When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth


1h 40m 1971
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

Brief Synopsis

Seeking protection against the prehistoric creatures wreaking havoc on their island, a small tribe offers a blonde woman as a sacrifice to their god.

Film Details

Also Known As
When Dinosaurs Ruled the World
MPAA Rating
Genre
Romance
Adventure
Fantasy
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Feb 1971
Premiere Information
London opening: 1 Oct 1970
Production Company
Hammer Film Productions, Ltd.; Warner Bros., Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros., Inc.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Middlesex, England, United Kingdom; Canary Islands; London, England, Great Britain; Middlesex, England, Great Britain; Canary Islands, Spain

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Synopsis

In prehistoric times, before the moon's first appearance, the Rock Tribe habitually sacrifices its rare, female blondes to the sun god. As three girls, including Sanna, await their deaths, a piece of the sun breaks off, forming the moon, which in turn causes a massive wind storm. While tribe members are swept into the sea, Sanna falls into the water but is rescued by fishermen from the neighboring Sand Tribe, one of whom, Tara, is instantly attracted to her. Blaming Sanna for the natural disaster, the Rock Tribe chief, Kingsor, plans an expedition to find her while the fishermen take her to their tribe, whose women joyously embrace the returning men. One of them, Ayak, is thrilled to see Tara until she notices his preoccupation with Sanna, who is widely admired for her hair color. As their chief accepts her into the tribe, a dinosaur appears and the men band together to fight it. Tara and his best friend ingeniously trap the beast with fire, finally saving their brethren. That night, while they celebrate with dancing and a feast, Sanna constructs a hut nearby. To Ayak's displeasure, Tara leaves the celebration to visit Sanna, and in private gives her his bone necklace. Soon after, as Tara leaves for another fishing trip, Kingsor and his men see the moon rise, increasing their determination to find and kill Sanna. After Ayak discovers Tara's necklace in Sanna's tent, she incites the other women to confront Sanna on the beach. The two women fight until the Sand Tribe chief interrupts them, ruling that Sanna can keep the necklace. The Rock tribesmen soon arrive, but Sanna spots them from afar and flees into the nearby jungle. As the men follow her tracks, she climbs a tree to hide. A python crawls across her stomach, but she remains still and silent until it slides off her and attacks one of the men. Unable to save their friend, the other men continue on, entering a cave where they assume Sanna is hiding. There, they wake a brontosaurus, which attacks the men, wounding one and killing another. After the dinosaur retreats back into the cave, pterodactyls circle the wounded man, who fights them off weakly. That night, the fishermen return, and upon hearing of Sanna's flight, Tara takes three friends to search the jungle. Hearing the wounded man yell for help, they rescue him and Tara bravely lures the brontosaurus over a cliff to its death. That night the two tribes conduct a funeral and burial at sea for their dead. Still afraid of the moon, Kingsor demands justice against Sanna, inciting the others to riot and set fire to her tent. Tara tries to reason with them but faced with their fervor, walks off into the jungle alone. Meanwhile, Sanna is wandering the jungle trying to evade the dinosaur. She hides in a plant, but it attacks and almost swallows her, forcing her to cut off her hair to escape. Tara soon spots the remnants of her hair and mourns her for dead. As the sun rises, Sanna takes shelter in an empty dinosaur egg, not realizing that the adjacent egg is just hatching. As the baby dinosaur emerges, Tara returns Sanna's hair to Kingsor. Ayak attempts to console Tara, but he can think only of Sanna, not knowing that at the same time, the mother dinosaur has returned with food for her baby, and now assumes that Sanna is another of her children. Over the next weeks, Sanna bonds with the mother dinosaur and tames her and the baby until they are living as a family, while Tara continues to search for her. One day, she spots him and two others nearby, attacking the mother dinosaur. Sanna calls the beast off, but the men do not see her and rush away. Tara then visits the Rock Tribe and, seeing the blonde women there, reminisces about Sanna and leads the tribesmen away from a mother secretly dying her child's blonde hair black with tar. Just then, a pterodactyl attacks Tara, scooping him up in its claws and depositing him in its nest. Tara manages to spear it and climb out unharmed, and from the height of the nest is able to see Sanna. Noting the mother dinosaur nearby, he assumes she is in danger and races to help her, but she explains her relationship to the animal, to his amazement. They go back to her cave and make love. The next morning, he returns to the tribe, who demand to know where Sanna is. When he refuses to reveal her location, Kingsor orders him killed, despite the Sand Tribe chief's pleas for restraint. Tara fights, but is overwhelmed and tied to a wooden pyre that is set on fire and set adrift in the ocean. When a huge dinosaur suddenly rises from the water and grabs him, the people exult, not realizing that he has broken free. That night, as the tribe members uneasily witness the moon's rising, Tara stumbles back to Sanna. She tends to him for days, and as he recovers, Kingsor spots the smoke from her fire in the distance and brings his men to investigate. Seeing the men approach, Tara grabs Sanna and they dive into the river to escape. Closely pursued, the couple climbs a rocky hill and hides behind a boulder. When Sanna slips and almost falls to her death, Tara saves her, after which they run from a pair of dinosaurs fighting nearby. Eventually the tribesmen capture the couple, but the mother dinosaur comes to the rescue, picking up Sanna and carrying her off. Tara, however, is taken back to tribe as then moon swirls ominously in sky. Once again he is tied to stakes and is about to be sacrificed to the moon when the tribe members are attacked by a giant crab. Just then, a huge tidal wave swells toward them. As everyone flees, Tara, tied to the stake, is helpless until Sanna arrives and frees him. While Kingsor attempts to hold off the wave with his bare hands, Ayak is sucked down into a pit of quicksand, despite Tara's attempt to rescue her. Tara's best friend and his girl friend jump onto a raft to ride out the tidal wave, and as Sanna and Tara join them, Kingsor tries to commandeer the vessel. Tara fights him off, and just as the wave destroys the beach, the foursome escapes out onto the ocean. They tie themselves to the raft to stay alive, and hours later return to the now peaceful land. Realizing that they are the only survivors, they watch a lunar eclipse with respectful awe.

