Guns of the Silver Screen: V21N2

By Kyle Shea


There are countless stories about men armed with modern weaponry fighting giant prehistoric beasts from the past. From “King Kong” to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World,” to video games like the Jurassic Park Arcade games where the player uses a gun to fight off a giant T-Rex, it is a fun fantasy to fight giant dinosaurs and other long extinct creatures. In 2007, a British series called “Primeval” aired and tried to show us such a world.

The plot of Primeval is that a series of strange portals appear in the English countryside. These portals are basically holes in time, where if you step into one, you could find yourself in the distant past or in the distant future. However, it works both ways, and large and dangerous creatures eventually start to come through the portals. To combat this problem, the British government assembles a group of scientists and wildlife experts to help control the situation without the public knowing. The show is actually the creation of the producers of the “Walking with Dinosaurs” and sequel shows.

In one episode of the show, the heroes go up against a giant Mosasaur, a marine reptile that is terrorizing the local rivers in London. To fight it they get their hands on an underwater spear gun, a tool used by scuba divers when they swim in more dangerous waters. The spear guns are always smaller than the one used in this episode, nothing more than a thin stick. They are fired either by rubber band or by air (called Pneumatic).

The spear gun in the movie is really just movie magic, but it can actually shoot. I remember it being a bit heavy for its size. The harpoon is made out of solid metal, making up most of the weight. The tip was sharp, and you had to be careful how you held it. You can’t really hunt with it, but it would look good on your wall.

The spear is probably one of the oldest weapons in the world, and fishing with one goes back thousands of years. There are paintings on the walls of Egyptian tombs showing men using spears to catch fish on the Nile. The Greek god Neptune is usually portrayed with a trident that was used for fishing. It is even mentioned in the Bible (Job 41:7). In Roman times, there was a special type of Gladiator called a retiarius who was supposed to represent a fisherman and was equipped with a trident.

The first modern spear guns used by divers came out in the mid-1930’s. Throughout the years, many different designs emerged, using everything from gunpowder to compressed springs. The two most popular designs today are the ones already mentioned, the rubberband type and the Pneumatic.

There are two movies that come to mind that have spear guns as weapons. The first is “The Creature from The Black Lagoon,” where one of the characters uses it against the Monster, but it has little effect. The other film is the James Bond Classic “Thunderball” (another film where Bapty & Co. were the armorers), which features a massive underwater battle with both sides using spear guns against each other.

The series “Primeval” is at best okay. The biggest problem is actually the special effects of the show. All the dinosaurs and other beasts are CGI only and not very good CGI. “Jurassic Park” had better effects and looked more realistic, where the CGI of “Primeval” only looks a little better than a low-budget Sci-Fi movie. Granted, “Jurassic Park” probably had a much larger budget. The story doesn’t work that well as an action show, either, with the characters seeming more interested in romance than in the strange beasts coming from the past and future. Then again, I only saw the first season, and maybe it gets better later on. The acting was good, and though the creatures aren’t that impressive to look at, they can be scary, and it is fun to see them fighting humans.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N2 (March 2017)
and was posted online on January 27, 2017


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