Theatrical Release: December 30, 1966 (U.K.)
Blu Ray Release: February 14, 2017
Director: Don Chaffey
Review by James Klein
Maybe more famous for the poster art (thanks to its pivotal moment in The Shawshank Redemption) than the movie itself, One Million Years B.C. is the type of film one could watch on a rainy, boring weekend and get some enjoyment out of this now 50 year old film. Made famous not only by Raquel Welch’s lack of costume but also by the wondrous stop motion effects by the great Ray Harryhausen (SFX legend who did everything from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers to Clash of the Titans, a childhood favorite of mine).
Hammer, known more for their horror and science fiction films starring the likes of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, decided to try their hand at fantasy with this prehistoric caveman film about the birth of man and two different cavemen tribes while dealing with the terrors of various prehistoric creatures that inhabit the land.
John Richardson (Black Sunday and Torso) plays Tumak, a caveman who has a sibling rivalry with his jealous brother Sakana (Percy Herbert from The Wild Geese). The men fight over the admiration and recognition of their father Akhoba (Robert Brown who played M in the later James Bond films). When the wild Akhoba takes the food of the bore that Tumak killed out of his hands, Tumak fights his father but loses by falling off a cliff. Believed to be dead, Tumak, while injured, is taken in by a different tribe known as the Shell People where he is treated with kindness, most notably by the gorgeous Loana (Raquel Welch who could give a gay man a hard on). Tumak recovers, falls in love with Loana and helps their people fight against the many dinosaurs they encounter as well as his former tribe.
With barely any dialog unless you count grunts and screams, One Million Years B.C. is a straight up action / fantasy film that relies heavily on its special effects and action than it does on plot. Because of this, the movie seems to fly by quickly and is a fast paced adventure film for both children and adults. While the film has very little blood, the movie seems much more darker and violent than what I remembered as a kid and thus, modern pussy parents may not want their little ones seeing dinosaurs attack people or dinosaurs being stabbed by spears. Hell, I bet some of these wimpy parents would blow their top if their child took note of some gorgeous Raquel Welch cleavage.
Harryhausen’s special effects may be dated for some (fuck you CGI) but I still find them fascinating. Some of the effects range from actual reptiles shot on green screen (think of a Burt I. Gordon film) but the other animals are actual Harryhausen creations that look amazing. I have always been a huge fan of stop motion so for me, I was in heaven watching these creations come to life but I can picture certain viewers thinking these effects are dated. I’d take this over some CGI laden superhero shitfest any day of the week.
Before I go off on a rant about modern films and the idiots who enjoy them, Kino’s blu ray transfer looks downright amazing. I owned One Million Years B.C. on VHS for many years and watching the new Kino blu ray, it’s like watching it again for the first time. Presented in the original 1:85:1 aspect ratio, Kino presents both the 100 minute international cut and the shortened 91 minute U.S. cut in a new 4K restoration that just blew me away. Colors are bright, popping out of the T.V. set. The picture maintains the film grain which is most noticeable during most of the action sequences involving dinosaurs or giant reptiles. Both versions have a 2.0 audio mix which is really solid. What stands out is that since the film barely has any audible dialog, the music and sound effects take center stage.
As for the two cuts of the film, there isn’t much of a difference in both versions aside from a dance that Martine Beswick performs that is missing on the U.S. cut along with a sequence where Tumak eats paint that the Shell People use to draw on the walls of the cave. This is all that I noticed between the two versions that stood out for me.
Kino provides an audio commentary by film historian Tim Lucas from Video Watchdog. This commentary is on the international cut only. Lucas always provides great commentary tracks and his film knowledge is impeccable. He also never tries to be witty or cute and just gives fans what we want: facts about the film we are watching. The blu ray carries over from the previous DVD two featurettes, one with Welch discussing how she came aboard this film after Fantastic Planet and an all too brief interview with Harryhausen. Both featurettes are from 2002 and presented in SD. The only new interview is with actress Martine Beswick who gives some great insight on the making of the film and how she came aboard the project. Finally there is a poster / still gallery and the trailers for both versions of the film.
What would be fun to do is watch this and then Quest For Fire, an ultimate caveman double feature. While Quest is the more serious, violent film, One Million Years B.C. is an entertaining, fun, fantasy film that can be enjoyed by both children and adults.
Blu Ray Rating: