One Million Years B.C. Review
At first, one thinks that the producers at Hammer might well have lost faith in Ray Harryhausen's ability to deliver on his promises. Whilst one generally accepts the sight of painfully obvious rubber monsters and creatures with the ability to back-project themselves to giant size in anything starring Doug McClure, which are no less entertaining because of it, a little more is expected from Ray Harryhausen. This is, after all, the man who crashed a flying saucer into the Capitol Building in Earth vs The Flying Saucers, created an army of skeletons in Jason And The Argonauts and, my personal favourite, had a handful of cowboys throwing a lasso a dinosaur in Valley Of The Gwangi.
But when Tumak of the Rock tribe leaves his people and wanders off across the desert - the Canary Islands in winter, actually - and comes across a giant lizard, it's more than a little disappointing when said creature looks to have been filmed as it happily strolled about its own business and is, as you might expect, somewhat less than terrifying. As it happens, this was Harryhausen's ideas and reveal his concern at an audience not believing the stop-motion effects that were to follow. However, with the passing of time, it's Harryhausen's own work that has aged the better and, though he might not have thought so at the time, are both more believable and have more character than the giant lizard.
The actual film will have baffled anyone who's ever landed upon it during one of its irregular afternoon showings. Set one-million-and-two-thousand years ago, albeit without a great deal of concern for scientific accuracy, it concerns Tumak, a member of the rock tribe, who is banished by his father, Akoba, after losing to him in a fight. Surviving the terrors of the desert - that lizard! - Tumak collapses on a beach where he is found by Loanna The Fair One (Raquel Welch, who fills out a fur bikini in a way that Homo Erectus never did), one of the fisherwomen of the Shell people. However, their rescue of Tumak is interrupted by a giant turtle but after fending the creature off, they bring Tumak to their home to recuperate. At first he is only mildly amusing to them but when he saves their people by killing an Allosaurus, the Shell tribe are in his debt but, wary of his violence, also banish him. Loanna The Fair One follows.
What follows is, of course, a lot of nonsense. But, in the manner of The People That Time Forgot, At The Earth's Core and Warlords Of Atlantis, it's also very entertaining nonsense, with the producers not only throwing in some marvellous Harryhausen effects - the fight between a Triceratops and a Ceratosaurus is more than a match for anything in the wonderful Valley Of The Gwangi - but also a brawl between Loanna The Fair One and Tumak's old girlfriend, Nupondi The Wild One. Actually, there's the sense that with dinosaurs, very little dialogue, bikinis and women fighting, Hammer were aiming to leave a lot of very contented men in the wake of One Million Years BC. If only there were also a Wheel tribe who had somehow managed to create a car à la The Flintstones, this might well have been the favourite film of mankind, as opposed to womankind, in every year since its release.
But it is, with all of the wandering about between tribes, quite a small film and not one, Raquel Welch and the dinosaurs aside, that leaves much of a memory. Little wonder then that the famous poster of Welch from this feature is better known than the film itself, which simply tends to move from the savage Rock tribe to the more advanced but a little bit dull Shell tribe and back to the Rock people again. There might, in all of the banishment of Tumak and Loanna, be a hint of romance but the closest the film gets to candlelight is the explosion of a volcano near its ends, which forces the lovestruck couple to move on once again. However, any film that offers such screen time to Welch, who looks quite amazing, and dinosaurs, isn't entirely without appeal. No Jason And The Argonauts then and probably not even a People That Time Forgot but entertaining nonetheless.
Looking cleaned up and sharp, One Millions Years BC is comparable with Sony/Colubia's reissues of the Sinbad films from a few years ago, showing its age slightly in its particular style but otherwise not at all bad. Unfortunately, like many Ray Harryhausen features, the film stock often looks to be in poor condition, particularly around the stop-motion sequences, and this is no exception but other than some slight amount of grain and a small amount of damage to the print, this is in decent shape. The same goes for the audio track, which, though mono mixed over DD2.0, isn't bad with the audio effects still sounding good. Finally, although this is a typical Optimum release in that it has no subtitles, they're really not necessary. Anyone who's actually wondering what it is that Loanna The Fair One says to Tumak may be watching the wrong film.
There isn't a great deal here, simply an interview with Raquel Welch (7m45s) and another with Ray Harryhausen (12m29s). Welch is fairly dismissive of the entire affair, describing her only interest in the film being that it was being produced out of London at a time when the city was swinging but announces herself disappointed at being sent to the Tenerife in the middle of winter to wear nothing but a bikini. Harryhausen is, as you might expect, much more interesting and talks about his start in the film business and on to his involvement in One Million Years BC.
Given the involvement of Ray Harryhausen, One Million Years BC is perfectly good fun, proving that his name on the credits makes everything much better. Indeed, if the real Joe Pasquale were to be retired and replaced by one animated by Ray Harryhausen, I might find myself watching The Price Is Right of an afternoon. It is also a lot better than my sometimes critical review might suggest and though it's not really core Hammer entertainment, it shows that it's not unreasonable to think of Hammer being a studio that could do more than just Dracula and Frankenstein.