Thursday, January 10, 2013

Movie Review: RAPTOR

RAPTOR

2001, New Concorde, HF/S, $49.98, VHS
#NH20773D, DD-2.0/S/ST/+, $19.98, DVD-1, 81m 31s

By John Charles
Originally published in Video Watchdog #87

After three instalments, Roger Corman put the CARNOSAUR franchise out to pasture but the prospect of cashing in on the release of JURASSIC PARK III (reviewed VW 84:55) was apparently too much for him to pass up. Endeavoring to create a new feature as cheaply as possible, he enlisted Jim Wynorski to shoot some new footage that could be mixed together with FX sequences from the CARNOSAUR series. RAPTOR opens with familiar footage from part 1 showing some beer guzzling teens being torn apart by a rampaging baby T-Rex. Local sheriff Jim Tanner (Eric Roberts) teams up with animal control department rep Barbara Phillips (Wynorski regular Melissa Brasselle as the only employee in her field who can afford to live in a $1 million house) to investigate, eventually learning that the creature is a by-product of secret research. The reptiles were originally created for a discontinued military project called "Jurassic Storm" but, when funding collapsed, Dr. Hyde (Corbin Bernsen) was ordered to pull the plug. He, instead, got funding from a foreign source and continued on, so the government dispatches two different assault teams (wearing different uniforms, so that they match their counterparts in the first two sequels) to put and end to him and his vicious creations.

Even as DTV fodder, this is one of the most cynically assembled releases in years, with continuity so ramshackle, even casual viewers with no interest in the technical aspects of cinema will be taken aback. People exit Wynorski's footage and then, not only change physique and hairstyle, but sometimes even sport different wardrobe! As CARNOSAUR 3: PRIMAL SPECIES took place on a boat, the underground corridors of Hyde's facility are festooned with life preservers (!) and, thanks to the use of multiple buildings, the layout of his complex seems to change from scene-to-scene. Equally amusing are bits shot on the Concorde backlot, which features the only town in history to be constructed without sidewalks or, even, curbs (a fire hydrant and a telephone booth sit in the middle of the road). Wynorski did re-hire Frank Novack and Harrison Page from the first film, so that new lead-ins could be shot for their old death scenes, but Novack's appearance has changed so much in the ensuing years, even a blindman would sense that something was not kosher here. As a further cost saving measure, the score is lifted entirely from the soundtracks for the original HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP and BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (James Horner must rue the day he signed away his rights to this music, as New Concorde can and did list him as this movie's composer in the opening credits), along with the ever-popular "exploding truck shot" from the former movie now making its 537th appearance in a Corman release. All post-production has been performed on video, with the cheesy speed manipulation of some shots and video burned credits dead giveaways. Roberts does professional work but the remainder of the cast is wildly uneven (with his penchant for hamming and inability to turn down any offer, Bernsen seems to be patterning this stage of his career on John Carradine) and the writers are more concerned with cooking up ways of having the actors stumble into situations where they can interact with the pre-existing footage than giving them anything intelligent to say. In short, RAPTOR does not even cut it as a 99 cent rental but the DVD version ends up being surprisingly enjoyable (see below).


The tape and disc releases both feature the same fullscreen transfer. With the mixing of footage from so many sources, the image was destined to be inconsistent but the look is not always uniform even in the new footage. The picture is always a little soft but colors are usually strong; the stereo mix is barebones and strictly functional. Extras consist of trailers for RAPTOR and the three CARNOSAURs, plus some useless bios. The main supplement (and the saving grace of this entire release) is a commentary featuring Wynorski and Brasselle. On the tracks he has done for some other films, Wynorski (who cameos as a man waiting in the police station) openly points out stock material but he remains mum here and only refers to himself as "Jay Andrews" (a pseudonym originally created to hide just how prolific Wynorski is but now appears on so many features each year, you have to wonder why he is still using it). As usual, however, he is completely forthright about the quality of the movie and does a far better job destroying it than the MST3K gang ever could have. Relaxing with a six-pack of Corona ("How can you not watch these movies and drink a little beer?"), Wynorski points out all of the pseudonyms in the credits, identifies cameos by two of Corman's sons, and rattles off the very long list of genre cliches to be found here ("Never go down in the laser pen if you are quitting a dinosaur cloning factory because something bad will undoubtedly happen"). Brasselle, meanwhile, takes a few playful shots at the production but mostly has fun sniping at Wynorski himself ("Roger Corman always pays his residuals, which is more than I can say for your companies!"). While not quite as rambunctious or amusing as some of Wynorski's commentaries, this is a very entertaining track and really the only way this cut and paste monstrosity should ever be watched. The DVD includes optional Spanish subtitles and a VHS version with subtitles in that language is also available for $49.98.

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