The Last Dinosaur (1977)

Also known as Polar Probe Ship: Polar Borer, this film was a co-production of Rankin/Bass and Tsuburaya Productions. It was directed by Tsununobu “Tom” Kotani and Alex Grasshoff, who also made The Wave, a TV movie we watched repeatedly in high school classes.

This movie was intended for theatrical release, but failed to find a distributor. That meant it ended up on ABC, with a 92-minute edit airing on February 11, 1977. In other countries, it played as a 106-minute film (it was a double feature with Sorcerer in the UK!).

Oil company owner and big-game hunter Maston Thrust (Richard Boone) — what a combination for a heel, right? — is using a laser drill to find oil under the polar ice caps when a T. Rex is discovered living in a valley that is heated by a volcano. The first crew that explores the area dies, other than geologist Chuck Wade (Steven Keats, who also appears in another Rankin/Bass and Tsuburaya film, The Ivory Ape), so a new crew is sent in.

Thrust himself leads it, along with Maasai tracker Bunta (NBA and ABA player Luther Rackley), Dr. Kawamoto (Tetsu Nakamura in his last role), Chuck and Frankie Banks (Joan Van Ark), a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who gets on the trip by sleeping with Thrust. Yes, that really happens. Also, it was 1977.

The laser borer gets destroyed fairly early and all modern conveniences fail in the face of multiple dinosaurs, all portrayed with man-in-a-suit techniques, which I absolutely loved. The entire crew is nearly killed by numerous kaiju attacks. Also, there are cave people and one of them, named Hazel, ends up washing Joan Van Ark’s hair.

If you love the T. Rex costume here, well you’ll be excited to know that it was reused as Dinosaur Satan Gottes for the simply baffling Japanese anime/live action mashup Dinosaur War Izenborg, which you can find in the U.S. as Attack of the Super Monsters.

Perhaps the best thing about this movie is its theme song, “He’s The Last Dinosaur.” It’s worth getting through the whole film just to hear it.

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