The Last Dinosaur (1977)

The Last Dinosaur (1977)‘I can take giant turtles and dinosaurs, but leeches…yuck!’

A subterranean drilling machine inadvertently surfaces in a prehistoric world deep beneath a volcano. Most of the crew are killed, but the pilot manages to return to civilisation, and reluctantly agrees to accompany a new expedition.

Feeble Japanese-American co-production that simply regurgitates all the familiar ‘Lost World’ clichés and comes up with nothing new. The new expedition is bankrolled by an ageing Richard Boone, playing a jaded big game hunter who also happens to be the richest man in the world. Along for the ride are his personal tribal warrior/tracker, pretty photojournalist Joan Van Ark, a Japanese palaeontologist and the whiny survivor of the previous expedition, Steven Keats. All fine, I’m sure each member is a valuable asset, but it does make you wonder exactly what were the duties of the original five man crew?

A project like this stands or falls on its action and SFX, of course, and these are rather poor to say the least, with the prehistoric beasties desperately unconvincing. There’s little invention in the script, with staples such as the native girl who helps our heroes, and the inevitable face-off between the Triceratops and the T. Rex. The story actually doesn’t flow too well, almost suggesting some footage was cut, although that seems at odds with the slow pace and the lack of thrills. An over-use of stock shots and some poor superimposition of a mountainous landscape (a drawing!) also point to a distinct lack of quality.

The Last Dinosaur (1977)

‘Whatddya mean? I look quite good for me age, don’t I?’

The performances are not helpful, either. Boone seems to have only a passing familiarity with the script, and the idea of shutterbug Van Ark sleeping with him is a little implausible, given that she was 34 years old at the time of filming and he was a very haggard 60. The love triangle between the two and whining Keats is never credible, and not assisted by painfully laboured dialogue. Actually, the game Van Ark would have probably been better off with the T Rex, rather than either of these two losers.

The climax seems to be trying to say something profound about ‘man, the eternal hunter’ but it’s a muddled message at best, and the whole sorry enterprise is strangely reminiscent of the failed Charles Bronson vehicle ‘The White Buffalo’ (1977), which, in turn, bore an obvious debt to Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick.’

Apparently, the film’s theatrical release was cancelled, and it debuted on television instead. Not surprising, given the quality of the finished product.

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