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ggreig: (Western gentleman)

God help us! The Iguanodon's loose!

A tranquil street scene – just before the populace become aware that an Iguanodon has escaped from the Zoological Gardens.

There’s a Highland company called Antediluvian Miniatures that have started producing proper miniatures of dinosaurs, taking into account the very latest scientific thinking – of the 1850s. As yet their range is small, but includes the two most iconic early representations of dinosaurs: the Crystal Palace Iguanodon and Megalosaurus! (Also, not included in this post, but I have to mention them – three intrepid adventurer figures including Shug McClure, Raquel Scotch and the finest of all: Professor Peter Cushion, adjusting his monocle and preparing to fend SOMETHING off with a furled umbrella.)

I should also mention that Antediluvian Miniatures have a very cool t-shirt, featuring their mascot Professor Buckland.

The real Crystal Palace IguanodonsThere’s a good chance you’re aware of the Crystal Palace dinosaurs, if not, then Wikipedia and other places are your friend.

The Iguanodon figure isn’t a perfect replica of either of the ones at Crystal Palace, but it’s more like the one standing upright.

The Crystal Palace dinosaurs are often given as an example of how scientists of an older generation got things hilariously wrong, especially the Iguanodon with the horn on its nose (now known to have been a thumb-spike), but the Iguanodons actually show a greater humility from Sir Richard Owen than our caricature allows. The two Iguanodons are different, with the one that Antediluvian have taken as their inspiration standing upright, while the other one is more lizard-like, and lounges on the ground with one paw up on a tree-trunk. There was doubt even at the time that these reconstructions were correct – they were just the latest theory.

When painting these two I tried to get something in between the look of the statues and something that could be a real beast, so the Iguanodon is a bit more vibrant than one of my paint jobs would usually be, making the faded shade of the statue look more lively. That’s the current colour of the statue, of course, as that's what I could find in photos; the colour they’re painted has changed over time as well as our theories of what the beasts were actually like.

Iguanodon wandering the Zoological Gardens

I defy you to spot the joins – both the Iguanodon and the Megalosaurus come with separate legs. I did apply a bit of Milliput as filler, but the fit of the moulded parts was really good, to a level that I know must be difficult for figure designers to achieve, judging by the frequency with which they don’t attain it. I was really impressed with these models. The Iguanodon is resin with metal legs, while the Megalosaurus is all resin.

Iguanodon figure inspired by Crystal Palace - right sideIguanodon figure inspired by Crystal Palace - left side

Rather annoyingly, there’s a mould-line that shows up in these photos of the Megalosaurus that’s actually hard to pick up with the naked eye under most conditions. The light in these photos hit it just right – or wrong. It’s also intended to look like a potentially living version of the real statue. The Megalosaurus also comes with scale replicas of the original fossils (not included in these pictures, and not yet painted, though I have some other scale fossils for them to go with).

Megalosaurus figure inspired by Crystal Palace - right sideMegalosaurus figure inspired by Crystal Palace - left side

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Atop the Lephinkill Chambered CairnA few hundred yards across and about 300 feet up from where I grew up there’s a chambered cairn. Despite having run around in the woods surrounding it rather a lot, and knowing that there was archaeology up there to be found, somehow I never came across it.

I was back home visiting my Mum and sister recently, and happened to come across a map that showed there’s now a marked route to the cairn that didn’t exist when I was wee. Checking there was enough time before dark, my sister and I set out to go up and have a look.

There wasn’t a path, as such, but the way was clearly marked by yellow circles attached to trees along the way. The natural woods just above the village are birch, before giving way to forestry land. Much of the hill is covered in mature conifers, but the cairn is in a clear-felled belt starting just above the birch woods; so much easier to spot from a distance than when I was wee!

