Tuesday, November 7, 2006

50’S SCI-FI DOUBLE FEATURE: KING DINOSAUR / THE JUNGLE

New from VCI is the 50’S SCI-FI DOUBLE FEATURE: KING DINOSAUR/THE JUNGLE (1952/1955), which features two rare and offbeat genre flicks from the fab Fifties.

KING DINOSAUR is the simple tale of four astronauts (two male, two female) who journey to the planet Nova, which has recently wandered into our solar sytem and taken up residence. Via the magic of stock footage, our intrepid but bickering heroes arrive on Nova, which looks remarkably like L.A.’s Griffith park. There they encounter bears, lemurs, owls, snakes, and a transparent, optically enlarged insect. Soon, because the movie is called KING DINOSAUR, they travel to an island in the middle of a lake where they encounter giant gila monsters, baby crocodiles, monitor lizards, armadillos(!), and an iguana pretending to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The movie is only an hour long, but I fell asleep twice. Director Bert I. Gordon went on to direct such other classics as BEGINNING OF THE END, THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN, ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE and EMPIRE OF THE ANTS.

The companion feature on this digital double bill is William Berke’s THE JUNGLE, a 73 minute epic shot on location in the wilds of India. The American cast includes Marie Windsor (CAT WOMEN OF THE MOON), slick Ceasar Romero (TV’s Joker from the original BATMAN show) and beefy Rod Cameron. Together, they journey into the wilderness in search of prehistoric wooly mammoths (in India!). Slow and talky, with tons of travelogue-styled footage of natives and wild animals (including some gruesome shots of local fauna fighting to the death), THE JUNGLE is pretty much a snooze-fest, too.

KING DINOSAUR is presented in a sharp, B&W 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer culled from the original 35mm negative. Considering the shoestring budget, the movie looks great, with the exception of some of the older stock footage. THE JUNGLE is presented, for the first time on home video, in full-frame 1.33:1 format and color-tinted in sepia tone.

To make up for the tepid features, VCI has included a number of extras, including a text interview with THE JUNGLE star Marie Windsor, a bunch of still and poster galleries, trailers, and several text bios.
Again, another nice package of less-than-exciting films, but if you’re hooked on 50’s sci-fi, at least the disc is cheap.

BUY: 50s Sci-Fi Double Feature: The Jungle/King Dinosaur