It is hard for me to say "no" to any movie with a dinosaur in it, so I have seen a LOT of really bad movies. For every Jurassic Park there is a multitude of cheesy movies that can only be endured if you invite some company over to make fun of the film with you. There are a few, though, that make even Jurassic Park III look like a masterpiece by comparison. Here are my picks for "The 5 Worst Dinosaur Films Ever Made":
5: Carnosaur III (1996)
Dinosaurs vs. the military is a pretty old subgenre. Done correctly this theme could make for some pretty exciting cinema, but in Carnosaur III the filmmakers somehow managed to make it boring. What passes for a story involves a group of terrorists that accidentally hijacked a cache of genetically-engineered super dinosaurs. An American special ops team is sent in to clean up, but since the dinosaurs are said to be indestructible (the reason why is never made clear), the remainder of the film mostly involves soldiers being shredded by dinosaur puppets. The director left things open for a fourth installment, but mercifully the series was left to wither.
Goof to watch for: When our heroes blow up a mama Tyrannosaurus you can clearly see the metal "skeleton" of the small puppet used for the shot. Sometimes slow-motion explosions are less thrilling than the director hoped they would be.
4: Planet of Dinosaurs (1978)
Planet of Dinosaurs just goes to show that good special effects can't save a film. The plot involves a group of people stranded on a distant planet going through its own Mesozoic phase. The stop-motion dinosaurs in the film, brought to life by a crew including paleo-artist Stephen Czerkas, actually looked pretty good. They were so well done for their time, in fact, that I was really hoping the dinosaurs would pick off the rest of the human characters and end the movie sooner. If you really must see this one, download the hilarious commentary from RiffTrax.com provided by the former stars of the cult classic television show Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Turning the irritation up to 11: The film's soundtrack is among the most grating of any I have ever heard. It sounds as if the producers blew the remainder of the budget on alcohol, sat down at a synthesizer, and just jammed while in a half-drunk stupor. And the worst part? It's so repetitive that it will be stuck in your head for days afterward.
3: Legend of the Dinosaurs (1977)
Legend of the Dinosaurs was one of the first dinosaur movies I ever saw, and when I heard that it was being re-released on DVD I made sure to check it out. I probably should have held on to my fond childhood memories and left well enough alone. Produced by Japan's Toei Company, the film tells the story of what happens when a plesiosaur and a pterosaur (neither of which are actually dinosaurs) are loosed upon a lakeside community. More specifically, though, Legend of the Dinosaurs is a mixture of hammy acting, rubber monsters, bad dubbing, and a strange pop-jazz-funk fusion-fueled soundtrack that makes it sound as if the titular monsters are about to make some baby creatures. The ending is so depressingly abrupt that it made me check the disc afterward to make sure it did not skip over something important because of a scratch.
Most unintentionally funny moment: The killer pterosaur makes a kind of laughing sound during its raids on the lakeside village. It was apparently having a better time than I was.
Second place is tied between Dinosaur Valley Girls and Dinosaur Island, and for good reason. They are basically the same movie. Both involve what are supposed to be heroic (but actually sleazy) men discovering lost lands where scantily clad cavewomen wrestle and try to outrun dinosaurs. If you gave a dinosaur-obsessed 13-year-old boy a shoestring budget these films are probably what you would get for your money. The skeevy exploitation of the women in these films alone is enough to make them among the worst films ever made (and definitely NOT for kids!).
Creature cameo: The Tyrannosaurus in Dinosaur Island is the same one used in the Carnosaur series. I guess when you're a low-budget dinosaur you have to find work where you can.
1: A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell (1991)
Truth be told, it is probably unfair for me to add this one to the list. I am not referring to the lack of any actual dinosaurs in the film, but the fact that I could not get more than 10 minutes into it before turning it off. It was AWFUL. I knew I was in over my head during the film's introduction where, in a stereotypical "Valley Girl" accent, our heroine tells the story of how she came to be (you guessed it) "a nymphoid barbarian in dinosaur hell." Civilization had been wiped out and now humans, dressed like rejects from the blacksmith's booth at a Renaissance Fair, try to avoid monstrous puppets and stop-motion creatures. The trouble is that once you have watched even 10 minutes of it, you can't un-watch it.
Low-budget solutions to everyday problems: The opening scenes appear to have been filmed in a local park or someone's backyard. This should give hope to any aspiring filmmakers out there. All you need is a camera, a few friends, and a few bits of clothing from the bargain bin of a local costume shop to be a filmmaker just like the creators of this movie!
Not everyone will agree with my picks, of course, and I am sure there are plenty of other cheesy dinosaur flicks out there. What are your selections for the worst dinosaur movies ever made?