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Gavin Greig [userpic]

We've stolen the wrong dinosaur!

August 23rd, 2004 (10:05 pm)

If One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing! was being made now, it would feature Jackie Chan instead of Peter Ustinov, and it wouldn't be as funny. Not because a large number of suspiciously Caucasian Chinese are particularly amusing, but because it may have been the last gasp of the uncynical comedy set in the days of empire and servants (just after the First World War).

I was a bit surprised to find that the film was made in 1975, as I had always thought it might have been up to ten years older. In 1975, the U.K. was on the brink of change. Punk had a foot in the door and a gob up the hallway, and Thatcher's children were only a few years from being born.

So Disney's One Of Our Dinosaurs is Missing! was probably looking dated even as a period comedy at the time it was made. Still, several of the most successful comedies are pastiches of the past, Dad's Army and Blackadder being the obvious examples.

I sat happily through this movie in one sitting, a courtesy that not all my purchases have been receiving recently, but comedies do have the advantage. This one is fast moving and doesn't really put a foot wrong. The heroines are nannies, taking on the martial artists of a mysterious Chinese organisation seeking to retrieve a secret formula. Derek Nimmo makes a very good ineffectual spy (explained by the movie's final twist), who has hidden the secret formula on the skeleton of a dinosaur in the Natural History Museum. Only the nannies can save the day by retrieving it, and in the process the whole dinosaur gets stolen and driven around the streets in a Sentinel steam lorry.

There is quite a number of big (British) names in this movie, but it's their characters that you see on screen, which is always a desirable thing! I was so engrossed that I completely failed to identify Jon Pertwee on first watching, even though I'd noticed his name in the credits and he gets several minutes on screen.

I'm afraid I have to report a serious temporal inaccuracy, as Nanny Hettie (Helen Hayes) reassures Nanny Emily (Joan Sims) that if the skeleton falls on them they'll be the first people killed by a dinosaur in two million years. Surely everyone knows that while homo sapiens might have been wandering around then, the dinosaurs died out 63 million years before that? I fear for the education of their children!

Scientific inaccuracies aside, this movie comfortably lives up to my youthful memories of it and I defy you not to watch with at least a smile on your face.


Posted by: meepfrog (meepfrog)
Posted at: August 24th, 2004 05:45 am (UTC)

I have to admit this is one of my favuorite Disney movies ever.
The brontsaurus (I think. Long necked anyway) looming through the fogs of London. The totally bemused rich Americans. Even the main nanny's precocious charges...


Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: August 24th, 2004 06:45 am (UTC)

I didn't mention the kids because, considering it's a kids movie, they don't have a high profile for much of the film. However, they are pivotal and they are more convincingly precocious than most film children. Their relatively low profile may help in that. It says something that the older one can threaten the doom of all nanniedom and not only does Nanny Hettie take him seriously enough to meet his demands but we can also think "Yes, keep him quiet for now, or he'll be trouble!".

Posted by: meepfrog (meepfrog)
Posted at: August 24th, 2004 10:24 am (UTC)

I admit I only mentioned them cos I normally loathe children in movies :)

Posted by: Alice Dryden (huskyteer)
Posted at: August 24th, 2004 08:15 am (UTC)

Wow - I loved this when I was ickle, being a huge fan of the Natural History Museum's diplodocus (I was most put out a few years ago when I learned that he was merely a misclassified bronto and the species didn't exist at all) but I completely failed to spot Mr Pertwee too.

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: August 24th, 2004 10:13 am (UTC)

I've not spent a lot of time in London and haven't visited many of its varied offerings, but I was pleased to get to the Natural History Museum a couple of years ago and spent a happy time wandering round the prehistoric bits. What a fantastic building it is too!

I enjoyed looking round Nyder's pages on the Crystal Palace dinosaurs when you mentioned her a while ago. I haven't been there, but I have vague and pleasant memories of seeing the more recently constructed dinosaurs at Black Gang Chine during a childhood holiday on the Isle of Wight.

Posted by: meepfrog (meepfrog)
Posted at: August 24th, 2004 10:28 am (UTC)

I also have pleasant memories of the Black Gang Chine dinosaurs :)
One of the less onjectionable tourist sight on the Isle of Wight as far as I remember.

Posted by: Vilebody the Merciless (vilebody)
Posted at: August 25th, 2004 09:57 am (UTC)

I loved Black Gang Chine too. Did you know it fell into the see a few years ago? Apparently they've re-built it elsewhere, but to my mind it just couldn't be the same anymore. I used to really believe that if you didn't exit the hell mouth through the little tunnel in the devils mouth, you really would be cursed. Doh.

Posted by: Toby Atkin-Wright (tobyaw)
Posted at: August 24th, 2004 12:26 pm (UTC)

Despite all the wonderful dinosaurs, my favourite bit of the Natural History Museum is the monkey skeletons hanging from the ceiling.


Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: August 24th, 2004 01:02 pm (UTC)


Yes, those are memorable too.

Posted by: Alice Dryden (huskyteer)
Posted at: August 24th, 2004 01:14 pm (UTC)
Aviat Husky

I must have been to the Natural History Museum...ooh, a lot of times. And I would always insist on seeing the dinosaurs, usually to the exclusion of anything else. When I was a teenager, my father finally put his foot down and insisted we look at mammals for a change.

I was very pleased to meet the Crystal Palace dinosaurs a few years ago, as I had a wonderful book called Fanny and the Monsters (Philippa Pearce, I think) about a little Victorian girl who visits the exhibition and becomes interested in dinosaurs. At a family Sunday dinner she innocently incurs huge parental wrath by mentioning Charles Darwin, but redeems herself by finding a real icthyosaur fossil in the local quarry.

Posted by: meepfrog (meepfrog)
Posted at: August 24th, 2004 10:25 am (UTC)

I can't remember him, and I've seen it three or four times. Not in the last couple of years, I admit..

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: August 24th, 2004 10:36 am (UTC)

He's the gun-happy colonel who wants to bag the beast for the mantelpiece.

Posted by: meepfrog (meepfrog)
Posted at: August 24th, 2004 10:38 am (UTC)

Of course!!!!!

Posted by: Vilebody the Merciless (vilebody)
Posted at: August 25th, 2004 09:55 am (UTC)
Me too!!!!

The diplodocus who wasn't a diplodocus was always my favouriter, and becuase of that I loved this film so much I even put it in the novel I'm writing. Glad to see so many other people love it too ...

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