~1 hour, 29 minutes, 26 seconds
Guys, I have a confession to make. I’ve never smoked weed. Like, not even once.
(hold for boos)
Hear me out. I’m not a complete and total gaylord. I at least have my reasons for being this lame. The fact of the matter is, drugs would do me no good, only bad. I’m weird enough on my own. I don’t need to compound all this strangeness with mind-altering substances. That, and I couldn’t possibly be more relaxed than when I flick my brain off and kick my feet up with a good (or in most cases, catastrophically crummy) exploitation or horror movie.
Some people probably assume I’ve used drugs and I’m fine with that. I can’t imagine my long hair, vegetarian diet, love of hacky sack, and laidback demeanor scream clean-living straight edge. I realize I project a particular image. At the end of the day, though, I am who I am and people’s opinions won’t change that or bother me too much.
I choose to live my life without drugs and alcohol. I know that’s unusual, so I also have a sense of humor about it. My beliefs haven’t stopped me from enjoying other B-level stoner movies like Full Moon’s Evil Bong series (now on its sixth installment), or even the classics like Friday.
It doesn’t really matter to me if a movie depicts drug use, as long as it’s entertaining. And even if all references to bud were removed from the topic of this month’s review, we’d still have a rare shot-on-video flick from the late 1980s on our hands, and that right there is enough to pique my easily-piqued interest. So let’s get to it, shall we?
Text informs us the voyage we’re about to embark on takes place along the Lost Coast of California. A jazzy scat number kicks in as aerial footage of the coastline rolls by. We’re shown a beach and a rolling tide. Without warning, this thing appears, flailing its arms about while emitting a series of teenage death metal band pterodactyl howls. At this point, I was gobsmacked. Gobsmacked I tells ya. I had to see more.
Two rural hippie types who are also brothers come to a clearing in the woods in search of a place to grow weed. The less-spacey of the two, Frank (Paul Bassis, who apparently co-wrote and co-produced this thing), asks the other one, Cloud, if he managed to bum any seeds off their friends, stressing that his livelihood depends on a good year. “What I’m trying to tell you is that I’m going for broke.” he says with a bunch of hand gestures. “What I’m saying is I’m broke, I’m going for a crop. I gotta have it.”
Cloud explains in a long-winded, round-about way that he only managed to get one seed from a friend of theirs named Honey who he calls “the genetic genius”, but guarantees it’s been modified to grow to the size of a redwood tree.
Satisfied with this answer, Frank follows Cloud to a rock and they meditate. The two are unnerved when the ground moves beneath them. A snarl is heard through the valley.
The aforementioned Honey is then shown concocting a “sprouting solution” of sorts that she pours on a batch of what look like coconuts. These are in actuality what she terms Cannabis sequoia seeds. These are the seeds Cloud referred to that grow as big as trees. Honey mentions that it took her ten years to develop this strain. She and her Jesus-looking boyfriend Moss dress up in camo, face paint, and leaves, and trek off into the woods to look for a place of their own to grow weed.
Insert whimsical planting montage.
Meanwhile, reporters have gathered in front of town hall for the annual CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) press conference, hosted by an Arlene Arden, the county sheriff, and a suit named Cromwell who was dispatched from DC to coordinate the whole shebang. Cromwell goes on to say that he considers marijuana a threat to national security and that he actually plans to eradicate the plant and its users from the face of the earth. “As of now, marijuana growers are an endangered species.” he vows. “Next year, they’ll be extinct.”
Thoughts (Possible Spoilers)
Soon after, a second montage of what looks like authentic DEA raid footage plays through when SUDDENLY, OUT OF NOWHERE a net full of weed being towed by a government helicopter is swiped from the sky and devoured by the same thing from earlier, somehow looking even less convincing than it did then.
The CAMP pilot speeds off unharmed. Back at headquarters, Cromwell instructs his team to keep the event under wraps. Cromwell is then shown attending a lecture being given by a crazy white-haired professor type to a single student of his. The professor (who’s standing next to a six-foot inflatable Godzilla toy), just so happens to be going on about the titanic Theropod sighted by CAMP, which he identifies as the four-hundred-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus herbivorous ganjasaurus rex. The professor postulates that THGR fed exclusively on cannabis sequoia plants as far back as the Paleozoic Era (which contradicts Honey’s claims) and that doing so caused its “brain mass ratio to increase.” He ends his speech by stating he believes it’s still out there, roaming the hillsides of rural 1980s California cos why not.
At this point, the movie slows down to a crawl. Cromwell decides to bombard the prehistoric pothead with nukes while Professor What’s-his-name and the protags attempt to come up with a nonviolent solution. By film’s end, however, CAMP is still in full swing and the real conflict is left unresolved.
With such an outrageous title and dopey-looking dinosaur plastered smack dab on the front of its home video box, I was thinking Ganjasaurus Rex would be along the lines of a monster movie parody — key word being monster — with helpings of low-brow stoner humor thrown in for good measure.
In truth, the title creature is more of a plot device than a danger or sympathetic character. It only appears for a total of maybe one minute, and most of the time it’s on screen it just stands there growling benignly. On top of that, it was brought to life with the absolute worst bottom barrel stop-motion ever. From now on, the intro to Oversexed Rugsuckers From Mars! won’t be the only thing coming to mind when I think of bad stop-motion. A far cry from something like Jan Svankmajer’s work to be sure.
