April 2024 Mini-Reviews: The Robe to Zombies of Mora Tau

Back again with more mini-reviews to help you find cool stuff to watch on physical media or streaming.  In April, I finished up watching one pretty good animated show, Ark, and finishing a new great one, Fallout.  I watched plenty of mysteries, as usual.  I also finished (for now) my Biblical movies binge.

But the Big New Trend for me was watching Dinosaur Films. I think it started with me asking people for their favorite dino movies, but it pretty quickly morphed into discovering a comprehensive list of Dinosaur Films on Wikipedia, and then realizing how many of them I’d seen up through the time before CGI, and how few I hadn’t.

The lack of “new” dino films from that era at first made me sad, but then I realized that I could make a YouTube Playlist, discover the ones I hadn’t seen, and keep a huge number of the films in one place for current and future viewing.  I’ll put that list of films at the end of this month’s list, as a treat for those who finish my reviews here.  (Or cheat and skip ahead.)

It also inspired me to start working on a Dinosaur RPG based on Lester Smith’s Bookmark No Hit Points system.  More about that in the months to come, I suspect.

Here’s the usual ratings system:

* – This film is not good. Avoid it unless you tolerate dreck well.
** – A flawed film. You may enjoy it if you like this genre or the folks in it.
*** – A good solid film. If you like this genre, you’ll probably like this film.
**** – A superior film within its genre. Thoroughly enjoyable.
***** – An outstanding film on many levels. A great example of its genre.

Note that some shows I’ve given a parenthetical star rating, either adding or subtracting stars, depending on how your amusement may differ from mine. I’ve explained the meaning in the reviews themselves.  Usually.

