When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth Blu-ray Review

Neecro

Between the cavewoman bikinis and crude violence, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth tells a pre-history saga of bunk science, early prejudice, and romance. Victoria Vetri, as frequently as possible posed like the Playboy centerfold she once was, earns scorn from a tribe – blonde haired women are deemed sacrificial. Soon the moon forms (?) and When Dinosaurs Ruled begins to stretch itself thin.

Britain’s Hammer Studios production kind of/sort of follows the Ray Harryhausen-laced effects spectacle One Million Years BC, albeit tenuously. So Half Million BC, maybe. Moments of social interaction dot the tribal behavior of When Dinosaurs Ruled. Humanity advanced since Raquel Welch (barely) strapped herself into one of those revealing animal skins in Harryhausen’s offering.

From 1966’s One Million Years BC to 1970’s When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, the aggression of Hammer bred a lurid, even venal sexist spectacle. Where Harryhausen’s stop motion creatures covered an almost quaint, dated gender depiction, the follow-up deals in nudity, rape, and ritual sacrifice. This while scrolling a film equivalent to a bikini calendar, if one were to read a bikini calendar for 100 minutes.

Vetri and her co-stars bounce around and giggle, drenched in oils. Occasionally they wrestle in the water as men look on. Some of the men sport a pleasurable grin. Women war over minor possessions, appearing petty and savage. In comparison, the men work in tandem, unless primitive religious interpretations break their tribe.

The themes of When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth – and by “themes” that’s referencing the eye rolling sexualization – were recast into a softcore 1994 dino skin flick, Dinosaur Island. At least Dinosaur Island wasn’t trying to hide itself as anything short of breast bouncing, clothes ripping exploitation cinema.

What little credibility When Dinosaurs Ruled earns comes from this stop motion splendor

It’s a tragedy Jim Danforth’s magical stop motion work in When Dinosaurs Ruled goes by with little notice. Splendidly designed with angular features, Danforth’s monsters hold a capable menace, and their motions fit the mold of Hammer’s brash aesthetic. For their time, Danfroth’s dinos were as much a part of film’s changing landscape as anything. Although soured by a round of actual lizards with glued frills – inhumanely munching on one another for the camera – Danforth’s work nonetheless powers the menial narrative. What little credibility When Dinosaurs Ruled earns comes from this stop motion splendor.

Getting to the Danforth special effects means sitting through an arduous tale, sans any dialog. Actors and actresses wander around the Canary Islands’ sands, occasionally stepping onto obvious stage sets at Sheperton Studios. A repetitious score pierces much of the soundtrack, filling space with its screechy quality.

What’s left is the skin, which in this uncensored British cut means a smutty rape sequence wherein the woman relents, even smiles. It’s appalling, even by ‘70s standards. Vetri pulls her expected revealing act later, utterly pointless other than for exposing skin. Mindless titillation from a different time? Undoubtedly, but consider Imogen Hassall, cast here as the villainess Ayak. A decade later, after spending years typecast for her cleavage and unable to sustain acting work, she committed suicide. A grisly climax to a backwards monster movie.

Video

Warner issues the film through their Archive series, a significantly better presentation than One Million Years BC. Excellent grain management keeps the images stable and clean. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth’s print comes in immaculate condition – not a speck of dirt or scratch to be found.

All of the weirdly oily, reflective skin makes sure to exaggerate texture. Facial and skin definition has help, yet without the high resolution scan powering this presentation, all is likely lost. Wonderful fidelity on Danforth’s models brings out their detail.

Each scene looks natural and pure, with little or no signs of digital intrusion. At times, When Dinosaurs Ruled is so clear, the painted sky background on the Shepperton Studio sets is visibly peeling from the stage wall.

All of this quality work pairs with fantastic color, vibrant and saturated, but with natural flesh tones. Danforth’s vivid choices give the dinosaurs plenty of visual energy, popping from the screen with a sensational brightness. Even against the obvious day-for-night footage, the creatures still have zest, aided by dense contrast. Black levels carry plenty of weight.

Audio

If ears begin bleeding from the awful strained choir over the credits, don’t be surprised. Drained of life, the obnoxiously limited score falls apart with this loss in fidelity. Take that and stretch it to some 40 minutes over the course of When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. It’s rough.

The core audio oddly suffers no such fate. When the drums begin pounding during the first sacrifice, bass sounds natural. Dialog aged organically, what little dialog there is in this DTS-HD mono track.

Extras

Only the trailer exists on this disc, a shame since the effects (if little else) deserve wider credit.

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