Monday, August 15, 2005

"It came out of a damn chicken egg!"

"Carnosaur" was as much fun as I remember. It was weird and wild and a total cheap exploitation film. Roger Corman produced the film, which was released in 1993 to cash in on the big budget release of "Jurassic Park."
The film stars Diane Ladd (of movies like "Chinatown," "Christmas Vacation" and "Wild at Heart") as Dr. Jane Tiptree (a reference to James Tiptree Jr., the science fiction writer?) a mad scientist creating an apocalyptic virus that will wipe out the human race and make way for dinosaurs. Her work is funded by an evil corporation, Eunice, which is in turn funded by the government (and thereby, the movie creates a trifecta of B-movie villains: Mad scientist, evil corporation, evil government.) Ladd spends most of her time in a dark control room talking to people in gray rooms by camera. I imagine all her scenes were shot in one day.
Our hero, Doc, is played by Raphael Sbarge, an actor who started his career co-starring with Tom Cruise in "Risky Business" and now spends most of his time doing voice overs on Star Wars videogames. Here he plays a drunken night watchman at a quarry site. What the quarry is digging for, I have no idea. Apparently, the site is environmentally important, so the company's equipment is constantly under attack by a commune of environmentalists.
Doc drinks all the time, carries a rifle and yet has books about Gandhi and sketches the landscape. His trailer includes a poster of Alfred E. Neumann saying "What Me Worry?" as well as Doc's medical license, crossed out with the words "Just Do No Harm" written over it.
Eventually Doc meets one of the environmentalists, Thrush, (Jennifer Runyon who apparently hasn't done any work since this movie). Her only role in the plot, besides vague love interest, is to get in the Carnosaur's way.
Enough with the actors. The movie begins with a batch of chickens on a truck getting out of Ladd's lab just as quarantine begins. Among the chickens is a baby dinosaur, which of course kills the driver and escapes. Meanwhile, everyone is getting sick.
Apparently, Dr. Tiptree's plan has two parts. The first is the spread of a disease which makes women give birth to a giant green egg. The birthing process kills the infected women. The second part is baby dinosaurs born in chicken's eggs.
It's the loopiness of this plan that really makes the movie fun. A couple of dinosaurs get loose while feverish women give horrible birth. Neat.
The special effects are humorous but effective. There seems to be a combination of stop motion, puppets and animatronic models. If you've ever seen the TV show "Land of the Lost," the dinosaurs are about one step up from those. There's also some gore as the baby dinosaur rips the intestines out of people, but nothing spectacular.
The movie rips off scenes from "Alien," "Night of the Living Dead" and, believe it or not, a satirical final shot reminiscent of "Citizen Kane."
The movie is ridiculous, but a lot of fun. It never gets boring (though it veers close with static scenes in Ladd's lab and Eunice's board room.) Best of all, Clint Howard is in the first half hour of the film. Clint Howard makes any movie better.
The director, Adam Simon, also wrote the film "Bones," starring Snoop Dogg. The last two films he directed were "The American Nightmare," a documentary about horror films, and "The Typewriter, the Rifle & the Movie Camera," a documentary about director Samuel Fuller.
The film is based on a novel by Harry Adam Knight, which is apparently a pseudonym for John Brosnan, an Australian writer well known in science fiction fan circles. He died this year of acute pancreatitis. Apparently, the book is very different from the movie. In fact, some of the Amazon reviews claim Michael Crichton ripped off this book when he wrote "Jurassic Park."
The "Encyclopedia of Science Fiction" says about Brosnan's pseudonymous works "these written equivalents of exploitation ovies are slightly self-mocking but quite exciting as sf horror; all are variants on the humans-being-destroyed-by-monstrous-things theme." The Encyclopedia also points out "The initials of the pseudonyms were no accident." Brosnan also wrote as "Simon Ian Childer."
I'll have to pick up the novel and see what I think.
Finally, here are some other reviews of Carnosaur:
Dino-Source; Trash City; The B-Movie Film Vault; Cold Fusion Video Review; Stomp Tokyo; Bad Movies; At A Glance Film Reviews; Night of the Creeps; Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review; Mutant Reviewers; Broke Down Cinema; DVD Cult and Rotten Tomatoes.


Anonymous said...

It was decent and campy. But I think part two was the most fun of the trilogy, it was similar to Aliens, but it was a good movie. The third is not really a sequel, it's a spin-off of the previous installment, and it had no real connection storywise with either of the other two, and it doesn't really get anywhere and not much dinos. A failed try, but kinda fun because of Rick Dean and Janet Gunn, they're funny.

Brian said...

I've been planning to write a review of the second one for a while now, but keep avoiding it. The second one was more straightforward, less bizarre than the original. I have to rewatch the third one soon.