As I watched the 1985 Italian film, Massacre in Dinosaur Valley, I found myself wondering one thing.
“Where are the dinosaurs!?”
Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the Jurassic Park franchise but whenever I see the word “dinosaur” in a title, I expect to see dinosaurs. That’s actually probably the main reason why I, or anyone else for that matter, would watch Massacre in Dinosaur Valley. Unfortunately, there are no dinosaurs in this film. Instead, a paleontologist shows up to explain that the valley is called Dinosaur Valley because it is the home to so many fossils. This, of course, is the equivalent of telling us that, even though a city is really boring now, you should have seen it several thousand years ago. Unfortunately, we also don’t get to see any fossils in Massacre in Dinosaur Valley.
There is, however, a massacre. When a plane crashes in the valley, the pilot is killed but the majority of the passengers survive. Insane Vietnam vet John Heinz (Milton Rodriguez) declares himself to be the leader of the survivors, even while his drunk wife (Marta Anderson) taunts him about everything from his lack of sexual prowess to the fact that his war record apparently isn’t as impressive as he claims. The majority of the survivors would rather be led by Kevin Hall (Michael Sopikw), a soldier of fortune who is first introduced hitching a ride on a truck and then admitting that he doesn’t even have the five dollars that he promised to pay the driver. Kevin seems like a bit of a loser but he’s better looking than Heinz and a good deal more laid back as well.
That said, it really doesn’t matter whether Kevin or John is in charge of the survivors because, what the valley lacks in dinosaurs, it makes up for in cannibals. When the cannibals attack, the survivors rather foolishly split up and quickly discover that, if the cannibals don’t get you, the quicksand will. Kevin ends up making his way through the jungle with Myara (Gloria Cristal) and Belinda (Susan Hahn).
Massacre in Dinosaur Valley was released towards the end of the infamous Italian cannibal cycle. In Italy, it was originally given the much more honest title of Nudo e selvaggio, which translates to Naked and Savage. In some parts of the world, it was released as Cannibal Ferox 2, in an effort to associate the film with Umberto Lenzi’s infamous shocker. The plot of Massacre in Dinosaur Valley obviously owes much to Cannibal Ferox. Fortunately, there’s far less animal cruelty in Massacre In Dinosaur Valley. Unfortunately, the plot moves slowly and none of the film’s violence or gore is as nightmarishly realized as in the equivalent scenes from Ferox. As well, no one in the Dinosaur Valley cast can really duplicate the charisma of Ferox‘s Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Lorraine De Selle, and Zora Kerova.
That said, even if he wasn’t a particularly dynamic actor, Michael Sopkiw was still a likable lead and he was the best thing that Massacre In Dinosaur Valley had going for it. Sopkiw is a bit of an enigmatic figure when it comes to the history of Italian exploitation films. He was an American actor and a model who, in quick succession, starred in four Italian films. He started his career with Sergio Martino’s 2019: After The Fall of New York and then went on to star in Lamberto Bava’s Blastfighter and Monster Shark before ending his acting career with Massacre In Dinosaur Valley. Sopkiw was good looking and he had a likeable screen presence. It’s easy to imagine that he could have had a career similar to Michael Dudikoff’s if he had stuck with it. But Sopkiw apparently decided that acting in B-movies wasn’t for him and he instead went into botany and started a company that makes special glass bottles that protect their contents from exposure to the sun. Good for him.