My favorite Saturday morning show when I was six was “Land of the Lost,” hands down. I'd envision Grumpy was chasing me through the jungle, with creepy Sleestak lurking around every corner. Now, with Will Ferrell on the run in the big-screen version of Sid and Marty Krofft's beloved kiddie show, I can chuckle again at my childhood fantasy with the perfect excuse to revisit my favorite collection of good, bad and guilty-pleasure dinos vs. humans flicks.
By Gerry Gallo
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
This sci-fi classic predates Godzilla, King of the Monsters by a year, introducing the concept that a rampaging prehistoric creature could be awakened by an atomic blast. Stop-motion animation wizard Ray Harryhausen brings the thawed-out, fictional four-legged "Rhedosaurus" to life with a menu that includes Times Square, Wall Street and the famed Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster. Yum!
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)
James Mason leads a brave expedition into the depths in this Jules Verne classic. The moment his group is cornered by a pack of hungry Dimetrodons (lizards with spiny sails glued to their backs) at an underground ocean is a true highlight. There have been several takes on this tale -- Brendan Fraser ran away from CGI dinos in a 3-D version last summer -- but the '50s original is the superior entry.
One Million Years B.C. (1966)
After seeing this cavemen vs. dinos saga it took me years to shake the fact that they never actually shared the same time period. The '40s version of the film with humans at the low end of the food chain used real-life lizards for dinosaurs, but it was the 1966 update with Raquel Welch in a fur bikini that made me want to protect my cave-mate from hungry dinos, courtesy of Mr. Harryhausen.
The Valley of Gwangi (1969)
Yee-haw! It's cowboys vs. dinosaurs in this reworking of the King Kong concept in which a rodeo circus discovers and captures a prehistoric predator for fun and profit. Harryhausen once again outshines the actors -- including ultra-cool James Franciscus of Beneath the Planet of the Apes fame -- with his amazing stop-motion animation in which Gwangi takes on a circus elephant, smaller dinos, lassos and unlucky spectators.
The Land That Time Forgot (1975)
Based on the 1918 Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, this pic has WWI Brits and Germans become unlikely allies when they stumble onto the lost land of Caprona, populated by feisty dinos and grunting cavemen. The terrible lizards are seriously low-rent rubber puppets, which only increases the camp value of this self-serious flick. The rugged Doug McClure returns for The People That Time Forgot in '77 to continue the corny action.
At the Earth's Core (1976)
An Edgar Rice Burroughs tale combined with everyman action star Doug McClure proved an irresistible combination when it came to cheesy dinosaur movies in the '70s. Our intrepid Victorian explorers burrow to the center of the earth in a giant drill, only to battle fire-breathing and flying rubber dinos, razor-backed creatures and more. Sexy slave girl Caroline Munro and a bumbling Peter Cushing add the icing to this campy distraction.
Taking place in One Zillion B.C., this goofy cavemen vs. dinos comedy starring Ringo Starr, his bride-to-be Barbara Bach, Dennis Quaid and Shelley Long features some cute stop-motion dinos with buggy eyes who steal half the laughs. Perhaps the most notable outcome from this stone-aged cinematic table scrap is the fact that Ringo met his Bond girl bride on the project.
Jurassic Park (1993)
Steven Spielberg redefined the dinos vs. humans template with groundbreaking, almost seamless CGI and animatronic effects that finally made dinosaurs look real. Other than the cunning, killer Velociraptors, the scene where the T-Rex trashes an SUV carrying those bratty kids and then eats the cowering lawyer hiding in an outhouse is my fave. The Lost World and Jurassic Park III followed in '97 and 2001, respectively.
King Kong (1933/2005)
The story of a prehistoric world on the mysterious Skull Island -- populated by giant reptiles and a massive, love-struck ape -- still looms large in movie history. Willis O'Brien's animated creatures in the original version inspired Ray Harryhausen to greatness, and Peter Jackson's 2005 remake ups the ante with oversized creepy crawlies and a heart-stopping, high-wire battle royale between Kong and a pair of T-Rex-types that makes Jurassic Park action look like a kindergarten class.
Land of the Lost (1974-1976)
"Marshall, Will and Holly, on a routine expedition…" From Cha-Ka, wise Enik and the creepy Sleestak to dino co-stars Dopey, Grumpy, Big Alice and the mysterious Pylon portals, “Land of the Lost” had it all, and made the most of its limited budget with creative use of chintzy blue screen effects and “Gilligan's Island”-like jungle sets. But its most important ingredient was imagination. That's why it endures on DVD and now the big screen. Got a favorite dino flick? Let us know at email@example.com.