Release: 24th October 2016
Format: BR / DVD
Released in 1966, Hammer classic, ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. is the spectacular prehistoric adventure of Tumak, a caveman and the son of the leader of the rock tribe. When Tumak (JOHN RICHARDSON), she is banished from his tribe he wanders through the brutal prehistoric lands until he stumbles upon the shell tribe Loana (RAQUEL WELCH), the daughter of the chief who takes pity on the exhausted and injured wanderer and nurses him back to health.
The plot of Hammer’s prolific epic One Million Years B.C. is reasonably simple, and continues to work in the film’s favour. A prehistoric Come Dine With Me turns nasty and Tumak, our hero, is left for dead in a volcanic wilderness popul;ated by man-eating dinosaurs. Reaching the ocean, Tumak is rescued by a cast of Point Break lookalikes, falls in love with certified hottie, Loana, kills a mini T-Rex, takes Loana back to his place, has a bath and then 90% of the cast is killed off by a low budget Krakatoa. The End.
One Million Years B.C (or for the purposes of future reference, “Years”) is on reflection rather naff. Aside from some of Ray Harryhausen’s truly astounding imagination and model work, there is about as much greatness in Don Chaffey’s direction as there is fabric on Raquel Welch’s body. Granted, “Years” is admirably easy to follow even in the absence of any dialogue and it does have one or two wonderful spectacles. But the former is due to this being a simple plot ripped off from the similarly titled American movie One Million B.C, and the latter is once again down to Harryhausen. “Years” has always coasted on Welch and that bikini in a way that felt as though Chaffey had a simple rule; the younger and hotter you are, the less you wear. The truth is, replace the dino action with bedroom action and “Years” could easily have slipped into softcore pornography (arguably a common theme among Hammer’s output). One might assume Hammer fancied “Years” as a modern King Kong, but Faye Wray never writhed and swooned her way through a girl-on-girl cat fight or took a slow giggle-filled dip in the lake. It is clear Chaffey and Hammer were selling sex not spectacle. If this were the other way around, then “Years”’s plot might make a bit more variation and treat the set pieces as plot points not yard sticks between flashes of Welch’s flesh. To say the film’s structure is formulaic would be an understatement; man, woman, fight, dinosaur, survive, repeat.
Viewed through innocent eyes and the is more a boring collection of vignettes between reasonably thrilling Jurassic action. “Years” starts off like a documentary of sorts, and viewed in the right light can carry itself as a fanciful brief history of pre-dawn man. To more sensitive eyes, the scenes with the throwback ape men and the Allosauraus attack on the shell tribe are actually quite intimidating. In fact, both scenes feel more horror than adventure, and definitely hone in on what made Hammer movies great. It is in these stronger moments where Mario Nascimbene’s plundering score takes hold.
As vintage cinema, “Years” is one of a number of landmark creations in its chosen genre. It has a certain charm in its shameless kitsch and career defining role for its leading lady. Harryhausen’s technique remains the best of its kind even today, and running on purely emotive performances the key cast make memorable work out of very little. But the film looks well beyond its 50 years, despite a glorious 4K restoration, in that it feels emotionally, socially and historically emaciated. Fans will have a lot to be grateful for in this celebratory Blu-Ray treatment, but newcomers will have to find reason to select this and not, say, Harryhausen’s Greek mythology works as a benchmark for all-round quality. Unless, of course, you just want to ogle beautiful women surrounded by giant lizards…which is what one might imagine the film’s original sales pitch may have been.
Film Grade: C-
Two rather revealing (no pun intended) Interviews show that this shoot was tough and no one ever intended on making Shakespeare. Welch, in particular, gives some unintentional insights into the bully tactics of 60’s Hollywood.
There are also some nice Archive Images for Harryhausen’s work on the project and a brief Still Gallery.
Special Features Grade: D+
Lacking enough subtext to truly deserve any real credible status, One Million Years B.C. still remains a time capsule of epic scale world building in a time when cinema was finally catching up with the imaginations of those who created it.