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King Dinosaur

     "Oh, it's horrible, Ralph! Shoot it. Kill it! Please do something! Waauugghhhhhhhh!"

-- The always helpful Worthless Pat    




Gonzoid Cinema






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Sights &
 Zimgor Productions /
 Lippert Pictures

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of the
The Films of
Bert I. Gordon.

King Dinosaur

Attack of the Puppet People

War of the Colossal Beast


The Magic Sword

Empire of the Ants

Food of the Gods


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     Before I begin this week's review, I feel it is my duty to warn you, my faithful readers, that over the past several days I've come down with a combination of SARS, Captain Tripps, Trixie and The Plague. My brain is currently leaking out my nose, my ears are plugged, my lungs are fouled and my head feels like it weighs one metric ton -- all of it snot. 

     I do believe I am on my way to beating it with lots of rest and certain pharmaceuticals mixed in the proper proportions. Right now, I'm buzzing on a cocktail of Benadryl, orange juice, and Robotussin. Now, I know what you're probably saying -- Robotussin is for wimps and I should go with industrial strength Nyquil. Well, I would, but the last time I took Nyquil, the unfortunate "K-Mart Incident" occurred where I was escorted out of the store after *ahem* "freaking out" and accusing several customers of giving me the "stink-eye." So, no more cold medicines with stimulants for the ol' Beerman.

     Needless to say, then, this review will probably be short, sweet, and to the point. But I have a sneaking suspicion it might be the most coherent review that I've done in a while. Beyond that, I will type as best I can between sneezing and coughing fits, and then continue after wiping off the monitor and keyboard ... Ewwwwww.

     Bottoms up, pass the Kleenex and enjoy...

-- The *snorfle* Management     

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Our movie opens with the stock-footage floodgates running wide open as word comes to the President that a new planet has entered our solar system and taken up orbit relatively close to Earth. The President then calls for a special session of congress to approve a budget to mount an expedition to this new planet -- whose discoverer has now named Nova. After all, we've got to get there first before those dang-dirty commies. More stock footage follows as a narrator (Marvin Miller) informs us what we're looking at (-- and thank heaven for him or we'd be totally lost.) We spy rocket booster tests, and then some comical simulated crash stress-tests, where several airplanes fall apart with loud clangs on impact. Remember, all of this work is to help us get to Nova first -- and according to the test footage, if we do, we're never going to get there in one piece.

Efforts are doubled when word comes that astronomers have seen life on Nova and feel we might be able to colonize the new world, which triggers even more stock footage and more explanations from our narrator as we watch several V2-rockets launch. No, wait, that's the same V2-rocket launch. So's that one. And that one. Uh-oh, I'm sensing a pattern here ... The narrator then gets plot specific while watching several hands poking and prying at several switches, diodes and gauges on a mysterious black box. From what I could translate, this is some kind of atomic battery that will provide all the power for the trip, and the astronauts will have to be extra careful because if the wrong switches are thrown, the battery will overload -- resulting in an atomic explosion! (Just don't push the big red button. The big red SHINY button...)

Okay, we're almost ten minutes in and we haven't had any dialogue or characters yet. Let's get on the ball, people: Who's gonna ride the rocket?

We get our answer quickly enough. Dr. Richard Gordon (William Bryant) is chosen for his expertise in zoology so he can identify all the new flora and fauna on Nova. We'll be referring to him as Sadistic Dick (-- and not because his first name is Richard.) Next, is Nora Pierce (Patti Gallagher -- a chick?), the expedition's mineralogy expert, who has a one track mind and a thing for uncharted islands. Dr. Ralph Martin (Douglas Henderson) will be playing the square-jawed, but thick-headed hero of our piece and also provide the crew's medical needs. Rounding out the crew is Dr. Patricia Bennet (Wanda Curtis -- another chick?), who we'll be referring to as Worthless Pat for her habitual screaming and histrionics when the slightest thing goes wrong.