I say the birch woods are natural, but given how close they are to the village it’s likely they were managed and coppiced at one time; certainly there are overgrown drystane dykes that suggest the land was once more intensively used. If they were maintained though, it’s long enough ago that it’s not obvious now. Interestingly, birch is generally used for its wood in the UK; there doesn’t seem to be any tradition of the birch syrup that’s made elsewhere birch is common. Having tried Alaskan birch syrup, I can recommend giving it a try; it’s similar to maple syrup, but with a more complex flavour. See the Wikipedia page for other people trying to describe it.

I was peching my way up the hill a bit but was pleasantly surprised my sister (the outdoor instructor) thought I was making good headway. I’m pretty inactive generally, but used to make good speed uphill – a combination of long legs and a knack of not really breaking my stride for inclines when others slow down.

The cairn itself was kind of interesting – not on a world-class prehistoric monument sort-of-a scale, but just because it was plainly something, but difficult for a lay-person to interpret.

Approaching the Chambered Cairn

There’s an obvious mound, as you can see in the approach photo. Once you get closer, there’s obviously structure to it too; but it’s less obvious what the structure is. There are a number of stone-lined pits and what might be walls, but those descriptions make them sound very clear and understandable. This is what the pits looked like:

A stone-lined pitAnother stone-lined pit

In other places, gaps between the stones led into small voids:

Void, with spider guardianInto the Void

It was both interesting to look at, and frustrating because I didn’t really know how to interpret what I was seeing. Are the pits chambers, or cists? Did they have roofs? Were they originally buried? Were they always open (probably not)? Are the bits that are still covered chambers? Is the bit with what might be remnants of a wall a forecourt (probably)? Was the largish white quartz boulder of any particular significance? Well, I dunno.

There are some archaeological notes online, which I didn’t have at the time, and which don’t tally particularly closely with my memory of the site, although the general layout in the description matches. Perhaps if I’d had them with me I would have been able to tie things up better.

On the way back down, we went through the part of the birch woods we spent most time playing in over thirty years ago, and found the last remnants of our aerial runway – a very thin and fragile-looking piece of rope still wrapped around a tree branch, very much the worse for its decades of exposure. On the way back into the Clachan we harvested some brambles.

BramblesBrambles

In some ways, the cairn remains a bit of a mystery, but it’s good to at least have seen it after all these years.

Dino 101

Jan. 19th, 2014 05:09 pm
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

dinologoLast week I got my certificate for completing Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology, from the University of Alberta. Like most people, the idea of dinosaurs gripped me when I was wee. I decided before getting to primary school that I wanted to be a palæontologist, and could bamboozle senior relatives with the word. (Or they were playing up to me. I couldn’t tell at the time and prefer the first version now!)

Time went by, and when I got to secondary school, I suddenly twigged that if I wanted to become a palæontologist, I'd probably have to do Biology, and that would mean cutting things up. A combination of squeamishness and conscience meant I really didn’t want to do that, so I gave up on my dream of palæontology and switched to wanting to work in electronics (also not right for me, but it took more years and a degree to reach that conclusion).

Last summer, a story on the BBC web site alerted me to Dino 101, a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) starting in September, and I signed up.

Having been casually interested in dinosaurs for many years, I already knew quite a lot of material that the course covered – it is introductory, after all – but I also learned things. In the very first lesson, I learned what gastralia are, a detail of dinosaur (and crocodile) anatomy that despite all my interest had utterly passed me by.

Internal artwork from 'Dinosaurs - Hunter and Hunted', a primary school projectThe course is nominally a video lecture a week, over twelve weeks, with a five question quiz after the lecture.  There are also lecture notes that are worth reading as there’s some material in them that may not be covered in the lectures. You can go at your own pace, however, so some people had finished the course within a day or so of it being opened up. I took it at a lecture a week at first, but picked up pace so that I rattled through the latter part of the course and finished in early October.

The lecture titles were: Appearance and Anatomy; Eating; Moving Around; Birth, Growth and Reproduction; Attack and Defense; Death and Fossilization; What is a Species?; Evolution; Stratigraphy and Geologic Time; Paleography and Plate Tectonics; Dinosaur Origins; and Dinosaur Extinction.

