition on August 27th. Her doctorate in mineralogy was awarded for her mineralogical research in the Himalayan Mountains.” Are we sure she just wasn’t trying to find the Abominable Snowman?

“The brass says we’re not allowed to paint racing flames on the side.”Four people are supposed to fit in that?! Are they Hobbits?Now we see a rocket being wheeled into place on a launch pad somewhere. “That same day the giant spaceship was being wheeled into position for its spaceflight, which was now a matter of weeks away.” Funny, that rocket looks like you could barely cram one person in there. How are they going to fit multiple folks and all their supplies?

Now we see a moron walking down a sidewalk and then entering a hospital. “Medicine must be represented on this expedition since the health of these people and the people that will venture into space in the future is of primary importance. Dr. Ralph Martin’s war service fortified him, with the experience of treating most diseases and fatalities that overtake men. That is, on our Earth.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! How do you treat a fatality?! They’re dead already!!! The only thing you can do is zip them up in a body bag and write it up. The old bag ‘em and tag ‘em. And dare I say what the number one thing on Earth is that leads to the death of men...women!

Next up is a blonde playing with her chemistry set. “The chemistry of the new planet was to be studied by Dr. Patricia Bennett, who completed the group of scientists. She was noted for her thesis on the use of radio-chemistry in medicine. Dr. Bennett entered the group on September 12th.” You always have to have at least one blonde in these old films.

So now we get more shots of the observatory. “On October 1st it was observed that the position of Nova was in the most advantageous location for our purpose. The ship must blast off within twenty-four hours.” With that we see the rocket on the launch pad.

Then we are shown some loudspeakers and the CLOWN’s voice is made to sound like it is be broadcast over said speakers, like he was in the control room, addressing everyone. “Attention. Attention. The members of the expedition will please report to the ship. Blast off is in X minus twenty minutes.” WTF?! They wait until twenty minutes before launch to alert the crew? I’m sure the four crew members were probably already in some sort of waiting area, prepping for the trip. At least, let’s hope so. Otherwise there are four frantic people trying to desperately squeeze themselves into their spacesuits while simultaneously shoving spare clothes into a suitcase.

Some shots of guys in control rooms are now seen. The machinery in these control rooms are just big banks of dials. It looks less like a control room for a rocket launch and more like the control room at the nearest water pumping station. Now we see large crowds gathered for the launch. “Attention. Blast off in X minus five minutes.” More tedious shots of people, control rooms, the rocket, the desert and what not. “Blast off in X minus one minute.” More boring shots. “Five…four…three…two...one.” The funny part with that last part is how fast he counts down those last five seconds. It’s almost as if the CLOWN himself has grown tired with this extended opening and wants to get the movie rolling along, if only so that he can collect his check and bail.

So FINALLY, the rocket blasts off in another thrilling sequence of stock footage shots, some of which are repeated more than once, which just gives the impression that several rockets are zooming skyward. Eventually we fade out…and fade in on outer space! The same shot of the rocket streaking skyward is used again, only now it has been turned on its side to imply horizontal movement and superimposed over the starry background. The CLOWN returns. “The spaceship kept on its course without the least deviation.”

Yet again, we return to stock shots of the observatory on Earth. “The people on Earth followed the ship’s progress as long as possible with powerful telescopes and with radar.” Shots that we have already seen are recycled again before we return to the rocket as it hurtles through space. To our people inside, the days, the weeks, the months, all went by without mishap.” Months? Sheesh, I hope they packed a few extra cans of corn. Also, take note that the CLOWN has collected his paycheck and left. He will no longer be heard in this film.

Now comes what has to be one of the cheapest FX shots ever seen. The same shot of the rocket turned sideways is used again, only now it is superimposed over a shot of some forested hills, the rocket made to look like it is soaring across the sky above the landscape below. This looks odd because it makes the rocket look like it’s over a thousand feet in length and out of proportion to the land below it. Several similar shots are now cycled out, including one where the mammoth rocket flies behind some trees. Then we get a landing shot, which of course is just footage of the rocket’s lift off, only now run in reverse. Matting this into a shot of some trees is supposed to give us the impression that the vehicle is landing, but when to rocket actually passes below the tree line, it can still be seen through the suddenly transparent trees. Finally we get one last composite shot. This one shows an idyllic forest setting and smack dab in the middle is the rocket, which is just an image of it on the launch pad which has been cut out of that shot and superimposed into this one. So far, the FX in this film have been truly craptacular, even by 50’s standards.

“Cut! There’s something stuck on the camera lens.”It seems Mr. BIG (Bert I. Gordon, the film’s director) has one more crappy visual FX shot to inflict upon us. We get a close up of what is supposed to be the side of the rocket and we see two people in space suits exit a hatch and climb down an exterior ladder. The problem with this is, the actors were actually standing out in a field somewhere on some sort of hastily erected platform of some kind (perhaps nothing more than an actual ladder setup in the center of the field) and the portion of the rocket that we see is just an image pasted over the section of screen where the platform is standing. Hell, for all I know, the “rocket” in this shot was just a cardboard cutout held up close to the camera in order to block out the platform and make it appear as if two people were disembarking.

First out of the ship are Dr. Ralph Martin and Dr. Patricia Bennett. They are sporting some truly goofball spacesuits. The suits themselves are not that bad, just silly-looking in a way indicative of the era. But the helmets are truly batshit insane. They look like giant fishbowls on their heads, with the front portion being flat. This flat face piece gives the impression of being open to the elements and hence, of zero benefit on an alien planet where the atmosphere might kill you, but upon closer inspection one can see a clear plate that prevents instant asphyxiation upon exiting of the spacecraft. It’s also apparent that the two suits are hand-me downs the producers scrounged up from some closet. I’ve seen them before in Cat-Women of the Moon and Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, both from 1953. They may even predate those films, but I am not sure.

Can you believe that we’re twelve minutes into this film and there hasn’t been one word of dialog spoken by the actors? Also, I’ve already written over four thousand words for this section and we’ve just now made landfall on Planet Nova. Tell me that doesn’t bode well.

So hand in hand, Ralph and Pat start waltzing around, taking in the sights with big grins and wide eyes like they’re a couple on their honeymoon. I promise not to bring this up too many more times, but how in hell can there be such abundant plant life on this planet? Plants require photosynthesis and as far as I know, this planet hasn’t been close enough to a sun for that to happen in quite some time. Oh, never mind. They spot a volcano in the distance and Ralph takes that as a sign that the planet is still quite young.

Radioing back to Doctors Richard Gordon and Nora Pierce on the rocket, Ralph says, “We’re going to start our tests, Dick, to see if it’s safe to remove our suits.” Truer words were never spoken. What words, you may ask? Well, the part where he refers to Gordon as “Dick.” Never mind the nickname for someone named Richard, in this case Gordon will be living up to the name in the more vulgar sense of the word. Conveying his impatience to get outside, Dick exhorts the two to hurry up with their tests.

So Ralph and Pat begin their tests. One piece of equipment that gets pointed at the ground and waved back and forth looks like a hair dryer. Pat runs tests on the air and dictates her findings on a reel to reel tape recorder the size of a small suitcase! We get a close up of this machine and superimposed over it are a series of images showing Ralph and Pat conducting further tests, their voices heard as they record their findings. To sum it all up: terrestrial life would seemingly have no problem surviving on the surface of planet Nova.

With the atmosphere proven to be fit to breathe, Ralph and Pat quickly divest themselves of their bulky space suits. I guess they had to get them back to whoever loaned them to the producers, cuz they won’t be seen again in this film. Dick and Nora also exit the ship at this time, the latter wearing culottes. Really? Was it that unacceptable that the females of the expedition be allowed to wear pants, considering such attire would be far more practical when exploring a new world than a freakin’ half skirt/half pants thingy?! We should also note that Ralph kisses Pat on the cheek at this point, implying that a relationship has developed between them while on their long trip to planet Nova. Considering how long it took to get here, I’m sure the four of them did manage to couple up during the voyage and probably spent many of the long hours of the trip in a state of constant screwing. I hope that rocket ship has some heavy duty oxygen scrubbers and a first class filtration system of some sort, because the smell in there must reek something fierce.

Nora now points to some animals nearby. We are then shown a shot of what looks like some sort of deer or elk, then a shot of two bear cubs playing with each other. Nora thinks these critters are evidence of water being nearby. How does she know that despite the way they appear, these animals don’t derive their liquid intake from the bodily fluids of their prey? It would have served them all right if one of those innocent-looking deer-things quietly waltzed over and then proceed to suddenly impale everyone on its sizable antlers before feasting on their still twitching bodies as they screamed in agony. Hell, whatever those two bear cubs call mother could come strolling along and seeing these four strange beings in such proximity to its offspring, could decide to slice then to ribbons just to be on the safe side. Yeah, just imagine the people back home wondering why they never heard from these morons again after they landed.

Anyway, they’ve spotted some animals. Need I say it? There is no way these animals would be alive! They’d have frozen to death centuries if not millennia ago while the planet was journeying through space. How stupid do these filmmakers think the audience is? Wait! Don’t answer that! The other thing that is goofy is why are these animals even in the vicinity? Wouldn’t the very loud and frightening rocket have scared them away when it landed? I would certainly think so, given how these creatures have never encountered anything remotely like it until now.

Dick thinks he saw a lake in one direction before they landed, so the four of them start stomping their way through the trees to go and take a look. I don’t know which one of these four morons was appointed the one in charge, but whoever it is, they suck. Why not leave someone at the ship just case you run into trouble? Why not take some type of weapon in case any potential trouble is more than just the “I tripped and stubbed my toe” variety? Why not let the women don proper attire for an extended hike through untamed wilderness? I’ll tell ya why…because they are colossal idiots. Oh, I’m not referring to the four explorers, but rather, the writers of this mess.

“Hold it fellas. Just cuz we’re the only four on this entire planet doesn’t mean your chances of scoring are any better than on Earth.”The group locates the lake, having spotted birds that resemble vultures as well as more baby bears along the way. Out in the middle of the lake they can see an island, which looks to be “covered with heavy jungle growth.” Nora wants to check out the island, but Ralph reminds her that their mandate was to just conduct tests at their landing point and not to engage in any long term exploratory treks across the landscape. Putting aside talk of exploring for the moment, both women decide that the lake is too good an opportunity to pass up. Both have a bath in mind and claim “ladies first” rights in order to beat the men to it. I knew the inside of that rocket ship must stink! Fade out.

Fade in. Sometime later (presumably after everyone has bathed in the nearby lake and not gotten devoured by some aquatic horror) we see the four of them in the same field right outside the rocket. They’ve got a shitload of gear spread out around them on the ground, which amazingly enough, includes some firearms! They are obviously prepping for a hike, but why do they have all this shit outside on the ground? Why not keep it in the rocket and get ready in there? I’ll tell ya why! The producers were too cheap to build a set to represent the rocket interior, that’s why! Of course, my guess is that the inside of that rocket must still stink to high heaven after all those months with nobody bathing (and possibly sweating up a storm while screwing). That must be why Dick and Nora were so eager for Ralph and Pat to finish their preliminary tests and allow them to leave the rocket…it reeked in there! So the four go traipsing off again, this time loaded up with weapons and other gear. Alas, they left a bunch of stuff sitting out in the open in that field. Why not keep it on the rocket to ensure it doesn’t get damaged by either the elements or some as yet unseen lifeform? Again…we all know why. IDIOTS.

They go hiking through the trees, the sounds of birds chirping in the background. They spot numerous more animals that are an exact match for a terrestrial lifeform. They stop at one spot and after a cursory examination of a few rocks, Nora determines that the planet is indeed much younger than earth, being in its equivalent of a “prehistoric” time period. Um…wouldn’t any time period before recorded history be deemed “prehistoric?” On Earth, “prehistoric” would cover billions of years and would be broken down into eons, eras, periods and epochs to denote the state of the planet as well as the life forms on its surface. Anything from a time when earth had a molten surface to a time with only one-celled organisms to just a few thousand years ago. And since there is apparently no indigenous intelligent life on this planet to even record anything, why would you use such a broad label? Wouldn’t you narrow it down to something more precise, such as the late Jurassic period of the Mesozoic era or some such equivalent? I’m beginning to think there is no intelligent life on this planet at all, indigenous or otherwise.

Again, Nora spots the island out in the middle of that vast lake they all bathed in earlier. She wants to go take a closer look, but Pat wants to get back to the ship and leave “before something awful happens to all of us.” You mean like appearing in this movie? With darkness approaching, the point is moot. They begin their trek back to the rocket. Alas, they are soon lost in the dark woods, unsure of which way they originally came. Didn't anyone leave a trail of bread crumbs? They stop for a break and as Pat leans against a fallen tree, a snake slithers over to say hi. She screams and Ralph instantly shoots the snake…twice. Rather than continue to stumble around in the dark, they decide to set up camp nearby, using their tools and know-how to construct a crude shelter of tree branches. The gals go to sleep while the men alternate watches.

Sometime during the middle of the day-for-night, Ralph relieves Dick at watch. Soon after, Pat wakes up, unable to sleep, so she and Ralph start making out. Hey! You’re supposed to be on guard duty, not tongue duty! She asks if he still wants to marry her and he says yes. This implies a couple things. One: they definitely hooked up while en route to planet Nova. Two: something has happened to make him possibly rethink marriage with her. Perhaps already sampling her sweet thistle pie numerous times on the trip here?

With Dick and Nora passed out asleep, Ralph and Pat decide to go for a little stroll, most likely to find a good spot to strip naked and screw. Now I don’t blame them for wanting to have some personal time, no matter what they plan to do. Whether it’s a full sex session with multiple positions or just some fingering and a hand job or even just some more kissing, they cannot be blamed for engaging in it. No, what they CAN be blamed for is leaving their two crewmates alone and unguarded while they sleep! How would they feel if they arrived back in camp after an hour of doing it doggy style to find Dick and Nora ripped to pieces by some nocturnal predator? I’m sure embarrassment, guilt and shame only begins to cover it.

So Ralph and Pat walk through the trees away from camp. One shot shows the sky and we can clearly see the sun! WTF?! It’s supposed to be night but the sun can be seen? Then it’s not night! You cannot have it both ways! They continue walking and suddenly we see an alligator! Again I ask WTF?! So far this wooded area looks more like a temperate forest, but now we see an animal better suited to more tropical environments. Ralph and Pat come to the edge of sloping hillside and conveniently placed there is a large rock which Ralph promptly trips over. He tumbles down the slope and collides with the alligator. Instantly, man and beast are locked in fight for survival. He wrestles with the animal as Pat starts screaming up a storm, which wakes Nora and Dick. They come running while Ralph continues to roll around on the ground with an alligator that is either heavily sedated or outright dead. Despite its lack of movement, the beat has inflicted several wounds on Ralph. Eventually, Ralph manages to beat the creature into unconsciousness or crush its skull with his constant barrage of blows. He stands, tries to take a few steps, but then collapses from his multiple wounds.

“For god’s sake, quit nagging the poor bastard and let him get some sleep!”Now comes the disturbing part. With Ralph laid out on the ground, Pat finally stops her incessant screaming and runs over to him, dropping to her knees to see how he is doing. By now, Dick and Nora have also arrived. Dick rushes down the slope, jumps to where Pat is leaning over Ralph and then violently shoves her out of the way. This wasn’t just a slight please move so I can check on him push. No, this was a full on get out of the damn way you stupid bitch shove. He pushes her so hard, she actually loses her balance and falls over, face first onto the ground. While she picks herself up, Dick and Nora grab Ralph and start hauling his limp ass back to camp.

At camp, they lay Ralph out on the ground and Dick tells Nora to fetch the medical kit. A she does this, he barks at Pat to give him the canteen. Pat is understandably worried about Ralph and is cradling his head. What does Dick do? He shoves her again really hard and barks, “get the canteen!” She complies and when she presents it to him, he grabs it away from her with more force than is necessary, like someone grabbing a loaded gun away from a child. He sets about cleaning Ralph’s wounds.

Naturally, between what happened to Ralph and her manhandling by Dick, Pat is crying quite a bit. Ralph has lost quite a bit of blood (I can only assume that all the rolling around he just did with that sedated alligator was over a bed of nails and razor blades) and Pat claims it is her fault. Dick wants to know what they were doing away from camp and chastises her for doing so. He tells her that she had better get some sleep, as “you’re going to need it!”

Morning comes and while Ralph is doing better, he is no shape to be moved just yet. Dick and Nora decide to return to the rocket and fetch more supplies while Pat stays there to watch over Ralph. When the others are gone, Pat snuggles up to Ralph, who claims to be cold. I can think of a few ways she could warm him up, but in his current state, it just might kill him.

Dick and Nora return to the field with the big ladder…er…I mean the rocket ship. The stuff they left sitting outside is still there. POW, just like that the scene changes, we see some clouds in the sky and the next shot shows Dick and Nora on their way back to the makeshift campsite with the supplies and additional equipment. They stop to watch an animal in a tree, a little critter that looks a lot like a small primate such as a Bush Baby.

At camp, Pat and Ralph are snoozing away. At this point, I would seriously reconsider marrying her if I was him. She’s supposed to be watching over him, but she’s snoozing away like it was time for her beauty sleep! She’s so concerned for his welfare that she’d rather catch a few winks herself than stay awake and keep watch. Ralph wakes up and takes stock of his wounds and surroundings. Pat is still asleep. There is an odd buzzing sound and when Ralph looks up, there is a colossal potato bug a short ways away. This thing looks to be as big as a horse given its size in comparison to a nearby fallen tree. Of course the effect used to achieve this giant bug is just superimposing a real bug over the scenery.

Ralph calmly reaches for his pistol and takes aim. About this time Pat wakes up, sees the bug and starts a new round of The Most Annoying Sound in the Universe. In other words, she starts screaming again. Ralph opens fire and after a few shots with his pistol, he goes for one of the rifles and blasts away with it. The bug is killed and Ralph lies back down, wondering where the others have gone. Pat explains the situation and the two share a couple kisses. For a second I thought that they might engage in some other activity knowing that they were alone, but Ralph is still too weak for anything like that.

At some later time, Dick and Nora return, each carrying multiple cases. Dick even has the nuclear bomb thing with him, cuz ya never know when you might run into something that needs nuking. They’ve also brought that primate with them back to camp. Why, this must be “Little Joe- The Honey Bear” that we saw named in the opening credits. Indeed, when Ralph asks about the critter, Dick says that his name is Joe. Ralph asks if they saw anything unusual, but when Dick spies the corpse of the giant bug, he remarks that nothing seems unusual anymore, adding that they saw something that looked like a Sherman tank, but which did not bother them. Ah, some alien creature which the film is only going to tell us about, but not show us. What a cheat.