With the rocket completed, and Nova in close orbit, Cape Canaveral somehow manages to cram all four of these astronauts into the nose cone of a V2 rocket. Actually, according to the footage, using the people milling around on the launch pad for scale, the only way all four of them could actually fit would be to stand each one on top of the other from the cone tip to the rocket boosters. When the countdown starts at five minutes, the film is padded out as we watch the rocket for four whole minutes and fifty-seconds while the narrator counts down. When the shot finally switches from the launch pad to a building with a plume of smoke emanating from it, either they just elected a new pope or the launch is a go. The last ten seconds then whiz by and the V2 launches successfully -- stock-footage ho! And true to form, we get to see the same launch superimposed about six times. Truthfully, the film is actually quite effective when using footage from a camera mounted on one of the rockets that's aimed back toward ground, where the Earth rushes away from the viewer. This quickly loses it's novelty, though, as it too is reused again and again ad nauseum.

The trip to Nova will take several months but the filmmakers take mercy on us and we are spared any interior shots of the ship. Which also means no obligatory harrowing meteor shower to dodge, or lame-ass attempt as zero-gravity. Considering the film's stock-footage to actual footage ratio so far, I believe it's safe to say the production company probably couldn't afford to build the interior. Soon enough, the V2 enters Nova's atmosphere, and the stock-footage of the rocket is run in reverse until it gently lands. The director then uses a forced-perspective shot of a toy rocket, placed directly in front of the camera, to hide the wooden step-ladder the actors are climbing down. Looking at these astronauts, I believe half the budget must have been blown on the space-suits. They might be borrowed from another production, I'm not sure, but are really rather nifty. Ralph and Worthless Pat are the first to disembark and test the soil and air to see if it's safe for the other two to come out. I guess they could only afford two of the suits. Budget cuts, I guess. After running several tests, and even though most of the bacteria on Nova is unknown to her, Worthless Pat deems it safe for people to walk about without the aid of space-suits. Convenient? You bet your sweet bippy.

When Sadistic Dick and Nora join them (-- Ha! They fell for it! Now suffocate! Survivor rations for two now instead of four!), they start to take in the sights of the new planet. Now I think the director wants us to link the stock footage of all the jungle animals and then pretend that they're close to our astronauts and they're really looking at them. Okay, I'll play along. While leading them on a short expedition to a nearby lake, Sadistic Dick first marvels at how much Nova looks like Earth (-- to remind the audience they're on another planet and not trespassing in some National Park), and then starts showing the first signs of going all alpha-male. An ominous chord strikes on the soundtrack when Nora spots an island in the middle of the lake and soon becomes obsessed with wanting to go over and explore. (You've got this whole new friggin' planet to explore and all you care about is this stupid island?) Worthless Pat couldn't care less about the island and wants to know who's up for a bath? Wohoo! Ladies first.

I assume after a bath, when the expedition dons their gear and move on, Sadistic Dick's alpha-maleitus escalates as he starts stroking his rifle, saying they could survive on this planet for a long, long time if need be. He then leads them off to a peculiar rock cropping that he spotted when they landed. (They even armed the women! Pretty liberal thinking in my book -- although I wouldn't trust Worthless Pat with a gun.) They find more rocks, and Nora stops pining for the mystery island long enough to run some tests on them. Determining that the planet is younger than the Earth, she estimates that it's equivalent age to their own planet would be prehistoric times. Which means, WOHOO!, we'll probably have some dinosaurs here P/D/Q! (Okay, lizards with horns pasted on them pretending to be dinosaurs.) They decide to head back to camp, but these geniuses didn't figure on Nova having a shorter solar-cycle than Earth and are soon lost in the dark. Worthless Pat is then harassed by snake that takes Ralph three shots to hit and kill, and unable to stand Worthless Pat's constant whining any longer, the others decide to make camp and continue the trip back in the morning.

