One Million Years B.C.
Almost 20 years before Quest for Fire, Ice Man, Caveman, and Clan of the Cave Bear ushered in an era of early 1980s Neanderthal chic, Raquel Welch set the loincloth industry on fire in 1966's One Million Years B.C. With little interest in the anthropological verisimilitude that would inform most of its successors, however, director Don Chaffey's adventure yarn pulped out a decent smudge of cornball fantasy that was nevertheless ambitious. In a story told with very little intelligible spoken language beyond an introductory narration, John Richardson stars as Tumak, heir to the stony throne of a combative tribe of surly hunters. But internal power struggles (which, in those days consisted of little more than: "Me want meat! Me take meat! Oarrrgh!") find Tumak banished from his home cave in favor of his unnaturally ugly brother Akhoba (Robert Brown). Tumak makes his solitary way across the prehistoric badlands, where he encounters such frights of nature as giant lizards, pre-evolutionary mongoloids, a giant tarantula, and a monstrous snapping turtle, before collapsing on the outskirts of a more civilized agrarian tribe, complete with buxom blondes frolicking in the surf. Tumak's assimilation into this new, utopian society becomes the pet project of Loana (Welch, in a star-making leather bikini; her acting is somewhat less impressive), but his rough, dinosaur-thrashing presence is not so welcomed by the sensitive golden-boy who trails Loana like a puppy. After another destructive power struggle ("Me want spear! Me take spear! Oarrrgh!"), Tumak is sent away yet again, only this time with lanky Loana by his side, to brave more creatures as he makes his way back to home to settle some old scores. One Million Years B.C., is, on one hand, a movie that a caveman could comprehend and enjoy, so plain is its approach and so simple are its expectations of its audience. Yet, it is also a beautifully shot movie, and there is an unambitious grace in its comic-book realization of an often-ridiculous world of imagined pre-history. The creature effects by industry legend Ray Harryhausen are impressive, even in comparison to the unconvincing video-game level CGI dominant in so many contemporary movies, but it's sad that Harryhausen's promising effects were not utilized more effectively: The film's monsters are slow and dumb, and easy marks for extinction. While other areas of the movie are also slow and dumb (some of the editing feels like deliberate time-wasting, and some of the narrative events make very little sense), it still packs in some unconventional surprises and invention of concept to make it outlast the date-stamp that expired many of its contemporaries. Fox's DVD presents One Million Years B.C. in an anamorphic transfer (1.85:) with a print restored from two 35mm negative duplicates of the lost original negative. It looks quite good, with a sharp image and vibrant colors, and sounds fine in a Dolby Digital 2.0 remix. The disc includes the trailer (in both English and Spanish) and a comparison between the previous Laserdisc transfer and this restored version of the film. Keep-case.