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Dinosaur Island
(1994)
 

Directors: Jim Wynorski, Fred Olen Ray            
Cast:
Ross Hagen, Richard Gabai, Antonia Dorian


The Apocalypse. Not only do I believe that it will happen, I am confident that it will be happening sooner rather than later. Everywhere I go, I see the signs of its approach. A few weeks ago while I was downtown, If the British royal family wants to get higher approval in polls...I saw a guy seated on the sidewalk who was holding a sign with a written statement stating to the effect that The End was coming. Then there was that awful incident that happened in the Middle East very recently. You know, that incident that happened a few days before this particular day that you happened to read this review. Usually when I'm bummed out by something depressing like this, I retreat into the world of B movies to take my mind off it for a spell. However, when it comes to the pressing problem of The Apocalypse, this technique fails to work. The B movie world in recent years has been filled with its own signs that The End is getting closer. Great B movie studios like PM Entertainment have apparently folded their tents. But it's not just that good is vanishing, but that the bad is increasing in strength. For example, in 2001, the washed-up action star Steven Seagal teamed up with the abominable Albert Pyun (Omega Doom) to make the maddeningly moronic "action" movie Ticker.

Actually, this wasn't the first time two different kinds of movie poisons were mixed. Seven years earlier, this happened with the movie Dinosaur Island, which was directed by both Jim Wynorski (behind movies like The Bare Wench Project and Munchie) and Fred Olen Ray (behind movies like Demented Death Farm Massacre and Alienator). To top it off, the movie was produced by the legendary Roger Corman, who nowadays produces dubious movies like Raptor and Termination Man that even the most forgiving B movie fans find hard to stomach. So as you probably expect, the end result coming from these three not-so-mighty forces combining on this one project are more than somewhat lacking. Dinosaur Island is a truly bad movie. So bad, there is no possible way I could find myself recommending it without managing at the same time to keep my reputation and my self-respect. However, I must admit that this is not your typical bad movie. Dinosaur Island is different from other bad movies in the fact that the people who made it knew they were making a movie that was extremely stupid and terrible in many different ways. And knowing that they would end up with a bad movie no matter what they did, they obviously decided they might as well have some fun with it along the way. Because of that, though the movie is still bad, it is at least more palatable and easy to sit through than your typical bad movie.

Though the people who made this movie not only decided to not take the task of making this movie serious, and as well freely filled it with the ingredients you find in your typical modern B movie - nudity, sex, blood, and foul language - the heart and the basic plot of this particular Amazon-themed movie could easily When Gabai became annoying, Hagen had to restrain himself from using his gunhave been concocted in the 1950s, and when finished would have been indistinguishable from efforts like Prehistoric Women or Queen From Outer Space. Those movies possibly had an influence on the screenwriters of Dinosaur Island, though I think the obscure Untamed Women gave them the key inspiration. Like that movie, the setting here is an uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean that is filled with both prehistoric animals and an all-female tribe still living in the Stone Age. Also exactly like Untamed Women is an apparent reluctance by the filmmakers to suggest interracial romance, since all the women on this island are undeniably Caucasian. The women in this movie also practice a primitive religion, though it's quite different than the one portrayed 42 years earlier. They perform one of their rituals in the opening scene, consisting of them not only tying one of their own up for a sacrifice, but painting another of them blue and having her dance topless. Part of this dance ritual also apparently requires that at one point the fur bikini top of the sacrifice victim gets ripped off. Soon we see who the victim is being sacrificed to - two gigantic chicken feet that step into the camera range!

Actually, we quickly find out that these gigantic chicken feet belong to the giant tyrannosaurus rex-like dinosaur that was left over from Corman's Carnosaur movie from the previous year. We know it's clearly the same one, because one shot of the dinosaur from that movie is reused here. Interestingly, in that particular shot, blood is dripping from the dinosaur's mouth, and this is before he snacks down on the screaming sacrifice victim. Obviously, the movie is in love with stock footage, because as soon as this scene ends we cut to stock footage of an old cargo plane flying over the ocean. Owned by the United States army, this propeller-driven plane is commanded by Captain Jason Briggs (Hagen, Pushing Up Daisies), whose present assignment is supervising a prison transport from southeast Asia back to San Diego. The three military prisoners on the transport are different in personalities but equal in each being an old stereotype; there is the fat bumbler "Turbo", Wayne is a brainy nerd with thick-framed glasses, and Skeener is one of those slick dudes who fancies himself as a ladies' man. But the flight is anything but typical. All of a sudden, we hear (though don't see) one of the airplane engines' sputtering, and we cut to stock footage of the viewpoint of a flying camera quickly approaching the waters below.

