With Godzilla becoming a hero for children, Toei decided adults needed some giant monster entertainment. They crafted Kyôryuu: Kaichô no densetsu (Dinosaurs: Legend of the Strange Bird). They failed miserably, creating two dinosaurs so phony, so fake, that audiences back in the 1930s would have picked out the flaws. Not all the violence and gore in the world disguises that this is an awful, miserable attempt at a giant monster movie.
This is one of those real oddities dinosaur and monster fans have to deal with. It's not very well known, and there are multiple reasons for that. The movie is, most obviously, a dull rip-off of Jaws. The Plesiosaur is a stalking beast, emerging from the water whenever someone is dumb enough to come close enough. There's a plodding, lumbering pace at work, and that has nothing to do with the dinosaur's immobility.
The science is absolutely hilarious at times. There's a classic line as a scientist attempts to explain just how the dinosaur is still alive after years of hibernation:
"We know that dinosaurs can only be brought back to life with a level five earthquake."
That folks, is brilliant schlock. As if the movie doesn't seem to care what it does, there's some brief nudity, and an amazing amount of blood. The few deaths would be otherwise mundane if it wasn't for the gore. The way it's directed is so odd it's almost calming. As the Plesiosaur begins to rip a girls leg off, he drops her, only to stand there and watch her bleed to death in the water, spliced with slowly panning close-ups of the gaping maw.
That's how all the deaths are handled, with varying degrees of blood. It seems as if there are two dinosaur models at work here. One is full size, and used for graphic close-ups of bodies being carried off. The other is used for poorly done rear projection sequences and the film's heinous finale.
There's nothing here for the actors. It's a bland attempt to make them interesting, with the lead conveniently being the descendent of paleontologist interested in suspended animation. Plot devices are stolen right out of Jaws (like the fake scare attempt using false fins out of the water). It doesn't have an original idea.
The above-mentioned finale is easily one of the most unintentionally hilarious sequences ever put on film. It was good enough to land on an early Mystery Science Theater episode, and that should be enough to tell you how bad this is. The flying bird, an unpronounceable species, is suddenly tossed into the mix just to make a fight happen as Mt. Fuji erupts. The on-wires marionette falls and flops all over the place as the puppeteers struggle to keep the wires from becoming tangled in those used for the Plesiosaur. It's not cringe worthy when the bird plants his face into the ground only to propel himself back upright with out a single flap of his wings. It's embarrassing to watch.
To break in from that gripping action, the two lead actors struggle to escape a fabricated fiery grave, complete with Japanese pop music blaring in the background. That's how the entire soundtrack works, dating the film even more so then the "special" effects. It's grinding noise mixed in with incomprehensible beats all the way through, and it doesn't let up to give the viewer a break.
It's hard to imagine a kaiju film worse than some of the output from Toho at the time, but this is it. There's some real garbage out there that Japanese monster fans can tolerate; this just isn't included. No one should be forced to suffer through this, and if they do, it should be for pay as part of some scientific study to prove that pathetic movies do cost people intelligence points. (No stars out of *****)
Someone obviously cared enough to make sure this junk was preserved or restored every frame. There's not a scratch on this 2.35:1 transfer. Grain and dirt are the only noticeable flaws, along with being soft and slightly out of focus. If this were a classic, there would be something to complain about. It's hardly in that category, and that makes it all the more impressive. (****)
The only audio option is a 2.0 mono mix. It's not special in any way other than the dialogue is perfectly clear. The treble-filled soundtrack doesn't strain the speakers. That's an achievement. (***)
This region 2(*) release comes with a plentiful amount of trailers. You can watch those and see the entire film, or at least the only decent parts. Actually, that's not very true either. There is nothing worth watching here. Anyone involved in making this was likely too embarrassed to say anything for a making of documentary. (*)
If you were a child and had an interest in dinosaurs, then you likely watched this one as a kid. Multiple bargain VHS copies are available, censored of course, with the title Legend of the Dinosaurs. The blood still remains, just not measured in gallons. It's still enough to traumatize a small child.
Finally, don't get this confused with The Last Dinosaur. Both came out in the same year. This one starred Richard Boone trying to hunt a Tyrannosaurus that looked quite similar to Gorosaurus from the Godzilla universe. It was also Japanese produced, and scheduled for a theatrical release in the US. Someone made the right call and it languished on TV for years.
*Note: This disc does not contain subtitles or dubbing.