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CAVEMEN versus DINOSAURS!
One Million Years B.C. (DVD)
Member Name: Mauri
One Million Years B.C. (DVD)
Date: 28/07/11, updated on 29/07/11 (93 review reads)
Advantages: The great Harryhausen stop motion special effects and Raquel Welch in a prehistoric bikini!
Disadvantages: The story is quite weak.
WHEN THE WORLD WAS JUST BEGINNING...
When 'One Million Years BC' was first proposed it was meant to cash in on the huge success of another earlier historical epic Hammer 1965 epic 'She', originally it was intended to re-unite the stars of that earlier film Ursula Andress and John Richardson but when Andress decided against doing the film the role went to former weather girl and recent starlet of sci-fi adventure 'Fantastic Voyage' Raquel Welch. This was a wise choice, it made the voluptuous Miss Welch into one of the 1960's best know sex symbols and launched her acting career worldwide and netted hammer a huge amount of money and critical praise.
The concept of the story was not original in fact the plot is almost identical to Hal Roach produced 1940's epic also originally called 'One Million Years BC' aka 'Man and His Mate' starring Victor mature and Carole Landis.
Tumak son of headman Akhoba is exiled from his savage dark haired Rock tribe and his mate Nupondi is claimed by his brother Sakana. He wanders the prehistoric landscape finally coming upon the ocean where he meets the beautiful blonde haired Loana of the more civilised Shell clan. Tumak finds a home among the shell people for a while but his eventually banished after offending their leader Ahot. Tumak and Loana now take the dangerous journey back to the Rock tribe where Tumak must fight to regain leadership of his people.
Glorious Technicolor a Hammer trademark is used to excellent effect. The costumes and makeup are a little ropy at times. The Rock tribe men are very hairy but the women all look has if they've been doing regular waxing! The difference between the two tribes are emphasised through the film. Rock tribe the more primitive of the tow are shown not caring for weak; when an old man falls into a trap and his left is broken he is simply left to die. They are shown fighting over the food, the strongest getting the largest share the weak and the young getting left with scraps, maybe an unintentional parable for the evils of capitalism!
The Shell clan is totally different they look more like a group of young Swedes on a beach holiday. They are more caring and sharing. They look after their old and infirm they even do some cave painting in their spare time! Of course they don't each chunks of meat but prefer fish soup, better for the brain cells. Prehistoric hippies if I you ask me! They actually risk their lives to save Tumak from an overgrown Turtle even though he is not of their clan.
A SAVAGE WORLD WHO'S ONLY LAW WAS LUST!
We don't actually see the lovely Raquel Welch until about half an hour into the film but it is worth waiting for. Her furry bikini (actually looks more like leather with fur trims) has become iconic in film history and her perfectly tanned body fits it rather well. The main competition to Welch in the glamour stakes comes from Martine Beswicke as Nupondi the dark haired beauty of the Rock tribe. Beswicke a former Bond girl was to become a Hammer regular with future roles in Prehistoric Women (1967) and the cult classic Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971). The sight of Beswicke and Welch wrestling in one of the later scenes of the film is still one of highlight of my film viewing formative years!
Richardson had starred with Ursula Andress in 'She' but in my opinion this is Richardson's best role, his usual wooden delivery of dialogue replaced by some very realistic caveman grunting! Martine Beswicke is not the only James Bond connection in this film. Robert Brown who plays Akhoba the leader of the Rock tribe with great gusto was also later in his film career to appear in the role of M in the last of the Roger Moore Bond films and both of the Timothy Dalton Bond films.
One other notable performance comes from Percy Herbert as Sakana Tumak's evil brother. Herbert will be a well known face to most fans of British films and TV having features in countless movies and TV series in the 1960's through to the 1980's many will remember him from outing in some of the Carry on films. The film was quite unusual in that there is effectively no dialogue apart from grunted names. Like a throwback to the silent movies facial expressions are the order of the day and you feel like the cast revelled in this.
The first thing to say about this film is that it's not meant to be a historically accurate account of prehistoric times. On his travels Tumak is seen battling against a variety of prehistoric monsters including dinosaurs, when we of course know this would be impossible since dinosaur became extinct 64 million years before the film is set and before mankind had ever evolved. So we have to make allowances for these inaccuracies and simply view the film as an exotic adventure story.
