Weekend Review: Planet of the Dinosaurs

This 1978 production, made in the wake of Star Wars‘ success, hasn’t much to do with our recent post-Cloverfield reviews of Kaiju, but it does feature some nifty dinosaurs and the second-ever appearance of the rhedosaurus, the monster which arguably inspired a genre.

How the MST3K gang missed this one I do not know.

Cast and Crew

Director: Joseph K. Shea
Writers: Jim Aupperle, Ralph Lucas
Effects by Jim Aupperle and Doug Beswick

James Whitworth as Jim
Pamela Bottaro as Nyla
Louie Lawless as Captain Lee Norsythe
Harvey Shain as Harvey Baylor
Charlotte Speer as Charlotte
Chuck Pennington as Chuck
Derna Wylde as Derna
Mary Appleseth as Cindy
Max Thayer as Mike

Full credits available at the imdb.

Available at Amazon.com


When a spaceship explodes, a handful of survivors escape in a shuttle and crash on a planet inhabited by dinosaurs.

High Point

The dinosaur effects look pretty good, and the rhedosaur’s brief appearance makes a nice tribute.

Low Point

I cannot possibly select a single Low Point in this celluloid shipwreck. Any part of the film that does not feature stop-motion dinosaurs would qualify. It works only as an example of a 70s low-budget film of a sort they don’t make anymore.

I’ll address that point shortly.

The Review

Originality: 0/6. The ship, named the Odyssey features Star Wars nodules and Enterprise nacelles. The crash has been copied from Planet of the Apes. The first monster attack occurs in the water and echoes the events and music from the opening of Jaws. The dinosaurs have clearly been inspired by Harryhausen‘s work, and can be killed with spears and weapons dipped in the ridiculously quick-acting poison of a convenient species of berries. The costumes look like unlicensed Space: 1999 sleepwear.

The only thing this film fails to steal is the quality of any of its sources.

Effects: 4/6. The opening space effects are actually quite bad, but the dinosaurs have been brought to life with excellent stop-motion. The beasts seem less impressive when they interact with humans. Digital compositing did not exist in the 70s.

Story 3/6. The film plods predictably along, and more than once the characters do really stupid things guaranteed to draw another monster attack—which, in all fairness, is the only reason the audience came to this film. The ending flashes forward some years in the future, where our two surviving couples raise their young children and wonder if they’ll ever get rescued. One of the women looks back on their quaint commune and says that “somehow, it doesn’t matter anymore.” Um…. Honey, in another generation, it’s going to matter quite a bit.

Acting: 2/6. The casting director clearly preferred looks to talent. While Max Thayer made a career for himself and James Whitworth was all over period exploitation flicks, most of the cast did few other films before or after this one. It’s pretty clear why.

Production 4/6. Special mention goes to the music, which is classic bad-SF synthesizer.

Emotional Response: 3/6. It’s actually watchable, though mostly for cheap laughs, or if you really, really like stop-motion dinosaurs.

Overall 3/6. If you ever wanted to see women in disco sleepwear and guys with 70s porn ‘staches battle model dinosaurs, then you should watch Planet of the Dinosaurs. Like the great terrible lizards of the Cretaceous, it represents the end of an era. Hollywood would stop making this particular sort of bad movie days after the credits rolled on this one.

In total, Planet of the Dinosaurs receives 19 out of 42.