It’s said that prostitution is the oldest profession in the world but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a toss up between dentistry and running a beauty parlour, given the perfect teeth and hair on show in One Million Years B.C. (1966, 95 mins). However, historical accuracy need not be of any concern here for this “story of long, long ago, when the world was just beginning” is a prehistoric fantasy, its feet firmly planted outside any known past. Straight teeth, styled hair, and perfectly fitting bikinis are — pedants be damned! — allowed.
A remake of One Million B.C. (1940), this movie begins like a nature documentary as a narrator describes the scene and introduces us to the Rock People, an extremely underdeveloped tribe who hunt in groups and communicate with the most basic of grunts. Amongst the tribe is Tumak (John Richardson) who, one day, is cast out from his people to face the horrors of what the narrator describes as “a hard, unfriendly world”. Bizarrely, for all the help said narrator provides in introducing characters, he soon disappears, never to be heard from again, leaving the rest of the story to the viewer.
What Tumak finds out in the wider world forms the basis of what this movie really appears to be about: the special effects and excellent stop motion animation of Ray Harryhausen, he of other classics like The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (1958), and Clash Of The Titans (1981). There’s large lizards, giant tarantulas, and dinosaurs ; one after the other. What little story One Million Years B.C. provides leads Tumak to the Shell People, a slightly more advanced tribe with knowledge of paint, cave art, boiling water, and even some rudimentary dialogue.
With this new tribe is arguably the most famous aspect of the movie: the iconic Loana (Raquel Welch in her infamous fur bikini). Essentially it’s a boy-meets-girl story, though there’s not much beyond that. Events are sequential, one thing leading to another with little acknowledgement to what has gone before. However each does at least demonstrate some aspect of their character. The actors seem to have a good time with little script, jumping and whooping in their loincloths. The use of a few nonsensical words acting as cave man dialogue does limit the amount of storytelling that can be achieved.
Even outside historical fact there are some silly issues around the set design with regards to the prehistoric world that has been created. Networks of caves house cave men and, a few evolutionary steps behind, ape men. But in a world where the most advanced technology presented is the spear, who carved all the steps? But such questions are not the sort of mysteries a movie like this seeks to put in place. Instead it just rumbles along on its own logic and, like its characters, it doesn’t say much.