It really IS Christmas time, because today we’re doing a movie that’s both dinosaurs and vintage tokusatsu cheesiness from the 80s. How can you go wrong? You simply can’t.
Add drill spaceship to the mix and you really can’t go wrong.
Though it’s worth pointing out this is actually an edited down TV series (i suppose it’s just the first 4 episodes of the series mashed together, as it was a common practice at the time), Dinosaur War Aizenborg, itself quite the interesting piece of media, as it’s an hybrid anime and live action show, with sentai style rubber suit and stop motion puppets action for the dinosaurs and giant monsters, but animation for the humans and most regular animals, played over live-action miniature sets.
Fairly weird, but not that uncommon, since Tsuburaya Productions (of course he’s involved with it somehow, how couldn’t he given the genre and the decade we’re discussing?) did the same exact type of hybrid media show a year before Dinosaur War Aizenborg, with Dinosaur Expedition Team Born Free, which we’ll talk about eventually, we have to and will.
The plot it’s set in the year 2000, when it’s revealed the dinosaurs didn’t go extinct, but hid deep inside the planet, and now they re-emerge to wreak havoc on humanity, stronger with radioactive powers and more intelligent than before, led by the evil dinolord Tyrannus, also able to mind control fellow dinosaurs (and regular animals) to do his nasty bidding.
To face this new threath we have the Gemini Force, made of four teens, brother and sister Jim and Gem and their sidekicks Jerry and Wally (names obviously americanized as shit in this compilation film for western markets) piloting a supership. And also, Jim and Jem are basically cyborg augmented superhumans (thanks to their father, a doctor with an unfortunate Hitler mustache) who can literally combine on a mechanical-spiritual-flesh level to form the being known as Gemini. Also, their ship-vehicle is detachable and the ship part has a giant drill, why the fuck not?
As experienced/older anime fans might remember, it was common at the time to do compilation movies of anime series for the western-international market, as distributors were just not gonna bother with bringing entire anime series for a market that didn’t yet exist as it does today.
Same goes with live action japanese series, for example Saru No Gundan was recut and recompiled into Time Of The Apes, now mostly remembered thanks to the MST3K episode on it.
In this case we have a fairly cheap series by Tsuburaya Productions recut as a movie and with extra serving of kaiju stock footage from other Tsuburaya produced tokusatsu series, this is not my area of expertise, but going from what i gathered on some wikias, it’s mostly stock footage of monsters from the Fireman and Ultraman.
The blending of “kaiju on model sets violence” and anime it’s kinda impressive for the time and it’s still fairly odd to see even today, but definitely it makes it stand out more and the show/movie itself it’s a really fun pout-porri of old school superhero anime and kaiju action, making for a weird – but not that weird, truth to be told – fun time for fans of genre japanese entertaiment.
I mean, one of the first things that happen in this is a giant evil (and fire spitting) tyrannousarus rex talking, laughing like the old school villain he is, and mind control-transforming two normal dogs into red raging “zombie” dogs. Yeah, the transformed dogs can bite other dogs and make them in turn transform into violent red monster dogs. And this is just what happens in the first 5 minutes.
Sure, i’m willing to bet that the editing and recut of the episodes made these weird fuckin things happen way faster, but i’m not that sure, even though its clearly cut to make the pace faster, as they i literally introduce the Gemini “human gattai” thing by also explaining it has a time limit… which runs out earlier due to the editing. XD Still, the clearly break-neck/rushed pace adds to the enjoyment, like the old uber cheesy english dub (love it) and the animation in the anime parts… also being kinda cheap, not exactly a masterwork, mostly ok for the time but the usage of repeating short animation loops for people escaping leads to bizzare visuals like an animated herd of looping frightened identical salarymen on the run from the live action rubber monster.
It’s the kind of movie that you just have to take in as it is, without really stopping and questioning anything much, just let the absurdity of it all wash over you, and there is indeed a good chunk of rubber suit monsters, toy sets, toy vehicles and exploding monsters to keep you hooked, if you love old school japanese monsters shows with robots, dinosaur, heck, even if you’re mildy interested.
Also, it tickles me how at the time of the proper series being released internationally, we apparently loved it here in Italy (so much it got re-runs on some anime cable channels here)… and Saudi Arabia, so much that Jarrah Alforieh, the biggest saudi fan of the show partially funded a documentary on the series for its 40th anniversary, which also included 10 minutes of a new Dinosaur War Izenborg special episode, Izenborg Returns, with the full 60 minutes episode included in the new DVD re-release.
Even more incredible, a comic by Matt Frank, continuing the story of the series, was expected for 2021… but as many other projects, this goddamn pandemic delayed or potentially put the kebosh on the project, as i couldn’t find any update on the matter, just that it was supposed to come into existance by this year. Oh well, even without that, it’s an amazing legacy already.
And the movie it’s a delightfully smorgasboard of retro anime & tokusatsu saturday morning cheese, how you can hate a movie or anything with a evil talking tyrannousaurs rex often laughing with the cackle that perfectly befits a villain from the era and genre.
Though, i wish they at least tried to edit it into something of a proper movie, at least the final product has somewhat of a conclusive feel to it when the ending comes (despite the main villain being still around), but it’s obvious how they just cut out the opening and endings of the episodes and stitched them together to have something long almost 90 minutes and calling it a “movie”.
I almost understand not cutting the reused starting transformation and assembling sequences, as doing so would drastically make the compiled work a lot shorter, but at least they could have cut out the narrator explaining how the Gemini Force transformation/union works, it make sense for youngins that watch the show on a weekly basis on TV, not really here.
Now, all together “Jim” “Jem” “GEMINI!”, repeated for 3 minutes and a half straight.