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Director: Junji Kurata
Media Blasters/Tokyo Shock

Media Blasters has won the hearts of Japanese fantasy film fans over the past couple of years with fantastic releases of some of the most highly-desired titles from the famed Toho library. One of their latest releases, however, is a slight departure from this formula. A Japanese production, LEGEND OF DINOSAURS AND MONSTER BIRDS (aka LEGEND OF THE DINOSAURS) was released by Toei, a rival studio of Toho that had seen success with THE GREEN SLIME earlier, but was still better known for their incredible Sonny Chiba action films than they were for monster movies like this one. Lacking the technical genius of Toho’s Eiji Tsuburaya, Toei’s LEGEND OF DINOSAURS AND MONSTER BIRDS still attempts to showcase giant monsters (in this case, dinosaurs) attacking a Japanese community before turning their violent intentions towards each other, a formula that garnered Toho timeless adoration from fans worldwide. So, just how does Toei’s entry into the monster movie territory stand up against the masterpieces created by other Japanese studios like Toho and Daiei? Well, despite an inspired effort by Media Blasters in regards to the DVD’s technical merits, Toei probably should have stuck with what they know best – Sonny Chiba action films.

Strange happenings are occurring around Mt. Fuji. Motivated by financial gain, our mildly-likeable protagonists investigate the area hoping to discover the results of some current and very unusual weather conditions. They discover a Loch Ness Monster-ish plesiosaur living in a lake that begins to feed on the unsuspecting locals in a rather graphic manner. And, since two monsters are always better than one, a pterosaur hatches in a nearby cave, which also attacks the unsuspecting locals before setting its sights on the plesiosaur, resulting in a less-than-thrilling climatic showdown.

LEGEND OF DINOSAURS AND MONSTER BIRDS is, first and foremost, incredibly derivative of JAWS. Not only does it “borrow” ideas from that film, but exact shots and scenes are recreated here. What they should have borrowed from JAWS, however, was the pacing - LEGEND OF DINOSAURS AND MONSTER BIRDS is plodding and dull, with lots of talk and very little excitement. Aside from a few action sequences, most of the monster fun is reserved for the film’s final 15-minutes. And speaking of monsters, the plesiosaur and pterosaur models are stiff and unimpressive, especially for 1977 when various technical advancements were readily available to the filmmakers. Instead, the monster sequences come across like they were filmed 20-years earlier, at least. The final climatic battle between our two antagonists is unintentionally hilarious – to call this sequence “clumsy” is an understatement. The jazz, pop, and country music found on the soundtrack entrench this film squarely in the 1970s – but, whether that is a positive or a negative depends entirely on the viewer. One of the film’s few bright spots is the artistic, assured cinematography – unique angles and lighting conditions are employed that help to elevate the film above its exploitive origins.

While the entertainment value of LEGEND OF DINOSAURS AND MONSTER BIRDS can be questioned, there is no such debate regarding the film’s DVD presentation. Media Blasters has done a spectacular job in the video and audio areas of this release. The 2.35:1 anamorphic image is sharp, bright and colorful. Fleshtones are spot on, and with the exception of some very, very minor blemishes, the source material is immaculate. From the misty forests to the dank caverns, the video presentation is a sheer delight. As for the audio, both the Japanese and English-dubbed mono tracks are strong and clear. Even though the English dubbing isn’t too horrific, sticking with the original Japanese track helps to lend the film a slight artistic quality that it most likely doesn’t deserve to have. Optional English subtitles are also available. As for Special Features, we’re presented with two theatrical trailers for LEGEND OF DINOSAURS AND MONSTER BIRDS, along with four trailers for other Japanese fantasy films. There is a Still Gallery that contains some nice monster shots that don’t appear in the film itself.

Media Blasters once again delivers a top-notch DVD presentation of a Japanese fantasy film, with an absolutely splendid transfer. LEGEND OF DINOSAURS AND MONSTER BIRDS is a less-than stellar effort, and the DVD is recommended for Japanese fantasy film completists, and/or those who really appreciate fine cinematography. Everyone else might want to stick with renting this title before purchasing. (Matt Martell)