I’ve enjoyed the Warner Archive line of made-on-demand DVDs for lesser-known oldies and cult classics I first watched a while ago. There’s a third category of movie they put out, though, which is flat-out so-bad-they’re-entertaining disasters. In that category falls The Last Dinosaur, a 1977 TV movie co-produced with a Japanese company (Tsuburaya Productions, best known here for Ultraman).
Richard Boone, whom I’ve never seen before but resembles an ambulatory lump of clay, stars as Masten Thrust, “the last of the great white hunters” and “the world’s richest man”, the kind of guy whose private jet includes a working fireplace. He runs a company drilling for oil under the polar ice cap, and one of his crews has returned with only one survivor. That team member reveals that they had found a heated jungle at the foot of a secret volcano, home to a dinosaur and a lost tribe. The rest of the crew was eaten by the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The title song, a Shirley Bassey rip-off sung by Nancy Wilson, explicitly makes it clear that Thrust is really the Last Dinosaur, a man bored by today’s world and who has no place in it. (From hearing it, I immediately guessed the ending.) He decides to lead an expedition to find the dinosaur and investigate the lost land. Boone’s character is supposed to have presence and power, but he appeared to me to be sleepwalking most of the time, barely able to get his lines out and certainly not with appropriate timing. (He was a Western star in the 50s, best known for Have Gun, Will Travel.)
Joan van Ark (Knots Landing) is Frankie Banks, a journalist he mistakes for his latest floozy, because that’s just the kind of man he is. When she’s selected by the press pool to join him on his trip, he refuses because she’s a woman and they don’t belong on safari. Of course, they’ll come to new understanding of each other, especially after she dresses up like a geisha to sneak into his celebration dinner and then woos him with her knowledge of hunting and guns. Sadly, she’s also the kind of movie woman who, along with several cameras, also makes sure to grab her purse (a macrame bag) when going on expedition. (This is so it can later be a plot point.) When the crew is trapped in the lost world, she cries, before settling down to do the cooking.
I was curious to see The Last Dinosaur because, aside from reminding me of several comic books, it had the Rankin/Bass name attached, the company behind such charming stop-motion specials as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Unfortunately, instead of using that technique, most of the dinosaur work here is the Japanese “man in a rubber monster suit” style. Thankfully, the suits are pretty good, making the dinosaur battle between the Tyrannosaur and a Triceratops the high point of the movie.
Otherwise, the special effects are minimal and poorly done, especially when it comes to rear projection. The acting is horrible, and the film itself rather boring for long stretches. Dino-film fans will want to see if they agree that this is really the worst dinosaur movie ever — it seems that The Last Dinosaur has quite a cult following. If you watched this as a kid, you may want to try again, just to compare memory to reality. Otherwise, save it for a bad movie night, ideally while drinking.
There are no extras on the disc, only chapter stops every ten minutes. Here’s a lengthy, spoiler-filled writeup that includes the theme song lyrics, and a shorter humorous review that includes audio clips.