The Last Dinosaur
THE LAST DINOSAUR (1977)
Notes: A made-for-TV movie by Rankin-Bass (yes, the same peoplewho brought us Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer).
On the videocassette box: “ALand Where Time Was Forgotten! . . .
Masten Thrust: Richard Boone
Francesca “Frankie” Banks:Joan Van Ark
Charles “Chuck” Wade: StevenKeats
Bunta: Luther Rackley
Dr. Kawamoto: Tatsu Nakamura
With Carl Hansen.
Summary/Commentary: We see film of an elephant charging. “Did you really shoot that?” asks a woman. MastenThrust says, in world-weary fashion, “Yeah, I shot it.” “Oh, what an ugly alligator! Did you shoot that too?” “It’s not an alligator; it’s a crocodile. And yes, I shotit.” He chuckles. “See that ram? They say that thatwas an endangered species. You know they’re gonna put cows onthe list next?” He mentions the “Loch Ness monster. They haven’t found it yet, but it’s already on that endangeredspecies list.” “You’ve done everything!” “No,maybe not everything.” He tosses her a scrapbook, saying,”Look at that. It might amuse you.” We see his decor:mounted heads of his kills and fur rugs. (Cp. Doyle’s descriptionof Lord John Roxton’s bachelor pad in The Lost World.)
Credits roll with “The Last Dinosaur”sung by Nancy Wilson: “Most men have failed where he’s prevailed.. . . The world holds nothing new in store for him. . . . Histime has passed; there are no more. He is the last dinosaur.” Meanwhile, we see scrapbook material as viewed by the woman (whoowns a poodle — what is a poodle doing in a dinosaur movie likethis?! Answer this question and you’ve got the key!) Picturesshow Thrust as victorious over Nazis and in various other manlytriumphs. Later, the Port City News headline reads: “AnimalLovers Take Aim at Thrust.” The last picture in the bookshow an aged but rugged Thrust “thrusting” his fistat the camera.
He leaves the woman at an airportwith a solid gold bullet: “A token of my appreciation. .. . When times get really tough, you can bite on it.” Kiss-off.
At Thrust Industries, Thrust mistakesFrancesca Banks, press representative and photographer, for agroupie. Dr. Kawamoto insists on being assured “that thiseffort will go forward in the interest of science. . . . I’veseen those mounted animals like herds around your gameroom walls.” He receives Thrust’s word.
At the press conference, he explainsthat Thrust Industries was “drilling for oil successfullyunder the polar cap” with their “Polar-Borer V.” Geologist and only survivor Chuck Wade babbles, “Everythingwas A-okay until 5-8-0 level. . . . cast off a 0700 . . . receivedan affirmative that we had an abort situation but before we couldactivate. . . . something moving above the trees in the haze,an enormous animal.” Ultimately, the other four crew members”didn’t see it until it was too late, and then, then theywere gone.” The press ask frantically what he means. Thrustsays, “They were eaten.” “By what, Mr. Thrust?” “As far as we know, it was Tyrannosaurus Rex, the largestcarnivore that ever lived, the king of the dinosaurs. That filmwas taken in the New York Museum of Natural History. You cansee from the skeleton how large that animal is. It’s 20 feethigh and 40 feet long. It weighs 8 tons. Yes, prehistoric, andwe are gonna find it. We are going to find that animal. . . . No, I don’t intend to kill that animal. It will not be hunted;it will not be harmed. It will be studied, observed, and photographed. It will be treated exactly as Dr. Kawamoto has prescribed” The exploration team will consist of Thrust, Kawamoto, Wade,a press representative, and Thrust’s “Masai tracker,”Bunta.
At a Japanese dinner, Thrust toastswith: “Here’s to a giant step backward for mankind.” [Note the trappings associated with Japanese dinner in Japanesesurroundings — the politeness, the swans in the artificiallyformed pond, the carefully placed rocks and trimmed hedges ofthe gardens, the sushi (raw fish but so ritualized and formalizedthat one is robbed of the essence of sticking one’s face intoa river and chewing on a live one).] Frankie, the press photographer,wins Thrust over by talking guns. “You are a hunter?!” She describes the .22 single-shot Wesson her father gave her(and its walnut stock, nickel plating, double trigger guards,7 or 8 pounds), and Thrust has the same gun in his collection(adjustable front site). Quelle romance! She takes him to bedto show him war photos.
