PreCommentary: The trailer for this film ungrammatically announces "Not since the dawn of creation . . . a sight like this!" The grim narrative voice asks, " Could man have survived in the dinosaur age of mighty monsters? . . . Shudder at history's most ferocious killer, Tyrannosaurus Rex. . . . Huge carnivorous man-eating plants. . . !"

Notes: Universal-International presents. 79 minutes.
Commander Alan Roberts: Jock Mahoney
Margaret "Maggie" Hathaway: Shawn Smith
Lt. Jack Harmon: William Reynolds
Dr. Carl Hunter: Henry Brandon
Also, Douglas R. Kennedy, Phil Harvey.

Directed: Virgil Vogel
Produced: William Alland
Story: Charles Palmer
Screenplay: Laszlo Gorog
Special Effects: Roswell A. Hoffman
Music: Joseph Gershenson

Summary: In Washington D.C., a navy mapping mission of Antarctica is being discussed. Previous expeditions to the South Pole have noted a body of warm water surrounded by ice. Hmm. Maybe Uranium!

Reporter Margaret Hathaway turns heads and is introduced to Commander Alan Roberts, a geophysicist, and Lieutenant Jack Harmon, schmuck. We all hunker down to an Admiral Byrd film from 1947, about "penetrating barriers" in "Nature's great deep-freeze." Cut to months later when the expedition is underway with stock footage of ships. Alan and Miss Hathaway listen to Alan discuss diesel engines and women's chemical components as the ship unsymbolically plows through the ice. When the ship has gone as far as possible, Maggie, Alan, Jack (as pilot), and mechanic Steve helicopter over seals and penguins which Alan feels compelled to identify by sex. They get caught in a storm and "Helicopter X-3" drops, oddly a few thousand feet below sea level, as the temperature increases. But it's the humidity too!

No one dies as the helicopter bumps down. Al and Mag wander aimlessly in the fog. Everyone sweats. A tentacled plant nearly grabs Maggie, but Alan calls her over to see volcanic activity (bubbling mud). Steve busts a bent push-pull thing from the helicopter when trying to straighten it.

The next morning, a roar awakens the camp. Speculation: "Climatic change, one of the main causes of evolution, doesn't exist here." And come to think of it, the place is strangely Mesozoic. Maggie wonders about animal life. Steve gets a drink and sees the remains of a "flying lizard." They all witness monitor lizards fighting (or possibly mating). Then a Tyrannosaurus appears (rubber-suited, roaring, and enormous) and Jack shoot at it futilely. They run to the helicopter and let the blades defend them. An odd sound turns the dino's attention and it leaves.

It appears their camp was visited. Maggie: "What could be worse than that thing that attacked us?" "Just people, Maggie; just plain folks." They still have 25 days before the ship will have to leave Antarctica. Maggie: "That's just about how long my clothes are going to last." One of them dubs the place "Hell's Chimney" but never refers to this again. They examine a pre-monkey mammal: "homo sapiens junior."

Maggie is chased by a lizard and captured by a human arm. The others discover human tracks, but Maggie has been rafted away to a cave. A grungy-looking guy offers, "Here. Drink." Maggie: "You're one of us! . . . That's our food!" "It's mine. The whole valley's mine. Everything in it belongs to me, including you." He says the others are dead: "one of the beasts did it for me." He claims to have been in the valley 10 years, and Maggie wonders how he survived. "Not on charity or pity. . . . I survived because I'm the fittest to survive, because I've learned to kill efficiently." He smashes dino eggs and controls the adults with sound by blowing a shell. The creatures kill when they're hungry, "but I plan murder ahead."

The others discover the cave and accuse Hunter, "You're out of your mind." Hunter: "Don't say that." They mollify him: the "ability to survive in such a place proves your superior intellect." Hunter is the only survivor of a 1945 expedition which crashed also. With the right piece from the wreckage, the helicopter could be repaired, but Hunter says the three men must leave and the woman is to stay. The men decide to try to find the wreck without him. Hunter goes back to smashing eggs and blowing his horn.

After being threatened by the T-Rex and the carnivorous plant again, Maggie decides to join Hunter to save the others. She sneaks off to an inflatable raft, but is attacked by a plesiosaur. Hunter, out on the river with torches, hurls them into the surprisingly flammable dino-mouth. Hunter takes an unconscious Maggie with him.

Back in the cave, Steve and Hunter fight. Steve wants to torture Hunter to make him tell where the wreckage is. But the others arrive and Alan says sensitively, "We're not going to dig our way outta here through human flesh." They help Hunter, who out of respect gives them a map to find the wreck; he just wants to be left alone. Alan: "It's true that you can't live among beasts without becoming one," but so too is the company of humans humanizing. The three men discover three graves and the wreckage. When repairing the helicopter, Maggie starts to leave the cave but the plesiosaur appears at the mouth.

At a climactic, harrowing lift-off, the Tyrannosaur looms, but the men escape. Maggie and Hunter are on a raft, so they send down a rope for her. The plesiosaur appears again, has learned to dive underwater to put out its flaming mouth and now to overturn Hunter's raft. Its flipper bashes Hunter, but the helicopter sends a flare into the creature's mouth and Hunter is rescued from the water.

Pilot Jack manages to crash the copter again, this time near enough to the ship for all to be rescued immediately. Aboard, Alan and Maggie discuss the possiblity of another expedition next year, but there are coy hints that it would be a honeymoon. But who would stay home with the baby? "Baby?" Maggie: "Why, by this time next year. . . !" The End.

Commentary: Aside from the sickening attempt at romance between two characters who have a much "chemistry" as water and a brick, the film is surprisingly good, at least among its ilk (e.g., Lost Continent, King Dinosaur, etc.). The Rex, though lumbering, is enormous and disturbing. Hunter's psychology is sufficiently intriguing, and he's got a kind of Ahab / Moby Dick thing going on with his nemesis the plesiosaur. And best of all, flammable dinosaur mouths! (See my Dino-Dragon Abstract.)