Planet of Dinosaurs (1977)

Most of the budget of this movie went toward special effects, with stop motion dinosaurs that pay homage to the work of Ray Harryhausen. Hardly any of the budget went to the actors or the props, including the Kool-Aid that was used for the film’s berry juice. That said — the locations look great. The Vasquez Rocks area of California’s desert have been used in several other films and TV shows. You’ll recognize them mostly from Star Trek and as a result, the primary rock formation has been named Kirk’s Rock.

The spaceship Odyssey crashes on a planet that seems much like Earth but is many light years away. Within moments, the ship has sunk, the communications offer has been eaten by an undersea dinosaur and the radio is gone. Captain Lee Norsythe (Louie Lawless, who under the pseudonym Leo Rivers was the cinematographer and associate producer of the 1973 documentary Manson; of note is that due to his thick Canadian accent, director James K. Shea dubbed all of his dialogue, which is mixed much higher than anyone else’s) is in charge, but the remaining crew soon realize that they’re up against some pretty tough odds.

Then one of them drops the laser gun in the swamp.

Then one of them drops all their food off a mountain.

Then one of them tries to steal dinosaur eggs.

Then they all fight about whether or not they should establish a new civilization instead of doing something about it.

Yes, welcome to a movie with heroes so idiotic that you’ll boo when they finally kill the Tyrannosaurus Rex and win the day.

The only actors other than Lawless that had any previous experience were Max Thayer, who played Mike and his previous experience was Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks; James Whitworth, who was Jim, was in The Hills Have Eyes as Jupiter, The Candy Snatchers and Bury Me an Angel; and Harvey Shain had been in some softcore movies like 2069 A.D.Office Love-In and The Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet under the name Forman Shane.

Derna Wylde, who played Derna Lee, the crew member who dumped the laser blaster, went on to be a researcher on Chained Heat. Charlotte Speer, who was smart enough to discover what plants were poisonous, was in one other film, the 1985 slasher oddity Appointment with Fear. And Pamela Bottaro, who was Nyla, who lost all of the food, shows up in Al Adamson’s Death Dimension, which has Jim Kelly, Harold Sakata, George Lazenby, Terry Moore from Mighty Joe Young and Aldo Ray. That movie, I gotta see!

Here’s another weird fact. Writer Ralph Lucas also was behind the screenplay of The Child! And James Aupperle, who co-wrote the story, also wrote Flesh Gordon and would go on to be the lighting technical director for the Twilight films, as well as the digital effects artist for the first Hellboy movie and various effects work for The Gate II: The TrespassersRoboCop2 and many more movies.

The best actor in this movie? The Rhedosaurus, which was The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Harryhausen himself visited the studio and gave his consent for his creature’s cameo appearance.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime. It’s also available with commentary by Rifftrax on Amazon Prime and Tubi. How much do we love this movie? We also reviewed it back December 2019 as part of our “Ape Week.”

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