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Today we look at a film that I’m pretty sure most of you haven’t even heard of before! It’s not well-known (and maybe for a particularly good reason too), but there’s always a sense of joy in watching and reviewing these lesser-known films! Without further ado, let’s dive into the comedic family picture from Disney, One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The movie begins with an old British man telling us a story via flashback about when he was a young man. In the flashback, we see the young man, Lord Southmere, played by Derek Nimmo, being chased across China for having committed a theft! What has Lord Southmere stolen? He’s stolen a microfilm that has imprinted on it the secret “Lotus X”. What is Lotus X exactly? We don’t know, but we can assume from what’s going on that it’s some sort of great Chinese military secret and that Lord Southmere is a British spy who has been sent to steal it.
Fortunately for Lord Southmere, he makes it back to England without getting caught by the Chinese authorities. Unfortunately for him, the Chinese have a special division of Chinese spies in England whom they order to go after Lord Southmere and retrieve the Lotus X microfilm from him.
Lord Southmere and these Chinese spies bump into each other at the Natural History Museum. This leads to a quick chase scene throughout the museum which results in Lord Southmere surreptitiously hiding the microfilm on a dinosaur skeleton in one of the museum exhibits. While at the museum, he suffers a fall of some sorts and bumps into an old nanny named Hettie, played by Helen Hayes. Before he goes completely unconscious, he confides in Hettie that he’s stolen this Lotus X and placed it on the dinosaur skeleton and that she should get it before the others (i.e. the Chinese) do.
But, it’s not long before the Chinese catch up with (the now unconscious) Lord Southmere and take him back to their secret hideout, a Chinese restaurant.
In the depths of the restaurant is a small dungeon where Lord Southmere is kept and interrogated by the spies there. The leader of the spies is Hnup Wan, played by Peter Ustinov.
Yeah, so let’s talk about the big elephant in the room. I said that this film isn’t really well-known today and probably for a good reason. The good reason is the racist aspect of the film: white actors playing Chinese characters. Yep, it’s one of the older films where you have white actors playing Chinese characters complete with makeup to make their eyes look “Chinese-ish” and a broken way of talking to make them sound more “Oriental-like”.
I know many people (especially in this day and age) will find this aspect of the film to be offensive, and I can’t say that I wasn’t uncomfortable watching them either. But, after a while, I tried to forget that aspect of the film and just disassociate Peter Ustinov from his Chinese character so I could focus on his performance only. Also, to give them credit, the Chinese spies themselves make fun of/point out injustices that the British have done to them.
So if you’re able to overlook this aspect of the film like I did, cool! If not, I totally understand. All I wanted to do was point out this aspect of the film so you can decide for yourself whether you’d approach this film or not.
Anyway, let’s get back to the story. Hettie has taken Lord Southmere’s instructions to mean that this Lotus X fiasco is a matter of extreme national security! So she rounds up a battalion of fellow nannies and together, they secretly enter into the museum after hours and start searching the dinosaur skeleton from top to bottom. (Lord Southmere didn’t have time to tell Hettie where exactly on the skeleton he hid the microfilm, so the nannies have to do this the hard way!)
Sadly, the nannies can’t find anything and head back home. Well, Hettie, Emily, played by Joan Sims, and a younger nanny, Susan, played by Natasha Pyne, decide to stay a bit longer and look some more. But, they’re soon discovered by one of Hnup Wan’s henchmen, Quon, played by Clive Revill.
Hnup Wan had known that Lord Southmere had confided to a nanny before they caught him, so he sent Quon and a few other men to the museum that night in case the nanny would show up. Quon takes the three nannies back to their secret hideout where the nannies meet the enemies that they’re fighting against. Hnup Wan locks them up in hopes that they will soon divulge where on the skeleton, the Lotus X is. But, our nannies manage to escape before that happens.
When the Chinese find out that the nannies have escaped, Hnup Wan decides that he and his men must steal the dinosaur skeleton so that they can examine it properly. Later that night, they enter the museum under false pretenses and load the dinosaur skeleton up on a lorry. Unfortunately, for them, the three nannies have also been keeping an eye on the museum and were watching the Chinese load up the skeleton. So when the Chinese aren’t looking, the nannies hijack the truck and drive off with the skeleton.
The Chinese try to go after the lorry, but they’re unable to catch up with them. The next day, the museum people discover that the skeleton is missing and contact the authorities. The investigation is then led by Superintendent Grubbs, played by the always enjoyable Roy Kinnear.
Meanwhile, the nannies have driven far enough to hide the skeleton in a forest and inspect it. But, they still can’t seem to find the microfilm. The Chinese, on the other hand, have since stumbled upon a shocking truth: there is more than one dinosaur skeleton at the museum!
Yep, apparently, everyone’s been focusing on the WRONG dinosaur skeleton the whole time! That’s why nobody could find the blasted microfilm! When Hnup Wan realizes this, he sneaks into the museum again and finds the microfilm on one of the other dinosaur skeletons there! The nannies soon find out about this and a big fight scene occurs at the restaurant between the nannies and the Chinese spies!
In the end, Superintendent Grubbs gets ahold of the stolen dinosaur skeleton, Lord Southmere is rescued from his incarceration, and the Lotus X is back in his hands! We finally get to see what the Lotus X is and it’s…a recipe for wonton soup.
Yep, apparently, Lord Southmere was never a spy (something he kept saying over and over throughout the film, but we didn’t believe it). He was a businessman who wanted to get ahold of this amazing recipe so that he could manufacture his own line of wonton soups!
The movie ends back in present-day with the old Lord Southmere concluding his story about how he went into the wonton soup business and got Hnup Wan (whom he befriended) to help him sell and promote the goods.
And that was One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing and it’s…ok. The acting is overall good with actors such as Peter Ustinov, Helen Hayes, and Roy Kinnear giving wonderful performances. I wasn’t too fond of Derek Nimmo’s performance though as I felt it was a bit too flat and laid-back even for the character that he was playing.
The scenes with the dinosaur skeleton are fun to watch and were filmed well. The comedic aspect of the film was sometimes good and sometimes stupid. The biggest fault of the movie is the racist aspect of the film, like I said. Another fault of the movie was the looseness of the plot. Apparently, this film was based on a book that was much more serious in tone.
Anyway, if you want to see the film just to be able to say that you’ve seen every Disney film, then go ahead. Otherwise, I wouldn’t blame you for skipping this one.
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, the final score for this film is 24/35 = 68.57% (D+) !
The next review will be posted on May 9th.