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From the first scene where we see rather tired looking stock footage of the African plains, with zebras, wildebeest , giraffes and lions all doing what they do best in the wild you can see that this isn't going to be one Hammer's finest hour. This 1967 film was made mainly as a means of recycling the sets and costumes of a previous Hammer blockbuster 'One Million Years B.C.'...yes it's furry bikini time again!
THE CULT OF THE WHITE RHINO
On a big game hunting trip in the deepest wilds of Africa jungle guide David Marchand goes in search of a wounded leopard and strays into the forbidden lands of the White Rhino. After a bizarre turn of events he is captured by a tribe of African warriors who worship the ancient cult of the White Rhino, they are sworn to kill any who enters their land as decreed long ago by their gods. Just as Marchand is about to be executed he find himself transported to a secret land far back in time ruled by a tribe of vicious warrior women. He is at their mercy!
The wilds of Africa are an obvious studio mock. Why is it that despite the best efforts of the set designers you can always tell when it's a studio...the too even lighting and multiple shadows on the ground, a complete lack of even slight breeze to move the vegetation, the presence of a well worn path for the actor to walk through the supposedly pristine jungle. We are not off to a good start and it doesn't get any better.
WAIT BWANA! YOU WILL ENTER THEIR LANDS?!
OK, the deal is that a tribe of Amazon women living in a long forgotten land worship the figure of a white rhino, the focus of their worship seems to be the rhino's rather large white horn, which they are quite prone to sensually stroke at every opportunity...No, I'm not making this up, this load of tosh was written, produced and directed Michael Carreras who wisely wrote it under a pseudonym Henry Younger. Carreras was a habitual offender against the good name of prehistoric genre cinema. After he had produced 'One Million Years B.C.' for Hammer he just couldn't leave it alone and also went on to make as producer or director, 'The Lost Continent' and 'Creatures The World Forgot' but none was as bad as this one.
Typical of the time the portrayal of the native Africans is derisory, showing them to be little more than superstitious and cowardly savages, this is an unwelcomed aspects of these films but simply a reflection of the misguided attitudes that were held by colonial powers even fading ones like Britain at the time.
BLONDES GOOD, BRUNETTES EVIL!
Just like in the earlier 'One Million Years B.C.' the dark haired tribe is the more primitive and savage, the fair haired women although the slaves to the dark haired Amazons are peaceful and kindly by nature. They also all seem to have immaculately coiffured 60's style hair, a little strange for prehistoric slave women. The leader of the tribe is the menacingly beautiful and very cruel Kari but is she all bad?
The undercurrents of the film are also as obviously sexist, the point being made maybe unwittingly, is that when women try and find their independence and their strength then they become dangerous both to themselves and others. I'm not saying this was the intent of the script but it does show the cultural attitudes of a time when feminism was seen as a real threat to the 'natural order' society as it was then. Kari the queen of the brunettes is a rather grotesque symbol of feminism her desire to rule and not to be ruled by men leads her astray really what she wants is a strong man to take control and dominate her!
After a lot of prancing about and pointless tedious pagan ceremonies involving what suspiciously looks like Pans People choreographed dancing and meaningless chanting the film slowly winds its way to a less than climactic conclusion. There is a twist in the tale but the twist is so predicable that it is a real letdown.
"MUST A WOMAN ALWAYS BE SUBSERVIANT TO A MAN TO BE WANTED?"
What can you say? A film filled with good looking scantily clad women has invariably got something going for it but even the sheer amount of eye candy on show can't save this turkey. On the positive side the women are attractive and one or two of the actors you might actually recognise from previous films.
Kari played by Jamaican born former model Martine Beswick was first noticed as one of the cat-fighting gypsy girls in the Bond film 'To Russia With Love', but I'm afraid her film career took a turn for the worst after this film although she still managed to make a healthy living from TV work well into the 1990's. The one great surprise is to find Carole White on the cast list as one of the slave girls Gido. White was the star of the hugely influential ken Loach TV play 'Cathy Come Home' in 1966 and the follow up film 'Poor Cow' in 1967 and you would've thought better than this film. The rest of the female cast is not as notable and most of the performances are forgettable.
The leading man and supposed heartthrob is David the big game hunter played by Michael Latimer a classically trained RADA actor who never went on to any big screen success but did also did make a mark as a supporting actor in a variety of TV roles. One final name to point out is Steven Berkoff as John a very small part. Berkoff went on to better things a renowned theatre writer and actor. This was a very early role in his career!
The production values are laughable, the whole film is made on a very limited indoor set and no outside location are used, the only scenes filmed outside are the initial one of the African wildlife. What little action and fighting takes place is badly choreographed and the few special effects included are amateurish even for a 1960's low budget production.
As usual Hammer try to sell this film with sex and many promises that are made on the trailer never come true. The content is neither sexy nor suspenseful. The costumes, styling and scenery are not realistic in the slightest. This really is an afterthought of a movie.
The original film was categorised as 'X' UK certificate equivalent to our present day 18 I can't imagine why! There is no nudity, no violence unless you count the ludicrous script as a vicious assault on the viewer's intelligence and certainly no bad language, all making the DVD certificate of PG much more sensible.
Although the film was completed in 1966 it wasn't released in the UK until 1968 as a B feature to 'The Devil Rides Out'. In truth this was a cynical attempt by Hammer to cash in on the success of 'One Million Years B.C.'. Filmed almost entirely at Elstree on a very small budget it has little merit as part of the Hammer canon.
Shall we just say that I've watched and reviewed this one so you won't have to!
CAST, DVD TECHNICAL DETAILS AND BONUS MATERIAL
Martine Beswick ... Kari
Edina Ronay ... Saria
Michael Latimer ... David
Stephanie Randall ... Amyak
Carol White ... Gido
Alexandra Stevenson ... Luri
Run Time: 90 minutes
This DVD was part of the Hammer collection and as with other releases in this series there almost no bonus material included apart from the original trailer. As with many trailers of the time and since it manages to give the wrong impression of what the film is actually like. A standard scene selection option is also included and that's all. The picture quality of the DVD which sometimes with other films in the Hammer collection can be variable is very good. The film is made in Cinemascope and the colours as usual are intense and bright.
'Prehistoric Women' (aka Slave Girls: US release) can be bought on DVD from Amazon.co.uk for £4.49 (including p&p) at time of writing this review.
© Mauri 2011