Caves and curves
Chain-smoking Hollywood action star Tony Markham may be losing his grip. His cigarette habit is slowing down his martial arts moves, which is starting to slow down the box office for his Feet of Fury series. His girlfriend Daphne Adrian (Griffin Drew) — and every other girl he knows — is only interested in him if he can get her a part in one of his movies. And worst of all, he’s been having strange visions — visions of beautiful girls wearing only skimpy furs (okay, relatively normal) mixed with those of huge scaly lizards (call the psychiatrist).
Desperate for answers, Tony consults a doctor — a paleontologist, to be exact. Dr. Benjamin Michaels (William Marshall) is only too eager to show his celebrity guest around the museum, even taking him on a tour of the “backstage” area. In a dusty storeroom, Tony picks up a mysterious stone idol with jeweled eyes that Dr. Michaels claims has stumped the scientific community. With the strange feeling that all these things are connected, Tony takes the joking suggestion that the idol comes with three wishes to heart.
He wishes he could be with the blonde beauty from his dreams — and instantly he’s transported to another time and place. Where? Why, to Dinosaur Valley of course, a twist in the timeline where things from different eras meet. Familiar terrain for anyone who’s ever seen an old caveman movie. From One Million B.C. to One Million Years B.C., and every caveman movie in between, all mixed our savage progenitors with more savage beasts, ignoring the many millions of years that should separate them. But hey, who’s complaining? The point is to get the dinos together with people they can eat. Now, that’s entertainment.
Before he can wish himself back to the 20th Century, Tony gets in a tussle with a hunting party of cave dudes, who take the idol away from him. Beeg-Mak (Harrison Ray) and his thugs move in for the kill, but are frightened off by a curious Allosaurus. Dazed, Tony is captured at spear-point — by the girl of his dreams. Hea-Thor (Denise Ames) takes him to her cave (the ever-popular Bronson Cavern) to meet her prehistoric sorority sisters, who have had a spat with the men and set up separate quarters.
Switching back and forth between the split tribe, we see that Chief Ur-So (Ed Fury) longs to reunite with his beloved Ro-Kell (Karen Black), while she’d like to bury the tomahawk and go back to him as well. But the memory of the men folk’s mistreatment is still too fresh. Tony, who is quickly adopted by the lonely Amazons, realizes that it’s only a matter of time before the men try to use force to take the women back. He does his best to teach the girls how to defend themselves.
Don Glut, writer and director of Dinosaur Valley Girls, is no stranger to fossils, though a quick peek at his resume doesn’t show it. As a youth, Glut made dozens of amateur films, the titles of some of which somehow snuck into books on genre filmmaking. His writing career spans comic books, novels, Saturday morning cartoons and monster magazines. As a director, he’s made films for Playboy, some video documentaries, and the upcoming films The Vampire Hunters Club and Scarlet Countess. But in other circles, Glut is a well-respected and knowledgeable expert on the subject of dinosaurs — or as expert as one can be without a Ph.D. in paleontology. Capping off a line of dinosaur books by Glut is his massive Dinosaur Encyclopedia, which took over a decade to write and was finally published concurrently with the release of Dinosaur Valley Girls.
So Glut knows his stuff, and took pains to make sure the dinosaurs — created through a combination of puppetry and old fashioned animation — were as accurate as possible. But Glut also appreciates cheesy show-biz culture and exploitation, and wants to make films that are fun. Dinosaur Valley Girls, despite its rampant nudity, reflects his devotion to the values of Old Hollywood. Glut shot a “family” version of DVG — which is also available on tape, and has played on the USA cable network uncut — and there’s hardly any difference between the two versions really. They’re both silly comedies in which a jaded star finds true love and happiness in a simpler time and place. Some of the inane comedy works (the loopy cave-talk language) and some doesn’t (too many cute sound effects), but there’s an overall spirit of fun-on-a-budget here that’s infectious.
Glut, who also wrote a book on the making of the film, provides a fine commentrak on the disc. He explains the subtexts of each scene and points out interesting details. Overall, he bemoans the fact that they couldn’t afford more time to shoot the film. One gets the impression that an extra day would have made a great deal of difference in how the film came out. At the same time, Glut’s complaints illustrate his versatility as a director, motivating the cast and crew, and making long master shots work where more coverage wasn’t available. However, many scenes still drag, and could’ve used some tightening up by editor Tony Malanowski (Dr. Alien, Mutant Species).
On the disc’s B-side, a 24-minute “Making of” featurette, made up of clips and interview footage of varying technical quality, covers the shooting of the film. It ain’t exactly slick, but has a pleasant home movie quality, especially during the genuinely funny blooper section. There are also seven minutes of deleted scenes and a collection of trailers for Seduction Cinema titles.
The casting of Dinosaur Valley Girls followed the old exploitation formula of mixing veteran name actors with energetic youngsters. Shakespearean William Marshall hams it up delightfully. He’s a respected stage and screen actor, but most of us know him either as the King of Cartoons on Pee Wee’s Playhouse, or from his roles in movies like Blacula and Abby. Ed Fury was a bodybuilding champion who appeared in the schlock classic Wild Women of Wongo before going to Italy to star in a string of muscleman pictures, including Colossus & the Amazons and Ursus in the Land of Fire. Here he displays an unsuspected flair for comedy. Karen Black is a film legend, enthusiastic about working in highbrow and low-rent projects alike. Here she proves that she still looks sexy in a swimsuit at 54.
Jeff Rector is a solid and likeable leading man, and has numerous genre credits, including Galaxis and The Darkening. He had to pretend to smoke. Erotic thriller queen Griffin Drew also appeared in Fred Olen Ray’s Dinosaur Island.
The disc also contains 25 minutes of screen test footage of many of the actresses, showing some very odd scenes in the Front Line Films office. As nice and professional as Glut is, this kind of thing comes off as hilariously degrading for everyone involved. Some of the girls forgot to bring a bikini, and have to make do with stalking around with a spear in their underwear. It’s weird, but it also shows that some are clearly better than others.