The only one that I felt was not entirely successful was the lecture covering Stratigraphy and Geologic Time. It was more or less a recital of geological time periods with a small amount of detail about what characterised each one before moving on to the next. It’s difficult to think of a different way of doing this, but it didn’t make for the most thrilling or memorable of lectures. Having said that, it did hold my attention a little more than the same subject does in writing, so maybe with repeated viewing some of it will stick.

And repeated viewing is an option! Although you can watch the lectures online and get the benefit of some interactive bits, you also have the option of downloading them for offline viewing, and I did both. The lectures are presented by Betsy Kruk, a research student, rather than the nominal course-giver, Philip J. Currie. This is kind of a TV approach to lecturing, which I have mixed feelings about, ultimately but it probably was a good idea. Though Professor Currie is a recognised authority you may have seen on other programmes and a good speaker, Betsy’s better at projecting her enthusiasm on camera and, having been in quite a number of dry lectures over the years on other topics, that really does help.

The Early World;  jotter cover from a 1978 primary school project (age 10)The interactive bits are a bit of fun. Most are quick quiz questions (What do you think is right? A, B, C or D?) before giving the right answer, but there are also a few puzzles (reconstruct this dinosaur skeleton;lay out this phylogenetic tree of the families of dinosauria) and a fossil cabinet. The fossil cabinet is treated as though it were a highlight of the course, and makes appearances throughout, with new fossils added each time, but I’m afraid it is a bit disappointing. The fossils, which you can turn around and look at closely, are low resolution 3D models, with no texture-mapping – so they look like poor plastic mouldings. If they were high definition, with use made of colour to show their real appearance (possibly with false colour layers to highlight points of interest) then this could really be a highlight. Unfortunately, as it stands, although it holds some interest, a highlight it is not.

As far as qualifications go, honestly, I can’t take any real pride in my 100% record on the course, as there’s a chance to retake each quiz and I would have dropped a few questions without that option. I paid $69 to have my identity confirmed while taking the quizzes (by photograph and recognising my typing pattern while entering a declaration), but that was pretty much for vanity – I wanted some proof I’d done the course, in the form of my certificate, but wasn’t pursuing it as a genuine qualification.

If I’d wanted genuine course credits for it, I could have paid a bit more in the way of tuition fees ($263) and taken two proctored exams. The exams would have been a bit more challenging and traditional, as they’re overseen by an individual who can view your screen and see you through a web cam, so there’s no cheating. Although I didn’t take part in that, it was interesting to read how technology was being used to enable remote exams.

I would recommend repeats of this course for those with an interest, although it might be a bit simple for those who are already well informed on this subject. You can sign up here. The first repeat started on 6th January, and you might be able to join it.

I enjoyed my first MOOC, and would do another, though with limited free time I’ll have to be a bit careful what I sign up for.A more recent effort; a Natural History Museum Liopleuridon, painted in Walking with Dinosaurs colours

ggreig: (Bah Humbug)

Walking With Dinosaurs movie poster

I went to see this today, because Walking With Dinosaurs. It is both good and awful.

The awful comes first, because it really is important that you know about it before considering watching this movie (I did and took my chances).

Like many wildlife films, Walking With Dinosaurs sets up some of the animals as characters to follow through the movie. The awful bit is, it gives them voices. Actually no, the really awful bit is that the script for those voices is straight out of a bad Saturday morning cartoon. There are two American kid brothers growing up (pachyrhinosaurs). One is stronger but a bit less bright than the other – the underdog’s the hero of course – and there’s a girl pachyrhinosaurus who becomes a love interest. Then there’s a wise-cracking Mexican bird (John Leguizamo – perhaps he’s fed up with being a sloth). There’s no attempt to lip-synch the dialogue – although actually this might be a good point, as I’ll explain below – so there’s a further alienating disconnect between what you’re seeing on screen and what you’re hearing.