Time passes and everyone eats a meal that Pat prepares (you didn’t think one of the men was going to cook, did you?) from their supplies. As they eat, they discuss the planet and how it seems capable of supporting life. If need be, they could survive off the land for quite some time. They discuss plans for the next day. While Ralph continues to rest (and no doubt with Pat watching over him) Dick and Nora will finish up the tests they are required to run. Nora adds that after that, she wants to take a look at that island which has so entranced her since their arrival. She and dick will take a raft to investigate.

Suddenly there is a roar-like sound and everyone is on their feet in instant, including the supposedly injured Ralph (I wonder if he pulled something, the way he hopped up so fast). The four rush to investigate and see a large snake in a tree, which appears to be footage lifted from an old Tarzan flick or something. They discuss the nightly watch schedule and prepare to turn in for the night.

“Who wants to dance? I do a great mamba!”Once again, night on planet nova looks a lot like day on Earth. Dick takes watch, walks around with his rifle and plays with Joe. Then a large constrictor snake slithers into camp. Dick just watches it as it makes its way over to the sleeping Ralph, checks him out and then slithers away. Ralph wakes up, sees the snake leaving and shares a “whew, that was close” look with Dick. I don’t know about you, but I would have something more like a “holy shit, why didn’t you do something, you asshole” look on my face if I were in Ralph’s position.

Morning comes and Dick and Nora (and Joe) head off to explore the lake and that damn island. Despite being up and walking around, Ralph will stay in camp with Pat. He asks Dick to use a flare gun if they are not going to be back by dark. A white flare if everything is okay and a red flare if they are in trouble. With the others now gone, Ralph helps Pat with the various tests she needs to run.

After a quick shot of Dick and Nora at the rocket, having retrieved an inflatable raft, we next see them at the shore of the lake. In quick succession the raft is inflated, Joe is tossed in and the trio shoves off for the island. As they approach the island we get a few shots of the rocky shore with voiceovers, where they discuss the vulture-like birds spied earlier and their interest in the island. They reach shore and Dick pulls Nora out of the raft before they are even on dry ground, forcing her to wade through the water.

As they pull the raft up the shore, they hear a rumbling sound. Dick thinks it is just thunder. Yeah, right. We’ll see. Dick hides the raft while Nora snaps some photos. If Facebook had been around in those days, you know it would have been a series of selfies. They make their way inland and despite noting earlier on more than one occasion that the plant life on this island was different and resembled a jungle more than a temperate forest, the scenery we see looks no different than everything we have seen so far. They spot some roosting vultures (stock footage) and move onward.

We cut back to Ralph and Pat discussing one of the tests she’s running and the alien bacteria she has discovered. Ralph notes that they had better not get sick, as there may be no cure for an illness brought on by such bacteria. Then you know what, Ralph? You morons should have never removed your freakin’ spacesuits! I have to believe that if any other nation sent their own expedition to planet Nova, they would actually choose competent people to make the trip. These four are looking more and more like their entire expedition was just one big canary cage set up by the government to get a better idea of the new planet before actually sending valuable and non-expendable people there.

Returning to Dick and Nora, they have now found themselves in Bronson Canyon. Then rumbling sound continues and the pair elects to push onwards. They see a cave entrance ahead, up on a ledge. They move onward. The rumbling sound is now quite loud and resembles the roar of a colossal animal rather than thunder. Nora thinks the same thing and promptly notes aloud, “Dick, that isn’t thunder.”

No it isn’t! It’s a giant lizard! Well, it’s an iguana made to look like it is huge in size. It roars at them from its position overlooking a boulder. Nora screams and Dick takes aim with his rifle and fires. After several shots, he pushes Nora back, ostensibly to remove her from harm’s way. However, he shoves her so hard, she falls backwards and hits her head on the rocks behind them. You can even see her grab her head after yelping in pain. As he announces that his gun has jammed, she continues to lie there, holding her head in pain. With the weapon no longer of any use, he turns and pushes her, his way of trying to get her to someplace safe. The problem is, he really pushes her hard, nearly knocking her back over onto the ground. I think she needs to find a safe place from both the big lizard as well as him.

The two haul ass for the cave they spied a few minutes earlier. He pushes her ahead and then turns and shoots at the big iguana. I guess his rifle magically un-jammed itself in the last few seconds. The giant lizard follows them and traps them within the cave. Nora screams for Joe, but the little primate seems safe and unnoticed by the big iguana. Nora is still worried about Joe, so Dick leans out of the cave to retrieve him. When he does this, the big iguana roars and lunges. We hear Dick let out a yell and when he reappears back in the cave, he is not only holding Joe, but also sporting a torn shirt and a bloody arm. He rips off what is left of his shirt to make a bandage for his arm.

“I’m totally uploading this pic to Facebook.”The big iguana tries to push its way into the cave, but it is too big to get any more than its head through the opening. It continues to do this in hopes of scoring a quick snack of tasty human, but the two earthlings and their new primate friend are beyond its reach. Displaying a brief moment of clear thinking, Dick grabs their camera and snaps a photo of the colossal lizard. Having proof of such a creature would be a good thing when (and if) they ever return to Earth. Besides, he could always sell it to a tabloid for some big bucks.

Long about now the big iguana has to turn its attention to a new problem: a giant alligator has happened upon the scene. Wanting the tasty humans all to itself, the big iguana now starts to fight with the big gator. Of course, these giant creatures are brought to life by filming normal sized specimens on a cheap miniature set and matting them into the shots of the humans. “Nobody is going to believe this,” Dick remarks as the two monsters launch themselves at each other. The really reprehensible part is knowing that these two animals were goaded into fighting one another for the sake of the movie, especially since the alligator has to be a juvenile or baby in order to be approximately the same size as the iguana. At one point the alligator (or caiman) does the patented “gator roll” while its jaws are firmly locked onto the iguana's leg. It’s quite obvious that the poor iguana is suffering from a broken appendage. Somebody had better call PETAA (people for the ethical treatment of alien animals).

