1 Million Years B.C. (1966)

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This is the way it was!

(Not)

A million years ago, Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animated dinosaurs roamed the Earth. They were masters of all they surveyed: Titans, Arabians, Argonauts, cavemen, you name it. But, in 1993, a meteor called Jurassic Park struck the planet and rendered them extinct overnight. The genius of judicious cutting and editing; the magician’s skill in misdirection to hide the obvious artifice, was no longer required. The golden age of monster movies was lost forever.

Hammer, the great British B-grade production house which produced them, suffered a similar fate.

Contemporary monster-man still defer to the great Harryhausen. Monsters Inc named its restaurant Harry Hausen’s. Peter Jackson, whose movies have always had a Saturday matinee feel to them, seems with each outing to grow closer to the Clash of The Titans.

Harryhausen’s movies were never haute cinema even at the time. “I didn’t make them for professors”, he allegedly remarked, reasoning that Archaeologists don’t go the movies anyway. They haven’t aged well.

You do have to wonder who the audience will be when films like 1,000,000 Years B.C. are digitally remastered and re-released. Millenial hipster film-buffs with an over-developed sense of irony perhaps. But no amount of cleaning up will make these films dramatically satisfying in the age of Weta Digital. You can’t disguise the superclose-ups of ordinary iguanas and tarantulas, much less the patent nonsense that cavemen battled dinosaurs (and big terrapins), or that they did so one million years ago.

There is no dialogue – a blessed relief, you have to think – and if there are commercial grounds to re-release this clunky, mimed melodrama they seem to hinge on the sight of Raquel Welch in a bearskin bikini. In 2016, if that’s a pleasure at all, it’s a guilty one.

But its putative influence on one individual might yet puts 1,000,000 Years B.C. in a more lasting category. In its landscapes, in the odd, apropos-nothing psychedelic opening montage and, in its predication on Neanderthals grunting at each other, does not 1,000,000 years B.C. not bear striking similarities to 2001: A Space Odyssey? It was released three years beforehand.

If you read 2001 as a paean to the magic of cinema (for what is the monolith if it isn’t a cinema screen to enlightenment?) then perhaps this is the sort of mind-opening offering Kubrick had in mind.

I’m stretching here. But there’s little else to see.

STUDIOCANAL released the title on Doubleplay DVD and Blu-ray on October 24th 2016.

Country: UK
Director: Don Chaffey
Starring: Raquel Welch, John Richardson, Percy Herbert, Robert Brown, Martine Beswick, Eddie the Iguana, Barry the Tarantula, Wally the Warthog
Running Time: 100 loooong minutes

Film Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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