Though hot stuff in their respective fields, these clowns can't grasp the rudimentary physics to build a simple lean-to. They're also not very observant as the big tree they lean it against appears to have been knocked over by something very very big. Sadistic Dick takes the first watch as more stock-footage animals creep nearby. When Ralph takes over, Worthless Pat wakes up and they sit together, talk, and are soon smooching until she wants to know if they still plan to get married when they get back to Earth. (Methinks they were cooped up in that rocket a little too long.) Not wanting to disturb the others, they go for a walk. But at the crest of a hill, Ralph trips on a rock and plummets down the slope, and to make matters worse, at the bottom of the hill, a stock footage alligator is waiting for him! Putting her lungs to work, Worthless Pat's screams brings the others running. At the bottom of the hill, Ralph is wrestling a rubber alligator -- and it's almost a pity that they break it up because I think the rubber gator was winning. Anyways, the inert gator savages Ralph pretty good, so they have to drag him back to the camp and bandage him up. 

The next morning, Sadistic Dick yells at Worthless Pat for wandering off with Ralph alone. Ordering her to wait at the camp, since Ralph can't be moved, he and Nora will go for supplies from the ship. After they're gone, Ralph eventually wakes up from a feverish delirium that Worthless Pat cured by plopping down on top of him to warm him up. And he's recovered just in time for a giant stink-bug has invaded their camp! While the bug drones a greeting, Worthless Pat screams and flails her arms around until Ralph gets his rifle and kills it (-- the scene concluding with an extremely funny shot of the bug lying dead on it's back.)

"I'm croaking. Kee-roak! Kee-roak! Keeeee-roak!"

Nora and Sadistic Dick soone return with one -- count 'em, one -- bag of supplies and a new friend: Joe, the friendly lemur that Sadistic Dick likes to yank around by the tail. They all quickly fall in love with Joe, and Worthless Pat offers to make everyone dinner. (Do you think they'll cook Joe or the giant stink bug? That's six drumsticks vs. four?) With Ralph's accident, the mission's time-table has been severely compromised. And since they have to launch tomorrow if they want to get back to Earth, to get everything done, they decide to go against protocol and split up. (But you split up once already?) Nora, still damned determined to investigate the mysterious island, talks Sadistic Dick into taking her there -- but they'll have to go - all - the - way - back to the rocket and get one of the rafts first. Yeesh. Meanwhile, Ralph and Worthless Pat will stay behind and gather more samples to take back. Before they go, Ralph tells them to fire a flare if they run into trouble. After they're gone, Ralph wants to skip the samples and play house, but Worthless Pat puts up the No Entrance sign until they're properly married back on Earth -- and the sooner they get their job done, the sooner they can go back.

Meanwhile, as Sadistic Dick and Nora paddle their way out to the island, that magically becomes Bronson Canyon once they go ashore, they hear something that they mistake as thunder -- but soon run right into the real cause: A giant lizard! A giant lizard that sees them as late afternoon snack! Retreating into a cave, the monster bellows and chases after them but is too big to fit in the entrance -- but it keeps right on trying. Watching Sadistic Dick take several snapshots of the creature, Nora worries about Joe, who was left outside. Seeing an opening, Sadistic Dick rushes out and retrieves the critter only to get bit in the arm. They both make it back to the cave, but Sadistic Dick grows bitter and violent when Nora is too shell-shocked from running into a fifty-foot lizard to field dress his wounds. Are you happy that we came to your damn island now?!?

Cutting back to Ralph and Worthless Pat, still happily collecting samples, they begin wondering how the other two are doing. Back at the cave, the monster redoubles his efforts to get in, unaware that a giant crocodile has lumbered on scene. Inside, Sadistic Dick goes over the Polaroids he took of the monster and claims it's a T-Rex. No, sir, that's an iguana. Declaring it the discovery of the age -- the King Dinosaur (-- hence the title!), Nora panics and rips up the picture, exclaiming they won't live to tell anyone about it. Outside, the gator bellows a challenge to the *ahem* T-Rex and soon the monsters are locked in deadly combat. The stage blood flows (-- at least I hope that's stage blood --) as the monsters tangle and maim each other. Using this as a distraction, Sadistic Dick fires off a flare.

