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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Movie Review: Epic - Days of the Dinosaurs

Epic: Days of the Dinosaurs (animated, narrated by John Huston) 
Original Release: Yoram Gross, Australia, 1983
Re-Released: May 5, 1993 Company: Family Home Entertainment (f.h.e.) Runtime: 75 minutes


I just really have to mention this. I went to a garage sale a couple weeks ago, and bought the animated Rikki Tikki Tavi (about the mongoose and the cobra), Eliminators (cyborgs, ninjas, ghosts, guides, barfights, evil scientists and starring Tasha Yar, Denise Crosby, from ST:TNG, oh my!) and yes, Epic. I paid about two bucks for all three VHS tapes (I love garage sales).

Rikki Tikki Tavi, and in fact, all three, were, much to my utter shock, in absolutely GREAT shape, especially for being in a garage sale and the LOOK of the cases they were in (all original, also surprisingly). Being a fan of bad and/or old/strange movies, I bought these three, but Epic stood out because while at first I thought it was a kids' dinosaur movie, I happened to notice the children on the cover of the box with POINTED ears. Elves and dinosaurs? Definitely worth 50 cents.Although... the kids in the movie are neither blond nor easily identifiable by gender, nor wearing blue... maybe these drab, brown-haired, brown-clad cavepeople are the kids the blond elfin kids from the cover meet- shit. Nope, just a totally different artist apparently going on vague directions give to him. Way to be consistent.




Anyway, Epic. I immediate recognized John Huston's voice, the guy that narrated the animated Hobbit movies and was the voice of Gandalf. The entire movie was done almost entirely with real background photographs and footage of wild places, (in Australia, since thats where the movie was made) and had the animation superimposed over it, complete with 'trippy' psychedelic paint splotches and cutting edge prism disco animation. Anyway, the beginning was WAY too long, with Huston rambling on and ON about the freaking EARTH BEING CREATED (lots of boring shots of mesas and clouds) and the Spirit of Evil being a naughty sort, and throwing tree trunks at drowning dingos (yes, seriously).

The first real "WTF?!" is when he segues into the main story by informing us and also establishing just WHY "dingos and man have been best of friends throughout history". Now, I'm not Australian (contrary to what you would naturally assume, mate), nor am I an animal or even anthropology expert, but I don't recall, offhand anyway, anything about dingos being man's best friend. Dogs, yes, dingos, not so much. Did I imagine all the horror stories while I was growing up, about dingos carrying babies off out of tents in Australia?! Now, I can forgive Mr. Huston since he's not Australian and basically was probably just collecting a check without being too worried about 'his motivation' or 'artistry' - but this Yoram Gross guy - man, he's freaking Australian! Does he not KNOW dingos are bad?!

I've had a look around the net and though there are a few Australian legends involving dingos, with a rarer couple mentioning their domestication or at least use as semi-tame guards and hunting animals used by aboriginal tribes, most mentions of dingos are either from the 1980's Australian Azaria baby case, where the mother claimed a dingo had entered her tent and stolen her baby (a finding which was initially ruled accurate, then eventually overturned, sending the mother to jail, then recently upheld again), or as part of an evil pack of hunting dogs that survived on human flesh.

I can't find anything close to this movie's assertion that "the legends" have always said the dingo was the best friend of man... unless they're really expanding outward and using "dingo" as a proxy word for "dog", since dingos are wild dogs. If so - that's really stretching it; they kinda have this hard-to-ignore reputation that makes them stand out from normal dogs, that trumps their alleged folklore claims. I also discovered, contrary to everything I always assumed, dingos are not native to Australia, but were an introduced species, likely from the original asian dingo or wild dog.

Okay so on with the story, these two kids, brother and sister I'm pretty sure, referred to as humans, Sol and Luna (quasi-mythical names yet nothing comes of this, weirdly) have POINTED EARS, and are raised by the King and Queen of the Dingos. The King even braved the Great Flood caused by the Spirit of Evil to save the kids... ermm... They meet other "humans" (who wind up trying to kill them) and try to take a little girl's "wind instrument" (a hollow log); I have NO idea what that had to do with anything.

Sol and Luna learn to speak, and eventually spontaneously learn how to create fire (after doing the "fire dance" when a tree is struck by lightning). A dinosaur attacks them and their dingo family but they fight it off and Sol kills it with a wooden stick after about the MOST tedious repetitive animated "fight" sequence I've ever seen. Even my popcorn started tasting stale at this point and this was only about 15 minutes in. My favorite quote from the movie has to be the following, when they first walk by the Cave of Wind:

John Huston: Sol and Luna saw many strange things on their journey...