Film Details

Also Known As
When Dinosaurs Ruled the World
MPAA Rating
Genre
Romance
Adventure
Fantasy
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Feb 1971
Premiere Information
London opening: 1 Oct 1970
Production Company
Hammer Film Productions, Ltd.; Warner Bros., Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros., Inc.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Middlesex, England, United Kingdom; Canary Islands; London, England, Great Britain; Middlesex, England, Great Britain; Canary Islands, Spain

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Special Effects

1972

Articles

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth


Hammer Film Productions' One Million Years, B.C. (1966), a remake of the Hal Roach dinosaur classic One Million B.C. (1940), was a significant gamble for a company whose stock-in-trade was mid-budget Gothic horror films (Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula), psychological thrillers (Scream of Fear, Paranoiac) in the Psycho (1960) mode, and the occasional combat drama (Yesterday's Enemy, The Steele Bayonet); beneficiary of Hammer's largest budget to date (the $600,000 shooting costs were split between the Bray-based outfit and American distributors Warners-Seven Arts), the prehistoric adventure was an enormous hit, thanks in no small part to an iconic turn by Raquel Welch (in a career-making performance as a cavegirl beset by tribal unrest and a mama pterodactyl with hungry beaks to feed) and the stop-motion wizardry of animator Ray Harryhausen. Never known to quit while they were ahead, Hammer executives pressed for a likeminded follow-up, leaving production in the capable hands of Aida Young, who had just graduated from thankless behind-the-scenes scutwork to full-on producer status. Looking to give When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) a distinctive voice, Young called upon science fiction novelist J. G. Ballard. Young tasked Ballard to cook up a suitable treatment, its tone not too far afield of his postapocalyptic novel The Drowned World, whose publication in 1962 had established the Shepperton-based scribe as a key figure in the 60s science fiction new wave.