Before the expedition, Thrust insists,”I will not risk one more man–one more life.”
In this “land that time forgot,”a volcano heats the water (as Dr. K. determines), it’s 90 degreesFahrenheit, and we see pine trees and pterodactyls. “Utterlybeautiful,” says Frankie. Thrust: “Glaciers, forests,like the beginning of time.” “It’s a little frightening. Everything seems kind of suspended,” says Frankie. WhatChuck identifies as “one of the ceratopceans” ramblesalong and threatens to run down Frankie who takes photos. Tensionsbetween Wade and Thrust begin.
Bunta polished his sword; “Buntameans the owner of 100 wives and 1000 head of cattle.” Apterodactyl swoops low overhead.
Thrust takes his gun the next day:”I said the animal would not be hunted, but if we get ina jam. . . .” They trek. Chuck describes the place as a”botanist’s dream,” but Frankie says, “to me it’smore like walking in the bottom of a salad bowl.” “Imagine:we’re the first humans to ever break a path here.” Theydiscover enormous tracks of the T. Rex. Says Wade: “Paleontologistshave called them the crown of creation, the king of the super-tyrantlizards.” Thrust: “Well, that sure sounds poetic. The tracks lead straight down that way.” Frankie encountersa giant turtle and giant leeches. Finally, faced with a tyrannosaur,other dinosaurs prove of no interest or value. The animals slathersand gives out Godzilla-like noises, and slowly pursues the humans. Thrust and Bunta try to shoot and spear it, Thrust insistinghe try to “stop it here.” “What do you mean stopit?” “Stop it: I mean kill it.” Thrust’s gunjams. Wade take Thrust to task: “We were only supposed totake film and study it. . . . Oh, I see; I see it very clearlynow. You intended to kill that dinosaur all along, to add itto your collection of stuffed animals.” “Oh, shut up.”
The T. Rex, perhaps annoyed that Buntadid spear it in the chest, after eating a fish, discovers thecampsite, steps on Dr. Kawamoto, wrecks the camp, and flings thePolar-Borer to a cave, where he partially buries the capsule. (Do lizards play? Do they act out plans of vengeance?) He thenhas a motiveless fight with a triceratops.
On discovering the destroyed campsite,Thrust speechifies: “That’s it. This animal, this eight-tonanimal is a carnivore. It eats meat. Us! This 40-foot monster,with a brain the size of a dried pea has just destroyed a manwith one of the great minds of this century. That is its fifthvictim and I tell you this: it is the last. I will huntthat thing down and I will kill it.” “With what?”laughs Frankie, “All our equipment, everything is ruined.” “Then I will have to make a weapon. And, by God, I willnot leave here until I have destroyed that thing!”
They discover the Polar-Borer gone. “I suppose it must have been curious because it was shiny”and so sunk it. There will be no rescue mission.
After four months, we find out thatthe natives are learning: “sharpening the ends of ’em [theirsticks] probably on rocks, imitating our spears.” “They’relearning.”
“Well there it is: second straightday and no game.” “We’ve hunted the area out. We gottamove on.” [They depleted the area where a 40-foot carnivorelives?] “Chuck, if we leave the sanctuary of that cave atnight, that tribe out there is gonna pick us off like that! We’ve gotta find some way to drive them out for good.” “Oh yeah, how? There’s gotta be easily 20 or 30 of ’em.” “We gotta have a weapon of some kind.” “Oh, sure;why don’t we get ourselves a bazooka and uh maybe a minutemanmissile.” “No, no; but maybe I’ve got something almostas good.” Thrust has been “messin’ around with someof that debris that was left over after Kawamoto was killed.”