As a casual fan of monster movies and lover of oldschool practical effects work, I would have liked to have seen better stop-motion. I also would have liked to have seen more than one friggin’ minute of the creature advertised on the cover.
I should have known better, though. As anybody who lived through the magical, bygone era of mom n’ pop video stores would attest to, VHS distribution labels gave zero fucks about accurate advertising. Their tapes were often adorned with illustrations and images glaringly absent from the actual movies or ones that were taken out of context, erroneous titles and blurbs, and even black & white headshots of the movies’ actors in place of screen shots. Having come across some real head-scratchers during my years of weird movie watching, I can find it within myself to forgive Ganjasaurus Rex for its misleading cover, as it isn’t the most heinous case of misrepresentation I’ve seen.
So yeah. To those of you that were hoping this romp was an action-packed Kaiju collision, it’s not. It would best be described as political satire, a jab at the farcical “war on drugs” that’s still waged to this day, costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars each year, told from the point of view of a people who consider growing pot to be one of their basic human rights, not to mention a means to support their families.
From what I’ve pieced together from online resources, Ganjasaurus Rex was shot in or around Humboldt County, California, Humboldt County being one of three to comprise California’s infamous “Emerald Triangle”, an area claimed to contain the highest concentration of marijuana plants in the US.
The flick is an obvious blast on the real-life antidrug program CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) that was formed in 1983 to crackdown on the large scale production of Mary Jane that was, according to the California Department of Justice, causing rampant deforestation, killing wildlife, poisoning the environment, damaging natural resources, diverting water supplies, posing a threat to its citizens, and promoting Communism (that last one might be made up). CAMP was comprised at the onset of twenty-seven federal, state, and local agencies, and received its largest contributions from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
CAMP was, by all accounts, a domestic terrorist organization. Its members (volunteer police officers, mostly) would buzz people’s homes in UH-1 helicopters searching for grow sites, repel down paramilitary-style in full Army getup brandishing hatchets and M16s, hack any contraband up and haul it away on tow lines for burning. The program was highly criticized at the time and was said to be running roughshod on people’s civil liberties by engaging in “out-of-control, dangerous, and probably illegal” activities.. One newspaper article, dated September 25th, 1988, states that more than 250 formal complaints had already been filed against the program at that point. Amongst these complaints were claims that CAMP had “chased residents with [its] helicopters, held innocent citizens at gunpoint, charged through gardens and yards without search warrants and… shot a family’s dog.”
I find it compelling that portions of the raid footage we see dated 1985 are in fact legitimate. These portions were shot by the non-violent hippie group COG (Citizens Observation Group) that would follow these raids around as they happened and videotape the proceedings, then take declarations, its main objective being to obtain photographic evidence for a group of lawyers known as the Civil Liberties Monitoring Project that specialized in matters of civil rights abuse.
Pretty interesting stuff if I say so myself. I think I had almost as much fun digging into the backstory behind this flick as I did, you know, watching it. In doing so, I reached out to a person who may or may not have been the director of Ganjasaurus Rex and they had no comment, not even a “leave me alone”.
Interesting backstory aside, this movie is, well, kind of boring. On the other side of the coin, I wasn’t expecting that much, so it’s not like my hopes were dashed. If you consider yourself a patient viewer and lover of all forms of film (or, of course, a dope smoker), Ganjasaurus Rex can still be a goofy good time. Its tongue is firmly in cheek and it even pokes fun at itself by perpetuating the stereotype that druggies are grungy soy burger and lentil eaters. Cloud and Frank’s lines are perhaps the funniest, coming off as though they were adlibbed. However, I have to admit, I may have laughed hardest when the sheriff began listing agencies partnered with CAMP. “…DEA, FBI, IRS, CIA, FDA, FAA, DOJ, DOG, CAT, BLT, McDLT, GOD…”
One of the movie’s biggest highlights is actually its soundtrack. Standouts include a pair of reggae rockers — “Police State” and “You Have no Right” — by Humboldt area legend Rod Deal that play over the raid footage. Part of a third song of his titled “Shockwave” can also be heard early on when G-rex is shown for the first time. Rod and his band “The I-deals” would later record new versions of these songs for their 1991 album “Truth & Rights”, which is currently available for purchase in both physical and digital formats from Amazon.com. I bought a copy out of curiosity (I’m also claiming research purposes) and it’s honestly pretty impressive. A solid effort all the way through if a bit short at just thirty-five minutes in length. My favorite track is the earwormin’ opener “Helicopters”.
Deal would ironically die of a drug overdose sometime in 1995 after years of defending marijuana use. RIP. The man’s voice was too smooth for this world.
Ganjasaurus Rex was released only once on VHS by Rhino Video and is therefore obscure as all fuuuuuhhh. It can, however, be watched free of charge on a popular video streaming site that starts with the letter Y and ends with the letter E and is called YouTube. Here’s hoping an official DVD release comes our way soon!
🚁🚁🚁 out of 5.
I Got My Copy From
Evil Bong (2006) and its sequels
1. Anders, Jentri. “Citizens Observation Group”. Sojourn in the Land of Shum. September 19th, 2011. Web.
2. Isikoff, Michael. “Seeds of Success or Budding ‘Police State’?”. Washington Post. September 25th, 1988. Web.