Tumak, a member of the Rock Tribe, is expelled from their cave after running afoul of their leader Akhoba, who also happens to be his father. After several days of wandering, he meets stumbles upon several female members of the Shell Tribe, a group that lives on the coast. Loana, the daughter of the chief, sees that he is in terrible shape from his ordeal and nurses him back to health. This causes her betrothed to become jealous and eventually the two of them get into a major fight and Tumak is expelled as a result. However, Loana decides to join him and follows him back to the caves of his people. While there Loana teaches the Rock people civility and this causes Tumak to become the new leader (Akhoba was severely injured while Tumak was away). This doesn't sit well with Tumak's brother Sakana who begins to plot to have Tumak overthrown.
Directed by: Don Chaffey
. Starring: Raquel Welch
, John Richardson
, Percy Herbert
, Robert Brown
, Martine Beswick
, Jean Wladon
, Lisa Thomas
, Malya Nappi
, Richard James
, William Lyon Brown
, Frank Hayden
, Terence Maidment
, Micky De Rauch
. Music by: Mario Nascimbene
"One Million Years B.C" is a remake of "One Million B.C." from 1940, which I have never seen. It is essentially a romance about lovers from two different tribes, Tumak from the Rock People and Loana of the Shell People. The two tribes seem to have reached quite different stages of cultural development. The Rock People are a crude, brutish lot who have no spoken language as such, communicating only by means of grunts and cries, although oddly enough they all have personal names which they are quite capable of articulating. The Shell People, by contrast, are more civilised, having developed the arts of music, painting, jewellery and weapon-making. They even have their own language, although it seems to consist of only about half a dozen words which they repeat endlessly. ("Akita! Makan!"). What is one to make of the fact that the Rock People are all dark-haired whereas the Shell People are predominantly blonde? (Even Raquel Welch appears to have dyed her normally brunette locks). Neo-Nazi propaganda demonstrating the cultural superiority of the Aryan race?
Intertwined with the story of Tumak and Loana are scenes of dinosaurs who engage in fights with the cavemen and with each other. It is these scenes which are responsible for the criticism most frequently made of the film, namely that it is anachronistic. Neither dinosaurs nor modern humans existed one million years ago; the dinosaurs became extinct around sixty-five million years before that date and modern Homo sapiens did not arrive on the scene until about 200,000 years BC. There would have been hominids of some sort roaming the earth in 1,000,000 BC, but I doubt if they bore much resemblance to the lovely Raquel. One might also ask how a world which appears to be a barren desert (the film was shot in the Canary Islands) can support so many huge herbivorous creatures and the carnivores which prey on them.
This is not, however, a criticism which I would make. Even though "One Million Years BC" was advertised under the tagline "This is the way it was", it was clearly intended as a fantasy rather than a serious historical picture of life in the Lower Pleistocene. One might as well criticise "Lord of the Rings" on the ground that hobbits, orcs and ringwraiths are not species known to zoology. Indeed, some of the dinosaur scenes are the most enjoyable thing about this movie, especially the duel between the Triceratops and the large carnivorous dinosaur. (I assumed it was a Tyrannosaurus Rex but am informed it was in fact a Ceratosaurus). The volcanic eruption towards the end is also pretty spectacular by the standards of the sixties.
I would, however, have some other criticisms of the film. I normally have a soft spot for Ray Harryhausen's work, but must admit that this one is something of an exception. All those bad sci-fi and "critter" movies from the fifties should have taught him that small, inoffensive creatures like lizards and spiders do not become remotely scary when optically enlarged to apparently gigantic size. The animated sequences produced using his famous "stop motion" technique are better, but I am not sure what persuaded him to make one of the cavemen's antagonists a giant turtle. I mean, who is going to be frightened of a sea creature out of its natural habitat, built for defence rather than attack and so proverbially slow and clumsy on land that the least athletic human could easily outrun it? Incidentally, the Shell People's name for the turtle in their language is "Archelon", which by a remarkable coincidence is exactly the same as the name given to it by their palaeontologist descendants a million years later.
Another drawback is the lack of any comprehensible dialogue; no subtitles are provided for the Shell People's language. This means that the actors are deprived of what would normally be their normal method of conveying meaning and emotion and have to rely solely upon gestures, expressions and body language. Acting without words is a difficult skill, and one which none of the cast seems to possess. Also, I was unsure why the final scene, after the eruption, is in black-and-white. Did this have some symbolic significance, or did the producers simply run out of colour film?
"One Million Years B.C." might today seem like no more than a cheesy bit of sixties pulp cinema, but it was obviously successful in its day as it spawned two sequels, "When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth" and "Creatures the World Forgot". These sequels are today very much Films the World Forgot, whereas "One Million Years B.C." itself is still well-remembered. The reason for this, of course, is that it was the film that catapulted Raquel to stardom. ("When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth" was intended to do the same for another glamorous actress, the Playboy centrefold Victoria Vetri, but signally failed to do so). Raquel's performance here is far from being her best, but she had not only the looks but also the charisma to become an instant celebrity; that famous picture of her in a fur bikini became a poster found on the bedroom walls of adolescent males for years afterwards.
Review by James Hitchcock from the Internet Movie Database.