Dear Shout! Factory: ‘Carnosaur’ Deserves A New Release


Shout! Factory’s been on a roll lately, right? With 4K releases of Alligator, Dog Soldiers, Army of Darkness, Return of the Living Dead, The Company of Wolves, The Fog, and Piranha to bundles of the Child’s Play series and the original Halloween franchise, they’ve been taking good care of us horror movie collectors out there. To ask for more after all the hard work they’ve done would be ridiculous.

However, today I’m here to ask for more by starting a new series in which I talk about films that I would absolutely LOVE to see labels like Shout! Factory physically release. Now, I don’t know all the legal ins and outs to make these happen… but that sounds like Shout! Factory’s problem to me. I have faith in them to understand all that I haven’t tried to. With that, let’s check out the flick I’m kicking this whole affair off with. The answer might astonish you!

It’s Carnosaur.

In Carnosaur:

“A genetically manipulated and very hungry dinosaur escapes from a bioengineering company and wreaks havoc on the local desert town. A security guard and a girl environmentalist try to stop both it and the company’s doomsday bioweapon.” 

It’s no secret that I love Carnosaur — like, not even a little bit of a secret. This is the feature that ignited my love for horror, film, monsters, dinosaurs, gore, pretty much everything I’ve ever been interested in. The first time kid Giallo rented this flick from the video store and crammed it into the VHS player, it was game over. Who I was going to be as a person was sealed. And… well… this isn’t the first time I’ve pestered Shout! Factory about releasing this flick, so I’d be disingenuous if I didn’t just come out of the gate with it.

So, how did this masterpiece come to be, you may or may not ask? Well, the short of it is that Roger Corman heard of a certain dinosaur movie being made, and wanted to rush out a mockbuster to theaters in order to cash in on the ensuing buzz. Did it work? Well, that’s a matter of perspective, really. It only made $1,753,979 at the box office — not much in the world of Hollywood. However, if you take into account that its budget was a modest $850,000, it could be considered a smashing success! I prefer to think using the latter logic, I’m an optimist like that. Blood bag half-full kind of guy, y’know?

There’s a little bit more meat on this bone if you’re willing to dig your teeth in, though. Fun fact, Carnosaur is actually based on a book called… Carnosaur. Shocker, I know. Did you know the book also had dinosaurs in it? Bigger shock, right? Written by John Brosnan under the pseudonym “Harry Adam Knight”, the novel tells of prehistoric beasts brought back to life by genetic engineering and causing chaos to a nearby community. Get ready for a final shock: that’s where the similarities between it and the movie end.

The book takes place in England, with scenes of numerous and varied types of dinosaurs attacking towns, farms, private zoos, riverboats, semi-trucks, military convoys — all described in creatively gory detail. I’m serious, Brosnan didn’t hold back when it came to brutal deaths, one of the first kills being a little girl getting her head caved in by a Deinonychus. So, you know, a perfect bedtime story for the kiddos.

The novel is also more of a mystery, with a reporter trying to uncover what exactly is happening and to determine what the rich socialite with a penchant for collecting exotic animals has to do with it. There’s also a plot involving the reporter sleeping with said rich socialite’s wife. But if I keep going down this route, I’ll be talking about the book for hours. 

Basically, there’s a lot going on and the story’s scale is pretty big. In fact, too big for the film’s budget, much to Brosnan’s dismay. After writing up a picture deal on some bar napkins with Julie Corman (Corman’s wife) and sending them a draft of a screenplay, the Cormans completely ghosted Brosnan, completing the production without any input from him whatsoever. With that in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that Brosnan hated the film, and I don’t blame him.

He wrote the novel under the impression that Hollywood was on the verge of a Dino-Craze and was hoping for a high-budget cinematic adaptation with great effects and big names. And that Dino-Craze did happen… in the 90s. Not the 80s when he published the book. He was ahead of his time, one could say, which is a real shame. I love the book and think it would make for a fantastic movie or even a series. In this time of readapting old properties, why not give Carnosaur another shot?

Sigh… until then, we’ll just have to enjoy Adam Simon’s take on the tale of mad paleo-science gone wrong. Speaking of which, I should probably talk about that!

Directed by Simon (co-creator of Salem), starring Diane Ladd (mother of Laura Dern from that other dinosaur movie) and Rapheal Sbarge (of Mass Effect fame), and produced by Roger Corman, this flick has all the fixings to be a fantastic B-movie feast. Simon’s direction ensures that the film never takes itself too seriously — possibly because doing otherwise would fly it too close to its competition’s sun — taking the whole concept of “Dinos-in-Nevada” with tongue firmly planted in cheek. 

Characters act like they’re in a monster movie, all but the lead protagonists being little more than walking hors d’oeuvres for whenever the dinosaurs get hungry. And that’s not a bad thing at all, if you ask me. This IS a creature feature. Not just that, it’s a CORMAN creature feature. You know, the types of flicks that come on late at night with the full intent to show as much blood and guts as financially possible. Critical thinking isn’t really necessary for these movies. Though if you really wanted me to exposit on all my totally deep fan theories about the Carnosaur series, I can.

While the idea of using stop-motion was briefly considered, Corman’s insistence that the medium would interfere with filming stopped it from being any more than a fleeting thought. Instead, he decided to rely on the practical FX genius of John Carl Buechler and his crew to create the film’s dinosaurs. It was a great move on Corman’s part. What wasn’t so great was giving Buechler 10 weeks to make not only a slew of dino puppets and costumes, but also a 16-foot Tyrannosaurus Rex animatronic for the movie’s close-up shots. That’s a pretty big bite to chew, not going to lie. 

However, through skill and perseverance, Buechler’s team was able to achieve a semblance of success, resulting in effects that some may consider “silly”, but what I call “charming”. Honestly, I love how the film’s dinos look. Sure, they’re not realistic in any sense of the word, but they’re absolutely unique and recognizable. And, might I add, used to great effect — whether it’s the (alleged) Deinonychus tearing people to shreds or the T-Rex battling a bulldozer one-on-one. In my opinion, this is one of the best slices of 90s low-budget monster cinema that one could ask for, never wasting too much time in between the bouts of saurian carnage.

Point is, this flick is more focused on being fun than being believable — in narrative, in characters, in everything. Whether or not it succeeds is up to you to decide. I’m sure you can guess which side I stand on.

There are not enough movies like Carnosaur — unapologetically Gorey dino-flicks where the prehistoric beasties rip hapless victims apart in gruesome displays of practical FX fun. Most dinosaur features take a page out of Jurassic Park’s playbook when it comes to dino violence. And I understand why! It’s the more successful of the two and was aimed towards family viewing, which tends to attract more crowds — so no torn-up guts or head chomping. To me, though, there’s just something about a “raptor” puppet going at a fake leg like it’s a chew toy that always brings a smile to my face. Every single time.

P.S. — If I somehow convinced you to pursue this film, Shout! Factory, and need an extra person for the commentary track who’s incredibly knowledgeable about Carnosaur, my DMs are open.

Assuming my constant pestering doesn’t earn me a restraining order, I’ll be sure to write about more releases I’d like to see at some point. There are so many features out there deserving of such, and I have no problem talking about every one of them. Who knows? I talked about Watchers II once, then they released it soon afterward! Some may say that’s just coincidence, but I like to think I swayed the coincidence a little.

Until next time…

Ciao, friends!

Giallo Julian’s Twitter – Facebook – Letterboxd



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