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James L. Conway
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A Japanese village is menaced by a plesiosaur from the depths of the sea. Meanwhile, deep in a cave of ice, a prehistoric egg begins to hatch. The plesiosaur and the mystery creature hatching from the egg seem destined to clash. Written by
Despite its title, neither of the creatures in this film are actually classified as dinosaurs. Plesiosaur is actually classified as a marine reptile, while the rhamphornycus is classified as a flying reptile. See more »
Somewhat bloodier than the usual Japanese monster mash, Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds is more Jaws rip-off than traditional Kaiju ('strange monster') movie, with the emphasis more on severed body parts than the critters themselves. Rather than men in suits it's animatronics on strings and rather than the usual lost island or lost continent, it's set in the camping sites and small towns around Mount Fuji with a reputation for missing people and a local dinosaur in Lake Sai to compare with the 'Lake' Ness monster. Unfortunately it's a very drawn out and not specially atmospheric 40 minutes before the dinosaur, a Plesiosaur, appears and it's a full 75 minutes before the monster bird, a Rhamphorhynchus, turns up, but while it could never be mistaken for a great movie it has just enough moments to keep it off the bottom rung. There's a pair of Jaws-like hoaxers with a large wooden dorsal fin disrupting a public holiday who rather satisfyingly they get eaten for their troubles, there's the traditional sequence of a girl not noticing the dinosaur outside the window (you can see the strings but it's still a pleasingly effective moment) and a particularly good prolonged scene with a girl in a dingy meeting the Plesiosaur for the first and last time. Plus it doesn't like Japanese country and western singers (in this case Akira Moroguchi and Bo Yantani and the L Longhorn B), which is one definite point in its favor.
Any Darwinian notions of evolution being survival of the fittest species are disproved by characters who fire guns next to oil drums and the traditional volcanic eruption finale while the two beasts battle is pretty anticlimactic stuff while the monster bird's first attack is surprisingly good for its day, it does little but bounce up and down on a wire while the Plesiosaur moves its head from side to side as the set burns up around them. There are some pretensions to something more serious the initially mercenary hero, who believes that "Human beings are animals which have forgotten that they are animals," becomes obsessed with just seeing the dinosaur even if it costs him his life but for the most part this is dumb by-the-numbers monster movie stuff that, were it made in America, would be shot in the bayous with a cast of unknown Joe Don Baker look-alikes by a director called Chuck and aimed firmly at the drive-ins. This being 1977 it's also a rather grotty looking film, shot out of season in mostly cloudy weather, while the hip score defies belief in its sheer dedicated wrong-headedness. Not until Dave Brubeck's infamous Ordeal by Innocence would there be a score with quite so little relevance to the film it accompanies. Dinosaur chomping on a girl's leg? Turn-on-tune-out lava lamp music. Monster bird attacking townsfolk? Get your funk up music. Hero and heroine cornered in a cave by a dinosaur? Pimpmobile music. Girl being crushed by earthquake? La La Lallala lounge music. Burning dinosaur falling hundreds of feet? Romantic ballad. Indeed, it seems doubtful from the mellow hippie go-go sounds he comes up with that composer Masao Yagi even saw the film. And, despite its occasional moments, you can't entirely hold that against him
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