“That is a one-of-a-kind specimen.”
Steven Spielberg’s ET: The Extra-terrestrial was, as we all know, the big blockbuster of its day. As is often the case with the big blockbusters, other studios and filmmakers rushed to create their own ET-style knockoffs throughout the early-to-mid 1980s. That’s why we have notable to notorious movies such as Harry and the Hendersons, Mac and Me, and this movie, Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend.
Susan (Sean Young, Blade Runner) and George (William Katt, The Greatest American Hero) are husband and wife scientists studying dinosaur fossils in Africa. On the hunt for a rare fossil, the pair discovers a family of brontosauruses still alive in the wilderness. The infant bronto, nicknamed “Baby” by Susan, gets separated from its parents and bonds with Susan and George. As they try to reunite Baby with mommy and daddy, our heroes are tracked by a sinister big game hunter (Patrick McGoohan, The Prisoner).
Sorry to keep referring to ET, but it’s hard not to, because the movie is blaringly obvious in its attempts to cash in on Spielberg’s success. Sure, the suburban setting is replaced with the jungles of Africa and it’s a dinosaur instead of an alien, but other than that, it mostly sticks to ET‘s playbook. Delight at the slapstick as Baby rummages through the camp. Fight back the tears as Baby bellows with sadness after being separated from its parents. Hug the person next to you as the music swells when George and Susan have to say goodbye to Baby. At least that’s the idea.
William Katt and Sean Young do what they can with the material. She’s the earnest, heartfelt one, and he’s the headstrong, jumps-into-action one. The two are starting to grow apart, and they rediscover their love for one another by taking care of Baby. McGoohan is pure sneering evil as, of course, the sinister white man hunting the dinosaurs. His plot doesn’t quite make sense, though. He only wants one of the three dinosaurs alive, with no hesitation about viciously slaughtering the other two, because, we’re told, a one-of-a-kind specimen is worth more. Does that not make sense to anyone else?
Whatever. You don’t care about those pesky human characters, do you? You want to know all about the dinosaurs. In long shots, they look great. Amazing, even. When Baby and the brontosauruses get a close-up, however, that’s when the effects look a little to much like puppets. Baby’s weird bright green eyes don’t help, making the dino look more alien and less relatable.
This movie has languished in obscurity for some time—it’s not one that gets a lot of late night cable replays. This is because political correctness is nowhere to be found. During their adventures, George and Susan meet a group of superstitious “natives,” complete with National Geographic-style nudity and amazement about everyday objects. A second group of Africans, portrayed as some sort of revolutionary/rebel army, don’t fare any better, coming off as little more than thugs. Additionally, some viewers will not like all this talk about hunting animals for sport and/or profit.
The movie features some decent action beats, including a motorcycle chase, a few helicopter stunts, and some surprisingly bloody gunplay. None of this will replace Indiana Jones in your mind, but it keeps the plot moving along quickly.
Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend stumbles onto Blu-ray courtesy of Mill Creek Entertainment. The visual transfer is solid, making the most of the bright and vivid jungle colors. The 2.0 audio is hurting, forcing me to crank the sound way, way up just to make out what the actors were saying. Extras? Not a one.
You’d think this movie would have figured out the formula. Everybody liked ET, everybody likes dinosaurs, so everybody should like this, right? Sadly, it’s the insistence on following formula that makes the whole thing a chore to get through.