Retro Review: ‘Tammy and the T-Rex’
In 1994, Stewart Raffill who wrote and directed the legendarily terrible 1988 film Mac and Me was approached by a man with an animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex. This man was taking the mechanical dinosaur to be put on display in Texas but wanted to know if Raffill wanted to make a movie with it first. In short order, the filmmaker banged out a script for what would become known as another of the worst movies ever made, Tammy and the T-Rex.
High schooler Tammy is understandably distraught, when her boyfriend Michael is beaten by local bullies and left to be killed by a lion (yes you read that right). After stealing his body, a mad German scientist and his assistant Helga put the teenager’s brain into a mechanical Tyrannosaurus Rex they are working on. Now with the body of a robotic prehistoric beast, Michael/T-Rex avenges his death by slaughtering the bullies and reconnects with Tammy. Hoping for a second chance with Michael, Tammy tries to find a new human body for his brain, but the dinosaur is still stalked by the scientist responsible.
This film made me think of the 1941 flick The Monster and the Girl, which had an incredibly similar premise. Those behind that flick put so much work and passion into the project that the end result was a movie far better than it had any right to be. Contrasting that ethic, Raffill slapped together a project on the fly mainly because he had a dinosaur prop. To save on time and effort, he filmed the entire thing within a 25 minute radius of his own home. It did not become an underrated gem like The Monster and the Girl, instead it has built a reputation as one of the worst movies ever made. That being said Tammy and the T-Rex has no allusions about being Jurassic Park, it is an incredibly campy and silly flick which is why so many lovers of trash cinema have taken a liking to it. All of the hallmarks of poor filmmaking are present in spades, a nonsensical story, stupid dialogue, unlikable characters, and all the rest of the usual suspects of terribleness.
The film is famous for featuring a young Denise Richards and Paul Walker as its stars. As you can imagine they are pretty terrible as is the rest of the cast, but in their defense nobody is really given the best material to work with. I mean the movie ends with Richards doing a striptease for a brain in a bowl so that should tell you the quality you should expect. But that is okay because the star of this movie is the animatronic T-Rex which is utilized to great aplomb. It stomps around and terrorizes people with reckless abandon. Making the dinosaur rampage even better is that the T-Rex seemingly has the ability to sneak up on people at will as nobody in the film has any awareness of the world around them. Even when he is stomping up to Tammy’s house to peak into her bedroom windows, nobody seems to notice the entire freaking house shaking with each step. Filmmakers find a work around the T-Rex’s short stubby arms by blatantly having a human with gloves serve as the appendages to manhandle people and objects.
On of the benefits of watching Tammy and the T-Rex for modern audiences can be chalked up to cult DVD/Blu Ray producers Vinegar Syndrome. They took the hilariously over-the-top blood and gore which was originally in the film, but cut out by distributors, and reinserted it back into the movie. This takes a cheesy love story about a human/dinosaur romance and adds an extra layer of ridiculous fun. Tammy and the T-Rex is the perfect guilty pleasure film for fans of trashy cinema. Now that the film has been returned to its original state it holds even more entertainment value.