Frankie crabs: “I hope you’vegot something.” Chuck: “Are you kidding? We’re luckywe got back ourselves.” “Then you didn’t?! What happened?” “How long have we been here, huh? Two months? Three?” “No, more like four.” “Do you remember in thebeginning how, how those savages . . . were afraid of us. I meanthey wouldn’t even come near us. Remember? We started leavingparts of the kill that we didn’t want. That’s where we made ourmistake. Now they fight us for the game. It’s like having apack of jackals constantly at your feet.” “Well, ifthey’re human why can’t you make contact with them–try to befriendly instead of fighting?” “Sweetheart, they’resome spin-off of Robustus, earliest known man.” “Yeah,well you can tame wild animals; why not them?” “Yeah. Have you ever heard of anybody attempting to tame a uh an adultmale baboon? They’re naturally vicious. We’re lucky we–luckyall they got was just the rabbit. . . . No, no. We have to moveon and find more game. They’ve been constantly harassing us. It’s too dangerous to travel far.” “What do you mean? You’ve got weapons. You’ve got knives and spears.” “Weneed a rifle, a pistol.” “Do you realize what we’redoing. We are sitting here and we’re calmly discussing murder?” “Well, I’m afraid that it’s come down to that. Becauseif we don’t break out of here and get something to eat, we aregonna get weaker and weaker; and one morning we’re gonna wakeup to the sound of heads being cracked open. Ours.” “Well,I think it’s horrible having to kill each other to survive.” “Would you just knock it off? If we don’t kill, we don’tsurvive. You’re the one who’s always complaining all the timewhen we come back from the hunt without any fresh meat. . . .” “Maybe it’s because I’m the one that has to butcher allyour bloody kills and I’m the one who does all the cooking andI’m the one who. . . .” Aggression turns to romance again,interrupted by Thrust.
“They’ve never come that closebefore,” warns Frankie, regarding the natives. Thrust hasa crossbow made “from the bits and pieces of Dr. Kawamoto’sstuff.” He shoots a native. Wade: “They don’t understandit, but one thing is clear: we can make them dead.”
Triumphant is the jubilee when theycarry back a dead fowl including jokes about gourmet meals from”Hazel,” the native woman who becomes Frankie’s “firstdomestic servant, the first lady’s maid.” “That stinkingdamn thing got in my bed!” shouts Thrust before he realizes,”She brought me the site of my rifle.” [Again, associationswith guns win him over.]
The two women are grooming when theT. Rex appears, and Frankie runs through its legs and into a cave. The men shout insults and aggressive taunting to attract theattention of the dinosaur: “C’mon, birdbrain!” “C’mon,let’s see what you can do!” “C’mon you big dragon!” “You pea-brain nothing!” A dislodged boulder tiedto its tail drags it down the hill.
Thrust wants to go after the dinosaur. Chuck whines, “Leave it alone.” “It will notleave us alone. It will continue to plague us until we are chewed,and swallowed, and dissolved; and I am not ready for that. I’mgonna take it first.” He builds a catapult. “Whathappens if he doesn’t show up?” “Oh, he’ll show upalright. We’ve got the best bait in the world.” “Really? What’s that?” “Us.”
Chuck to Frankie: “Maybe ifhe can kill the damn thing and get it over with, he’ll come around. It’s become an obsession with him.” But Chuck finds thePolar-Borer. Thrust: “First we get the dinosaur; then wethink about leaving.” Chuck: “To hell with Masten;he likes this life. He is more primitive than that Robustus tribe.” Frankie: “After all we’ve been through, I’d like to thinkthat we’re still civilized enough to be compassionate.”
Bunta is killed. Frankie and Thrusttalk. “I want you to come back with us.” “I gota better idea. You stay here with me. I like that idea. Adamand Eve. Now you tell me the truth; what’s back there for you? Confusion, frustration. Here’s where life is–pure, simple. We could make love; we could hunt. And what the hell else isthere, huh?” “You don’t belong here. You come backwith me now and I’ll gladly be your Eve anywhere in the world.” “I believe you would, crazy lady.” Their kiss is interruptedby an attack. The boulder is catapulted onto the head of thedinosaur. But it lives. Masten throws explosives to no avail. They hide.
Later, Frankie pleads: “Masten,please. You’ve done all anyone could and you were just magnificent;but please, let the dinosaur go. Let it be. It’s the last one.” “So am I.” Frankie and Chuck run off. After a finalwave, Thrust walks off alone, trailed gradually by the nativewoman. After the closing theme song, we hear the roar of thedinosaur. (Oooo!)
[Post”script”: I have toadmit, I love this dorky movie. Richard Boone is tréscool, and I had like this totally major crush on Joan Van Arkwhen I was whatever and before she grew so obsessed with tryingnot to age.]