One Million Years B.C. (1967)
One Million Years B.C. (1967)

Genre: Adventure and Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Release Date: February 21st, 1967 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Don Chaffey Actors: John Richardson, Raquel Welch, Percy Herbert, Robert Brown, Martine Beswick, Jean Wladon, Lisa Thomas, Malya Nappi, Yvonne Horner

 


 

L

ong ago when the world was just beginning, explains the narrator – before the camera zooms through layers of smoke and clouds and then kaleidoscopic red colors before settling on a montage of erupting volcanoes and lava. It’s a strangely long lead-in, failing to create anticipation for the coming adventure, despite the bombastic segue into the title graphics and ominous music (by Mario Nascimbene, remaining effective throughout). Of course, when Ray Harryhausen’s name appears onscreen, credited for the special effects, it’s certain to inspire more pronounced enthusiasm.

“A world early in the morning of time. A hard, unfriendly world,” chimes in the narrator once more as the scene opens to a barren wasteland full of craggy cliffs and lurking predators. A dirty caveman then appears, setting a trap for a boar. He’s a member of a small tribe (the Rock Tribe) of primitive men, led by Akhoba (Robert Brown) and his sons Tumak (John Richardson) and Sakana (Percy Herbert). They speak in grunts and groans, communicating in a limited yet comprehensible fashion. And they have only one rule: the strong survive and the weak perish. With the narrator detailing – somewhat unnecessarily – the structure of this primordial society, the film initially carries the vibe of a nature documentary.

Always at war amongst themselves for food and space (which might be translated as respect), the cavemen (and cavewomen) soon fight over scraps of boar, resulting in Tumak being ejected from their cavern (literally taking a tumble off a cliff onto a tree canopy below). The following morning, Tumak groggily sets off on his own, searching for a new life and new sustenance, and encountering in the process a giant lizard – in the first of many of Harryhausen’s monster conflicts. This first special effects sequence utilizes a real reptile, which is amusingly integrated into footage of Richardson retreating, though it’s not one of Harryhausen’s signature stop-motion creations. And next up is an ape-like creature, which is clearly a man in a suit.

It’s not long, however, before an animated dinosaur makes an appearance, which foreshadows the classic monster combat to come. And, as an extra highlight – eventually becoming the primary appeal of the entire project – is Loana (Raquel Welch), a member of a tribe of blond fishers. Despite the steady onslaught of gargantuan antagonists – from spiders to turtles to deadlier carnivores – its Welch in her fur bikini and skimpy trappings that would be most responsible for making this film unforgettable.

Interestingly (for a Hammer production more focused on entertainment than education), “One Million Years B.C.” paints a rather comprehensive picture of ancient life – from the contrasts of peaceful gatherers and violent hunters to understanding varying methods of teamwork and social structures (and the evolution of such behaviors) to raw survival in unforgiving environments (including bloody engagements with dinosaurs, of course). It’s indeed a brutal realm, but Welch always manages to soften up the visuals (along with Martine Beswick as a Rock Tribe beauty). A grapple between a triceratops and a tyrannosaurus-type brute, an epic catfight, a pterodactyl duel, and the inevitable clash between tribes keep the pace moving swiftly, all the way to the earth-shattering climax, marking this as one of the most significant (simple yet sincere) of all prehistoric adventures.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10


The Complete Ray Harryhausen


The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960)

Mysterious Island (1961)

Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

First Men in the Moon (1964)

One Million Years B.C. (1967)

The Valley of Gwangi (1969)

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)

Clash of the Titans (1981)