As if unable to take seriously Hammer's game plan of a prehistoric plain inhabited by both dinosaurs and primitive men, Ballard turned in a darkly satiric treatment that had its own fun with the ahistorical nonsense. His take on the subject was, not surprisingly, rejected by Hammer, who then trucked in writer-director Val Guest (who had led the company to glory in 1955 with The Quatermass Xperiment) to devise something a bit more on-message. Worse luck for Hammer, Raquel Welch was disinclined to step back into her iconic One Million Years, B.C. loincloth (having moved on in the interim to leading lady assignments opposite Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and James Stewart) while Ray Harryhausen was unavailable, laboring as he was with exquisite patience on the Spanish location of the cowboys vs. dinosaurs romp Valley of the Gwangi (1969). In place of Welch, Aida Young turned to former Playboy playmate Angela Dorian; born Victoria Vetri in San Francisco to Italian immigrants, Vetri had been a youthful hopeful for the title role in Stanley Kubrick's Lolita (1962) before setting into eye candy roles on episodic television (Batman, , Star Trek) and in the occasional feature film (as Mia Farrow's Satanic predecessor in Rosemary's Baby). Having officially returned to her birth name for professional purposes, Vetri refused to have her natural auburn locks lightened to play a primitive woman earmarked by her tribe for sacrifice, and was fitted instead with a blonde wig.

In Harryhausen's stead, Hammer retained the services of Jim Danforth, another American animator/stop-motion specialist whose career had begun under the mentorship of Gumby creator Art Clokey. Danforth had his earned his first feature film credits (The Time Machine, Jack the Giant Killer) before he was old enough to vote and was nominated for an Academy Award at age 25 for his visual effects for The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964). Hammer was so keen to have Danforth on board that they maintained they would not commission a screenplay for When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth until he had committed to the project; yet, after Danforth signed on, he felt squeezed out of the creative loop, unable to contribute screenplay ideas or to advise Hammer of grave errors they were making in preproduction. Relations grew hostile after the start of principal photography on the Canary Islands in October 1968, as Danforth informed his bosses that matte paintings and sets would have to be redone to accommodate his animated dinosaurs and that whole sections of the Guest screenplay would have to be binned unless the company was willing to cough up more time and money. Contracted for the term of one year, Danforth beavered away on When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth for eighteen months, completing his effects in February 1970. Despite the behind-the-curtain setbacks, the film opened to good press and good business. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was Danforth's contributions that drew hosannas from the trades. Released in the United States in March 1971, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth earned Danforth his second Academy Award nomination (for special visual effects) and brought Hammer its one and only close encounter with Oscar gold.

By Richard Harland Smith

Sources:

So You Want to Be in Pictures: From Will Hay to Hammer Horror and James Bond, by Val Guest (Reynolds & Hearn, Ltd., 2001)
Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography by Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio (McFarland and Company, Inc., 1996
Miracles of Life: From Shanghai to Shepperton, An Autobiography by J. G. Ballard (W. W. Norton & Company, 2013)
When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