*whishing noise*

Luna: What's that?

Sol: Wind, from a cave.

Now, is THAT dialogue, or is that DIALOGUE?!

But then, darn it, they have to go find the Secrets of Life and stuff them in a branch from that old burnt out log (um, yeah...ok), so they can be the next King and Queen of the Dingos. HUH?! So of course they go for it. They meet up with, apparently, the Spirit of Evil, who they try to throw fire on, and ... well, he just bathes in it and wraps it around himself... because... he's also the Spirit of Fire... even though... he wasn't ON fire before this, and in the beginning, he was swimming around in the flood throwing logs. I don't get it. Anyway, they open up the Spirit of Water and he spews all over Evil Fire Dude, who turns into Evil Steam and Cloud Dude and who now, rather than being someone who can have their toe smashed by a rock, is an omnipotent storm that can shoot lightning bolts. This leads to Sol spending approximately 45 realtime minutes drowning, while Luna goes to the Cave of Wind.

Luna meets two six-eyed trolls that help her evade this big giant blue monster thing that "guards the Spirit of the Wind", and kept clawing at her. It made her drop the Burnt Branch of the Secrets of Life, so she got down to get it back from the troll dudes, and apparently the blue guard monster got bored and left (much like I was wanting to do) and Luna continues on her way, to get help from this giant wind dragon looking thing. This makes me wonder why one big monster is guarding yet another big monster.

Somewhere, to someone, it makes sense.

Well, the Spirit of the Wind tries to blow the Evil Cloud Dude away but, well, basically he sucks out loud in stereo, and the Cloud Dude keeps shooting him with lightning. So those six-eyed trolls that live in the cave get a sleepy pterodactyl to carry Luna out to sea to FINALLY rescue the still-drowning Sol. The Cloud Dude shoots the ptero in the head with a lightning bolt but apparently he's made of some seriously tough stuff, since it doesn't impede the rescue operation. Sol grabs some clouds ("wind") and puts em in the Burnt Branch of Mystical Significance and the extremely tired ptero lands in the desert, dropping the kids, and apparently dies. But no, he was just resting and he gets up and heads back - I realize at this point this thing never ONCE opened its eyes - the entirety of its scenes had it flying entirely blind - now THAT is skill, and must also be how Ben Kingsley picks his scripts nowadays.

Curiously, to celebrate Sol being not drowned, the duo perform that super wacky "fire dance" from earlier in the movie - I only thank god its MUCH shorter than the original one - I completely read Ivanhoe, the unabridged edition, while waiting for them to quit their DAMNED FIRE DANCE. But so now they have The Secrets of Life in a tree limb and they're going... I dunno, Vegas maybe? And here comes the Spirit of Earth. Great. Oh, he's a good sort. "The Secrets of Life. You found them. Give them to me." Hmmmm, sounds like a trick to me, but the branch floats out of Butterfingers Sol's hand and the stone golem mutters something about putting them, with the kids' love, into the ground, and new life would grow. Uh...erm... oooooook... and then he burrows back down into the ground and is gone.

So the kids return and hug the dingo family, who creepily and rather unexpectedly crumble to dust! I was freaking out for a second until the KIDS then morphed into the new King and Queen of the Dingos! WTF?! That was it, the long and short of it - WHAT THE HELL WAS ANY OF THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN?!

So... 75 minutes of "well, then THAT happened", and... not much else. Overall, while this apparently is only or mostly available on VHS and is considered a "rare" tape, as I couldn't even find one bit of footage from it on the entire internet, besides as part of a trailer from f.h.e., I don't think it's rare because it's good. If you just have to see it, you should make sure you paid for it either as part of a large, reasonably priced DVD release, or for less than a buck.

Youtube f.h.e. Trailer (Epic is 32 seconds in - don't blink or you'll miss it)


4 comments:

  1. You should do a review of Troll 2. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello from Venezuela. Is there any possibility to share this video on the net???

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm afraid I do not know. I only have a VHS tape of it, and it isn't very good quality, and I don't have any sort of conversion device to make a video from it. I do not know if there is any other way to get a copy of it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for replying. If you want to do it in the future only need a good quality video capture card or USB device as Easycap and some software. Thank you again.

    ReplyDelete