I ❤️ Genre is a new series written by Jeremy Kolodziejski providing retrospectives and analyses of frequently unknown gems of the strange and unforgettable genre cinema that he loves sharing with others.
On a fateful day in 1993, British screenwriter Stewart Raffill, known for The Ice Pirates as well as Paul Rudd’s favorite movie Mac & Me, was approached by a man who owned several movie theaters in South America. He informed Raffill that he had access to a giant animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex. He asked if Raffill could direct a film prominently featuring the T-Rex. I think anyone could relate to this opportunity. Who wouldn’t want to make a movie featuring a giant robot T-Rex? Especially in the early 90s when a certain film about Dinosaurs broke box office records. (I’m of course referring to the Roger Corman-produced Carnosaur, unless there’s another dinosaur film I’m forgetting about.)
However, there was a catch: Raffill only had access to this animatronic beast until the end of that month. He had to write, produce, and direct an entire 90-minute feature in two weeks. He remained resourceful, filming in his hometown, using a local crew, and he managed to produce an entire film within those two weeks. He did not even let a forest fire (which was occurring during the film) stop him, and he incorporated its orange haze into the background of a few shots of the film.
That film became Tammy and the T-Rex. What did Raffill come up with in such a short time period? Well, it’s a film that contains, in a word, multitudes. Not only does it contain dinosaur attacks, but also lion attacks, grave robbing, brain swapping, evil horny nazi scientists, dinosaurs making phone calls, and men settling their differences with a testicular throwdown. It even features a title called the wrong name (reading as Tanny and the Teenage T-Rex for some inexplicable reason.) The movie is a wild ride from beginning to end.
Now, Tammy and the T-Rex could have very easily become an unmitigated and forgotten disaster not worth discussing or even mentioning nearly 30 years after its release, and for a long time, that was the case (I will get into that later). However, it’s not the film’s insane set pieces or its bizarre sense of humor that makes Tammy and The T-Rex so memorable and rewatchable, although that helps. While Raffill was casting the film, two young actors who had yet to star in any film miraculously walked through the door and (in my opinion) saved the film. These two young actors were Paul Walker and Denise Richards.
You can tell while watching the film that even without the benefit of hindsight, these two actors were meant to be movie stars. Their charisma and watchability are so potent you can’t help but be engrossed by such a deranged premise. Richards has to act alongside a robotic T-Rex that can barely move, and yet, she remains so charming that she sells their relationship enough to get you weirdly invested in its outcome.
When Tammy and the T-Rex was initially filmed, it was intended to be an R-rated horror comedy, filled with gory special effects of people getting dismembered and eaten, as well as a whole extended brain surgery sequence. These special effects certainly are not up to the quality of the likes of Tom Savini or Stan Winston, but they are gross and cheesy enough to be effective for the tone the movie is going for. However, right before its release, the film’s producers got cold feet, cut out all the blood and gore, and tried to repurpose the film as a family comedy. It did not get a theatrical release, going straight to VHS, making that version of the film the only known version for nearly 25 years, where it remained in mostly obscure corners of VHS collectors and hardcore dinosaur fans.
In 2019, the miracle workers at the restoration and distribution company Vinegar Syndrome discovered the original uncut version of Tammy and the T-Rex, restored it in 4K resolution, and released it for all to see. Now Raffill’s original film is fully available in all its gorey glory. If you are looking for something to watch with a bizarre sense of humor and an almost randomly occurring story with two future breakout movie stars, you can’t go wrong with Tammy and the T-Rex. It’s even available in its entirety to watch through the video game High on Life, idly playing in the player’s living room. Not the most ideal way to watch a film, but it is there!
Jeremy is a long-time supporter of and contributor to the Story Screen Fam, as well as the entire Hudson Valley Film community, as a writer, filmmaker, film worker, and general film fan. You can find him sifting through the most obscure corners of horror, martial arts, comedy, noir, and crime drama cinema, always on the hunt to discover something new, strange, and exciting.