Ralph and Worthless Pat see the S.O.S. signal and head for the rocket and the second raft. When they retrieve it, Ralph also decides to drag the infamous "Don't push THAT button or we all go boom" atomic battery pack. Why? Because the script told him to. They reach the island just in time to see the *ahem* T-Rex defeat the croc, and then assault the next challenger -- that is either a monitor lizard or a gila monster. When the two critters latch on to each other's legs and start flailing away, Sadistic Dick and Nora seize the moment and make a break from the cave. Ralph and Worthless Pat signal them and they regroup.

After the *ahem* T-Rex dispatches the other lizard (-- and I really hope that lizard is okay because it doesn't appear to be breathing anymore --) and turns it's attention toward our heroes, Ralph monkeys with the atomic battery -- and I call no-friggin-way, the atomic overload has a timer?! -- and sets it to overload in a half-hour. Making a run for the boats, with the *ahem* T-Rex hot on their trail, the group must also dodge several stock footage shots from One Million B.C. -- including a giant armadillo and a fur-clad "mammoth." And watch as they run ... is it me, or does Sadistic Dick seem bound and determined to knock over Worthless Pat as many times as he can in an effort to hurry her up. What a creep.

They reach the boats and pile in. (Relax, Joe made it, too. Sadistic Dick drug him all the way there by his tail.) And as all four start to paddle for the mainland, the *ahem* T-Rex mounts some boulders on the shore of the island and spots them. As they paddle faster, Ralph keeps glancing at his watch. Five minutes to detonation. Four minutes. Three minutes. Two minutes. One minute...

The End?

So how does the movie end? Sorry, I don't have a flipping clue. Honest. I really don't know.

So now we come to the great King Dinosaur conspiracy portion of our program. No, we're not here to argue over whether dinosaurs actually existed and are just part of some large conspiracy put on by a bunch of wacko-evolutionists (-- Nathan's already done that over at Cold Fusion), but a greater mystery: What higher power is conspiring to prevent me from seeing the conclusion of King Dinosaur? In my possession I have not one, but TWO, factory copies of Science Fiction Theater's release of this film and they both poop out at the exact same moment: 

The climax is upon us; our intrepid explorers are paddling for their lives; the atomic clock is ticking down; and the tension is thick as I await the atomic battery's detonation when the tape runs out, stops, and then automatically rewinds to the beginning, cutting the film short. 

Now, the film barely breaks an hour. What speed were they taping it on? SSSSP!? Even beyond missing the ending, the copy is pretty bad. How many taped movies do you have where the editor lets the movie grind to a halt and let's the screen plunge into darkness for the reel changes? I understand it's finally out on DVD, but I think I know how that will end, too. We'll get to that ending scene and the DVD will seize up, then pixilate out, rendering it worthless, with me not one step closer to seeing the ending.

Our mystery deepens, and grows more diabolical, when I reveal that one of my six-hour TDK recording tapes "mysteriously" ran short at five hours and 53 minutes. What's the big deal you say? Nothing, until I tell you that I had taped three two-hour episodes of Mystery Science Theater on it -- The Rebel Set, The Lost Continent and, brace yourself, King Dinosaur. And the taped episode ran out at almost the exact same moment! This time our heroes at least made it to shore, but whatever happens after that I don't have a clue. Did the bomb go off? Did they become iguana kibble? Does Sadistic Dick forcefully push Worthless Pat around some more while swinging Joe over his head by the tail? One can only sit and wonder. (Although I like to think they took Joe back to Earth with them and he carried some alien plague that wipes us all out.)

So, if anybody out there knows how this puppy ends, please let me know. Make something up, I don't care. We'll post the best possible endings for King Dinosaur in a couple of weeks. Thanks. Now, about the film itself...