Seeing an opportunity, Dick loads the flare gun and runs outside long enough to point it skyward and fire a red colored flare. Back at camp, Ralph is pacing up a storm. Both he and Pat can hear the distant roaring and are sure something awful has happened. It sure has! We’re being subjected to some gawd awful monster FX! They spot the red flare and knowing this means the others are in trouble, spring into action, grabbing a few things (including the nuclear bomb thingy) and rushing off.

Back at the cave, we see that the iguana has defeated the alligator, which is lying on its back in bloody heap. Given how the film had no qualms about filming these two very real animals tearing into one another, and I wonder if that blood is real or fake. Rather than eat the dead alligator, the big iguana returns to the cave entrance in another attempt at getting the humans. Another big lizard has arrived on the scene – one that looks more like a salamander - but the iguana has failed to notice it.

Ralph and Pat run all the way back to the rocket, grab a raft and then turn around and run back to the lake. Shit, they must be tired. Given Ralph’s earlier state and I’m surprised he has not fallen over from sheer exhaustion or ripped a stitch out of some place. Hell, the movie even makes it seem that it's the following day before they even depart from the rocket. Maybe they decided to take advantage of the fact that they were alone in the rocket for the very first time and boinked away for a while before heading back out. Soon enough they have their own raft inflated and loaded up with the nuclear bomb, they set off toward the island.

Back in the cave, Dick has either found a place to develop his photos or the camera he used earlier was an instamatic. He is examining the picture of the big iguana and he refers to it as a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I’m sorry, an iguana in no way even remotely resembles a T-Rex. We in the audience are not quite that stupid. Sure, we paid money to see this film, but buying an iguana, an alligator and a salamander as dinosaurs is another level of stupid entirely. Kids might believe it, but we adults know better. Alas, I’m sure this movie was made with kids in mind as the target audience anyway. What’s funny is that Nora now reaches over, grabs the photo and rips into pieces out of frustration! HAHAHAHA! There goes their proof!

Ralph and Pat row ashore at the same spot Dick and Nora did, even spying where Dick hid the first raft. They make their way across the island, unknowingly avoiding a giant monitor lizard in the process and arrive in Bronson Canyon in short order. They see the giant iguana and after Ralph classifies it as something “prehistoric” Pat pushes the rifle into his hand and says, “Oh, it’s horrible! Here, shoot it, do something!” HAHAHA She’s American alright. He tells her that the rifle won’t do any good.

The big iguana (I refuse to refer to it as T-rex) begins fighting with the newly arrived salamander. Look closely at one of the shots of the salamander and you can actually see the handler’s hand pushing and tugging at its tail, trying to coax it into action. During the fight both monsters tumble down the side of the canyon, leaving the cave entrance wide open. Dick and Nora take this opportunity to escape and are soon reunited with Ralph and Pat. Meanwhile, after a brutal fight (horrifying in the realization that two animals really were goaded into fighting) the iguana has prevailed over the salamander, which much like the alligator before it, now lies on its back, covered in blood.

Ralph now makes a whopper of a statement. “I brought the atom bomb, I think it’s a good time to use it.” Are you shitting me?! Why in hell would you use that? They’re going to blow up the entire island (or at least a huge chunk of it) solely because some giant lizards live here? These animals have shown no evidence of leaving this island, and no doubt there are plenty of other creatures that call this place home and in no way are deserving of obliteration…so why kill them all? Talk about an overreaction.

“According to this plot device, we’ve just entered the film’s climax and only have four minutes to go.”So Ralph sets the timer on the atom bomb so that it will detonate in thirty minutes. Then the lot of them turn and run like hell back to the rafts. Do they really think they can run all that way, avoid any other monsters they encounter, then paddle back across the lake and find shelter from the blast…all within half an hour? Well, we’ll see.

 

Note - It is at this point that the movie enters its final segment, so if any of you really feel the need to watch this film and not know the ending ahead of time, skip the rest of this section.

 

The group has barely run a dozen steps when they run into a giant armadillo. I wonder if this the same type of creature Dick and Nora claimed to have seemed earlier, describing it a Sherman tank? That creature didn’t bother them, but now the group is not taking any chances, unloading several rounds at this new creature as soon as they see it.

The giant iguana, having vanquished its foes and realizing the tasty humans are getting away, now gives chase. Ralph fires at it as the group hauls ass down a hillside. Everyone has the good sense to not slow down, though it also works against them while trying to descend the slope. More than one of them falls on their ass and slides before getting back up, or in the case of the women, being yanked violently back up by Dick.

Stock footage from One Million B.C. is now hauled out. We see some wildebeast as well as a woolly mammoth or mastodon. The latter is truly colossal in size. When it is matted into a shot of the humans, it appears to be so large, the mumak aka Oliphaunts in Lord of the Rings seem like puppies next to it. We get several shots of the giant iguana running along the ground. Given its size and the speed at which it is moving, and I would think it would have already caught up to the group and gobbled them all up in frenzy of screams, blood and shattered bones. After numerous alternating shots of the group running and the iguana, Dick proclaims that they have lost it. I’ve lost it too, at this point, let me tell you.

They reach the shore, Joe the primate-thing following. As they reach the rafts, we see a shot of what looks like a Chelus Fimbriatus aka the Mata Mata freshwater turtle. Everyone starts hollering and screaming and hurrying to get into one of the rafts. No size is shown for the turtle, just a stock footage shot of one crawling along the ground. I don’t know if it is supposed to be a giant sized specimen, given everyone’s reaction to seeing it, but since we are never shown its intended size, it just appears as if the group spotted a normal sized turtle and then ran from it in fear, screaming the whole way. Kind of silly.

So now the four of them are in the raft and paddling like mad, the men in front and the women in the rear. As they paddle, we get shots of the iguana (still upset at having lost out on dinner, I guess) and of the clock on the atom bomb, which reminds us that time is rapidly running out for these fools. With about a minute left before detonation, the group finally makes landfall, Pat and Nora having mysteriously switched positions at the back of the raft. When they left the island, Pat was seated behind Ralph and Nora behind Dick. Now Nora is behind Ralph and Pat behind Dick. I suppose somewhere along the way the two ladies decided it was best if they swap seats.

