Michel Sargent, contributor
A man takes a very small stop-action horse from the The Valley of Gwangi (1969), unleashing a curse of dinosaurs filmed in Ray Harryhausen’s Dynamation. Once you “get past the racism” (as white people say) of the traveling show performing the European conquering of Native Americans, you can almost enjoy the cool dinosaur fights and King Kong rehash story. And these people think they can hide in a church from a rampaging T-rex. Ha! Burn it down!
Two minutes and twenty-two seconds in is the first account of objectification of a woman followed by and strewn throughout with male chauvinism and innuendo, but other than that, The Land Unknown (1957), is absolutely terrible. A Volcano-causing, warm-watered, 3,000-foot-deep prehistoric region in chilly Antarctica is the setting for live-action lizards, puppetry, an ineffectual T-rex costume, and random meaningless dialog in the guise of a “hole” lot of adventure.
At The Earth’s Core (1976) tries hard to be a comedy, and accidentally succeeds in the wrong way. Laughable superimposed costumed dinosaurs chase two marooned subterranean explorers through forests of giant mushrooms to a society of English-speaking humans and poorly-masked humanoids controlled by telepathic pterodactyls. The big questions, though, are why did the explorers bring an umbrella underground, and why do dinosaurs blow up when they fall off cliffs?
One Million Years B.C. (1966) is a big budget mix-up where vultures, dinosaurs, and Raquel Welch and friends live unhappily and scantily-clad near an impending volcano. While dodging awesome stop-action dinos, the warlike rock people and peaceful shell people collide in prehistoric confusion. Is that a cave of Bigfoots? Special thanks to Ray Harryhausen for making this fun.
A spaceship crash-lands on a Planet Of Dinosaurs (1977), forcing its space cadets to battle neat stop-action dinosaurs, spiders, and ultimately, a cave-dwelling tyrannosaurus rex for some turf. The script is a scream, and so very bad, but the soundtrack is wonderful and well worth the agony of the acting.
An expedition to save a guy stranded in the Antarctic stumbles upon the People That Time Forgot (1977) in a confusing prehistoric mishmash of medieval Japan-styled humans, animatronic dinosaurs, and a big, bald, green religious leader living under the strict rule of a volcano God — An entity who happens to be real, we learn, when the volcano ground-explode-chases the trespassers off its land. Never fuck with a volcano God. This was a childhood favorite of mine, for some reason.
Very cool experimentally-surreal opening to four boys entranced in a natural history museum ending up on a historically accurate Czechoslovakian canoe-trip, Journey To The Beginning Of Time (1955). I’ve never seen so many different cool-looking stop-action creatures in one film before. Birds, dragonflies, buffalo, large cats, mammoths, and dinosaurs represent the past eras of life on Earth as our young heroes camp along the river of time to the ocean of big bang bookends.