King Dinosaur (1955)

Move over Godzilla and King Kong, welcome to the planet Nova where there are lots of giant…umm…iguanas, yeah, take that. Yeah the poster makes this look like a Godzilla type flick but really it isn’t, alas.

OK so you might think the plot to this would be obvious, well it is and it isn’t. For some reason a planet moves into close proximity of the Earth, close enough for 1960’s humans to reach after some tech building. This is the planet Nova and amazingly it appears to be just like Earth. So a team of astronauts are sent to explore Nova (three blokes and one woman, usual thing). Once they touchdown on Nova they discover that its basically a virtual clone of Earth. There are trees, water, animals, plants, a breathable atmosphere…the works! Its only as they start to explore deeper into the lush wilderness that this new world unleashes its hidden secrets. And by that I mean the planet is home to large reptiles just in case you missed the flippin’ poster (ugh!).

The beginning of this film is pretty bad I’ll be honest, you like stock footage? well you’ll like this then. Honesty the first like…10 minutes of the movie is stock footage whilst having the plot narrated to you. Sure the stock footage is interesting like most old black and white stock footage, but my God its a cheap and tacky move to pull, real Ed Wood type stuff. Eventually once all the corny narration and stock footage has finished we are slung straight into it, we’re already on planet Nova as the astronauts are stepping out onto the planet surface.

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Planet Nova, the most convenient plot device ever. A planet that, somehow, just moves into our galaxy, just close enough to Earth for reasons unknown. Not only that, this planet is teeming with life, water and a breathable atmosphere, the perfect home for humans. Now when I say teeming with life, I mean the exact same lifeforms you’d find here on Earth such as armadillos, alligators, snakes, various birds, bears, sloths, elk or reindeer etc…Of course no alien planet would be complete without some form of monsters. Planet Nova doesn’t let you down as there are…umm…giant alligators, giant armadillos, giant wasps? (I think it was) and a giant mammoth?? Wut??? I should point out that almost all of these creatures are stock footage.

Of course the main beasties on the planet are the giant iguanas that terrorise our human protagonists. Unlike all the other creatures these iguanas are actually not stock footage but in fact real live action footage of iguanas on sets/models. Admittedly the sets/models they bound across are merely rocky terrain set ups, nothing spectacular. The actors are shot on a separate plate with the iguana footage behind them on a rear projection. When this isn’t happening we simply get footage of the iguanas doing what iguanas do, interspersed with shots of the humans reacting. This effects method has been used before on many other fantasy movies and while it can be visually effective at times (when the reptiles sit still against a nice background for instance), generally it looks all wrong because the iguanas simply move too fast to be supposed ginormous monsters. They generally look too obvious as small lizards on model sets, no proper illusion of weight.

The big question is why does Planet Nova have all these typically Earth bound creatures? Not to mention Earth-like trees, plants, soil…and prehistoric creatures. Lets not go there OK, just sit back and enjoy the nonsense. Anyway so the astronauts spend most of their time just lounging around and doing whatever. They leave the safety of their ship, go off into the wilderness and set up a camp? Wouldn’t it be safer going back to the ship? Whilst at this camp they are attacked by a giant wasp or ant and an alligator, yet they still remain at the camp. Luckily they seem to have everything they need to survive on this alien planet, a rifle, plasters, bandages, a raft, errr…tinned food. Seriously they have a huge spaceship with advanced technology, why the fuck are they living like the Swiss Family Robinson and not using the ship??

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So eventually they go off to check out a mysterious island shrouded in cloud. Spoiler alert, this is where all the nasty monsters live, the change in music denotes this in case you’re not sure. So the brave male leads the screaming female into the jaws of death and back again, whilst also avoiding that pesky mammoth. But the only way to escape these giant alien iguanas is to blow them to kingdom come. Luckily the astronauts have an atomic bomb for just such an occasion. They set the bomb and run like crazy. Luckily they manage to just get clear of the atomic explosion that wipes out this entire island and every alien lifeform on it. Good job they had that raft to escape in time.

So effectively, the humans have landed on this alien world, explored it, discovered a shittonne of life…and then blown half of it to pieces with an atomic bomb. All in a days work for the human race huh. One has to ask what the point of exploration was if they were just gonna nuke everything at the first sign of danger. We don’t find out what happens after this of course. No clue how the blast affects the planet later on, if the humans go back to wipe out more alien life so they can colonise it, or maybe they just use it as a vast hunting ground for sport. I think this movie is kinda depressing really, it shows how destructive humans are and exposes all our bad traits (for the time, but have we gotten any better?). There is little to praise really, the effects are pretty sparse, nothing special at all. The acting is poor, WAY too much stock footage, like the most ever! No effort for the alien planet visually, they literally went out and filmed in the countryside somewhere and plot is ludicrous. The only decent thing about this movie is the wicked title.

2/10

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