When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth is a 1970 British prehistoric monster film written and directed by Val Guest and starring Victoria Vetri. It was produced by Aida Young. The production company was Hammer Films. The third in Hammer's "Cave Girl" series, preceded by One Million Years B.C. (1966) and Slave Girls (1967), it was followed by Creatures the World Forgot (1971).[5]

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth
U.S. Theatrical release poster
by Tom Chantrell
Directed byVal Guest
Produced byAida Young
Written byVal Guest
Story byJ.G. Ballard
StarringVictoria Vetri
Robin Hawdon
Patrick Allen
Imogen Hassall
Music byMario Nascimbene
CinematographyDick Bush
Edited byPeter Curran
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • 1 October 1970 (1970-10-01) (London premiere)
  • 25 October 1970 (1970-10-25) (United Kingdom)
Running time
100 minutes (UK)
96 minutes (US)
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States[3]
LanguageAboriginal languages


A cliff tribe are about to sacrifice three blonde women. Three priests, wearing dinosaur hides, are about to sacrifice them for their Sun God, but one of the women, Sanna, escapes and jumps off the cliff. She is rescued by Tara and some men on a raft.

Tara takes Sanna to his seaside tribe, who also worship the Sun God. After building a hut for herself, She joins them at a feast and celebration of a successful hunt. A Plesiosaurus attacks the seaside tribe until it is lured to a store of oil and burned to death. The feast continues, and a brunette woman, Ayak, is interested in Tara, but he is too fascinated with Sanna. He brings her food. After a ritual fight between Sanna and Ayak in the water, Sanna's former tribe arrives, looking for her. She flees, and her former tribe gives chase. Hiding in a tree, a large Gigantophis sees her, but attacks and kills one of the men instead. They think that Sanna is in a nearby cave, but a Chasmosaurus makes its lair there, and disembowels one man before injuring another with a deep gash. Vultures, drawn by the carcasses, attack the wounded man. When Tara seeks Sanna, he finds the one man dead and, after the Chasmosaurus charges him. He is chased to a cliff, where he hides on a small ledge as the Chasmosaurus loses its footing and plunges to its death.

A funeral pyre at the shore is followed by a tribal frenzy during which an enraged Ayak burns down Sanna's hut. Sanna meanwhile, running through a rainforest, sees a reptile, and runs before it notices her. She becomes trapped by a carnivorous plant, and cuts off a portion of her hair in order to escape.

Sanna sleeps in a large dinosaur eggshell. The other egg hatches, and the dinosaur (of a nonexistent species of quadrupedal predator — all predatory dinosaurs are bipedal by default) thinks Sanna is its sibling. The parent, thinking Sanna is one of its own, brings her a Megaloceros carcass. Sanna, enamored by the beast, plays hide-and-seek with it, and teaches it to sit. She dives into a nearby lake and catches a fish in her teeth. She returns and finds the mother dinosaur in a fight with two men, but she distracts it so they can escape.

While Tara is hiking back to his tribe after getting a drink of water, he is carried off by a giant Rhamphorhynchus with a thirty-foot wingspan. At its nest, he kills it by ripping its wing, and then knocking it off its nest when it lands. Tara sees Sanna being followed by the dinosaur and assumes she is being chased, but he runs to her and finds she has domesticated it. They reunite at Sanna's cave, where they express their love for one another and have passionate sex.

They are seen by a lookout, however, and when Tara returns to the tribe, he is sacrificed to another Plesiosaurus. Ayak cries as he is set adrift on a burning raft to the animal, held in place by another woman and forced to watch. However, when they are gone, he re-emerges from the water, still alive. Seeing they have left and somehow having evaded the beast, he escapes to Sanna.

The tribe is still searching for Sanna, and see smoke from her fire. The two run away into a forest, where Sanna's dinosaur "parent" rescues her, but as for Tara they prepare to burn him again. Giant fiddler crabs kill a few people as the weather grows ominous again. The Moon seems to be forming, and a tidal wave looms. Sanna arrives to save Tara from one of the giant crabs, and a raft escape begins to take shape. The tribal leader tries commanding the water to heel, and is swept away and (presumably) drowns. While Ayak is running on the sand, she steps into a trap of quicksand and is sucked down to her death. Giant waves hit the shore, but Tara, Sanna, and a few others survive on a raft. As the waters calm, the survivors stop to witness a lunar eclipse, as the Moon exists.




Director Val Guest's screenplay was based on a treatment by J. G. Ballard (author of Empire of the Sun).[6] But like Hammer's other prehistoric films, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth anachronistically portrays the dinosaurs of the Mesozoic era from about 252 to 66 million years ago living alongside Homo sapiens of the late Quaternary period (±200,000 years ago). The film's characters use a language that was specially written for the film, albeit of only a dozen words or so, a frequent one being "neekro", which means "kill", and also "akita" which is heard many times.


Exteriors were shot on Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. Locations included Maspalomas beach, Ansite Mountain, Amurga, and Caldera de Tejeda.

The stop-motion animation creature effects were created by Jim Danforth, assisted by David W. Allen and Roger Dickens.


The film had its world premiere on 1 October 1970 in London with a U.K. general release on 25 October 1970.[7][8] It was released in the United States debuting in San Francisco on 10 February 1971.[9]

Home media

The film was released on DVD as an exclusive from Best Buy with a G-rating but was quickly recalled because it was the original uncut version and contained nudity; it is now a collector's item. An uncut version was released on Blu-ray disc in the United States by Warner bros on 28 February 2017 and DVD on 4 April.[10][11]


Box office

The film was popular at the box office.[12] In the United States the film grossed $1.25 million at the box office.[13]

Award and nominations

The film was nominated for Best Visual Effects at the 44th Academy Awards in 1971. It lost to the Disney film, Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

Homage and tributes

The special effects are considered a benchmark in portraying realistic stop-motion animation. The film is referenced in Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park with a large rectangular banner hanging in the island's visitors' center. It later plays a visibly prominent role in the film's final action sequence.


  1. "When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth". American Film Institute. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  2. Maxford, Howard. "Hammer Complete: The Films, the Personnel, the Company". Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  3. "When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth". American Film Institute. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  4. Bruce G. Hallenbeck, British Cult Cinema: Hammer Fantasy and Sci-Fi, Hemlock Books 2011 p204
  5. McKay, Sinclair (2007). A Thing of Unspeakable Horror: The History of Hammer Films. p. 105.
  6. https://www.bfi.org.uk/films-tv-people/4ce2b6ba8b46a
  7. "When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth". American Film Institute. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  8. Maxford, Howard. "Hammer Complete: The Films, the Personnel, the Company". Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  9. Maxford, Howard. "Hammer Complete: The Films, the Personnel, the Company". Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  10. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth | Blu-ray | United States | Warner Archive Collection Warner Bros. | 1970 | 100 min | Not rated | Feb 28, 2017
  11. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth | DVD | United States | Warner Archive Collection Warner Bros. | 1970 | 100 min | Rated G | Apr 04, 2017
  12. Marcus Hearn, The Hammer Vault, Titan Books, 2011 p111
  13. Maxford, Howard. "Hammer Complete: The Films, the Personnel, the Company". Retrieved 6 September 2019.
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