One Million Years B.C. (1966)
By: Trist Jones on May 3, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Warner Home Video (UK). Region 2, PAL. 1.78:1 (Non-anamorphic). English DD 1.0. 96 minutes
The Movie
Director: Don Chaffey
Starring: Raquel Welch, John Richardson, Robert Brown, Martine Beswick, Percy Herbert
Screenplay: Michael Carreras
Country: UK
I, like most boys growing up, had an obsession with dinosaurs. I'm pretty sure mine was a little deeper than most, as just about everything I owned at the time had something to do with dinosaurs, no matter how slight. Because of this deep rooted obsession with prehistoric monsters, there was a noticeable theme running through the videos we would rent each week. There were four main ones I remember very clearly renting in constant and varying rotations, those being Godzilla 1985, 1922's The Lost World, King Kong and One Million Years B.C. There were countless others, but these were the constants, and when I finally obtained One Million Years B.C., my inner child came running back (propelled by his favourite red and white dinosaur sneakers) like never before.

Back then, One Million Years B.C. was all about the dinosaurs. The story was easy enough to sit through, as it wasn't ever hampered by pointless banter between the prehistoric humans that my three-to-six year old brain would likely discard anyway. On the contrary, the only words spoken were mono or duo syllabic grunts and the occasional "Tumak" or "Loana" (being the names of the film's hero and heroine respectively), so there wasn't really too much to take in. But I digress, back then, it was all about dinosaurs. Big, stonking, Ray Harryhausen dinosaurs (plus an iguana with a fin stuck to its back), and One Million Years B.C. had plenty to keep this kid extremely happy.

Nowadays, One Million Years B.C. is still all about the dinosaurs. When you watch it as a kid you get totally caught up in the high fantasy unravelling on screen, even if you knew your dinosaurs well enough to realize that humans and dinosaurs never co-existed. When you watch it as an adult, you know this fact. You can also distinguish good acting from bad acting, terrible scripts from good ones, special effects and film making techniques, all that sort of stuff that makes film critics deserving of murder and you decide what's worth watching and what's not. And if One Million Years B.C. weren't such an unbridled, tour de force dinosaur-effects fantasy, it would certainly be joining the ranks of Doug McClure's The Land That Time Forgot as one of The Dinosaur Films Time Forgot.

One Million Years B.C. gives viewers the option to pay attention to Tumak (John Richardson), a caveman cast out from his savage tribe who, after wandering for several days through the badlands, comes across a more civilized coastal tribe. Here we meet Loana (Raquel Welch), daughter of the coastal tribe's chief, who nurses Tumak back to health. Jealousy arises between Loana's betrothed and Tumak, resulting in a confrontation that gets Tumak sent away once again, only this time Loana joins him. Tumak returns with Loana to his people, and overthrows his savage father as head of the tribe, but his own brother begins to plot against him.

It might sound a little over theatrical, probably because as a story, it is, but when it's played out entirely through expressive grunts, body language and hilarious facial expressions, it's pretty easy to buy into. But who cares, right? There are dinosaurs here! Ray Harryhausen dinosaurs! There's also a plethora of Playboy Playmates in very small, furry bikinis! Harryhausen was always the best at his game. No one mastered Stop Motion animation like Harryhausen. The countless monster movies throughout the Fifties and Sixties, even on through the Seventies to the Eighties, meant that no one could come close to the expertise this man carried. This was the man that gave us the classic living statue of Kali, in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, the multi-headed Hydra and the army of Skeleton warriors in Jason and the Argonauts.

Watching this film (and any of his other films) on VHS, where the image quality was significantly lower, possibly damaged or stretched, made buying into the effects easy (so did the fact that I was considerably younger). But watching them on DVD made me realize how truly spectacular the effects were for their time. For 1966, the dinosaurs are incredibly well animated and interact with the world around them flawlessly (exception being the iguana). One sequence involving an Allosaurus attacking the coastal tribe's village is particularly impressive, especially when the village's men come to fend off the beast. Another sequence involving a Pteranodon is a treat for the eyes, and you really can't go past the fight between a Styracosaurus and a Ceratosaurus. The dinosaur names might be lost on you, but the sequences really are spectacular.
The image quality is surprisingly good. The film looks dated, sure, but the image quality itself is above par for a release like this one. There are a few barely noticeable nicks and scratches in the print, and certain sequences come out a little grainy, but surprisingly, the dinosaur sequences look fantastic on DVD. Usually stop motion sticks out like a sore thumb on DVD because of the re-mastering of the image, but Harryhausen has done that good a job on this that it's integration with the live action footage is below none.
Cruddy, old mono unfortunately here folks. Unsurprising, but bearable.
Extra Features
Unfortunately, the film only comes with the one extra and a trailer. The extra is an entertaining one though - a retrospective documentary featuring interviews with Raquel Welch and Ray Harryhausen on the production of the film. Raquel Welch's on-set anecdotes are hilarious, though hardly surprising, speaking in reference to the film's director and the view many had on the film during both its production and theatrical release. Harryhausen simply discusses his models and favourite sequences and varying techniques used in the film. I really would've liked to have had an audio commentary on this one, and perhaps a few more interviews. But hey, we have dinosaurs and beautiful women in very little clothing!
The Verdict
Hands down one of my personal, all-time favorites. Ultimately it's only worth watching for the dinosaurs and the women, but chances are if you've picked it up, the reason you've done so in the first place is because of Raquel Welch on the front cover. Some may find it boring when there aren't any dinosaurs on screen but if you have the much needed ability to completely suspend disbelief and can very easily slip into high fantasy films (without putting too cynical an eye on budgets and effects) then you're sure to get a kick out of this one. If not, enjoy the hilarity that is Raquel Welch and John Richardson trying to act seriously with the 'dialogue' they've been given. Supremely dated, but a very fun nostalgia trip, and it still holds up with the kids. The lack of extras is completely outweighed by the fun of the film. Two stars for the extras, four for the film itself.

For those who can't stand their films being cut either, this version, the Warner Home Video/Studio Canal release from the U.K. is actually uncut, running nine minutes longer than the U.S. version, which was also released on DVD in Australia by Fox.
Movie Score
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