Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds (1977)
A suicidal young woman named Hiroko Takami wanders barefoot in the lush Aokigahara, the famous Sea of Trees region of Mt. Fuji, when she suddenly falls into an underground cavern. She awakens to find herself in an icy cave full of enormous petrified eggs. When one starts to hatch, revealing a glowing green eye covered in slimy yoke, she flees outside in terror, where she is discovered by a construction crew. Before falling into a coma and dying soon after, Hiroko explains to a reporter what happened. Takashi Ashizawa, a geologist and part-time employee for Universal Stone Company Ltd., sees her story on TV while awaiting an airplane flight to Mexico. Upon hearing about the fossilized-yet-still-living eggs, Takashi cancels his Mexican assignment, quits his job with Universal Stone, and heads to Mt. Fuji to find it.
From the village bordering Fuji's Saiko Lake, Takashi heads into the heavily forested Jukai region when a sudden tremor knocks him out. He revives in his father's old cabin near Saiko Lake, having been rescued by an old friend of the family, Shohei Muku. The two reminisce, revealing that Takashi's father was a biologist stubbornly obsessed with discovering living dinosaurs in and around Fuji. Takashi quickly gets back to fossil-hunting and heads toward the Jukai once again. As he cruises through the nearby village, he greets Akiko Osano, an underwater photographer and former lover of his, and Junko Sonoda, Akiko's assistant who is studying the history of the region.
Bizarre events and tragedies begin to occur around Saiko Lake, starting with the vanishment of a young couple in a paddle boat, seemingly dragged beneath with great force. Later, a murdered diver is pulled up from the lake, blood running down from his eyes, and livestock begin to disappear. Takashi theorizes that a dinosaur is responsible for the incidents.
He shares his theory with a professional seismologist and old colleague of Takashi's father, who notes that the activities surrounding Saiko Lake are only a sliver of strange environmental phenomenon happening across the world. He believes that the appearance of a living dinosaur will cause a magnitude 5.0 earthquakes, suggesting an apocalyptic cataclysm is forthcoming. Takashi doesn't take the seismologist's concerns seriously, however, reaffirming that he's only in this for the money. Junko encounters a decapitated horse lying in the road at night, with Takashi later finds its head lodged in a tree while taking photographs of some strange tracks left behind in the mud. The following day, he concludes that the creature is a Plesiosaurus. Shohei is skeptical, insisting that the culprit is just an abnormally large snake.
Takashi is vindicated when a Plesiosaurus appears before onlookers at a bay-side festival shortly after attacking and devouring two local pranksters while their surviving friend is sent into terrified hysterics from witnessing the gruesome incident firsthand. The giant Plesiosaur continues to terrorize the community by crushing in a cabin home and devouring its lone lady inhabitant. Later, during the fog-drenched evening, Junko is calmly resting on an inflatable raft while Akiko is scuba-diving well below. Tragically for poor Junko, she is attacked and worn down by the Plesiosaur who eventually devours her by chomping off her body from the chest downwards. Akiko witnesses her horrific death upon her return to the floating raft.
Unable to ignore the continuing fatalities, the previously apathetic Saiko Lake authorities finally take action against the roving creature by ordering helicopters, radar, and underwater camera equipment to locate the beast, as well as inviting various scientists to help in the search, including Takashi and his seismologist friend. During the search operations, one stetson-wearing man hypothesizes that the presence of a Plesiosaur might also conjure up a Rhamphorhynchus, a prehistoric flying reptile. The local authorities laugh at his claims, leading him to enlist Shohei to lead him through the mountains and locate the ice caves and the stone eggs within. Tensions run high as the search for the Plesiosaur becomes fruitless: with their budget running low and various scientists abandoning the search early, the Saiko Lake authorities decide to simply bomb the lake with numerous depth charges in a last-ditch effort to exterminate the lake monster.
Unfortunately, news of the depth charges doesn't reach Takashi, who has gone diving to find the Plesiosaur for himself, no longer concerned about the money and wanting to see the murderous beast with his own eyes in a desire to honor his father's legacy and for his own peace of mind. Akiko dives in soon after to save Takashi, forcing the two to seek shelter within an underwater cave to avoid the deadly blasts above. Although safe from the explosives, the two come across the severed head of a woman that sinks before their eyes. Further into the cave, Takashi and Akiko find the icy cave of stone eggs. To their horror, they discover the newly mutilated bodies of Shohei and the stetson-wearing man, both having been killed by the recently hatched Rhamphorhynchus.
Having reached its full size since hatching, the Rhamphorhynchus flies towards the bay area where it encounters and immediately attacks the Saiko Lake villagers and authorities, snatching up one victim in a giant claw before fatally dropping him back to earth. Terrified in a mass panic, the people take cover near the unused depth charges while the authorities try desperately to fend off the flying beast with rifles. In a disastrous turn of events, one of the Saiko Lake authorities accidentally shoots his rifle into one of the depth charges, causing an explosive chain-reaction that obliterates everyone present. Unharmed by the humans' devastating blunder, the Rhamphorhynchus flies back to Mt. Fuji. Having found their way out of the subterranean nest, Takashi and Akiko emerge outside, but an earthquake begins to rip the ground apart, unleashing volcanic gas and streams of fire into the air: the once dormant Mt. Fuji is on the verge of erupting.