Maybe all this will draw in a big junior audience; but I wouldn’t bet on it. I’ve been to some fairly sparsely attended cinema showings, but I don’t think I’ve ever had Cinema 1 at the NPH to myself before (at least the circle – I can’t swear to the stalls being empty but it was awfully quiet). On a Saturday evening just before Christmas. Maybe it clashed with a lot of Christmas parties?

Someone else's picture of the interior of the NPH, taken from the circle. There were fewer people there tonight than there are in this photo.

So what are the good bits? The visuals, as you would expect from the Walking With Dinosaurs brand, are really good. Without the physical models that distinguished the earliest Walking With Dinosaurs output, you’re often aware you’re watching CGI, but it’s still pretty good. There are a few places where it’s played for laughs visually, but these are generally not too intrusive. The most gratuitous example is our hero suffering a terrible indignity under the tail of a much larger adult. Other examples are along the lines of dinosaurs slipping on ice and aren’t too overstated. I rather suspect the facial expressions are a bit anthropomorphised, but again it doesn’t seem too heavy-handed.

Given what I said above about the awful script for this movie, it may come as a surprise that I think it actually tells a powerful and effective story. Visually, considering they’re clearly targeting a young audience and have complete control over what happens, few punches are pulled. While it’s not totally nature red in tooth and claw, animals die in this movie when they’re attacked by carnivores, including some we care about. The terrible dialogue detracts from the impact of the scenes, which is perhaps to some extent what it’s supposed to do.

This could actually be a good and quite moving movie, if it had a completely different soundtrack. If you’re an adult, wait until it’s available cheap on DVD, and play it on mute. The lack of lip-synch will help here, as it's not obvious the animals are talking. It would be great if someone could create an alternative score to accompany it.

In the category of “noteworthy, but why?” bits:

  1. The story’s book-ended by scenes with some kids and a palaeontologist played by Karl Urban (Éomer in LOTR, Judge Dredd, and Dr. McCoy in the rebooted Star Trek). He’s totally wasted in this role and I don’t know why they spent money on getting a decent actor for a few insignificant scenes when they don’t even use him in any way to promote the film.
  2. A herd of migrating Edmontosaurus are accompanied by Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk. Er? OK, it’s a nice track and I guess it’s for the rhythm, but the first thing it made me think was, ah, these must be Iguanodon (because of the thumb spike).
  3. New dinosaurs were introduced by a brief freeze and text labelling as to what they were. Perfectly fine in a documentary, weird in a film. Given it probably did have to be there, I think I would rather have had more information.
  4. The 3D is nice but not compelling most of the time; they succumb to gimmickry at one particular point that was effective enough to make me jump, but it’s not part of the main body of the movie. I feel as though I should be a bit offended by that, but ho-hum. Other stuff offended me more – see above!
ggreig: (Default)

I’ve been on holiday this week, and it’s been a chance to tinker with stuff that I struggle to make time for at the weekends. One of those things is a peg sculpture of a Neanderthal head (pegs à la forensic reconstruction, that is). I found it being remaindered in a toy shop last year when I was looking for a present for my godson.  I figured it was a bit old for him, but something that I would love to play with… (He did get something else, don’t worry!)

I had a choice between this and a gorilla, and according to the advertising material inside there were also a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Julius Caesar and a horse in the range, but I think this is the one I would have chosen anyway – the T-Rex obviously wouldn’t have been 1:1 scale, and a Neanderthal beats old Julius for interest any day.

There were some reasonably detailed instructions inside the kit for reconstructing the Neanderthal’s face, but one vital piece of information was missing – what is this stuff you’ve given me to build the face with, and is it going to set? It was referred to in some places as “clay”, and on the packets as “modelling material”, and it looked a lot like Plasticine.

