Virgin Islands Showdown

Dinosaurus came out in 1960, fueled by an energetic optimism. World War II was far enough in the past and economic recovery stable. Forgive this Saturday matinee for being shallow when depicting construction in the Spanish Virgin Islands as impeccable Americanism. The United States pushing western influence in an area of foreigners – what’s the possible downside?

It’s a movie that falls between the Leave it to Beaver, middle America fantasy and the soon-to-come Civil Rights push. Dinosaurus is too stubborn to move forward, hemming and hawing about the abusive Spanish villain and casting hard working white guys as impossibly pure heroes. Women? They only get in the way, faint when faced with danger, and cause trouble. Naive, or just indifferent, maybe. It’s a movie wishing for simpler times before those simpler times were whisked away.

Kids won’t get any of that, then or now. Dinosaurus aims at them with reanimated dinosaurs, a pokey 10-year old in the lead, a comical caveman, and a climax that pits a Tyrannosaurus against a digging machine. It’s a playground of cool stuff for those not quite in their pre-teen years, but made by entrenched studio guys to ensure their worldview doesn’t move.

[Dinosaurus creates] some early ‘60s era chills as two dinosaurs roughhouse one another

Taken as such, it’s easy to forgive the wonky and ineffective puppet work. Some stop motion fares better, creating some early ‘60s era chills as two dinosaurs roughhouse one another. Excitement doesn’t rise above marginal, skirting acceptability. Material lower to the ground sets the right tone – pure comic kitsch. Greg Martell plays the fish-out-of-water neanderthal, making a number of dorky skits delightfully fun. Hacking a HAM radio with an ax, freaking out over a mirror, panicking over a flushing toilet, and trying to use chairs make for Dinosaurus’ best stuff. That says something when the hairy guy in a loin cloth can supersede a Brontosaur.

A little irony too – imagine the studio execs and production team a few years after Dinosaurus. They cast black locals in this film, never giving them a line, letting them helplessly look on as the perfect white heroes save them. How soon Dinosaurus was outmoded, and sooner still, those producers and studio presidents were turned into social cavemen. They were writing themselves as cavemen and didn’t know it. Naive and nearsighted, Dinosaursus is, if so harmlessly satisfying in giving what’s advertised as to not hold much against it.

Video

This is outright astonishing work from Kino. Argue whether Dinosaurus deserves a 4K master, but it gets one. The result is a consistently sharp presentation, drizzled with definition and texture. Detail flourishes at a masterful level, bringing out jungle scenery in droves and in close, facial definition.

Excuse the hefty grain underwater, and an occasional jump during visual effects shots. That’s part of the print. What matters is Kino’s encode, keeping this all consistently clean and film-like. A smattering of damage barely registers. The stable grain over much of Dinosaurus proves utterly transparent to the 35mm, Cinemascope source.

If not detail and clarity then certainly color stands out. Missing the lushness of local greenery, the vibrant clothing, and masterful flesh tones means not paying attention. It’s startling how bright this becomes, matching the cartoon-like vibe. Dinosaurus looks freshly pulled from the negative – if that negative were struck last week. Contrast brings out the area’s natural sunlight with blindingly pure highlights. Black levels work their magic come nightfall, even in day-for-night shots.

Audio

Composer of numerous ‘50s and ‘60s monster scores, Ronald Stein’s music is cleanly represented by this audio track. DTS-HD mono keeps everything stable, reaching excellent highs sans distortion. Even the naturally scratchy Tyrannosaur roar holds together.

Age restricts dialog if not too severely. Everything is audible, without any losses.

Extras

Kris Yeaworth offers commentary for this feature, chatting about his own experiences at the time, general production anecdotes, and noting repeatedly how great this transfer looks. You can’t blame him. Kino brings over interviews with producer Jack Harris and co-star Paul Lukather for a nearly half-hour retrospective, pulled from a German release. Also along are historians Donald Glut and Bill Warren. A slew of trailers follow.

Dinosaurus
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

Stuck between the idealist ’50s and changing ’60s, Dinosaurus holds on to times past for a mostly harmless kids-focused creature feature.

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