Seeking escape from the impending eruption, Takashi and Akiko's path is blocked by the Plesiosaur, whose slumber has been disturbed by the sudden quake. The lumbering giant chases the two divers back into the cave, trying to grab them with its long snake-like neck and dagger-like jaws. Just then, the Rhamphorhynchus arrives and bellows out a challenge to the Plesiosaur. As the two prehistoric monsters brutally battle, resulting in the Plesiosaur losing one of its eyes to the Rhamphorhynchus' stabbing beak, Takashi and Akiko uses the opportunity to escape, but are met with danger by the continuous tremors and volcanic gases emerging all around them. The Plesiosaur is able to pin the Rhamphorhynchus to the ground with its striking neck and proceeds to smother its winged opponent with its bulbous, flippered body. Mt. Fuji erupts, sending the two giant reptiles into a fiery chasm below as the ground gives way, ending their reigns of terror. Takashi saves Akiko from falling to her death, but their final fates remain unknown.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Junji Kurata
- Written by Masaru Igami, Isao Matsumoto, Ichiro Otsu
- Produced by Keiichi Hashimoto
- Music by Masao Yagi
- Cinematography by Sakuji Shiomi
- Edited by Isamu Ichida
- Production design by Yoshimitsu Amamori
- Special effects by Fuminori Ohashi
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Tsunehiko Watase as Setsu Serizawa
- Shotaro Hayashi as Akira Taniki
- Nobiko Sawa as Akiko Osano
- Satoko Kyoshima as Junko Sonoda
- Fuyukichi Maki as Masahira Muku
- Kinshi Nakamura as Hideyuki Sakai
- Hiroshi Nawa as Masahiko Miyawaki
- So Takizawa as Jiro Shimamoto
- Yusuke Tsukasa as Susume Hirano
- Go Nawata as Hiroshi Sugiyama
- Yukari Miyazen as Hiroko Takami
- Masahiro Arikawa as Seitaro Shintaku
- Tamikashi Karazawa as Uemura
- Sachio Miyashiro as Kobayashi
- Stone dinosaur eggs
- Main article: Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds/Gallery.
- The Legend of Dinosaurs (United States)
- The Monsters of Prehistory (Les Monstres de la préhistoire; France)
- Earthquake 10° (Terremoto 10°; Italy)
- God of the Sea (Denizlerin tanrisi; Turkey)
- Giants of Prehistoric Times (Giganten der Vorzeit; West Germany)
- Legend of the Dinosaur (Легенда о динозавре; Soviet Union)
Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds was dubbed into English for international export by Tokyo-based Frontier Enterprises. Television producer and distributor Sandy Frank acquired U.S. television and home video rights to the film from Toei. In 1987, Frank sold the film, now titled The "Legend of Dinosaurs", in a television syndication package through King Features Entertainment with other Japanese productions he'd licensed; Celebrity Home Entertainment released the film to VHS the same year. Strangely, the cover art featured photos of two plesiosaurus props from the otherwise unrelated 1978-1979 series Dinosaur Corps Koseidon. On May 28, 1989, The "Legend of Dinosaurs" was featured as the final episode of the movie-mocking television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 during its original broadcast on the Minneapolis-area station KTMA.
A 2007 DVD release by Tokyo Shock included both the film's English dub and the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.
Soviet Union release
Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds was released theatrically in the USSR in 1979, with a Russian-language dub commissioned by the studio Mosfilm and a shortened 80 minute runtime. The first Japanese monster movie to be released in the Soviet Union, it recorded 48,700,000 admissions, the seventeenth-most for a foreign film at the time, and became something of a cult film. According to Gregory Pflugfelder, "For many Russian viewers, this was a rare glimpse into everyday life in a capitalist economy. People were not taking note of the dinosaurs and monster birds—it was the Polaroid cameras!"
Tokyo Shock DVD (2007)
- Region: 1
- Discs: 1
- Audio: Japanese, English (2.0 Mono)
- Subtitles: English
- Special features: Still gallery, two trailers for the movie, four trailers for other Tokyo Shock titles
- Notes: Out of print.
- Despite the film's title, neither of the titular creatures are actually dinosaurs, as the Plesiosaurus is classified as a marine reptile, while the Rhamphorhynchus is classified as a type of pterosaur.
- Other dinosaurs including an Archaeopteryx were present in the early planning stages for the production before being replaced by the aforementioned creatures.
- Italian movie posters for the film featured a gigantic Tyrannosaurus towering over a skyscraper in place of the film's Plesiosaurus.
- Additionally, Italian magazine adverts for the film oddly includes the giant octopus from It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955) to the proceedings.
- Footage of the Plesiosaurus and Rhamphorhynchus were briefly used in the final few episodes of the 1985-1986 series MegaBeast Investigator Juspion as members of the villainous Megabeast Empire.
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