Hammer Films made four “caveman movies,” as I like to call them: Prehistoric Women (1967), One Million Years B.C. (1966), When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth (1970) and Creatures The World Forgot (1971). I’ve only seen two of them (One Million Years & Dinosaurs) with only One Million Years B.C. having been seen when I was a kid. I think that’s the one most people remember the most. It was certainly the one I came across a lot in the various monster movie books I read when I was a kid, being most remembered I assume for Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion dinosaurs and Raquel Welch in a loin cloth.
I don’t ever remember coming across it on TV or even reading about it when I was a kid, and I didn’t end up seeing it (part of it at least) until it aired on TCM a decade or so ago. What struck me immediately was how well executed Jim Danforth’s stop motion dinosaurs were. At that time I only saw the beginning up to when the Elasmosaurus attacks and I could not believe I was seeing stop motion animation that was actually better than Ray Harryhausen’s! Having finally seen the entire movie for the first time last night . . . not all of it, but a good portion of the animation surpasses what Harryhausen did. I didn’t think that was possible, but I understand Danforth was friends with stop motion artist, David Allen, so I can understand why the stop-motion looks better. David Allen really pushed stop-motion beyond what Harryhausen did. It was his animation of King Kong for a car commercial I saw once that had me in awe that someone else could do what Harryhausen did but better.
Truth be told I’m not a big fan of “caveman movies,” what drew me to them when I was a kid were the dinosaurs, in the best cases stop-motion dinosaurs, but pull those out and you have a fairly boring movie about half-naked people in loin cloths talking in a weird language. I have not seen One Million Years B.C. since I was a kid, so I can comment too much on it in relation to When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth, but the dinosaur encounters in Hammer’s second prehistory outing are spaced at pretty good intervals apart so you don’t get too bored. Even at the very end there’s some eye candy in the form of a couple of giant crabs (not as big as the one in Mysterious Island, not by any means, but more man-sized) that are revealed when the water on the shore suddenly drains out before this tsunami hits and they go on a caveman killing spree.
The plot is simple and straightforward, most “caveman movies” are. There are two groups of cavemen, one that lives on the cliffs and one that lives down below by the sea. The cliff dwellers worship the sun and make routine sacrifices to it. The ones sacrificed are always blonde chicks, and there three ready to make the plunge this day, but a weather anomaly occurs and Sanna (Victoria Vetri) escapes into the ocean where she’s eventually rescued by Tara (Robin Hawdon), one of the shoreline dwellers. Love at first sight results, but Kingsor (Patrick Allen), the leader of the cliff dwellers, is intent on getting her back and sacrificing her. The moon is forming for the first time and I had the impression they blamed her survival for its appearance.
There’s a bit of a love triangle with Tara and Sanna, with another cavegirl of the shoreline dwellers, Ayak (Imogen Hassall). She wants Tara and is eventually pissed when she realizes Sanna has stolen his heart. Naturally this leads to a fit of attempted homicide on Ayak’s part as she tries to “shiv” Sanna in the shallows. Sanna escapes when her people come down looking for her and this leads to most of the dinosaur encounters, except for the one in the beginning when the Elasmosaurus (plesiosaur-related) the shoreliners captured for food gets loose.
Other encountered dinos in this movie come in the form of a Chasmosaurus (triceratops-related), a very smoothly animated Rhamphorhynchus (a type of Pterosaur), the aforementioned crabs at the end, another Elasmosaurus in the final act and a dinosaur in the middle of the movie that had me reminiscing about the Rhedosaurus from Harryhausen’s The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953). Sanna finds refuge in one of its shells and encounters the beast when it comes home with a kill for its recently hatched young. The parent and the baby become friends with Sanna for a little while, and the parent even rescues her from her tribe near the end. For those wondering neither it or its young end up dying. They just kind of fall out of the movie when Sanna moves on.
The film ends in a tsunami, killing everyone but Tara, Sanna and another couple. Ayak is killed earlier when she falls into quicksand as everyone is trying to flee the oncoming tidal wave.
Below is the cover wrap for the 2008 double feature.
Warner Brothers had this movie out on disc back in 2008 as a double feature with Moon Zero Two (1969), but had to quickly recall it when they mistakenly put the International Theatrical Release on it rather than the intended G-rated American cut. The International Theatrical Release, which this blue contains, restores the T&A Vetri and the T actress Jan Rossini flashes. The run time for the US version, according to IMDB, is 96-minutes while the “uncut version” clocks in at 100. That’s a 4-minute difference, outside of the nudity, there might be other little bits restored, though I don’t know what those may be. From what I always heard a mother complained about the nudity when she bought the movie for her son, which is what prompted the recall of the DVD. This time around Warner has made it clear on the back of this new blue which version you’re getting.
Buy it here on Amazon!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English SDH subs only
This blu-ray transfer is gorgeous, plain and simple!
Extras included . . .
From Warner Brothers’ pressbook (circa 1970). Click photos to enlarge & read