Cast & Crew
Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.
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Bart Thompson heads an American construction company helping to modernize a small island in the Caribbean. Despite the islanders' appreciation of the project, corrupt island manager Mike Hacker, upset that he cannot profit from Bart's work, seeks to sabotage it. One day, just as Bart sets off a series of underwater explosions, his girl friend, Betty Piper, arrives in a motorboat. Bart motors out to warn her, but she is angered by his brusqueness and, not understanding the danger, dives into the water. She spots a monstrous being underwater and faints, but Bart has followed and is able to rescue her. Bart sends his assistant Chuck to investigate, then argues with Hacker about his attempts to hinder the project. Chuck interrupts to report the discovery of two dinosaurs preserved in ice at the bottom of the channel. Guessing that compressed gas has kept them intact for thousands of years and the explosions have blasted through the rock containing them, Bart orders them to be excavated. As the bodies are exhumed, Julio, Hacker's young charge, identifies the first dinosaur as a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and the second as the herbivorous Brontosaurus. Bart hires local drunkard O'Leary to watch over the bodies for the evening, and while everyone retires to Chica's restaurant, Hacker spots the frozen form of a Neanderthal man hidden in the debris. After concealing it in the bushes, Hacker plots with cohorts Jasper and Mousey secretly to transport the caveman to the mainland and sell him to a museum. Emboldened by his plan, Hacker next threatens to press false charges against Chica with the island authorities if she does not agree to be his girl friend. At the restaurant, Bart and Betty are discussing dinosaurs with Julio when Hacker enters and beginning to beat the boy. While Bart holds Hacker back, Julio flees into the jungle. Meanwhile, O'Leary spots the dinosaurs begin to stir, but assumes he is delirious from the DTs. A storm hits that cuts off all the power on the island, and within minutes, the rain melts the ice preserving the beasts, and they revive, fully functioning. While the caveman arises and runs into the jungle, the dinosaurs attack O'Leary, who manages to set off an explosion that alerts the islanders. Bart sends the islanders to the old fortress, which he plans to surround with a flaming moat. While his coworker, Dumpy, drives the heavy equipment to create the moat, Bart and Betty rush to Betty's house to use her father's short-wave radio to call for help. Before they get there, however, the caveman stumbles into the home, scaring off Betty's mother and destroying the ham radio. Meanwhile, Julio wanders through the jungle, alarmed to see the Tyrannosaurus eating several locals but charmed by the gentle Brontosaurus. He then enters the Pipers' house and befriends the caveman, teaching him to eat with a fork. Hacker and his men, who have been searching for the caveman, enter the house and attack, but Julio and the caveman outwit their assailants together and escape into the jungle. By the time Bart and Betty reach the house, they spot Julio and the caveman riding away on the back of the Brontosaurus, and fearing for the boy's life, rush after him. Betty is soon seized by the Tyrannosaurus, but the caveman spears the dinosaur's foot until it releases her, then spirits her away into a mineshaft, pursued by Bart and Dumpy. While Betty tries to deflect the caveman's admiration by cooking for him, Bart spots the Tyrannosaurus attack the Brontosaurus. Julio jumps off its back but joins the fray by throwing rocks at the Tyrannosaurus. Just as the fiend turns its attention to Julio, the caveman snatches the boy and brings him into the mineshaft. At the same time that the Tyrannosaurus assails the mouth of the mineshaft, Hacker and his men reach the back of the mine, but when Hacker commands them to crawl in, his henchmen flee in terror. Hacker is forced to climb into the back of the mine himself, where he holds Betty, Julio and the caveman at gunpoint. The caveman tries to defend the trio, but Hacker shoots him in the arm, then prepares to offer Julio to the Tyrannosaurus as bait. Outside, Bart is able to throw a bomb into the dinosaur's mouth, temporarily hindering it. The animal's thrashing causes the mine to cave in, and when Hacker flees, he is killed by falling debris. Inside, the caveman heroically holds up the roof to allow Betty and Julio to escape, only to be crushed by its weight. As Bart leads Betty and Julio to the fortress, the Brontosaurus slips into quicksand. The Tyrannosaurus turns its attention to the fortress, where they have only enough fuel to light the moat for five minutes. Bart waits until the creature is near, then sets the fire, which keeps the Tyrannosaurus at a safe distance. With only moments of safety remaining, Bart jumps into a dump truck and attacks the creature. Although the struggle seems doomed, Bart finally triumphs and knocks the dinosaur over the cliff. As the creature sinks to the bottom of the ocean, the crowd cheers. Betty and Julio embrace Bart, who explains to the boy that the caveman would never be able to survive so unfamiliar an era. As the crowd disperses, a ship full of tourists arrives at the shore, blissfully anticipating a quiet island vacation.
Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.
John A. Bushelman
Jack H. Harris
Jack H. Harris
Dan E. Weisburd
Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.
S. Robert Zanger
The simple story finds a pair of enormous monsters, a Brontosaur and a Tyrannosaurus Rex, dragged from a freezing underwater sandbank off a small Caribbean island. The handsome contractor Bart (Ward Ramsey) must deal with panic on the island when lightning brings both beasts back alive and kicking. In addition to saving his pretty girlfriend Betty (Kristina Hanson), Bart must deal with the villainous local strongman Hacker (Fred Engelberg), who overworks and mistreats his young ward Julio (Alan Roberts). While the islanders flee to the safety of an old Spanish fortress, Hacker stays behind to claim another prehistoric survivor dredged up from the lagoon: a genuine Neanderthal Man (Gregg Martell). But the inquisitive Julio finds and befriends the Neanderthal, and the two of them take a ride on the back of the newly revived Brontosaurus.
Dinosaurus! marked a change of pace for the producing team of Jack H. Harris and Irvin S. Yeaworth, who two years before had made a big splash with their Pennsylvania-produced independent hit The Blob (1958). Philadelphia distributor Harris found Yeaworth in charge of a group of committed Christian filmmakers working on a farm/studio /quasi-commune in Chester Springs called Valley Forge Studios. The Blob featured a hot young New York actor named Steven McQueen and generated enough monster thrills to be licensed to Paramount Pictures for a major release. The sharp businessman Harris then made a deal with Universal, and he and Yeaworth immediately turned out a more sophisticated science fiction item about a man who can walk through walls, 4D Man (1959). Producer Harris wisely retained the rights for both of these pictures.
Irvin "Shorty" Yeaworth originally partnered with Harris only to generate money for his religious film company, and had to be talked into teaming a third time on this more juvenile monster movie. The Valley Forge facilities were impractical for filming Harris's story about revived dinosaurs creating chaos in the tropics. Universal okayed a brief shoot in the Virgin Islands, followed by a short shooting schedule back in Hollywood.
In interviews with Tom Weaver, Jack H. Harris claimed that he consulted with the celebrated science fiction author Alfred Bester to cook up a semi-plausible rationale for the unlikely resurrection of reptiles dead for thirty million years. The prize for cleverness in that field would be won years later when Michael Crichton worked out a brilliant, almost feasible method for growing extinct animals from preserved DNA. When struck by a bolt of lightning, the frozen monsters of Dinosaurus! simply roar and walk away, as if leaving a charging station for all-electric vehicles. Although Harris also stated that he tapped another noted sci-fi author, Algis Budrys, to sketch out the film's characters and plotline, neither author is credited on the film. Top writing talent was hardly required to come up with Bart's put-down of Hacker: "I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw a... a dinosaur!"
The screenplay for Dinosaurus! is an undemanding assemblage of off-the-shelf relationships and stereotypes. Bart's main sidekick is a jolly, portly fellow with the demeaning name "Dumpy" (Wayne C. Treadway), and a construction guard is an Irish alcoholic named O'Leary (James Logan). Second-string hero Chuck (Paul Lukather) has a soft spot for Hacker's barmaid Chica, who must put up with dialogue lines like, "You're my little tamale, aren't you?" Harris said that the credited co-screenwriter Jean Yeaworth, Irvin's wife, contributed the film's slapstick comedy involving the Neanderthal investigating a modern house.
With the exception of the caveman scenes, most of the movie is played straight. Little Julio is an identification figure for small children. He is shown playing with his own dinosaur toys -- which the Bluto-like villain Hacker stomps into the ground. Hacker's style is so off-putting that his own lackeys soon desert him. Director Yeaworth claimed that Dinosaurus! was filmed with a tongue-in-cheek attitude, to appeal to kids and adults alike. Most of what happens in the movie is absurd but the only developed bit of self-parody occurs when the black-hearted Hacker uses a broken bottle to threaten the hero. Instead of breaking as bottles seem to do in every western and juvenile delinquent film ever made, this bottle just shatters and gives Hacker a nasty cut. It's hilarious, like a "Scene We'd Like to See" from the old Mad magazine.
