Director Don Chaffey’s ambitious and spectacular 1966 prehistoric fantasy adventure stars the remarkable Raquel Welch, famously looking sexy in perhaps the most iconic fur bikini of all time as Loana the Fair One. Billed as the 100th production of Hammer Films, it was the production house’s biggest commercial success.
The fur-clad Welch is perhaps the British movie’s main attraction, and it is about as good as it gets. However, apart from Welch, the film’s highlights are legendary special effects animator Ray Harryhausen’s endearing, decently animated stop-motion monsters, Wilkie Cooper’s attractive cinematography and Chaffey’s dynamic direction.
Hammer Films’ remake of the 1940 Hal Roach film One Million BC (aka Man and His Mate), with a screenplay by the studio boss and producer Michael Carreras, textbook loads of inaccurate prehistory and lots of grunting and groaning, is a great deal of daft fun. It re-creates many of the scenes of One Million BC, such as an allosaurus attacking a tree full of children.
The handsome John Richardson co-stars as the cave man Tumak, who is sent away to the harsh desert in disgrace by his nasty Rock People tribe, after a fight over a piece of meat with his tribe leader father Akhoba (Robert Brown). Tumak collapses on a remote beach after surviving many dangers such as a giant iguana, ape men, Apatosaurus and a giant spider. Then he is found by the nice fisherwomen of the Shell People tribe, among whom is Welch, who promptly swoons over him.
Harryhausen, who animated the dinosaur attacks using his famous stop-motion techniques, stated that he did not work on One Million Years BC for professors who in his opinion probably don’t go to see these kinds of movies anyway.
He’s explaining away the non-historical story, set in a fictional age of cavemen and dinosaurs. It has dinosaurs and humans living together, whereas, according to the geologic time scale, the last dinosaurs became extinct roughly 65 million years BC, and homo sapiens (us) did not exist till about 200,000 years BC.
Lovingly preserved by Harryhausen, the dinosaur models still exist but the Ceratosaurus and the Triceratops were remodelled for Gwangi and the Styracosaurus in Harryhausen’s work for The Valley of Gwangi (1969).
The location exterior scenes were filmed on Lanzarote and Tenerife in the Canary Islands in the middle of winter, in late 1965, where Hammer went back for their follow-up: When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970).
Nine minutes were cut from the American print, including a provocative dance from Martine Beswick (as Nupondi), a gruesome end to one of the ape-men in the cave and footage of the allosaur attack on the Shell tribe.
Robert Brown wears makeup similar to Lon Chaney Jr’s as Akhoba in the 1940 One Million BC. Also in the cast are Percy Herbert, Yvonne Horner, Jean Waldon, Lisa Thomas, Malya Nappi, Richard James, William Lyon Brown, Frank Hayden, Terence Maidment and Mickey de Rauch.
Beswick reappears as the star in Carreras’s 1967 follow-up, Slave Girls.
Studiocanal announced the release of a new 4k restoration on October 24 2016 to mark its 50th anniversary.
© Derek Winnert 2015 Classic Movie Review 2436
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