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Professor Challenger leads team of scientists and adventurers to a remote plateau deep within the Amazonian jungle to investigate reports that dinosaurs still live there. Written by
Marg Baskin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Suddenly, in the mysterious heart of the Amazon, you see the death-battle of the Jurassic dinosaurs! 70-foot brontosaurus goes wild! Tyrannosaurus hatches baby monster! Sea-serpent of the lava lake appears from the depths! Flesh-eating vegetable traps explorers! Spiders that stalk human victims! See more »
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Challenger constantly misidentifies the dinosaurs they encounter on the plateau. See more »
Or you might say that the lizards are disguised as dinosaurs. Those were horrible models that passed for sauropods and theropods. The fact is that the reason the public bought tickets to see this film was to see real-looking dinosaurs in action (as I did back in 1960) and was deceived. The uninformed movie moguls used four-legged crawlers, and attached horns and fins and spikes and frills to their bodies, and simply called them genuine dinosaur names like Tyrannosaurus and Brontosaurus (now Apatosaurus). Although they magnified the sizes of the lizards, most of them lack teeth. Are these supposed to be rip-roaring carnivores, like Allosaurus? Hey, an alligator (or crocodile or caiman) with a glued-on fin kind of looks like a Dimetrodon, doesn't it? Actually the toothed head of a Dimetrodon was more box-like in shape. But a Brontosaurus crawling, and with horns on its head? A baby Tyrannosaurus on four legs equipped with three horns? Ugh!!! By the way, does a large theropod with huge teeth really need horns? Even the movie posters, which are not the best, also misrepresented the genuine appearance of the dinosaurs. They picture a Tyrannosaurus Rex with two large horns! These facts are very annoying to those who knew much of what there was to know about fascinating creatures that lived so long ago. Didn't anybody know about the great Ray Harryhausen and his special effects? The producer/director acted as if he did not know paleontology and fooled us, and we accordingly paid our admission. So, pardon my indignation.
When we get past the scientific inaccuracy galore, we see that the action part of the story fares a little better, but just a little. Very loosely taken from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 book of the same name, Professor George Challenger (Claude Rains) and his group leave England to explore a hidden plateau located near the headwaters of the Amazon basin obscured by a deep jungle (western part of South America). Earlier, the irascible Challenger (he of the red wig) had discovered large prehistoric animals there, where the indigenous people call the "curipuri." The newly funded expedition was made to confirm his findings. An obvious mistake by the director is the idea that dinosaurs would escape detection anywhere in the world until 1960. Better to have the setting in 1912 or even 1925. But again, who was doing the thinking for this feature? The expedition includes, besides the umbrella-wielding Challenger, his rival, the skeptical Professor Summerlee (Richard Haydn) and inscrutable hunter/explorer Lord John Roxton (Michael Rennie) along with newspaperman Ed Malone (David Hedison). Uninvited but waiting for the four associates to arrive in Brazil are attractive Jennifer Holmes (twenty-year old Jill St. John) and her brother David. They manage to join the team. Jennifer is so badly under dressed that she fails by comparison with the women who were in the jungle with Tarzan. They wore the right clothes, not shorts and white shoes in the jungle. And she carries along her poodle in a basket! What? She says that she's good with a gun, but neither has a weapon nor demonstrates her skills. And she screams quite a bit. In the book no woman is part of the expedition, although the hero returns home to find that his girl has married another. Portuguese speaking guides are Gomez (Fernando Lamas) and Costa (Jay Novello). The former is the helicopter pilot, brave, but obviously has an agenda; the latter is cowardly and dubious, and also likes diamonds, yeah, large diamonds, like the size of golf balls.
Anyway, the director had early men living at the same time as the dinosaurs. Now scientists know that dinosaurs became extinct around 65 million years ago, long before the coming of man. But at least Allen followed the book in this instance. Actually the text had both dinosaurs and large prehistoric mammals living at the same time (in the Jurassic Period, which is erroneous). Gee, I wonder what happens when a Tyrannosaur (Cretaceous Period in the Mesozoic Era) engages a woolly mammoth (Pleistocene Period in the Cenozoic Era) in battle? In the feature's highlight, two crawlers actually fight each other. But what's with that giant green spider? What about the strange flora? Then we have nasty natives chasing and capturing our heroes. In the book there is a war between ape men and prehistoric Indians. In the movie an available maiden luckily shows our men a way out of the native cave-prison. But why desert her people? Ee-gad! Notice that the young lady (Vitina Marcus) hasn't a blemish on her lovely body? In that thick jungle? Despite supposed advantages in the art of movie-making, this feature cannot hold a candle to the superior 1925 silent version, which is better even in its present, unfortunately truncated form. Arthur Conan Doyle loved that original silent movie. But in the 1960 version, despite some good early aerial shots and cinematography, some of the sets are so cheap they look like they were filmed in a back lot. Normally the actors are decent to very good, except in this movie. There is some truth to the rumor that the best performances were done by the lizards disguised as dinosaurs. Of course they too were not helped by the weak script. Nice directing, Mr. Irwin Allen. You made a near-bust. That volcanic eruption came about an hour too late!
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