Without a very definite idea of how the “modelling material” was going to behave, I wanted to have enough slack available to be able to just keep going if time proved to be an issue, so it became top of the list of things to do this week.

Here’s what I started off with; a skull (cream) with some moulded muscle (yellow) and fat (white) on top. Not quite sure why the fat was there, as ultimately it didn’t contribute much to the shape of the face, but I guess I was being informed as well as entertained:

The moulded skull, with muscle and fat attached.

The first thing to do was to cut the red pegs off their sprue and insert them into their matching numbered holes.

Moulded skull with depth pegs now attached

Then the first of the “modelling material” was applied, to bulk up the cheeks. The “modelling material” turned out to behave awfully like Plasticine, as well as looking like it, and I think from now on we’ll assume that that’s what it is. Here the aim was to build the cheeks up until only the small pips on the end of each peg were still visible – the little dots you can see in the picture. I moved to paper towels here as I realised the newsprint was leaving marks on the back of the skull:

Building up depth in the cheek

Next, apply eyes and former for nose, and suffer accusing glare. Eyes and nose were cast in white plastic, with water-slide transfers for iris and pupils:

Nose former and eyes applied

Roll out a sheet of Plasticine to 3mm (roller and depth-graded tray provided) and apply from brow to back of skull:

Skin attached over top of head

Do likewise with a couple more sheets to cover the sides of the skull:

Skin attached to sides of head

Then apply another sheet from the bridge of the nose down to the chin, and form tightly around the mouth and nose:

Neanderthal 021

Apply another sheet from just below each eye down to under the jaw line. This builds up the cheek, and gives it a nice smooth surface, unlike the slightly rough surface built up by hand before:

Skin applied over mouth and nose

Apply eyelids. Ned now looks bored rather than accusatory. This stage was a bit tricky, and the waterslide transfers suffered a bit here, although not enough to be a disaster:

Eyelids applied

Build up the nostrils (compare with previous picture):

Nostrils built up

Form the lips and filtrum (groove beneath the nose):

Mouth built up

Build ears around white plastic formers, remove the place-holder pegs that have been in their place up until now, and stick on head. The ears I made are pretty rubbish and I have a whole newfound respect for anyone who can get ears right, whether drawn or sculpted. The ear doesn’t look too bad in this photo, but I could easily have picked a less flattering angle:

Ears applied

Add final detail to the face; lines around mouth and nose and under the eyes, and dots for pores/bristles. Apparently there was a hair pack for the Neanderthal sold separately, but I couldn’t locate one to buy and decided to go ahead without it. Having found a picture online, I think perhaps I wasn’t missing much:

Final detailing; lines and pores

I lent him my glasses for this picture, to counter Neanderthals’ image of being lacking in intellect. This Neanderthal looks down his nose at me because I neither know nor care what the semiotic thickness of a performed text is.

"Tell me, what do you think of the assertion that the semiotic thickness of a performed text varies according to the redundancy of auxiliary performance codes?" 

So now I have a creepy Neanderthal head to keep about the house and gather dust. Every home should have one! It’s a shame that it does appear to be Plasticine and therefore not as permanent as it might be; so at some point in the future I suspect it will be reduced to its component parts and/or discarded. However, for now, it’s kind of satisfying to have the result of a (very long!) day’s work to look back on.

ggreig: (Ribart's Elephant)

The Bell Pettigrew Museum of Natural History, which I visited and reviewed a few years ago, will be open on Saturday and is well worth a visit. Forward notice courtesy of Event: St Andrews, which is collated on a voluntary basis by [livejournal.com profile] flybynightpress (and which has an RSS feed).

ggreig: (Astronaut)

For the past couple of weeks, the Silurians have been appearing in their first new televised story since 1984, but I’ve been rather dissatisfied, and I’ve worked out what it is that bothers me most.

It’s not the story, which I thought was OK if not stellar. It’s not the acting, which was fine. No, it’s that they’ve changed from bipedal reptile-men into Star Trek actors with knobbly foreheads.

