One Million Years BC


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

One Million Years BC
"Mario Nascimbene's score is stunning, somehow turning squalid domestic drama into an epic tale of the birth of humanity."

One Million Years B.C. Before calendars, that is, as the precise date seems a little unlikely, but that's par for the course in a film which is itself primitive. Tumak (John Richardson) is a caveman from the Rock Tribe, driven out after a dispute with his brother who is waiting for their elderly father to die so he can assume power. Wandering aimlessly through the desert, he has a few run-ins with dinosaurs (Creationists will love this) and is on his last legs when he encounters the Shell People, a tribe of blondes with new technologies and numerous buxom women. As they teach him about civilisation, he teaches them about chest-beating manliness. But can these people learn to live in harmony or are they doomed to fight one another in an already hostile world?

Best known for the iconic image of Raquel Welch in a fur bikini, this film also features some terrific monsters by Ray Harryhausen, at his very best with the swooping pterodactyl and the fight between a triceratops and a tyrannosaurus rex. Obviously these are not as smooth and seamless as viewers used to CGI might prefer, but they're stunning considering what he was working with and fans will feel they have a lot more character. There are also some great volcano and earthquake effects towards the end which, though they drag on a bit too long, are lots of fun.

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Where the film is weakest is, as might be expected, in its story. Since the language these people speak consists only of incoherently shouted nouns (though for some reason Welch's lines were still dubbed), complex plotting is out, and what we get instead is a series of scuffles, chases and heavy-handed demonstrations. Women pout; men shrug their shoulders; children (who do not yet seem to have been invented by the Rock tribe) sit around whimpering when they ought to be running away. Welch falls over a lot, keeps leaning toward the camera and is randomly dipped in water. Nevertheless, her charisma does extend beyond her ample chest and she manages to put across a forceful character. Beside her, Richardson flounders, not helped by the extensive hair that obscures his features. Other characters are mostly indistinguishable.

Trying to make a 100 minute movie out of this nonsense was never a very good idea, but with that in mind, it holds together surprisingly well. Mario Nascimbene's score is stunning, somehow turning squalid domestic drama into an epic tale of the birth of humanity. The dinosaur scenes are genuinely exciting and there's a lot of unintended comedy. It's basic but quite effective entertainment.

Reviewed on: 28 Dec 2009
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One Million Years BC packshot
The adventures of some cavemen, with added dinosaurs!
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Director: Don Chaffey

Writer: Michael Carreras, Mickell Novack

Starring: Raquel Welch, John Richardson, Percy Herbert, Robert Brown, Martine Beswick

Year: 1966

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK


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