Primal Species AKA Carnosaur III


Director: Jonathan Winfrey
Screenwriter: Rob Kerchner
Starring: Scott Valentine, Janet Gunn, Rick Dean, Anthony Peck
Release details: DTV (New Horizons), USA 1996, 85mins
Full details: IMDb
Genre: Horror
Rating: 2 out of 10

At last, the 50 Film Challenge has finally come face-to-face with its spiritual leader, the great Roger Corman, producer of low-brow, cheap knock-offs for the masses. We truly are not worthy.

A few weeks before Jurassic Park hit cinemas in the US, Corman financed a limited cinema release for his own JP-lite, Carnosaur, which featured Diane Ladd as the head scientist trying to prevent the world from dinosaurs run amok. Is it any coincidence that Diane Ladd, Corman's star, is the mother of Laura Dern, star of the Speilberg version? No, of course it's not; that's the genius of Corman.

Carnosaur did well enough to make it worth Roger's time and money to finance a sequel featuring John Savage and Cliff DeYoung (one of the Movie Archive's favourite TV and DTV faces). By the third instalment, released in the UK just as Primal Species, Roger had clearly run out of money and stars. In fact, arguably the biggest star - in terms of the target audience of this film - is Rick Dean who, despite being killed off in the second film, proved popular enough to return here as a completely new character.

The joy of the Carnosaur series is that, just like its Speilberg counterpart, one plot fits all sequels. Evil scientists dick about with nature by resurrecting dinosaurs which invariably get set free to terrorise some hapless humans. In this case, evil government scientists resurrect dinosaurs, hoping that they'll be the ultimate killing machine, but the dinosaurs - sorry carnosaurs - get hijacked by terrorists who're actually looking to rip off some plutonium. Cue looks of surprise when they open the back of the truck, followed by screams of death.

Corman the producer has doubtless influenced the perfunctory script into sticking to just three locations - the military base, the docks and the desert. Most of the film, in fact, takes place inside either a warehouse or the hold of a ship, both of which may actually be the same set, given that both feature grey metal walls and packing crates.

To ensure the audience is entertained, the script steals from bigger, better movies. The rag-tag bunch of US Marines who turn up to help retrieve the carnosaurs might as well have kept the character names from Aliens, as they're a virtual carbon copy, including butch Hispanic chick, scared commander and boorish sergeant. We also have dinosaur's eye view of the prey which you'll remember from Predator and countless other alien/monster movies.

Although the action parts of the movie are acceptable in a DTV/late night TV sort of a way, it's the acting that really grates. By this, I do not mean Dean, who is the cinematic double of US comedian Rich Hall both in look and tone. No, it's former US sitcom star Valentine and his love interest Gunn who really spoil the fun. Although painful enough to watch separately, it's excrutiating to see them share a scene, given that they convey all the chemistry of pond scum, but with only a fraction of the acting talent. Even Pauly Shore and Madonna would have been a more competent central pairing, and that thought's scarier than anything you'll ever see on screen.

Buy it

UK DVD - this film only | UK DVD Box set 1 | UK DVD Box set 2

The DVD box set I watched also included Def by Temptation, Legend of the Mummy 2 and The Peacekeeper. These four, along with several other 50 Film Challenge titles are available on the UK DVD Box set 2.


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