Rare Grooves – The Last Dinosaur

the-last-dinosaur-final

Welcome to the first in an occasional series of articles where I’ll be looking at the songs that have graced some of my favourite films through the years. Of course, since this is OODH, it’s unlikely I’ll be tackling anything from Grease or The Little Mermaid (fabulous as the Ashman & Menken tunes were in the latter).

In 1977, Japan’s Tsuburaya Productions (creators of Ultraman) teamed up with Rankin/Bass in the U.S. (famous for animated specials such as Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer and Mad Monster Party) to co-produce an odd little gem, the Tokusatsu movie, The Last Dinosaur. Richard Boone and Joan Van Ark star as two Americans who travel to an Arthur Conan Doyle/Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired lost continent beyond the polar ice caps (accompanied by a Maasi warrior tracker and a scientest, played by Luther Rackley and Tetsu Nakamura), to find a lost geologist, played by Steven Keats.

Co-directed by Alexander Grasshoff and Shusei Kotani, billed as Tom Kotani, the finished production aired in the United States February 11, 1977 as a television movie on the ABC network and shortly afterwards was released in Japan as a theatrical feature.

The film comes roaring from the gate, all guns blazing, with its astonishing main attraction right from the outset. That’s not, as you might imagine, the snarling, drooling Tyrannosaurus Rex as featured prominently in the film’s posters and trailer, but rather the snarling, drooling, sexist, drink-sodden, wealthy big game hunter, Maston Thrust (…no, really). Hollywood legend Boone gives his all (and then some) as the aptly-named Thrust, starting out at ten and then dialling up the amp from there. Subtle and nuanced the performanced isn’t, but it sure is a thing of beauty!

Maury Laws was chosen to compose the film’s score (a job he did for many of the Rankin/Bass specials and series) while the title song, with lyrics by Jules Bass, was sung by Nancy Wilson, and arranged and conducted by Bernard Hoffer.

Bass, of course, was also one of the film’s producers, while Hoffer was later the composer of the theme song from beloved 1980s animated series, Thundercats.

Singer Nancy Wilson, also known as “The Girl With the Honey-Coated Voice”, was world-renowned for her career in blues, r & b and jazz. For The Last Dinosaur, her vocals show no condescension at the material and she gives a superb performance in this Bondian recording. The lyrics can hilariously – and quite rightly – be read as referring to both Maston Thrust AND the film’s killer T-Rex, an achievement never topped by John Barry or his lyricists for any of the James Bond title songs.

Sit back, pour yourself a shot of whisky and let your ears be seduced by the 70s elegance of The Last Dinosaur.

 

No Bullshit, The Greasy Strangler Is Warped But Brilliant!

the-greasy-strangler

Big Ronnie is a grinning grotesquerie who wanders around in a series of bizarre outfits, frequently with his nasty-looking penis dangling halfway to his knees. When he isn’t dragging his poor emotionally stunted, needy son, Big Brayden, around to present a tourist trap disco tour of derelict locations, Ronnie covers himself in layers of thick grease and violently murders anyone who crosses him. Or even poor, hapless souls who don’t cross him. Ronnie is not exactly picky when it comes to strangulation.

Underneath the unwashed y-fronts, (literally) in your face fart gags and dangling penises there beats a curiously affecting, albeit diseased, heart. The murder plot eventually gives way to the story of a father and son finding each other after years of emotional abuse, before tailing off into a deep end of… well, actually, I’m not sure exactly what happens at the end. There might be a point to it all, but I’m not sure it actually matters if there isn’t. At the very least you’re sure to come away from a viewing wanting to sing and dance to the line “Hootie Tootie, Disco Cutie!” As cinematic gifts go, that’s pretty decent.

There’s nothing remotely real-world about Jim Hoskings’ film, and yet it’s not difficult to imagine these characters existing on the fringe of society, too out there even to be featured on reality TV shows and living on the same block as Pink Flamingos’ Egg Man and Connie & Raymond Marbles, or even Blue Velvet’s Frank Booth in a lighter mood.

Imagine a film that has some of the oddball feel of a Napoleon Dynamite sequel as made by John Waters, featuring a synth-driven electro pop score, with lashings of sex, gore and greasy murders, and you’ll get a good feel for what you’re letting yourself in for. There are moments of such out and out goofiness (Ronnie’s spotlit, street disco solo – all wild hair, gangly legs and dangly cock – being a prime example) that you can’t help but warm to the strangeness being thrust in your face.

The three leads (Michael St. Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo) give fearlessly physical, genuinely off-kilter performances, putting Jared Leto’s pissant Suicide Squad Joker to shame with what they dare to do for the camera, and still manage to make their characters just a little more than cartoons, giving their three way love triangle more heart than the constant anal fingering might suggest. But don’t worry if you think it’s all going to get too touchy-feely… there’ll soon be a phone sex scene of junior furiously fiddling with his infintesimal cock while mouthing sweet nothings to his amore, such as “Imagine me stroking your clitoris with a pink feather and then you cradle my sack.” This might be the film that the acronym WTF was made for.

The Greasy Strangler is, as they say, not a film for everyone. But it is one of the more bizarre and frequently laugh out loud funny films I’ve seen in a long time. It also has the best and most disgusting prosthetic movie wang since Mark Wahlberg’s Boogie Nights dazzler. So you know you’re getting bang for your buck.