Friday, May 15, 2015

The Great Dinosaur Robbery: Review

The Great Dinosaur Robbery by David Forrest (1970) reads like it was written with a movie deal in mind. Which is convenient because Disney made a movie from the book (One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing) in 1975. I've never seen this particular Disney film with Helen Hayes and Peter Ustinov, but the novel's plot reminds a great deal of another Disney film, The North Street Irregulars. As in Irregulars, we have a group of ladies (middle-aged church parishioners in Irregulars and various-aged British-born nannies in Robbery) taking on a group of down-right baddies. 

In the records of crime there have been many great robberies--The Great Train Robbery, for instance--but never has there been a robbery like the The Great Dinosaur Robbery. Five very British nannies who are taking care of their charges in New York City find themselves plotting the biggest heist of them all...the lifting of a 200,000,000-old brontosaurus skeleton from the American Museum. It all begins when one of Nanny Hettie MacPhish's charges falls dead at her feet in the middle of the museum. His last words:

W-W-World security...avoid t-t-total destruction...m-m-museum...the th-thirteen...largest beast...don't t-t-trust anyone...Get it save the Q-Q-Queen.

After leaving the nursery, Lord Quincey de Bapeau Charmaine-Bott had become a very important person indeed...a member of the British Foreign Office and the most reliable, trustworthy, discreet, and fearless wearer of the Silver Greyhound, the insignia of the Queen's Couriers. 

The 25th Earl carried word of a top-secret plot by the Red Chinese under Mao Tse-tung to conquer England (and the rest of the world) using the Great Leap Downward plan. He had intended to pass the information (via microdot) on to his contact under guise as a British tourist. But his fellow Courier had not arrived and Mao Tse-tung's minions had pursued him through the museum. In a moment's respite from the gang, the British lord had stashed the secret in one of the museum's displays before collapsing at his former Nanny's feet. It's up to Nanny Hettie and her band of loyal caregivers to find the microdot before England's enemies. But who would have thought it would require stealing an entire dinosaur?

This is a very silly--but fun--take on the caper crime. I mean, after all, can you really call it a crime when a bunch of British nannies are stealing a whole dinosaur in the name of Queen and Country? Not terribly realistic and definitely not a puzzle plot, but I did enjoy myself. I'm pretty sure the Disney movie has toned it down though--there are a few adult scenes (one of the nannies has a lover!) and informational bits that I just can't see making it into a 1975 Disney film. Park your realism expectations at the front cover and settle in for a fun ride with Nanny Hettie and company.... ★★

"You can drive a lorry, Nanny Emily?" 
"I drove a caterpillar tractor during the war..." 
"We heard about that," said Hettie. "At the Land Army Club they said it was the longest furrow ever ploughed....You nearly cut off Devon and Cornwall"

 This counts for the "Made into a Movie" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card as well as making up Clue #2 in the Super Book Password Challenge. The key word is "Dinosaur."



fredamans said...

I'm glad I haven't seen the film adaption, the book sounds fun! Great review, though I have to ask, how many stars would you give it?

Bev Hankins said...

I could have sworn I stuck three stars on that review (they're there now). Good solid fun.

Unknown said...

I bet they could really do this up with Judy Densch, Maggie Smith, et al!

Bev Hankins said...

Oh, Elizabeth, that would be fabulous!

Eigon said...

The film is fun - but the nannies steal the dinosaur from the British Museum, and Peter Ustinov plays the villainous Chinaman! (who also had a British nanny, so is instantly bossed around by them). They filmed part of the chase sequence in Windsor.

Bev Hankins said...

Eigon: I know the clips I've seen of the movie online look fun. I may have to hunt down a copy.