Apparently the filmmakers didn't have any stock footage of a cargo plane crashing into the ocean, because the next scene shows Briggs and the other passengers wading onto the shore of the title location while Boobs on boobs!carrying a rubber raft that would still be too small to hold all of them even if there wasn't that wounded passenger lying in the raft. Once on the island, the movie more or less follows what typically happens when red-blooded all-American men stumble across an Amazonian society - the men are initially thought of as enemies by the island's all-female inhabitants and are captured, the men are dragged to meet the man-hating Queen (Toni Naples), the tribeswomen see the happy-face tattoo on the arm of one of the soldiers and declare the prophecy on their sacred scroll stating visitors will come to save them has started, the men show the women their own "sacred scroll" - a magazine with a centerfold in the middle - which soon gets the women asking questions like what a kiss is (which the men are more than happy to answer), and the men soon find themselves having to help the tribeswomen by tracking down and killing the dinosaur on the island nicknamed "The Great One" - which of course has one of the men initially thinking they have to hunt down Jackie Gleason.

Such blatant in-your-face attempts at comic relief in Dinosaur Island are just some of the reasons that make this movie a bad one. Instead of simply parodying the typical things you find in a typical Amazon movie, the movie goes one step further and portrays many scenes in a deliberately campy manner. Yes, the Amazon genre was never one to be taken very seriously, but even with the memory of these silly movies in mind, the enjoyment to be found in those movies was never found from anything that was as heavy-handed in its delivery as some of the material here. I've mentioned before that deliberate camp is almost impossible to pull off in a movie, and here is further proof of this. This approach isn't just limited to happy-face tattoos or characters making stupid statements that not even an idiot would say, but is also seen with the special effects. Cheesy effects in Amazon movies are often good for some good laughs, because you can sense that the special effects artists at the time thought they were doing a competent job, and it's often worth a giggle to laugh at someone's noble efforts being an utter failure. But it's not funny laughing at the realization that someone purposely made a poor effort at doing something. The dinosaurs effects here range from glorified sock puppets to stop-motion animation that's more stop than motion, and they have been blue-screened into the film in a manner than looks even worse than the weatherman on the six o'clock news. It's not funny to look at, just sad and pathetic.

As stupid and cheap as this movie sounds, there is surprisingly enough entertaining things to be found that, although they do not manage to make the movie a good one, they at least make the experience of watching it more or less a painless When Dino was full grown, Fred hired mercenaries to stop him permanently from jumping on himone. Some of that realization that they were making a bad movie actually did result in the people working on this movie to come up with some decent moments. With the movie having this premise, it was inevitable there would be plenty of sexploitation. The women are gorgeous, and the movie makes plenty of excuses for their tops to get removed, cheekily making them engage in activities that include catfights or bathing each other in the river. Even if many of them don't seem to be particularly strong actresses, they at least give their characters a pleasing charm to them. And I must admit that Toni Naples makes a fine Adrienne Barbeau-like queen. As for the male members of the cast, they also come across as a likeable bunch despite some unevenness in their performances; as the slick ladies' man Skeener, actor Richard Gabai is sometimes a little bit too much, though since there are plenty of moments where his attempts to charm the ladies or crack a joke is much less broad, the blame for these brash moments can probably be put on Wynorski and Ray. Otherwise the acting is fine, particularly Hagen, who clearly know exactly how to play his role. He makes the Captain regard the situation with complete seriousness at all times, never once letting the audience know he sees how silly this is. Not only does his sober attitude help prevent the movie from getting too silly (and therefore annoying), his character's professional demeanor towards things that are so out of the ordinary actually becomes more amusing than if he were to engage in double-takes or other attributes found in comic behavior. He acts just like one of those serious professionals in those 1950s Amazon movies, and it's also a nice nostalgic touch.

And while there were many attempts at humor that I thought were both excessively labored and completely unfunny, I must admit there were every so often there was some comedy that I smiled or even laughed out loud at. The relentless attempt to delivering a consistent flow one-liners means that inevitably some of them will prove to be funny. Gabai gets a lot of them, and when he's not pressed to deliver them broadly, he proves to be quite good at comic delivery. Where he really gets to show his stuff is when his character interacts with Steve Barkett, who plays the tough-as-nails sergeant assigned to guard the prisoners during the transport. Their verbal conflicts are often hilarious, not only with each actor effortlessly receiving and responding to what the other says, but would be funny just by reading the conflicts in the screenplay. The two of them bickering are so entertaining that it's a big disappointment that Barkett's character exits the movie before it's half over. So Dinosaur Island does have its share of pleasing moments, just not enough to make it more than a movie to watch when it pops up on cable and you have nothing else to watch or do. It can indeed have the claim that it's one of the best efforts of Wynorski and Ray, and of Corman in recent years. Though had it been made more recently, the movie would have undoubtedly approached the awfulness of a collaboration like Ticker. The Apocalypse is getting closer all the time, my friends. When you hear the announcement that Andy Sidaris and Cynthia Rothrock are collaborating on a movie, you will be wise to stock up on ammunition and prepare your bomb shelter for a long-term stay.

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 Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension  Wild Women
 Opposable Thumb Films  Charlie's Angels
 Stomp Tokyo  Pagan Island
 Teleport City  Colossuss And The Amazon Queen

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)

See also: America 3000, Sinbad Of The Seven Seas, Warriors Of The Apocalypse

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