I was probably too young for my Dinosaurs Attack! cards. When the Topps set popped up at local convenience stores in 1988, I was only five—a touch on the innocent side as I opened the packs of gratuitous dinosaurian carnage. But maybe my naïveté worked to my advantage. Images of Parasaurlophus munching on babies (!) and Stegosaurus thagomizers dashing people’s eyes from their sockets were so over the top that I wasn’t bothered by them. Dinosaurs were supposed to be fearsome and dangerous, right? The gonzo violence looked more or less like what I imagined during my mock battles with little green army figures and plastic dinosaurs.
If you haven’t seen the cards yourself—that is, assuming you want to see them—the entire set is up at Bob’s Dinosaurs Attack! HomePage. The Monster Brains blog also posted the whole run, along with some of the gory promotional images. Don’t expect scientific accuracy. The tyrannosaur on the ghastly “Entombed!” card was pretty good for its time, but the super-size Gorgosaurus with human hands on “Coasting to Calamity” looks like a rejected B movie creature. Speaking of which, a few celebrity monsters make cameos in the set: Godzilla, Gorgo, the Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and the redundantly named Giant Behemoth all show up. Although my favorite “What the heck?” cards are those featuring herbivorous dinosaurs gone bad, such as the carnivorous ankylosaur in “Heartland Horror” and sauropodomorphs that chew the hair of heavy metal musicians in “Rock Concert Carnage.” These cards were sensationally unscientific, but they reminded me that even plant eaters could be dangerous.
As silly, stupid and just pain gross as the series was, it looked like Dinosaurs Attack! was poised to become a major bit of dinosaur culture. A comic series promised to continue the mayhem, a toned-down animated show was pitched, and rumor had it that a major motion picture was in the works. But that all fizzled. The comic only ran one issue, the cartoon never got off the ground and the impending release of Jurassic Park killed hopes for a film. (Instead we got the awful, unfunny Mars Attacks!, a Tim Burton adaptation of the earlier Topps series that served as a template for the unrelated dinosaurian follow-up.)
Done right, though, I think a Dinosaurs Attack! movie could be bloody fun. There have been a few R-rated dinosaur films—the lackluster Carnosaur series being the most prominent—but all the great examples of dinosaur cinema have been toned down for kids. Maybe it’s time for a dinosaur movie that says “This is not fit for children” and really runs with the idea of what life would be like if packs of Deinonychus roamed the streets and an ornery Styracosaurus decided to graze on the front lawn.