The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Planet of the Dinosaurs (dir by James Shea)

This 1977 film begins with a bunch of goofy-looking astronauts crash-landing on a desert planet. After their spaceship slowly sinks into a lake, the astronauts try to set up camp so that they can wait to be rescued. Unfortunately for them, there’s some dinosaurs living on the planet and the astronauts soon find themselves being stalked by prehistoric predators!

Now, it’s true that I said that this was unfortunate for the astronauts. However, it’s very fortunate for us the viewers because the dinosaurs are a hundred times more adorable than the astronauts.  Indeed, the astronauts tend to be out-of-shape and the men have made some truly unfortunate hair decisions.  The female astronauts, meanwhile, all seems as if they should be posing in front of a car at an auto show.  Everyone delivers their lines with a good deal of forced drama, destroying the myth of the calm and cool astronaut.  Sorry, Tom Wolfe, but there’s no right stuff to be found amongst this crew. Again, we are fortunate that this is one of those low-budget sci-fi films that made use of model dinosaurs and stop motion animation.  There’s something just undeniably fun about watching a bunch of hammy, unknown actors pretend to be terrified of what appears to be a child’s toy. (The most menacing of the dinosaurs is a dead ringer for the dinosaur from the Toy Story films.) Planet of the Dinosaurs is a deeply silly movie but, if you’re a fan of dinosaurs and old timey special effects, you’ll find a lot to enjoy. Just don’t make the mistake of taking anything about it seriously. Of course, the fact that the majority of the astronauts look like they should be dancing under a disco ball instead of exploring space will probably ensure that you stop taking the film seriously long before even the first dinosaur shows up.

In fact, my only real complaint about this film is that there simply aren’t enough dinosaurs. Yes, there’s a T-Rex. And yes, there’s that one-horned dinosaur that looks like a really dangerous armadillo. There’s a few other dinosaurs as well but, to be honest, I feel like a Planet of the Dinosaurs should just be crawling with them. Instead, it appears that there were only six or seven dinosaurs on this planet.  I guess it’s possible that there could have been more dinosaurs on the other side of the planet but still, the planet seemed to be pretty sparsely populated.  Maybe the other dinosaurs were hibernating.

Now, you might be wondering how all these dinosaurs showed up on the planet. Early on, one of the astronauts establishes that the planet is on the same “evolutionary track” as Earth, it’s just several years behind. So, apparently, there are dinosaurs on every Earth-like planet. I guess that’s fine but I was hoping for a Planet of the Apes-style reveal, with the Statue of Liberty or some other monument suddenly showing up. A planet where dinosaurs evolved from men? That would have made the movie a true classic!

Even without the Statue of Liberty, Planet of the Dinosaurs is fun. Silly, but fun.

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