King Dinosaur was the big screen debut of Mr. B.I.G. himself, Bert I. Gordon (-- the I is for I likes 'em big and transparent.) Gordon co-wrote the story with Al Zimbalist (-- who had a hand in the equally and gloriously inept Robot Monster --) and the two shared a producing credit, while Robert L. Lippert served as the distributor. Owning a chain of theaters, Lippert got into the production business and became an independent movie producer in the '40s and '50s. Known mostly for westerns, Lippert also had a couple of genre pictures, including Rocketship X-M and Lost Continent. He also distributed Roger Corman's first picture, too, with Monster from the Ocean Floor. After Lippert dissolved his company, he joined up with Fox Studios and produced second features for them, including The Fly and Gene Evan's hugely underrated Korean War piece, The Steel Helmet -- directed by another fledgling first timer in need of a break named Samuel Fuller. Lippert also produced The Last Man on Earth for AIP, and helped finance several of Hammer Studio's early sci-fi pictures, including The Creeping Unknown.

Even without watching the credits, one can guess by the first F/X shot of the giant (and sometimes transparent) stink-bug menacing our heroes that Bert I. Gordon and his trusty traveling matte were behind it. Gordon made a career of having really small things super-imposed and blown up to make them look huge and menacing, or had them running amok over scenic post cards of his locales to give them scale. He usually combined these two effects on people, bugs, lizards and spider with often hilarious -- but always entertaining -- results.

I don't think Gordon would ever get any love from the ASPCA on his films, though. In Beginning of the End, his grasshoppers weren't fed right and turned cannibalistic, so he barely had enough to finish the film. There are also rumors that several tarantulas got "cooked" under the lights in Earth vs. the Spider. And I was kind of uncomfortable while watching King Dinosaur as the crocodile, iguana and gila monster fought and maimed each other just to entertain me. I'm positive audiences didn't buy this back in the '50s, and laughed just as hard at these dubious effects as we do now; but I stopped laughing awhile ago and now they just make me cringe. 

Budgeted at a whopping $15000, the whole film was shot in just three days. I assume one day at Yosemite or another national park, another at the all too familiar Bronson Canyon, and the third day was used for staging the lizard fights. That all takes up about half the film, while the other is nothing but stock-footage, and for the most part, it's the same piece of stock-footage looped over and over and over again. So what it all boils down to then is this: King Dinosaur is quickie exploitation piece that's only 63 minutes long. It's about 30-minutes of narrated, nonsensical stock-footage of rockets and animal jungle footage, 10-minutes of badly super-imposed special-effects shots, 15-minutes of live lizard combat (-- that will either have you squirming or laughing depending on your personal tastes), leaving about five-minutes for the actual plot, character development, and the inevitable moronic romantic interlude.

And then there's the film's final three mystery minutes. Is it something so earth-shattering that some force in the universe doesn't want me to see it? Am I lucky I haven't seen it? Does it add insult to injury? A final cinematic kick to the crotch that changes King Dinosaur from harmless offal to a true cinematic black hole? Or is this just the codeine talking?

Watch it. It won't kill you, and you won't want to kill those who made it or played in it, either. Of course, I was under the influence of several controlled substances while watching King Dinosaur. (Was the movie supposed to have a green haze around it?) Crocked or sober, it's not much of an investment of your time or much of a sacrifice of your already short lifespan here on Earth. Sure, Gordon's done better and more entertaining films, and this one just has a sense of meanness oozing from it -- from the treatment of it's female actors, to the brutal combat of the reptiles -- that will turn a lot of you off; and I didn't even mention the scene when Sadistic Dick just watches as large boa constrictor slithers into camp and crawls all over Ralph. Was he hoping to have both women for himself? [/shrugs/].

If nothing else, you can find out if some mysterious force doesn't want you to see the end, either. We could start a cult. It might be fun. Oh man, time for more medication. Who's up for a Benadryl with a Vodka chaser? I'm buying...

King Dinosaur (1955) Zimgor Productions :: Lippert Pictures / EP: Al Zimbalist / P: Bert I. Gordon / AP: Ralph Helfer, John Bushelman / D: Bert I. Gordon / W: Bert I. Gordon, Al Zimbalist, Tom Gries / C: Gordon Avil / E: Jack Cornall / M: Louis Palange / S: William Bryant, Wanda Curtis, Patti Gallagher, Douglas Henderson, Marvin Miller

Originally Posted: 07/11/03 :: Rehashed: 04/22/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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