Hammer in deal with distributors 20th century Fox studios spent a lot of time and money on this project. Right from the literally explosive start when we see a volcano erupting onto the screen we can tell that some amount of money was spent on this project. The film includes some very impressive location shot on the island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. The naturally dry volcanic interior of the island is perfect to reproduce the prehistoric desert lands featured in the film.
A HARD UNFRIENDLY WORLD
The special effects for the film were produced by the legendary stop motion animator Ray Harryhausen. It has to said that by today's standards the special effect fall short of the 'Walking with Dinosaurs' CGI standards but nonetheless for its time this film is quite impressive and still have a lot of charm. Harryhausen's stop motion effect give a reality to the dinosaur's movements that is very impressive and the fight between the Triceratops and Ceratosaur still stands out. Harryhausen was a master of his trade and his early stop motion animation influenced later filmmakers like Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park. Another stand out scene is Tumak's fight with an Allosaurus and it is still among the best things Harryhausen has done. Giant Iguanas, giant tarantulas, giant turtles and dinosaurs what more do you want form a prehistoric romp.
The music in the film is used to great effect and complements the nature of the story; it's composed by Mario Nascimbene an Italian very much in the Ennio Morricone mould using lots of strange percussion and chorus. It is very effective and very atmospheric.
The film carried a certificate of 15 on release but the DVD is now PG. The monsters probably aren't that scary to modern youngsters but there is one scene which is particularly dark and tense features Tumak and Loana hiding in an eerie cave which is home to Ape-like creatures further back in the evolutionary scale to even the primitive cavemen. They pass through the cave which is full of human skulls that are hung all around. These creatures are violent killers and Tumak and Loana needs to get out quick before they return, which of course they do at that very moment. We never see the creatures properly only as shadows or from far away but we hear their terrifying grunts. I remember being quite scared of this part of the film when I watched as a kid. The music is once again used to great effect in this scene. Apart from a little mild gore and a few bloodied faces there is little here to worry about.
The plot is very slight and doesn't really get in the way much of the action. Director Don Chaffey also responsible from the classic 'Jason and the Argonauts' and the not so classic 'The Viking Queen' keeps thing moving along at a reasonable pace and doesn't let the actor get too much in the way of the real stars of the film the prehistoric monsters!
Much of the criticism for this film comes from those who object to the factual and historical inaccuracies of the film, they for me are missing the point. This is supposed to be unadulterated mindless entertainment and there's nothing wrong with that. We all know that there weren't cavemen around when Dinosaurs walked the Earth but we've all wondered what it would have been like to come face to face with a dinosaur well this is what this film is all about stop thinking and just enjoy!
CAST & CREW & THINGS
Raquel Welch ...Loana
John Richardson ...Tumak
Directed by Don Chaffey, screenplay by Michael Carreras adapted from original screenplay by
Mickell Novack, George Baker and Joseph Frickert.
Runtime: 100 min
DVD AND EXTRAS
This DVD release is the uncut version of the film in anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality on the DVD was good and both the soundtrack and the colours were crisp and vibrant.
Unusually for a Hammer DVD release this had a few extras. A couple of interviews were included as part of the package
Interview with Raquel Welch - 'Raquel Welch in the valley of the dinosaurs', a short feature around 8 minutes long in which Raquel Welch talks of how she came to take the role and how it changed her whole career and life. It transpires that she actually had no choice in starring in the film, she didn't want to but she was under contract to Fox and so she had to do it. Although short this is quite an interesting insight into the making of the film.
Interview with Ray Harryhausen- This is the more interesting of the two interviews as it features one of the great of movie special effects Ray Harryhausen. In it he explains how his interest of dinosaurs came about and how he first came across stop motion when he watched the original King Kong movie and fell in love with the process. He explains how stop motion works using one of the original dinosaur models from the film. At just over 12 minutes the interview is fascinating stuff and well worth watching.
These were the only bonus part to the package and they were worth watching to get some background and context to the film.
'One Million Years BC' can be bought from Amazon.co.uk for £3.99 with free delivery in the UK at the time of writing this review.
Recommended for Raquel Welch in 'that' bikini alone!
Summary: Cavemen, cavegirls, dinosaurs, volcanoes and furry bikinis