Robe, The (1953) **** Richard Burton (his first significant film role) is a Roman Tribune, exiled to Jerusalem, who helps crucify Jesus & wins Christ’s robe gambling at the foot of the cross. But the act haunts him & he becomes convinced that the titular robe is the source of his problems. He pursues his slave, Victor Mature, who has run off with the robe to join the growing “cult” of Christians… And things get even more complicated from there. Shakespearian in its approach, this is much better than I remembered. Though my favorite parts are probably still when Burton thinks himself bewitched.
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime (S1) *** A nerd from our world is apparently killed, only to wake up in a fantasy world as a small ball of slime, but his knowledge of MMOGs (Massively Multi-Player Online Games) gives him the wits to rise in power & prestige. (Something that seems to happen a lot in anime.) In this season, the slime makes friends (& enemies) & consolidates power. Decent.
Midsomer Murders 22-1 The Wolf Hunter of Little Worthy ***** A contest to create a mythological character for a Midsomer town seems all fine & good, until the Wolf Hunter shows up for real & starts murdering people. Barnaby & Winter must sort out the summer resort crowd to find the killer. Rewatch.
In Search of the Castaways (1962) **** Disney adventure film from a Jules Verne novel that spans the glow as youngsters search for their lost father. Includes memorable scenes with an ice slide & climbing down a rope to escape stereotype hostile Maori. Good for kids.
Space Probe Taurus (1965) *** Low-budget space travel epic of a crew looking for a new Earth for possibly colonization. Benefits from using costumes, props, (& clips?) from other movies. Solid B&W effort overall, though feels more 1950s than 60s.
Midsomer Murders 22-2 The Stitcher Society **** Our heroes investigate a series of murders that seem to center around a health club catering to people who are recovering from major heart surgery & have “zippers,” i.e. big surgery scars on their chests, the “Stitchers.”
Time Travelers, The (Sven – 1964) *** Ib Melchior directed (& wrote the story) in which a lab of scientists accidentally creates a portal into the future & then gets trapped there, trying to avoid angry mutants & help the people trying to leave Earth. Practical FX (from stage magic), interesting ideas, & an ending that caught me by surprise are pluses.
Bible: In the Beginning, The (1966) *** John Huston’s adaptation of the Good Book is overly ambitious, lavishly produced, & has fun amid boring stretches. OK.
Thunderbirds (2004) *** Turning the Tracy team into teenagers (they look like a boy band) was a mistake, but this Jonathan Frakes-directed effort will probably be fun for kids. The CGI special effects are somehow less convincing than the original puppets.
Maverick (1994) **** Mel Gibson’s crazy energy isn’t quite right, but Jody Foster & James Garner are a delight in this tongue-in-cheek western about a riverboat poker game with a $10k buy-in and a $1 prize. Lots of Western actor cameos, too!
Man Who Laughs, The (1928) **** Conrad Veidt is the titular character, who was maimed as child in part of a money-making scheme by a strange band of gypsy-like characters. (Probably a racist thing from back then.) More an exciting melodrama than a horror story, it follows Veid’s character through his circus career & attempts to escape from a repressive regime. Sometimes creepy, sometimes exciting, occasionally actiony. German surrealist sets & photography give it great atmosphere.
Case of the Stuttering Bishop, The (1937) *** Donald Woods plays Perry Mason in this solid programmer where the titular bishop tries to help find a true heir.
Samson & Delilah (1949) **** Victor Mature might not have been my choice for Samson, but DeMille brings plenty of action, great sets, & his usual touch of paganism (& sexual tension) to this fun Biblical epic. The worshipers of Dagon deserve what they get!
Midsomer Murders 17-1 The Dagger Club (2015) ***** A series of freakish murders seem to be inspired by an unpublished — and missing — book, starting with a woman electrocute by a roulette wheel sent to her home. Barnaby & Nelsol battle to find the killer & the manuscript.
Wrath of Dracula (2023) *** Mina teams up with Van Helsing (& trains to kick ass) to rescue Jonathan Harker from Dracula & his vampire brides in this good-looking, low budget, action-horror tale. I’ll look for more from these filmmakers.
Neanderthal Man, The (1953) *** Scientist looks for formula to regress life to primitive forms. Turns cat into sabre-tooth, himself into caveman. Amusing.
10,000 BC (2008) *** When is mammoth-hunting tribe is kidnapped & enslaved by an evil civilization, prehistoric man goes on an odyssey to save them. Emmerich pours plenty into the special effects budget with good results. Thin but filled with fun.
Aquaman & the Lost Continent (2023) *** New parents Aquaman & Mera must deal with undersea kingdom problems while arch enemy Black Manta gains new powers from a lost civilization & its evil god-king. Too much CGI, but a lot more fun than I expected.
Island of Terror (Sven – 1966) **** Low-budget Brit fave with Peter Cushing & company trapped on an island with creepy turtle-like mutant monsters with the ability to suck the bones out of living creatures — including humans! Nicely creepy & memorable.
Midsomer Murders 17-2 Murder by Magic **** John Barnaby & Nelson investigate when a magician’s volunteer is crushed to death by a magic trick gone wrong. Does it have anything to do with actual black magic rituals? And how is the anti-magic minster involved? Good fun.
Pirate, The (1948) *** Gene Kelly’s athleticism & Judy Garland singing make this fun, but the plot is about a guy pretending to be a pirate while another guy, who was a pirate, is pretending NOT to be a pirate. On state, it maybe worked, but in a movie with this title, give me REAL PIRATES! (The Crimson Pirate, this ain’t!) Otherwise, good Minelli production.
Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) *** A rewatch of this seemed more slight than my original viewing, though I was paying less attention. CGI monster battles dominate this episode of the series, but there’s the interesting deaf girl & her scientist step-mom, too. Plus others.
Anaconda (1998) **** Jon Voight is the real snake in this adventure-action film about a documentary film crew taking a trip up the Amazon & running afoul of a super-giant-size anaconda. CGI somewhat dated, but still fun.
Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024) *** The human story in this, between the scientist & her adopted daughter, is improved, but the monsters are really the main characters. Unfortunately, when you give Kong an arc, you totally lose the SCALE of the giant monsters. Still OK.
Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Woman (1968) *** Peter Bogdonavich took the Russian film Planeta Bur & did a 2nd adaptation of the film for Roger Corman & company. Surprisingly, this turned out rather well, with the new cave-women sequences pretty well integrated. Cosmonauts land on Venus, are beset by monsters, & discover hints of a lost civilization. Not as good as the original, but… Pretty good.
Dinosaur Experiment, The (2013) *** A local ranch is breeding not cattle, but genetically engineered dinosaurs! Some good FX, especially on the larger dinosaurs, make up for slow spots where characters wait for dinos to catch up. AKA Raptor Ranch.
Jurassic City (2015) *** Should have been called Jurassic Jail, as raptor dinos menace both holding cell folks & inmates. Some decent gore FX.
Midsomer Murders 17-3 The Ballad of Midsomer County **** The organizer of a local folk festival is dead, his head in a bowl of eels & eggs, which makes the murder related to a famous song covered by a late, lamented folk singer. Did that singer really kill himself? And why are people dying now?
Fallout (S1) ***** Motley band of characters from various backgrounds — vault girl, cyber-knight, ghoul — trek across the wasteland on various missions & alternately battle & team up in this post-apocalypse SF action series with plenty of black comedy. Great first series & I’m really looking forward to a 2nd. Excellent on every level.
Ark: The Animated Series *** Suicidal woman wakes up in a world filled with dinosaurs & savage warring tribes. Anime-like. Good, not great.
Lost Continent (1951) *** Caesar Romero leads an expedition to recover a rocket lost atop a remote mountain range/plateau, which happily is filled with stop-motion dinosaurs. Not a lot of them, but enough to make up for the ENDLESS climbing scenes.
Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, The (2024) ***** Based on a true-life British unit in WWII, the titular characters are charged with fighting Nazis in any way possible, which includes sinking a ship, a prison break, & attempting to scuttle the German supply chain of much-needed submarine materials. Witty with engaging characters, action, & suspsense. If you liked Inglorious Basterds, you’ll like this.
Dinosaurus! (Rifftrax – 1960) *** Lightning revives a brontosaurs, a T-Rex. & a caveman on a remote island. Mostly family friendly havoc ensues. Dinos are a mix of puppets & stop-motion. Cheap but relatively effective with a fun climactic battle. Good score.
Lost World, The (1992) *** John Rhys Davies is Challenger in this adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic tale of dinosaurs on a remote plateau. Gets points for practical dinosaurs, or at least their heads, & good actors. But feels anemic on the dino front.
Skull Murder Mystery, The (1932) *** Short mystery about a skeleton turning up in Chinatown & police efforts to find discover the murderer. Good.
Brute Force (1914) *** D.W. Griffith short about brains triumphing over the titular brawn back in caveman times. 1 practical dino; 1 croc dino.
Monsters from the Past (1923) **** Sculptor Virginia May creates dinosaur models who then come to life (via stop-mo) & battle in this short. Good FX!
Flying Elephants (1928) *** Laurel & Hardy are cavemen competing to win the woman they desire in this short. Brief appearance about halfway through of some animal made up as a triceratops or something. Also, animated flying elephants, briefly.
Lost World, The (2001) **** BBC & A&E a strong adaptation of Conan Doyle’s classic story with Bob Hoskins as Challenger. Includes a lot of the story from the book & has very good CGI with exciting dinosaur sequences. Women are inserted into the narrative cleverly, & Peter Falk makes a good “crazy” preacher. All the updates work well. One of the best versions.
Return to the Lost World (1992) ** John Rhys Davies & David Warner return as Challenger and Summerlee (respectively), but this sequel (set in Africa, like the last version) is mostly native drama with far too few dinosaurs. The scenery is still nice, though.
Flintstones, The (1994) **** Charming adaptation of the Hanna-Barbera classic animated series headlined by John Goodman as Fred and Rick Moranis as Barney, plus Kyle McLaughlin & Halle Berry as the villains. Oversized sets & practical dinosaurs mesh with CGI. This kid-friendly film has a lot of the feeling of the original cartoons, thanks to Jim Henson’s creature shop.
Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, The (2000) *** Not nearly as bad as its reputation. This sequel sadly loses the original’s all-star cast, & the FX aren’t as good, as we look at the Rock Vegas trip where our heroes first meet. Alan Cummin’s dual roles of Gazoo & Mick Jagged are a hoot.
Midsomer Murders 17-4 A Vintage Murder ***** A winery is both famous for its vintages & controversial with the locals both because of links to possible pollution & a drunk-driving death years ago. When guests at a wine tasting are poisoned, it’s just a… taste of the deaths to come..
Zombies of Mora Tau (1957) *** When treasure hunters arrive on a remote island, they discover the lot they seek is not only in a sunken ship, but is also cursed & guarded by zombies. Well-made low-budget shocker has some cool stuff in it & eerie moments.

That’s it for April, 2024. A good mix of films and other noteworthy shows, 44 for the month, bringing the total for the year to 185.

Here’s that link to EVERY DINOSAUR FILM EVER MADE THROUGH 1980 (or their trailers).  Enjoy!

NEXT MONTH: May continues my trend of watching dinosaur movies and TV.  Of course, there will be more Midsomer Murders and other mystery shows, and my wife and I even hope to mask up and attend a Schlock Movie fest — at least for a film or two.  See you soon!

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About Steve Sullivan 421 Articles
Stephen D. Sullivan is an award-winning author, artist, and editor. Since 1980, he has worked on a wide variety of properties, including well-known licenses and original work. Some of his best know projects include Dungeons & Dragons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dragonlance, Iron Man, Legend of the Five Rings, Speed Racer, the Tolkien RPG, Disney Afternoons, Star Wars, The Twilight Empire (Robinson's War), Uncanny Radio, Martian Knights, Tournament of Death, and The Blue Kingdoms (with his friend Jean Rabe).