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One Million Years B. C.

One Million Years B. C.(1967)

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Those of you who get a little light-headed thinking about Wilma Flintstone will have to get a cold compress when viewing One Million Years B.C. (1966). Raquel Welch in a fur bikini? Words fail us. Did we mention dinosaurs as well? Now a happy death awaits.

One Million Years B.C. was Hammer Studios' attempt to cash in on the short-lived (mercifully?) dinosaur exploitation trend, which thrived despite ASPCA complaints and the scientific impossibility of humans co-existing with dinosaurs. You know how these films went: big lizards, scantily clad cave folk and lots o' rocks. Told in pantomime with no spoken dialogue (except for occasional grunts), the fun in this film is catching all of the anachronisms from the cave peoples' sophisticated hairstyles and flawless make-up to their perfect teeth. In the future, this type of film would lead to the various pretensions of Quest for Fire (1981) and Jurassic Park (1993) but at the time One Million Years B.C. was drive-in fodder and we were darn proud to get it.

As the film opens, we get to meet our caveperson hero, John Richardson (from the horror classic Black Sunday [1960] though we're still wondering about 1975's Duck in Orange Sauce on his filmography). He fights with his father and gets kicked out of the Rock People tribe. He wanders a bit before discovering the Shell People with Ms. Welch attached. The two youngsters fall in love while eventually a war ignites between the different tribes, making this perhaps a cave-dwelling Romeo and Juliet. (Officially it's a remake of the 1940 One Million B.C. which starred Victor Mature, a one-time matinee idol whose bust could rival Ms. Welch's!) Particularly memorable is the sequence where Raquel emerges from a lake and is promptly snatched up and carried away by a flying reptile. While it is true that most of the creatures are animated models, there is one fight sequence featuring two live lizards disguised as Mesozoic creatures. This wasn't intended as a homage to the original version (which DID use lizards as dinosaur stand-ins), but a budgetary necessity.

One Million Years B.C. was filmed in the Canary Islands though the dinosaurs were the work of animation master Ray Harryhausen (The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, 1958). Holding this all together was director Don Chaffey, who cut his teeth on TV's The Avengers and such films as Jason and the Argonauts (1963). He later specialized in TV series, contributing to Fantasy Island and T. J. Hooker among others. The music - an unusual score utilizing rocks, bell sticks and other percussive sounds - was by Mario Nascimbene, a busy Italian composer who was perhaps best-known for The Barefoot Contessa (1954).

Cult horror fans especially love this movie for another reason - Martine Beswick, who has a prominent role as Raquel's rival, Nupondi. She kicked off her career in a couple of Bond films (From Russia With Love [1963], Thunderball [1965]) before subsisting on a thin but steady stream of B-movies like Oliver Stone's first film Seizure (1974), Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971) and The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood (1980). Beswick admirers should also check out some of her work in other Hammer Films like Prehistoric Women (1967) where the budget was so cheap that they reused the same set pieces and costumes from One Million Years B.C.. And yes, there's yet another James Bond connection in the form of Robert Brown (Akhoba) who played gadgetmaster M in the series from 1983's Octopussy to 1989's License to Kill.

Hammer studios was quite wise in capitalizing on Ms. Welch's natural attributes for this epic and even went so far as to send out over 10,000 Christmas cards of the practically naked Raquel in her fur bikini to several theater owners all over Europe and the U.S. The ploy obviously worked; the film's international take at the box-office was over $9 million, not bad for a film where the actors' chief line of dialogue was "ugh!"

So if your Time Machine is broken you can tune into TCM for a trip to One Million Years B.C. with the assurance that you won't be squished between some T. Rex's toes. Now that's progress.

Director: Don Chaffey
Producer: Michael Carreras
Screenplay: Michael Carreras, based on the 1940 screenplay by George Baker
Editing: Tom Simpson
Art Direction: Robert Jones
Cinematography: Wilkie Cooper
Music: Mario Nascimbene
Special Effects: George Blackwell, Ray Harryhausen
Cast: Raquel Welch (Loana), John Richardson (Tumak), Percy Herbert (Sakana), Martine Beswick (Nupondi), Robert Brown (Akhoba), Jean Wladon (Ahot), William Lyon Brown (Payto), Lisa Thomas (Sura).
C-100m.

by Lang Thompson

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