Two things that I enjoy a lot are dinosaurs and movie guides. For as long as I can remember I have loved dinosaurs and growing up would read what I could on the subject and would spend many weekends watching movies such as The Valley of Gwangi and The Land That Time Forgot. I have always loved dinosaur movies and I never cared how they were realized on film. Whether it was stop-motion animation, a guy in a suit or actual reptiles made up to look like dinosaurs, I was there enjoying every minute of it. Even if the stories were weak, as long as there was some kind of dinosaur I would watch whenever possible.
As an adult I still love these movies and never tire of watching them. I also now have an appreciation of the work that went into bringing these prehistoric animals to the screen, often on miniscule budgets. Though today’s big budget blockbusters, like Jurassic Park, have the money to pay for state of the art effects, this was not the case most of the time with films made in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Despite this, the effects artist often gave it their all with at times, spectacular results.
If you are also a fan of these films, then you are going to be a huge fan of “The Dinosaur Filmography” by Mark F. Berry and published by McFarland! This dinosaur-sized book, clocking in at 484 pages, is a must-have in all libraries of people that love monster movies. To qualify, the dinosaur, or dinosaurs, in each movie must actually be called dinosaurs somewhere in the film. Even if the said creature is not an actual dinosaur species, as long as it is called a dinosaur it is included. Though this means that films in the Godzilla series don’t fit, there is an appendix that covers these films.
Each entry is broken down into categories and features basic information such as year of release, country of origin, studio and running time. Then there is a plot summary, the author’s critical commentary, a section on the people that made the movie happen and information on the special effects used. Where this book really shines is with the author’s commentary and the section on special effects.
I like the fact that Berry is an obvious fan of the genre. He loves these films and gives credit where credit is due. He has talked to many of the people involved in the production of these films and has first-hand knowledge at times in what it took to bring these movies to the big screen, or even the small screen for those direct-to-tv or direct-to-video releases. He finds enjoyment even in films that have been critically panned and this is how I am. I think the author would be fun to watch these films with.
I was completely blown away by the discussions on special effects as it really gives you a perspective on not only how these dinosaurs were created, but what these artists went through to keep within limited to no budgets. I never understood how production companies would skimp on the very thing that people wanted to see…the monsters! This wasn’t just with dinosaur movies but with all movies from back in the day that was a creature feature.
It’s not often that I can read a movie guide cover to cover, but with “The Dinosaur Filmography” I did. It was great to revisit films I hadn’t seen in quite some time but it was even better to learn of films I have yet to see, that I will now be seeking out.
Don’t forget to read the other blogs in my BASEMENT BOOK SHELF series. To order your own copy of this book, just click on the image below.