Release Date(s)1970 (February 28, 2017)
Studio(s)Hammer Films/Warner Bros. (Warner Archive Collection)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: D-
Preceded by two other Hammer Studios’ prehistoric film ventures, One Million Years B.C. and Slave Girls, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth took a left turn and attempted a more fictionalized view of primitive times, putting dinosaurs and man together in the same world. The story itself is fairly run of the mill, featuring a runaway blonde human sacrifice named Sanna (Victoria Vetri) who finds herself amongst a more accepting tribe of people, one of whom (Robin Hawdon) takes a strong, personal interest in her... but not before the other tribe shows up to take her away.
American audiences, particularly those of a young age, remember When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth fondly from its various TV airings throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Overseas audiences, however, saw a slightly different film. When it was released it in the U.S., all of the nudity and suggestive material was excised, making the film more of a G-rated experience. Despite the presence of the gorgeous nude visage of Playboy playmate Victoria Vetri, the full version of the film feels a bit sluggish, particularly towards the middle when Sanna must run away once again. Her encounters with the dinosaurs, however, are quite endearing.
Hammer Studios would go on to make one more film in their “Cave Girl” series not long after, but When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth remains an entertaining stop along the way. It features some wonderful stop-motion animated dinosaurs and other creatures that hold up just as well, if not better, than many of its contemporaries. Regardless of which version you’re familiar with, it’s a playful film in many ways, but with a bit more going on in the overseas version.
Speaking of which, Warner Archive presents the film on Blu-ray in its uncensored version. Taken from a 2K scan of the film’s interpositive element, this is likely the best the film is ever going to look outside of a full-blown 4K restoration. It’s has obvious deficiencies due to the optical effects used at the time, meaning that there’s an inherent softness and unremarkable color palette to it. That said, this transfer captures its look with well-rendered grain and high amounts of fine detail, particularly on costumes and skin textures. The oily, sweaty appearances of both the men and the women are more crystalline than ever. For what they are, colors and skin tones appear accurate enough, while black levels are deep and overall brightness and contrast is perfect. No major blemishes are leftover, nor has there been any attempt to artificially enhance the material. It’s also encoded with a very high bit rate. The audio is presented in an English 2.0 mono DTS-HD presentation with optional subtitles in English SDH. While being characteristically narrow, the score and the sound effects reap the most benefits from the lossless quality. Although the characters speak a caveman dialogue, it’s still presented with fine clarity. The only extra that’s been included is the film’s original theatrical trailer, presented in HD.
Warner Archive’s treatment of When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth on Blu-ray is top notch. For a film that, for years, was seen in various qualities on TV, it holds up well in high definition. Some extras, even a historical audio commentary, would have been appreciated, but having a nicely-presented A/V transfer will suffice for now.
- Tim Salmons