The headline is a reference to a nearly 10-minute Russian film, 1967's "Mountain of Dinosaurs" ("Gora Dinozavrov"), and its subversive genius.
Switek notes several of the 20th-century contexts in which the term "dinosaur" has been used as "perfect foils for our worries and fears" in the West -- by antiwar protesters as "brutes who drove themselves to extinction by investing too much in their armor and weapons" or by Cold Warriors as hapless victims of a meteorite in the same way that "mutually assured destruction" could rain nuclear annihilation down on us all.
"Mountain of Dinosaurs" director Rasa Strautmane and writer Arkady Snesarev, he says, used the mass extinction some 65 million years ago "in a more specific and culturally subversive way." It is a broadside on the Soviet system's disregard for individual rights, depicting a metaphorical caretaker gone berserk.
There's much to behold in between the film's opening "Many millions of years ago, dinosaurs lived on Earth..." and its closing headscratcher (literally), "Look at this. The dinosaurs are extinct."
It's worth a watch:
If you can't spare the nearly 10 minutes, the climatic climax comes with the weather "worsening with every passing century." Soon, the dinosaur eggs are fighting plummeting temperatures through an "extraordinary quality," their ability to grow thicker shells. It's the only way they can "protect the little creature from the harsh environment." Unfortunately, the adaptation comes at the expense of their charge.
"I must fulfill my duty! I must fulfill my duty!" the egg enjoins as would-be hatchlings are trapped inside the increasingly well-girded walls of calcium carbonate, crying, "I want to see the sun!"
While it espouses one in a multitude of theories about dinosaur extinction, Switek notes that the film isn't a "literal lesson" about dinosaurs.
Instead, Switek says:
"Mountains of Dinosaurs" is among the oldest of 45 animated Soviet-era shorts included in the "Masters of Russian Animation" collection that debuted in 1997. The "Masters" series of four discs was a joint project of Films by Jove and Soyuzmultfilm studios.
-- Andy Heil