One Million Years B.C.

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Our rating: three LAVA® motion lamps.

"If we stay still, the Grinch won't see us."
It is no secret that back in the Sixties, people were doing a lot of drugs. This partially explains how movies like One Million Years B.C. got made. Chronicling the life of a caveman and his true love, it has no dialogue in any real language, the story is simple, and historically speaking it's ludicrous. And yet it was successful enough that it spawned a series of (inferior) imitators, such as When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth and Creatures the World Forgot.

The movie opens in the distant past when people and dinosaurs lived together. We are first introduced to the Rock tribe as it scrapes a pitiful living out of an area directly adjacent to a volcano. They all seem to be in a perpetual bad mood, probably because -- despite the fact they live in the middle of a desert -- they never take off their heavy furs. Not the sharpest flints in the archeological site, the Rock tribe. The tribe's leader has two feuding sons, Tumak (John Richardson) and Sakana. One night after a dinnertime squabble, Tumak is exiled. He travels across the burning wasteland (still in heavy furs), avoiding the savage giants who live there.

"I say, you make a good point.
But if you don't raise interest rates at
the first hint of salary inflation..."
The first monster that Tumak encounters is a giant iguana. This effect is achieved by blowing up a real animal to appear huge, a reference to giant lizard footage from the 1940 version of this same story. Don't worry, after the iguana, all the major monsters are Ray Harryhausen animated creations.

After a series of trials, Tumak arrives, exhausted, among the Shell tribe. The Shell tribe is more advanced than the Rock tribe -- especially the women. Highly advanced. And the most advanced woman of all is Loana, played by the incomparable Raquel Welch. Fur may be murder, but we don't care so long as it is formed into a bikini and placed on Raquel Welch. Loana forms a bond with Tumak when she saves him from certain death by sea turtle. Giant sea turtle, that is. The Shell tribe warriors show their superiority by beating the monster into the sea, which, since it came from an inland direction, is probably where it wanted to go in the first place.

"The Budweiser commercial is
filming right over here!"
Unlike the Rock tribe, the blond Shell tribe has invented several important civilization advances, including the spear, primitive wood working, basic building principles, agriculture, cooperative child raising, hair care products, peroxide, mascara, and the wonder bra. The whole movie should have been about the Shell tribe. Especially the women in the Shell tribe. And their bathing habits.

Enough fantasizing about the movie that could have been. Tumak is taken into the Shell tribe where he learns some important skills. But he can't get the concept of sharing through his head, so he soon gets kicked out of the Shell tribe for fighting. Loana decides to stick with the rough-hewn Tumak rather than hang out with the pretty-boy blondes she's been used to. It's easy to see why she prefers Tumak: he's tall, dark, and odiferous. Proving their moral superiority, the members of the Shell tribe give Tumak a spear, his theft of which started the fight in the first place. Shame-facedly, Tumak walks away, dragging Loana behind him.

"Calgon take me away!"
Confident that his mastery of the spear will guarantee his victory over the other alpha-male contenders in the Rock tribe, Tumak makes his way across the burning wastes once more, avoiding a nasty fight between a Ceratosaurus and a Triceratops, and slipping past the savage giants in their cave. Once home, Tumak knocks a few skulls, gives his brother (who became head of the tribe while Tumak was gone) a nice spear wound in the side, and assumes the position of chief.

Of course, Loana's presence guarantees that the transition won't be an easy one, and the film concludes with a dust-up between Tumak's forces, including a rescue party from the Shell tribe, and Sakana's band of rebels. Adding dramatic weight to the scene is the eruption of the nearby volcano. If you've seen more than a few b-movies, you probably saw that one coming.

Why carnosaurs don't make good pets.
This is the third movie in a row we've reviewed which ends with a volcano eruption (if you're just joining us, the other two were Last Days of Pompeii and Rodan), and this one was by far the best, effects-wise. The volcano presented here is a ways off from the main action and while the filmmakers wisely refrain from trying to fake a lava flow or recycling stock footage, they do make sure that the exploding mountain throws out lots of ash and debris while making enough noise to scare the bejeezus out of our poor cavemen. It's a wee bit confusing to watch the primitives continue to beat each other up while something as monumental as that is going on around them, but we guess family feuds stop for no man or mountain. According to Video Watchdog and other sources of film lore, the two tribes were originally supposed to get together at the end to fight a Brontosaurus, but that was deemed too expensive, and the Bronto's part was reduced to a cameo at the beginning of the film. The Brontosaurus in question later had a long talk with his agent.

If you're a dinosaur freak like Chris' wife, the Harryhausen animations are worth the price of the film rental. Like The Valley of Gwangi, there's a lot of human/dinosaur interaction that is surprisingly well photographed. Tumak's big fight with an Allosaur is really not to be missed, and Harryhausen really hams it up with the dino's death rattles. (Stop right there before you start screaming "spoiler!" C'mon, you knew he had to win to make it to the fight with his brother at the end of the film. We won't tell you how that one turns out.) There's even a bit in which Welch is carried away by a Pteranodon who wants to feed her to its young! This is stuff you just don't see anymore, folks. Unless you happen to watch the opening credits of Malcolm in the Middle, that is.

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 5/17/00

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