In honour of the 50th anniversary of the release of ‘One Million Years B.C.’, which was itself the 100th production of the legendary Hammer production house, the film has been given a glorious 4K overhaul and is set for release on Doubleplay DVD and Blu-ray on October 24th 2016.
I’ve never seen this film before, but I’m a long term fan of the work of Ray Harryhausen, whose stop motion animation I first encountered as a child watching ‘The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad’, and ‘Clash Of The Titans’. This being so, I leapt at the chance to review ‘One Million Years B.C.’ – and I’m glad I did.
Known for the famous photo of Raquel Welch in the “fur bikini” (which as she goes to great pains to explain in an interview which comes with the video was *not* fur, but rather doe skin, with some fur left attached, and wasn’t really a bikini either), ‘One Million Years B.C.’ is clearly not going to appeal to anyone after special effects or exciting drama, but that’s alright – free your mind for an hour or so and enjoy the film for what it is.
The film follows the story of two tribes, the Rock People and the Shell People, isolated from each other for who knows how long, whose stories become entwined through the love affair between Tumak and Loana, played by John Richardson and Raquel Welch respectively. Tumak is the favourite son of the chief of the Rock People, and there is no love lost between Tumak and his brother, Sakana. Tumak is left for dead by his people, when he falls of a cliff. This is according to their custom, we have earlier seen an old man similarly abandoned when he falls in a pit and breaks his leg. Given the story is set at the dawn of time, it’s a chilling reminder that there are no doctors, or even shaman. He’s not killed however, and goes exploring, thus becoming the first man from his tribe to venture into the big wide world. After sustaining an injury during one of many encounters with prehistoric creatures – enter Ray Harryhausen’s amazing stop motion animation – he chances upon a beach, where he finds female warriors spear fishing, among them Loana, played by Raquel Welch, in her doe skin.
There is a lot of symbolism in this film: the fair-haired, more aesthetically pleasing (and when it comes down to it far better dressed) Shell People are more technologically advanced than the Rock People, already having the knowledge of spears, nets, cave painting, and flint napping. They eagerly show their skills to Tumak, who in turn shows them his bravery in hunting, when he kills an Allosaurus which was threatening a small child. He loses favour with the Shell People however, and is cast out, when he tries to steal one of their spears. All is not lost though: he has won the heart of Loana who goes with him.
Another stand out cast member is of course Martine Beswick. Beswick plays Nupondi, Tumak’s former lover, who engages in a catfight with Loana over Tumak. There’s a great interview with Martine included in the new release, and she explains how she tried very hard not to take the role in the film, as she had already felt chemistry with John Richardson during times she’d seen him from afar in London – it was all to no avail however. As soon as their eyes met across the room, it was, in the words of producer Michael Carreras, who witnessed it, “electric”. The pair married the following year.
The special release DVD and Blu-Ray includes, not only the afore-mentioned interviews with Welch and Beswick, but also exclusive Ray Harryhausen stills, storyboard and artwork, and a production stills gallery. It’s worth it for those alone.
‘One Million Years B.C.’ will be released on Doubleplay DVD and Blu-ray on October 24th 2016.