Hammer Film Productions' One Million Years, B.C. (1966), a remake of the Hal Roach dinosaur classic One Million B.C. (1940), was a significant gamble for a company whose stock-in-trade was mid-budget Gothic horror films (Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula), psychological thrillers (Scream of Fear, Paranoiac) in the Psycho (1960) mode, and the occasional combat drama (Yesterday's Enemy, The Steele Bayonet); beneficiary of Hammer's largest budget to date (the $600,000 shooting costs were split between the Bray-based outfit and American distributors Warners-Seven Arts), the prehistoric adventure was an enormous hit, thanks in no small part to an iconic turn by Raquel Welch (in a career-making performance as a cavegirl beset by tribal unrest and a mama pterodactyl with hungry beaks to feed) and the stop-motion wizardry of animator Ray Harryhausen. Never known to quit while they were ahead, Hammer executives pressed for a likeminded follow-up, leaving production in the capable hands of Aida Young, who had just graduated from thankless behind-the-scenes scutwork to full-on producer status. Looking to give When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) a distinctive voice, Young called upon science fiction novelist J. G. Ballard. Young tasked Ballard to cook up a suitable treatment, its tone not too far afield of his postapocalyptic novel The Drowned World, whose publication in 1962 had established the Shepperton-based scribe as a key figure in the 60s science fiction new wave. As if unable to take seriously Hammer's game plan of a prehistoric plain inhabited by both dinosaurs and primitive men, Ballard turned in a darkly satiric treatment that had its own fun with the ahistorical nonsense. His take on the subject was, not surprisingly, rejected by Hammer, who then trucked in writer-director Val Guest (who had led the company to glory in 1955 with The Quatermass Xperiment) to devise something a bit more on-message. Worse luck for Hammer, Raquel Welch was disinclined to step back into her iconic One Million Years, B.C. loincloth (having moved on in the interim to leading lady assignments opposite Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and James Stewart) while Ray Harryhausen was unavailable, laboring as he was with exquisite patience on the Spanish location of the cowboys vs. dinosaurs romp Valley of the Gwangi (1969). In place of Welch, Aida Young turned to former Playboy playmate Angela Dorian; born Victoria Vetri in San Francisco to Italian immigrants, Vetri had been a youthful hopeful for the title role in Stanley Kubrick's Lolita (1962) before setting into eye candy roles on episodic television (Batman, , Star Trek) and in the occasional feature film (as Mia Farrow's Satanic predecessor in Rosemary's Baby). Having officially returned to her birth name for professional purposes, Vetri refused to have her natural auburn locks lightened to play a primitive woman earmarked by her tribe for sacrifice, and was fitted instead with a blonde wig. In Harryhausen's stead, Hammer retained the services of Jim Danforth, another American animator/stop-motion specialist whose career had begun under the mentorship of Gumby creator Art Clokey. Danforth had his earned his first feature film credits (The Time Machine, Jack the Giant Killer) before he was old enough to vote and was nominated for an Academy Award at age 25 for his visual effects for The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964). Hammer was so keen to have Danforth on board that they maintained they would not commission a screenplay for When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth until he had committed to the project; yet, after Danforth signed on, he felt squeezed out of the creative loop, unable to contribute screenplay ideas or to advise Hammer of grave errors they were making in preproduction. Relations grew hostile after the start of principal photography on the Canary Islands in October 1968, as Danforth informed his bosses that matte paintings and sets would have to be redone to accommodate his animated dinosaurs and that whole sections of the Guest screenplay would have to be binned unless the company was willing to cough up more time and money. Contracted for the term of one year, Danforth beavered away on When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth for eighteen months, completing his effects in February 1970. Despite the behind-the-curtain setbacks, the film opened to good press and good business. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was Danforth's contributions that drew hosannas from the trades. Released in the United States in March 1971, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth earned Danforth his second Academy Award nomination (for special visual effects) and brought Hammer its one and only close encounter with Oscar gold. By Richard Harland Smith Sources: So You Want to Be in Pictures: From Will Hay to Hammer Horror and James Bond, by Val Guest (Reynolds & Hearn, Ltd., 2001) Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography by Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio (McFarland and Company, Inc., 1996 Miracles of Life: From Shanghai to Shepperton, An Autobiography by J. G. Ballard (W. W. Norton & Company, 2013)

Quotes

Trivia

Victoria Vetri revealed in a 1984 interview that the U.K. version of the film contains nudity. The nude scenes include her character Sanna making love to Tara (Robin Hawdon) in a cave.

Notes

An onscreen credit reads: "Made at Shepperton Studios Limited, Shepperton, Middlesex, England, and on location in the Canary Islands." The first scene begins with an unseen narrator explaining that it is a time of man's fear of the unknown, before the moon had first appeared. Following this, the rest of the film's dialogue is in an invented caveman language. According to the Hollywood Reporter review, the dialogue consisted of a "27-word vocabulary synthesized from Latin, Sanscrit and Phoenician."
       An October 1968 Variety news item stated that When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth was "being shaped" for distribution by the Warner Bros. subsidiary 7 Arts, which had at that time been renamed W7. However, all contemporary sources list only Warner Bros. Upon its release in England in October 1970, the film was titled When Dinosaurs Ruled the World and ran for 100 minutes. For its February 1971 American release, the film was cut to 96 minutes and retitled When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Jim Danforth and Roger Dicken received an Academy Award nomination for Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects. Star Victoria Vetri was Playboy's 1968 Playmate of the Year, then using the name Angela Dorian.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States on Video August 7, 1991

Released in United States Winter February 1971

Sequel to "One Million Years B.C." (Great Britain/1966).

Released in United States Winter February 1971

Released in United States on Video August 7, 1991