The four jump out of the raft and run helter skelter toward the tree line, Joe close behind them. Amidst much hollering and screaming, they hurl themselves over a small dirt mound and take cover behind it, Dick literally shoving Pat to the ground and pulling Nora by her feet across the dirt to get them to safety. We get a shot of the island, then a shot of the giant iguana and then KABOOM…a shot of an atomic explosion, which appears to have occurred at night, despite it being bright and sunny out. After another couple stock shots of the massive mushroom cloud, everyone relaxes.

“Well, we’ve done it,” Ralph says.

“Yeah, we sure have done it,” Dick replies. “We’ve brought civilization to planet Nova.”

Are you freaking kidding me? These morons just landed on a naturally pristine planet with a diverse ecosystem and then proceeded to detonate an atomic bomb, killing who knows how many thousands of innocent creatures and contaminating the area with radioactive fallout for the next thousand years…and they call that bringing civilization to this world? Holy shit, I’d hate to see it if they had been uncivilized!

Hiding from the director was only effective until he began hiding the toilet paper.Extinction has never seemed so appealing.“Come on, let’s go home,” Dick says as they all lie there, gazing at the mushroom cloud. They get up and start walking back to their rocket. Is it too much to ask that somewhere along the way they get attacked by angry, vengeful animals and get eaten alive one by one, each person watching in horror as some giant critter slowly devours a comrade and knowing that they are next? A bit harsh, you say? Okay, perhaps when they go to fire up their rocket for the return trip, they discover that somebody left the door open this entire time and the battery is now drained, a situation that would have been easily avoided if they has just had the sense to leave someone to watch over the damn rocket? Then they’d be trapped on this planet and out of sheer anger and spite, the women would refuse to have sex with the men during the long years it will take for a rescue mission to be mounted? Serious, look how long it took to get the first one going. At the very least, I hope someone trips on the way back and breaks an arm or a leg. They should not be able to get off so easily after the mess they just created.

A few last shots of the mushroom cloud remind us who the real monsters of this film were.

The End.

Review

This film was the directorial debut of Bert I. Gordon who would go on to make numerous more low budget films that featured giant creatures of some type, thus earning him the nickname Mr. BIG. Of course it didn’t hurt that his initials were B.I.G. as well. Over the decades, King Dinosaur has gotten lost amid the deluge of cheap 1950’s genre films and is not as keenly remembered as well as Gordon’s subsequent films, which included “classics” such as Beginning of the End (1957), The Cyclops (1957), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), Attack of the Puppet People (1957), War of the Colossal Beast (1958), Earth vs. The Spider (1958), Village of the Giants (1965), The Food of the Gods (1976) and Empire of the Ants (1977). In these films and through his work with American International Pictures, Gordon pioneered many low cost methods for achieving giant monsters on screen…most of them rather unconvincing.

The Storyline
Long before the U.S.S. Enterprise boldly went where no man had gone before on Star Trek, this was a film that examined the idea of humanity venturing forth from Earth for the very first time in order to explore a brand new world. Given the limitations of 1950’s technology and the lack of habitable planets in our own solar system, this brand new world would have to be significantly closer to home that anything previously theorized to be out there (remember this film was made decades before the existence of planets outside our own solar system was proven). Thus, the idea that this new world travelled across space to make a home for itself in our system, close enough for even the crude technology of the 1950’s to get us there with a little help from script magic. The Government funds an expedition and four scientists are chosen to make the initial journey and survey of the new world. What strange new sights and adventures await them on the new world? Sounds exciting, huh? If only.

The science in the film is horrendous and one can imagine physicists of the day crying into their popcorn at the ludicrous idea of a new planet, complete with thriving ecosystem, coming sailing into our solar system and taking up orbit around the sun with no ill effects on those us who were here first. Even more astounding is the fact that this new world’s ecosystem has not only somehow survived millennia of traveling through deep space far from the warmth of a star, but developed flora and fauna that is exactly like that of earth in both appearance and behavior. Well, except for the “dinosaurs.” Geologist Nora Pierce makes a cursory examination of a few rocks and coupled with an active volcano in the general vicinity, decides there is enough evidence to support the idea that Planet Nova is a “young” world. Thus, the reason why “dinosaurs” still exist on this world. And why do I have “dinosaurs” in quotations? Because they are not really dinosaurs, but just normal size terrestrial lizards passed off as being huge. I don’t think that’s fooling anyone over the age of six.

Rather than send a fully equipped expedition, the government decides to send four scientists – two of each gender – to conduct all the preliminary tests on the new planet. That is all fine and dandy, but were any of them trained on how to fly the rocket? We know one had previous “war service” but did that also qualify him to act as security and keep an eye open for potential dangers? Did anyone counsel these four morons on how to conduct themselves? Of course no one did! These four land on planet Nova and proceed to bathe in the lake, set up a camp far from the rocket and then go rafting! It’s like they’re on vacation in Yosemite or something! They don’t give any indication of being on a serious mission of exploration. Rather, they stumble around like lost tourists who are searching for the nearest place to purchase some bug spray. Not only do these four morons not act like scientists, they behave more like college kids on spring break! Two have the hots for on another and are constantly snuggling, kissing or giving one another longing looks. How about you not think about screwing for a moment and actually do your damn job! For the cream of the crop, they all act very unprofessional at times. These were really the four best persons in the entire nation for this assignment? I would really have hated to see those who didn’t pass muster.

The Characters

The four people sent to Planet Nova are the only ones that show up in the film and thus the only ones worth discussing. Let’s start with the ladies. First there is geologist Dr. Nora Pierce, who comes off as the more calm and level headed of the two. That doesn’t mean she can’t get hysterical, scream and start crying when the job calls for it. She may hold a doctorate, but 50’s society will be damned if a woman on screen makes it through a horror/science fiction film without having to depend on a male to save her. It’s Nora’s curiosity about an island which really leads to trouble. She and Dick investigate and run into some giant iguanas…er…dinosaurs. It’s all downhill after that. For the most part, I thought her character was the most interesting. She was certainly the most professional out of the lot and personally, I found her to be more attractive. I know, I know…I’m a hypocrite for railing against the sexism rampant in the 50’s with one breath and with the very next I’m using a female character’s attractiveness to gauge how much I liked her. Deal with it.

Next up is Dr. Patricia “Pat” Bennett, the expedition’s chemist. She is portrayed as being highly skilled in her field and she is one of the first to exit the rocket upon landing on Planet Nova in order to test the surroundings and ensure that humans won’t keel over dead within seconds of removing their spacesuits. Again, being the leading scientist in her field doesn’t mean that she doesn’t epitomize what people thought women should be back in those days. She is the first to feel scared on the new world (and isn’t afraid to admit it), she screams and cries more than anyone else when things get rough and her knee-jerk reaction to any new scary animal is to want to shoot it. I found her to be much more annoying than Nora, maybe because of her inclination to scream and cry more, but also because of her relationship with Ralph. The pair of them act more like a couple of kids out on a date than scientists exploring a new planet. Maybe because she was the blonde, she was written and portrayed as the more “girly” of the two women. It certainly didn’t hurt that she had long hair compared to Nora’s short, almost masculine cut. Despite this, I still found Nora the cuter of the two. Her haircut may have sucked, but I found her facial features much more attractive. Again, deal with it.

Speaking of Dr. Ralph Martin, he is the medical officer for the trip and who do you think is the one who gets hurt worst of all? Yes, that's right, him! Ralph seems to be something of an idiot. His biggest dumbass moment comes when he and Pat decide to take a midnight stroll through the woods in order to have some alone time – leaving their sleeping comrades alone and unguarded in the process. A misstep on his part and he ends up wrestling with an alligator, who somehow manages to rough him up pretty bad despite looking quite dead as he rolls around on the ground with it. Early in the film we are told of his war service and I can only surmise that it was the Korean war in which he served, since at the time of this film, WWII had been over for eleven years and there is no way any doctor, idiot or not, is going to go unmarried for that long. Some broad will come along and scoop him up quick, which seems to be exactly what Pat is doing. It was Ralph’s brilliant idea to use the atomic bomb to blow up dinosaur island. So much for “do no harm.” I guess it only applies to humans.

Finally we have Dr. Richard “Dick” Gordon, the zoogeography expert. I actually had to look this up, but zoogeography is the branch of the science of biogeography that is concerned with the geographic distribution (present and past) of animal species. So basically he came along on the trip to chart where and how any animal species encountered were living. At this I’d say he failed spectacularly. Of course, he didn’t really get much chance to pursue his field of study with all the shenanigans going on. First the group gets lost, requiring them to set up camp in the woods for the night (a cost saving feature since the producers opted to not spend any money on a set to represent the rocket interior), then Ralph gets hurt and can’t be moved requiring further supplies be brought to the campsite (more cost cutting), then he and Nora decide to explore the island in the lake and discover that it’s full of giant critters. So really, the guy had no time to indulge in his own work, No wonder he seemed so damn cranky all the time. He hardly ever had a smile and always seemed about five seconds away from an apoplectic fit of rage. Speaking of which…

We now come to the elephant in the room: the movie’s surprising amount of misogyny. I don’t know what the reason may have been, but actor Douglas Henderson really manhandles the female actors in this film. Maybe he was just over zealous in his acting. Maybe he was venting his frustration with the project in general (it could in no way be considered a feather in his acting hat). Then again, maybe he was just a raging asshole who harbored anger and resentment towards women. Whatever the reason, it is hard not to notice how he shoves, pushes and yells at the women in this film.

The FX and Music
The music here is typical in its utilitarian sound and hardly worth commenting on. It isn’t great, nor does it suck to the point of annoyance. It’s just there. End of story. What really needs to be discussed is the truly crappy FX work. I don’t know which movie pioneered the use of iguanas, baby alligators and other similar sized reptiles and amphibians as a cheap way to bring dinosaurs to life, but part of me feels like the producers of that film need to be taken out and shot. Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh, but a severe tongue lashing would suffice instead. Anyone who’s age is in the double digits won’t be fooled by such an approach, the method just smacks of desperation and cheapness, and it is horribly abusive for the animals, who get hurt and/or die. As an animal lover who felt irate when real tarantulas were driven over with cars in Kingdom of the Spiders (and I f*cking hate spiders), then watching lizard being forced into fighting and killing one another is just slightly less evil in my book than dog fighting.

The Technique
Cheap. That is the best word to describe this movie. Any film that utilizes stock footage almost exclusively for the first twelve minutes cannot be deemed anything but cheap. To make it even worse, after all that stock footage is hauled out to show us how the mission to Planet Nova began and was planned, we never even end up with a cheap set to represent the interior of the rocket. I can think of numerous other cheap films that managed that one, but even that expense was deemed too lofty for the makers of this film. Once the characters arrive on Planet Nova, we only see them in outdoor locations, which does not make total sense in the larger scheme of things. Add in the cheap method of bringing dinosaurs to life – using iguana and baby alligators to represent “giant” monsters – and what you have is a movie that has three basic ingredients: stock footage, people wandering around the woods or Bronson Canyon, and lots of boring (and reprehensible) footage of mundane reptiles fighting one another.

The Summation
This movie is for lovers of cheap 50’s scifi only. There just isn’t anything there for it to be a well-remembered classic. Everything about the film just screams cheap. And while “cheap” films often compensate for that lack of funds with a great sense of fun or style, this movie fails to even rise to that level. It’s for diehards only…or those who are looking for a good unintended laugh. Laughs are plentiful, but also be prepared to cringe at the ordeal the female cast members had to endure.


You know, I really don't remember Dick and Nora snogging in this film. Nor do I remember
her showing that much bare arm. It must have been deleted...you know, to keep the
running time down...hahahahahahaha!