An old school Silurian A Sea Devil A new Silurian

Let me just say again, it’s not the acting that bothers me. Nor is it the quality of the prosthetic makeup, which is clearly pretty good. I don’t mind them looking different from the ones we’ve seen before; the difference between old school Silurians and Sea Devils doesn’t phase me, and I can accept the 1980s costumes even if I think the 1970s ones were actually better.

One of the things I’ve always valued about Doctor Who, though, is its courage in showing us protagonists who are different, even when the budget or technology may not have been there to entirely carry it off. True, that has given us the cliché of the man in the rubber suit, and other supposedly laughable creations such as the ball of frozen Swarfega that is the Rutan in Horror of Fang Rock. But I’m fond of them, and not just patronisingly because they’re amusing or camp. I like them because they’re imaginative, and I excuse their limitations because I value their imaginativeness more highly.

I understand why the decision was made to show more of the actors’ faces; because it’s easier for the actor to convey emotion, because this type of prosthetic is well understood and generally pretty successful, and because the audience will therefore more easily accept the character as real. It’s also more attractive to actors whose face will be visible, both because it’s nice to be seen and because  of the scope for facially expressed emotion. If you want to attract a good actor, why make it hard for yourself?

I still think it was a mistake, and I think it was a mistake particularly in the case of the Silurians. The Silurians are unique in that they’re not aliens from another planet. They’re another intelligent race sleeping under our feet, and they were here first. Because of that, part of their very strength is not how like us they are – but how different. The more they look like scaly humans, the less effective they are in shocking us out of our preconceptions about life on earth.

I understand the fear the producers must have of choosing a rubber-suit monster and having it go wrong; but I remember the first time I saw a werewolf in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “Good grief, why are we so apologetic about Doctor Who?”, I thought. It did Buffy no harm. It’s great when effects or costumes really work, but more than half the battle is giving the audience something they want to believe. Let’s have a bit of imagination.

ggreig: (Robot Maria)

Lifted from [livejournal.com profile] huskyteer, the 15 Books meme. List "15 books you've read that will always stick with you"; not necessarily the best, just the ones that stick with you, and you only have 15 minutes. There doesn't seem to be a requirement for an explanation, but I've given one anyway. (I wrote my list first, then the explanations, so not breaking the time stipulation!)

Don't break the spine! Open carefully... )

La Brea

May. 25th, 2009 11:02 pm
ggreig: (Simpsons)

Having failed to visit the creationist dinosaur museum at Cabazon, it was time to come a bit more up to date in a couple of ways; by visiting a more reputable scientific establishment, to see more recently extinct beasties.

Into the pit )
ggreig: (Simpsons)

Our second tourist trip in California was a bit less clichéd than Disneyland: the place where the Mojave Desert and Colorado Desert meet, in Joshua Tree National Park.

Long, and photo-heavy )
ggreig: (Saint George)

A Victorian Natural History Collection

Sep 15, 2006 by
photo Gavin T.D. Greig
Kingsbarns
The Bell Pettigrew Museum of Natural History

★★★★☆

Today I visited the Bell Pettigrew Museum of Natural History for the first time, and jolly interesting it was too.

Dissection... )

0.3

This hReview brought to you by the hReview Creator.

ggreig: (Portrait)
Up until a few months ago, there was an interesting range of 25mm dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts produced by a company called DZ Historical Miniatures. As far as dinosaurs were concerned, they went for the larger and less obvious choices - for example, a gigantic Liopleuridon emerging from the water (strictly speaking, a pliosaur rather than a dinosaur), the Spinosaurus, a couple of Iguanadons and a Baryonyx. At the other end of the scale there was a pack of a dozen or so tiny Dimorphodon. They also produced some prehistoric mammals, including cave bears, mammoths, coelodonta (woolly rhinoceros) and arsinoitherium, among others. They also had some modern animals, including officially the best tiger figure ever (because I say so).

