“Dinosaurs” as the wonderful Jamie Glavic once declared, “are the gateway drug to all things awesome.”
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the latest edition of Museums and the Movies. Previously we’ve explored how an apprentice witch utilised a museum’s collection to defend Great Britain from a Nazi invasion and how some kids broke into a local history museum and unleashed the spirits of three youth-sucking hags. Today, we’re going to explore how a vivacious gang of Nannies managed to steal a dinosaur from the Natural History Museum.
Can you guess the film from that brief plot synopsis? It is, of course, the 1975 comedy caper One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing – having typed that, I’ve realised the title of this post gave it away. Damn.
This is the first time in the Museums and the Movies series that I’ve had a chance to explore how an actual real life museum is shown in a film (although the museum is not actually listed as a filming location). Let’s see how things shapes up…
As soon as we see the inside of the museum, we are greeted by a veritable phalanx of children and their nannies. So far, so spot on.
However, all of these children – or at least the ones we’re introduced to, are the offspring of Lords and Ladies. Just like in Hocus Pocus, the museum is seen as a place for “rich people.” Hopefully, when we get to some more modern films, this stereotype will change.
I’ve mentioned before how museums with dinosaurs in them bring out the kid in me , it seems that this is a fairly universal experience. One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing shows this in a delightfully visual way by having the central character so far jump in a pram and disguise himself as a baby- quite literally regressing to childhood before our very eyes!
But, hang on a second, why aren’t the kids looking at the dinosaurs? The Taxidermy is quite lovely, but everyone knows that you have to see the dinosaurs when you visit the NHM.
Ah, this is why.
Naturally the sign is ignored.
The next bit was rather difficult to watch.
WHY ON EARTH IS HE CLIMBING ON THE DINOSAURS?! STOP THAT!
I’m not ashamed to say that when the character fell off the fossilised beast after hiding some mysterious microfilm, I couldn’t help but think “Serves him bloody well right.”
At least the Nannies have the sense to be wearing gloves when handling these things, for Nannies are nothing if not sensible.
To the Museum Professional in me, this was a subtle visual clue to mark the Nannies as The Good Guys and the main driving force of the film. Even if they aren’t exactly experts on the finer points of prehistoric history.
“What if the dinosaur collapses under all that weight?”
“Then we will be the first people in 2 million years to be killed by a dinosaur.”
Wrong. So wrong. On so many levels.
Although all this clandestine searching is going on, the dinosaur remains conspicuously in situ. People have been clambering about the bones, but the skeleton stays … un-missing? The actual thievery doesn’t occur until 50 minutes in, and through utilising a most interesting ruse.
The antagonists (I don’t really want to cast them as villains…) try to gain access to the Museum after hours by pretending to by Chinese Cultural Ambassadors with a very important donation for the museum. It seems quite clear; museums are very important for international relations. How else could this have worked?
If you think that my conclusion is a bit far-fetched, then just take a second to ponder museums collaborating internationally through touring exhibitions and temporary object loans. This scheme makes total museological sense!
To reinforce the message of museums as a symbol of international status and political power, fast-forward to when the dinosaur finally goes missing and causes chaos on the streets of a smoggy London. We see a scene from a Government crisis meeting, in which we discover that the country is now a laughing stock. Even France is poking fun at us.
Museums though, are more important than merely providers of prestige. They are repositories of knowledge. With that in mind, let’s consider that no British caper of a certain age would be complete without a case of mistaken identity…
HERE BE SPOILERS
Can it really be a spoiler if the film came out in 1975?
It’s a given fact that all kids know their dinosaurs. One of the little Lordlings we were introduced to earlier in the film realises that the wrong dinosaur has been stolen. The knowledge contained on the microfilm never left the museum.
But what happened to the dinosaur that was stolen? We never see it returned to the museum? Well, a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, two droids stumbled upon a very familiar skeleton.