Troma // 1994 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 9th, 2004
A perfect Beverly Hills housewife by day -- a prehistoric flying reptile by night.
"Hello, is this Beverly D'Angelo's agent? Yes, I wanted to see if she might be interested in a project we're developing. We feel that it will provide an excellent boost to her career, really bring her into the circle of elite actresses. It's a visionary tale, a story of one woman's struggle to hold together a family while she deals with...er...an illness. The challenges she faces threaten to throw her loved ones into turmoil and seriously ostracize her from her loving husband. The movie is so many things in one...it's a comedy, a science fiction tale, a drama; it has action, adventure, romance, intrigue, and high-quality-well, uh, it has special effects! So, are you interested? Uh huh...okay. Oh, what's it called? Ah, yes, I was just...uh...getting to that. It's, um, called, Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills. Hello? Hello? Anyone there? Hello?"
Well, whether or not this conversation took place (which it did not), Beverly D'Angelo eventually came around (which she didn't have to, as she was one of the producers of the film) and opted to star in this goofiest of dinosaur/suburbanite comedies.
Archaeologist Tommy Chandler (Aron Eisenberg -- what, too cool for an extra 'a,' pal?) makes a big mistake when he intrudes on an ancient burial ground. Driven by the allure of excavating the finds of the century, Chandler fails to heed the sinister threats from an enigmatic witch doctor. The native, calling himself "Salvador Dali," warns that unsavory circumstances will befall him if he continues to dig up his ancestors, but Chandler balks. Salvador is not impressed, and a few bouts of gibberish later, a curse has been tendered. But what curse? Well, if you got as far as reading the title of the flick, it should be obvious.
Anyway, we meet Pixie Chandler (D'Angelo), a stereotypical Beverly Hills mom, who seeks to metaphorically "spread her wings and fly." Little does she know, thanks to her husband's reckless archaeological behavior, her metaphor will become quite literal.
Slowly, Pixie starts to develop some odd quirks. Her movements become more avian, she has intense cravings for fish, and, eventually, she finds herself waking up naked in a tree. It's not long before the family discovers something is amiss.
Yeah, that's right, she's become (pause for effect)...
The Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills.
Her husband is instantly fascinated and looks through the freakish nature of his wife and sees an opportunity for unparalleled research. Meanwhile, a top-secret government agency that deals in the paranormal is hot on the tracks of the mysterious reptile sighted in the skies of California.
Add to all the commotion a freakish pregnancy that leads to an egg being birthed and a last-chance journey to a prehistoric land where stop-motion dinosaurs rule to save Mom, and you have the makings of a true Troma epic.
Okay, I probably spent too much time on the plot as it is. Let's face it, there will be those who will check out this movie based on the title alone, or those who will head for the hills for the same reason.
But I will say this: this movie is okay. Really, it's pretty good. It's funny, it embraces its low-budgetosity, the actors are having fun making morons out of themselves, and it's appropriately self deprecating.
Movies like this can go either way. They can try to be serious but just be flattened by the utter ridiculousness of their stories, or they can go for straight comedy and simply not be funny in the least. Obviously, writer/director Phillipe Mora went the straight comedy route, and, fortunately, the guy can write some amusing stuff.
For gag-a-second wacky-fests like this, the best compliment you can give is that it was more hit than miss funny. Often, these flicks are just stupid and painful throughout. Mora, in my opinion, notches enough successful gags to win him a by-a-nose thumbs up. My personal favorite spots were the surreal conversation with the witch doctor, Pixie's attempt at family sexual education, and the great line at the end, when a character spots one of the stop-motion dinosaurs: "Damn stock footage." Bonus points for Mora for acknowledging what his film is -- a cheapo slapstick comedy, rather than something more "evolved." For what it is, and, for that matter, for what it is perfectly willing to be, Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills proves to be a fairly entertaining little foray.
The disc is full frame with a sub-par picture. But Troma has never really been the leader in spot-on transfer and high-quality audio (this sucker's stereo.) Yet it does bulk up the disc with its usual assortment of superfluous Troma extras. None of these pertain to the movie itself, but there might be some primordial folks out there who will get a kick out of them.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Introduction by Lloyd Kaufman
* "Kick in the Head": Music Video by Purple Pam
* Troma PSA: Radiation March
* Make Your Own Damn Movie