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Dinosaur Drive-In: Tammy and the T-Rex

A 1990s high school romance flick takes an odd turn when an animatronic dinosaur gets the Frankenstein treatment

I have to give Tammy and the T-Rex some credit—I can’t say I have ever seen a dinosaur flick with the same premise. Time-travel, genetic experiments and lost worlds are the traditional routes for bringing humans into contact with dinosaurs, but sticking the brain of a lion-savaged teen inside a robotic Tyrannosaurus? That was a new one for me. But as you might guess, just because the setup is novel doesn’t mean that this is anything more than another bit of bargain-bin dinosaur schlock.

Let me back up a little. At it’s heart, 1994′s Tammy and the T-Rex is a teenage romance that makes the relationship shared by the protagonists of the Twilight series look healthy and perfectly mundane. Michael (Paul Walker) and Tammy (Denise Richards) feel all twitterpated around each other, but they are all angsty because the local meathead Billy feels that Tammy should be his alone. The film quickly turns into something of a boy likes girl, girl likes boy, boy is beaten up and thrown to the lions by girl’s bully boyfriend story. (Because, when there’s an exotic animal enclosure nearby, pummeling someone just isn’t enough.) Spoilers ahead.

Unfortunately for him, Michael’s comatose body shows up at the hospital just as the nefarious Dr. Wachenstein—played by Terry Kiser, who seems unable to choose what sort of accent he is supposed to have—is looking for a brain to implant in his animatronic dinosaur. The beast doesn’t look like it can stand up on its own two feet, but that doesn’t stop the confused Michael from stomping around the place so that he can take his brutal dinosaurian revenge on the gang that harmed him. After one attack at a house party, little more than shredded Keds and tattered acid-wash jeans are left of his victims.

Eventually Tammy realizes that her admirer is in the body of the robot. She seems to take it pretty well. No screaming, no denial, no running away in shock, and apparently no recognition that Michael just killed a bunch of his classmates—she has about as much reaction to the realization as if someone said, “It’s sunny out today.” Nevertheless, dating a robotic dinosaur doesn’t sound all that appealing and so Tammy tries to recover Michael’s body at the funeral. The trouble is that the funeral home apparently just shoved his body in the casket and called it a day when his body arrived, so Michael’s corporeal form just ain’t what it used to be. (“Suddenly, I’m half the man I used to be…“) Further grave-robbing shenanigans ensue without a suitable candidate to be found, and the search is cut short when Wachenstein shows up to reclaim his creation. In a final showdown, Michael kills the mad doctor, but bites the bullet himself under a spray of police gunfire. Or at least his mechanical body does. His brain, still intact, is dusted off by Tammy and hooked up to a computer/camcorder combo in her room. I find it’s best not to ask about how they figured out the human-to-computer interface in their relationship.

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About Brian Switek
Brian Switek

Brian Switek is a freelance science writer specializing in evolution, paleontology, and natural history. He writes regularly for National Geographic's Phenomena blog as Laelaps.

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