Rather frustratingly, they disappeared from the North Star web site just as I was about to start buying the prehistoric ranges. I've made some inquiries since they disappeared, and it seems that the moulds now belong to the editor of Wargames Illustrated.

I've written to him requesting that the figures be re-released, but one letter isn't likely to make much difference. If you have an interest in this sort of figure, especially if you might actually buy, please consider writing a polite letter asking for the ranges to be brought back on the market.

In the meantime, if you want dinosaur figures, the best place to look is The Honourable Lead Boiler Suit Company. I can't say enough nice things about HLBS, their customer service is great.

A Good Day

Sep. 21st, 2004 07:10 pm
ggreig: (Technical Support)
We've been accepted on to an early adopter programme for Visual Studio 2005, which translates into extra support and training for using beta development software in return for the usual sort of feedback, making a release on the same sort of timescale as VS2005, and being prepared to be a case study if called upon. As VS2005 offers us a number of improvements that we want to take advantage of, that sounded pretty good to us. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] scottymcleod for the information that led us to apply.

I've just listened to the First Fit of the Tertiary Phase of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy on Radio 4 (via terrestrial digital TV), and it wasn't too bad. The characterisation of the sentient mattress was particularly enjoyable.

I have the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD to watch (well, original-ish, but I'm not the type to quibble over the differences), and a box of dinosaurs arrived from my sister. Apparently when ordering she mentioned that they were intended as a gift and the suppliers chucked in some extras. I don't want to expose them to exploitation by name-checking them, but let's just say that a company with a diving-suit logo are pretty decent guys! Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] kateaw and [livejournal.com profile] tobyaw for helpfully accepting delivery when I was inconvenienced.

I also have a fine new mug for work, courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] qidane, and a new icon courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem.
ggreig: (Three)
If One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing! was being made now, it would feature Jackie Chan instead of Peter Ustinov, and it wouldn't be as funny. Not because a large number of suspiciously Caucasian Chinese are particularly amusing, but because it may have been the last gasp of the uncynical comedy set in the days of empire and servants (just after the First World War).

I was a bit surprised to find that the film was made in 1975, as I had always thought it might have been up to ten years older. In 1975, the U.K. was on the brink of change. Punk had a foot in the door and a gob up the hallway, and Thatcher's children were only a few years from being born.

So Disney's One Of Our Dinosaurs is Missing! was probably looking dated even as a period comedy at the time it was made. Still, several of the most successful comedies are pastiches of the past, Dad's Army and Blackadder being the obvious examples.

I sat happily through this movie in one sitting, a courtesy that not all my purchases have been receiving recently, but comedies do have the advantage. This one is fast moving and doesn't really put a foot wrong. The heroines are nannies, taking on the martial artists of a mysterious Chinese organisation seeking to retrieve a secret formula. Derek Nimmo makes a very good ineffectual spy (explained by the movie's final twist), who has hidden the secret formula on the skeleton of a dinosaur in the Natural History Museum. Only the nannies can save the day by retrieving it, and in the process the whole dinosaur gets stolen and driven around the streets in a Sentinel steam lorry.

There is quite a number of big (British) names in this movie, but it's their characters that you see on screen, which is always a desirable thing! I was so engrossed that I completely failed to identify Jon Pertwee on first watching, even though I'd noticed his name in the credits and he gets several minutes on screen.

I'm afraid I have to report a serious temporal inaccuracy, as Nanny Hettie (Helen Hayes) reassures Nanny Emily (Joan Sims) that if the skeleton falls on them they'll be the first people killed by a dinosaur in two million years. Surely everyone knows that while homo sapiens might have been wandering around then, the dinosaurs died out 63 million years before that? I fear for the education of their children!

Scientific inaccuracies aside, this movie comfortably lives up to my youthful memories of it and I defy you not to watch with at least a smile on your face.

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