The production began filming on St. Croix in the Virgin Islands for key shots of Bart's dredging project and the many background plates to be rear-projected back in Hollywood. The film's attractive, colorful look is the work of ace cinematographer Stanley Cortez, the talent behind such arrestingly-filmed classics as The Magnificent Ambersons , Since You Went Away  and The Night of the Hunter .
Casting had been a strong suit for Harris and Yeaworth on their first two pictures, as their relative proximity to the New York stage netted strong actors, several of whom went on to prominent careers. After their stroke of fortune in hiring Steve McQueen, 4D Man's cast included newcomers Robert Lansing and Lee Meriwether. Able support in the first two pictures included James Congdon, Robert Strauss, Aneta Corsaut, Olin Howland and even a young Patty Duke. Unfortunately Dinosaurus! was cast with talent that may have been drawn from the studio's contract list.
Back in Hollywood Yeaworth and Harris filmed on stage interiors that include a fairly lush interior jungle setting. The special effects were also underway at Projects Unlimited, a small but energetic outfit known for work on films like George Pal's The Time Machine  and the TV series The Outer Limits. Some shots were accomplished with model dinosaurs manipulated like hand puppets but the bulk of the monster footage is old-fashioned stop-motion animation. The quality of the animation varies greatly, and never approaches the artfulness of master animators Ray Harryhausen or Pete Peterson. The dinosaur models were built by Marcel Delgado, the craftsman who worked with the legendary Willis O'Brien on classics like Kong and Mighty Joe Young . As opposed to Delgado's expected fine work, these animation puppets are unexpectedly crude, with skin textures that look too much like wrinkled foam rubber. Author Bill Warren reports that the metal armature 'skeletons' for the saurian stars of Dinosaurus! ended up in the collection of Forrest J. Ackerman, where it could be seen that they were partially made of wire, a definite hindrance to good animation work.
The animation of Dinosaurus! may be weak, but every dinosaur scene has something creative going on. The Tyrannosaur smashes a bus and tries to dig its way into a cave. The Brontosaurus gives the Neanderthal and Julio a spirited ride, alley oop-style, before becoming mired in quicksand. The Universal sound department mixes Ronald Stein's active music score with plenty of prehistoric growls, screams and bellowing, which adds greatly to their effectiveness. Spread across a large screen, the noisy spectacle entertained a lot of children. Julio's enthusiastic assessment of the Brontosaur: "Boy he's magnifico, that's for certain!" Considering that the boy already has toys of the two dinosaur characters, we wonder if the writers ever considered making the bulk of Dinosaurus! into a Wizard of Oz- (1939) like dream experienced by the young Julio.
The great Willis O'Brien is also not credited, but producer Harris told interviewer Tom Weaver that he discussed effects techniques with the famous expert, who dispensed plenty of good advice. O'Brien may have contributed more to Dinosaurus! than he realized. The Tyrannosaurus Rex is finally dispatched by a steam shovel, an ending similar to the concluding scene of O'Brien's unrealized RKO project Gwangi, in which a dinosaur is knocked off a cliff by a truck. When Ray Harryhausen finally filmed O'Brien's story as The Valley of Gwangi (1969), he had to relocate his final scenes to a burning cathedral.
The hit of the show turned out to be not the dinosaurs but Gregg Martell's amusing turn as the confused Neanderthal. Kids weren't concerned by the fact that dinosaurs and primitive man never co-existed, and instead went crazy over the hairy, wild-eyed cave man's tour of Betty's house. The hungry fellow is frustrated when he tries to eat some decorative wax fruit, and his antics in front of a full-length mirror are clearly modeled after scenes from The Marx Brothers and Charlie Chaplin. Martell's expressive mime and slapstick timing got big laughs when the Neanderthal flushes a toilet, and runs in terror after coming face to face with Betty's mother, wearing curlers and covered in face cream. The screenplay also takes a welcome step by having the Neanderthal heroically rescue Betty from the rampaging Tyrannosaurus -- and then claiming Betty as his mate!
The New York Times review was quick to demean Dinosaurus! as "a tired, synthetic, plodding sample of movie junk." Although given a cold shoulder by the critical establishment, the film became a reasonable hit. Irvin S. Yeaworth continued his film work, eventually becoming a concert promoter and creator/consultant for amusement parks. He was working on a Jordanian attraction when he lost his life in a car accident in 2004. Jack H. Harris continued to roll the dice with young filmmakers, adapting a 16mm film by future special effects director Dennis Muren into the 1970 release Equinox, releasing John Landis' homemade monster spoof Schlock in 1973 and helping young John Carpenter turn his student film Dark Star into a theatrical release (1974). His most prestigious later credit was as executive producer on Irvin Kershner's Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) starring Faye Dunaway, from a script by Carpenter. Always one to see an income opportunity, Harris sold a single B&W shot of his Brontosaurus for an episode of TV's The Twilight Zone. Later on, his dinosaurs turned up as stock footage in several episodes of the caveman series It's About Time. Harris made sure that he was duly credited in both instances.
Dinosaurus! remains a holdover from the 1950s, a juvenile monster adventure with a strong streak of comedy and an aversion to intense jeopardy or gory details. Young Julio identifies the two beasts as a "good" vegetarian and a "bad" carnivore, and sure enough, the dinosaurs prove the boy's scientific approach to morality to be completely correct. And the film's slapstick Neanderthal is a childhood favorite. Not every dinosaur fantasy can be Jurassic Park (1993), and Harris and Yeaworth's amusing kiddie show has earned its modest place in monsterdom.
Producer: Jack H. Harris
Director: Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr.
Screenplay: Dan E. Weisburd, Jean Yeaworth (writer); Jack H. Harris (original idea)
Cinematography: Stanley Cortez
Art Direction: Jack Senter
Music: Ronald Stein
Film Editing: John A. Bushelman
Cast: Ward Ramsey (Bart Thompson), Paul Lukather (Chuck), Kristina Hanson (Betty Piper), Alan Roberts (Julio), Fred Engelberg (Mike Hacker), Wayne Treadway (Dumpy), Luci Blain (Chica), Howard Dayton (Mousey), Jack Younger (Jasper), James Logan (T.J. O'Leary).
by Glenn Erickson
Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Moviemakers by Tom Weaver, McFarland and Company 1988.
Keep Watching the Skies! The 21st Century Edition by Bill Warren, McFarland and Company 2009.
Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr.'s opening credit reads: "Co-produced and directed by Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr." The opening credits include the following written statement: "We are grateful to: The people of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, The Grapetree Bay Inn, The A. C. Samford Construction Company for allowing us to film this picture on their tropical paradise." Dinosaurus! was preoduced by Fairview Productions, previously named Tradewind Productions, and marked the third collaboration between Jack H. Harris and Yeaworth. As with all their films, the final "The End" title card is followed by a question mark. According to the Hollywood Reporter review, James Logan played two roles in the film, one uncredited. Fairview borrowed Ward Ramsey from Universal for the film. The picture was shot mainly on location on the island of St. Croix. Although a Hollywood Reporter news item adds Kathryn Harte to the cast, her appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
The film's special effects were created by the independent company Project Unlimited, Inc. Studio materials describe the two full-scale dinosaurs used in production as "a Brontosaurus, 65-feet from head to tail standing 30-feet high on all fours, and a Tyrrannosaurus [sic] Rex, standing 22-feet tall" and noted that the special effects photography lasted for six months. According to a April 15, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item, Dinosaurus! was the first picture to have its score recorded at the new Todd-AO facilities. Most reviewers noted the film's comic tone, although many questioned whether or not the comedy was intentional; modern sources agree that Harris did not intend the picture to be a satire but rather to contain comic moments. The New York Times reviewer called Dinosaurus! "a tired, synthetic, plodding sample of movie junk," and modern sources cite the picture's stop-motion animation as among the poorest ever in American sound film. Modern sources credit Marcel Delgado as the dinosaur model maker. According to news items in trade papers, the rights to Dinosaurus! have been sold several times, including to Allied Artists in 1964 and, most recently, Catalyst Entertainment Inc. in 1997.
Released in United States Summer July 1960
Released in United States Summer July 1960