Wednesday, July 30, 2008

When Dinosaurs went naked

I added When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) to my Hammer Films collection on DVD today. It's a Warner Bros. "Sci-Fi Double Feature," paired with another, more obscure Hammer that I've never seen, Moon Zero Two, and on sale only at Best Buy (for now; rumor has it this and the two other sci-fi sets WB put out today will be more widely available in a couple of months). Written by Crash and Empire of the Sun novelist J.G. Ballard, the movie, which has Oscar-nominated stop motion-animated dinos and prehistoric effects, has a terrific title that had me lusting after it when I was a kid, but in vain--it never made it to TV syndication, and I didn't see it till it appeared on laserdisc in the early 90s.

When I did see it, I was still lusting after it. The film stars model Victoria Vetri (immortalized in a cameo and dialogue exchange in Rosemary's Baby) as a cavewoman--not historically accurate, to be sure, but as as inaccuracies go quite an eye-pleasing one, right up there with Raquel Welch in Hammer's earlier One Million Years B.C. The dinosaur effects are top-notch, and Vetri is cute frolicking with a baby saurian and its fearsome parent. But according to legend she was a lot cuter frolicking with her cavemate in topless and bottomless footage excised from the G-rated picture, which in its cut form can be enjoyed by the whole family (if you don't mind the breast- and bottom-hugging cavegirl attire).

Well, mom and dad, you may want to chase Junior out of the TV room at about the 77-minute mark for a minute or two--though the disc sports a G rating, there's more of Vetri to love, as the uncut version (with brief but enticing nudity) has finally resurfaced. The unheralded substitution of a complete for a cut version occurs from time to time, and is always a welcome surprise, particularly when a 1968 Playmate of the Year is involved. There's no fixing the movie's other flaw: Real-life lizards unconvincingly done up as dinos share the screen with the excellent Jim Danforth/Roger Dicken creations, which I always hate. But the uncensored When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth is at least easier on the eyes. WB may be dismayed to learn that it has perhaps inadvertently delivered the goods--there is talk of a Best Buy recall--but dino fans who have moved onto other more adult interests will no doubt be pleased.

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