 

Expect To See:
Aliens - The four human morons…er…explorers encounter numerous indigenous life forms on Planet Nova, thus warranting this icon. Of course all those aliens were just animals, making the humans the most intelligent life on the planet, but just barely.
Dinosaurs – I almost hesitate to use this one. The human explorers run into several large reptilians on the other planet that they deem to be dinosaurs. However, said dinosaurs are just played by normal sized lizards made to look huge.
Forest Hijinks – The four moron humans spend an inordinate amount of time in the woods. They hike, they wrestle gators, they camp out, sleep and given enough time I’m sure they’d have been screwing like horny forest nymphs.
Giant Bugs – We get one potato bug the size of a pinto (the horse, not the car). I think those things are already pretty creepy looking (the potato bugs, not horses or cars). Imagine one the size of Mr. Ed! No thank you.
Giant Monsters – Aside from the big lizards that are supposed to be dinosaurs, we also have a colossal armadillo the size of a tank as well as a mastodon that looks bigger than a five-story office building.
Misogyny – Holy crap! I had to create this icon and add it to the existing ones solely because of this movie. Dr. Gordon has some issues with women. How else to explain why he pushes and shoves them around like they’re all in a mosh pit?
Offworld Hijinks – Considering that nearly 82% of this movie takes place on another planet and you’ll quickly see why this icon must be included. Of course there is nothing alien about this other world, as it looks amazingly like parts of Southern California.
Spaceships – In this film we get the standard 1950’s conveyance for travel to another world: the rocket ship, in all its stock footage, phallic glory. This one seems to alternate from being a few dozen feet in length/height to being hundreds.
Stock Footage – Yikes, but this film is loaded with this. As one commenter on the IMdB said, “Stock footage? More like stock mileage!” Indeed, nearly all of the first twelve minutes are comprised solely of stock footage.
Violence – Aside from one character wrestling with an alien alligator, most of the violence in this film is perpetrated on the female characters by one of the males. It isn’t outright abuse, but it’s still uncomfortable to watch.

 

Movie Stats:
Shadow's Commentary:

Deaths: 0
Alcoholic drinks consumed: 0
Smokes: 0
Total gunshots: 22
Animal species seen: 18
Animal species played by stock footage: 14
Atomic Explosions: 1
Recycled costumes: 2
Times Pat screams: 24
Times Nora screams: 14
Times Dick lives up to his name: 5
Total words of dialog spoken by CLOWN: 891
Percentage of film comprised of stock footage: 17.67%
Percentage of movie comprised of alligator wrestling: 0.71%

01 Min – Begin stock footage barrage.
10 Min – End stock footage barrage.
11 Min – There’s something on the camera lens! Oh, wait, that’s just the rocket.
13 Min - A montage of scientific tests, how utterly not exciting.
16 Min – They’re just going to leave all that crap outside?
22 Min – Is that a microphone cord?
25 Min – Somebody call PETA!
29 Min – You’re going to need a bigger can of RAID.
44 Min – Ouch, that’s going to leave a mark.
54 Min – Reptile wrangler’s hand spotted in background.
58 Min – Stock footage alert!
59 Min – Why are they screaming at that the sight of that little turtle?
61 Min – Kaboom. They just obliterated thousands of innocent creatures.
63 Min – It’s only been an hour? God, I need a drink…


Shadow's Drinking Game: Every time the movie shows an animal - stock footage or otherwise - take a drink.

 

Images Click for larger image

What happens on the airbase
stays on the airbase.


“Hey, Chief, which one of these dials
measures the temperature in the
core again? Chief? Chief? Hey,
where is everyone running?”



“Tech support, how may I help
you? No, I can’t reset the internet
for you! Cup holder? What cup holder?”

 
The computer analysis reveals
that this film sucks.

I didn’t know Ray Wise was in this film!

My rocks are gneiss, don't take
them for granite.


 
“I’m sorry, but after reviewing the
x-rays, I don’t see how you could
have just ‘accidentally’ sat on
that beer bottle.”


 
“We’ll see how they like their
Viagra with a little laxative
added to the formula.”

“We were told to keep
watching the skies.”

The ultimate goal of stealth
technology is to make the missile
invisible, not just blurry.

When in Northern California, be sure
to visit the ‘history of the
dildo’ monument.

They should call those chastity
suits, because if you wear one,
you are never getting laid.


“You can call me a geologist, because
I can make your bedrock!"

A volcano? You know this going to
erupt by film’s end.

“Dude, wake up! The director
yelled Action.”

“Raar! Where’s your Terminix
man now?”


You know the food blows when she’d
rather suck on her Mascara compact.

“Give a hoot, don’t…watch this movie.”

“Didn't you know that chemists do
it periodically on the table?”

“Hey, this place looks just like
Bronson Canyon back home!”


“Raar! I’m a monsta!”

Don’t you just hate it when your
clothes refuse to come off when
it’s time for a quickie?

I think these misogynist men have
made the women switch teams.

Well, that’s one way to one-up the
standard end-of-movie volcanic eruption.

 

Immortal Dialog

Nora and Dick arrive on the much talked about island.

Nora: “What a desolate, forsaken place.”

Shadow’s Comment: I’d like to think she was referring to the imaginations of the film’s writers.


Ralph and Pat spy the giant iguana for the first time.

Pat: “Oh. Ralph, what is it, what is it?!”
Ralph: “I don’t know. Something prehistoric.”
Pat: “Oh, it’s horrible. Here, shoot it, do something.”

Shadow’s Comment: Is that any way to treat Betty White?


The party is reunited on the jungle island.

Ralph: “I brought the atom bomb. I think it’s a good time to use it.”

Shadow’s Comment: Ah, yes…seeking out new life and new civilizations…and then blowing them all to hell.

 

Keep In Mind
 
  • Field research is best conducted in a full suit and tie.
  • A woman’s first order of business on a new planet is to bathe in the nearest body of water.
  • A cursory glance at some rocks will tell you the age of the planet.
  • Leaving camp unattended and your sleeping comrades unguarded in order to go screw in the woods is perfectly okay.
  • It is possible to go to bed suffering from grievous wounds only to wake up scar free the next day.
  • Atomic bombs are standard gear for camping.
  • No matter how many times you say it, an iguana will never look like a T-Rex.
  • Ripping up your only photographic proof of a living dinosaur is not the smartest thing to do.
  • It is possible to outrun an atomic explosion.
 

 

This Film & Me

This is one of those rare movies from the 50’s that I had never even heard of until I was an adult. I had been long familiar with several of Bert I. Gordon’s films, but I first read about this film about ten years ago. Of course, knowing about a film and managing to see it are two different things. I had this DVD on my Amazon wish list for years before I finally got around to ordering it and then watching it in early 2016. Since I was acquainted with Gordon’s other movies, I pretty much knew to expect cheapness. Boy, I was not disappointed. This movie makes Earth vs. the Spider look like Oscar material in comparison.

Shadow's rating: Three Tombstones



The Good

  • Attractive women
  • Short running time
  • Yeah, that's all

The Bad

  • Terrible science
  • Far too much stock footage
  • Horrible FX

The Ugly

  • Gordon's misogyny
  • Real animals made to fight one another

 

 

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