Release Date(s)1966 (February 14, 2017)
Studio(s)Hammer Films Productions/Seven Arts (Kino)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A-
“This is a story of long, long ago, when the world was just beginning.”
You think you’re better than One Million Years B.C., don’t you? You think that stop motion dinosaurs, dudes in wigs and Flintstones clothes and Raquel Welch in a leather bikini are somehow beneath your cultured cinematic palette. Go ahead – admit it. Well, you’re wrong. One Million Years B.C. is a wonderful film and those of you who haven’t seen it because of uptight snobbery are missing out. Made in 1966 by Hammer Film Productions and Seven Arts (yes, that Hammer Films), One Million Years B.C. is a remake of a 1940s Hal Roach picture whose claim to fame is more as a stock footage archive of material pulled out and reused in countless genre shorts and features over the years than anything anyone has seen as a whole. One Million Years B.C. even features some prime cut Ray Harryhausen animation, bringing to life carnivorous dinos, confused and hungry turtles and persistent Pteranodons amongst others. It’s pure movie fun, and it looks absolutely gorgeous in this new Blu-ray update from Kino.
Flashback a few ages, when Man was not more than an ape – full of instant gratification and pure id. Broken apart into various clans spread out across the world, we start our focus on the dark-haired, Neanderthal-like Rock People, Tumak (John Richardson) challenges his father Akoba, the tribal leader and is knocked off a cliff and left for dead for his insubordination. Knowing he can’t go back to his home, he travels on and finds himself at death’s door, face-first in the sand, next to an ocean. It’s there that he is saved from becoming giant turtle food by the communal fair-haired Shell People, particularly he is saved by the striking Loana (Raquel Welch). Tumak’s rough ways humor the Shell People as they show him their culture, which is seemingly far advanced compared to the Rock People. In time, Loana starts to see through the rough exterior and falls in love with him – which doesn’t sit well with her people. Tumak is shown how to verbalize with more than grunts and to use tools and weapons: primarily, a spear. Tumak eventually shows his worth by saving the clan from a dinosaur attack, using his new found abilities with that spear – but when he tries to take a spear from the clan’s cache as his own, he is considered a thief and cast out with Loana right behind him. Out in this savage world on their own, they encounter deadly, anachronistic monsters, treacherous landscapes and soon find familiar terrain when Tumak ends up home in the land of the Rock People who are in a state of chaos as Akoba and his other son Sakana vie for control of the clan. All are less than happy to see Tumak return – none more so than his old mate Nupondi (Martine Beswick). All this climaxes in an epic battle between Rock People factions, outside clans when the Shell People come looking for Loana, more dinosaur attacks and topping it all – a seething volcano! Directed with a steady and competent hand by Jason and the Argonauts’ Don Chaffey, this Blu-ray edition presents the film in both the must-watch 100-minute international cut and the you-don’t-need-it 91-minute U.S. cut across two separate discs, any genre fan will be more than entertained by this sci-fi masterpiece.
As this is a “Brand New 4K Restoration,” One Million Years B.C. looks phenomenal. Aside from the opening credits, which are the only difference between the two cuts, everything else is identical in quality. The 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation is very pleasing and showcases the film well. Details are fine-tuned, colors pop and there’s just a hint of grain to remind you this is a classic film shot on film. There’s nary a sign of hidden damage to knock you out of watching the film. It truly is a treat to see this film preserved so nicely. Audio is well-presented, but serviceable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 channel. It’s a natural soundscape, but nothing really over-powering. It won’t show off your sound system, in other words, but you’ll enjoy the ride. There are no captions, but not much dialogue is featured in the film, so no loss there.
The special features for this set are also spread across the two discs. The big ticket item is Tim Lucas’ well-spoken commentary track on the International Cut that really cements the film’s importance as socio-political/sexual-political commentary. Lucas clearly thinks highly of this film’s worth and considers it a cinematic achievement. After you listen to this incredible commentary, you will too. Sharing space with the International Cut is a montage of film posters and stills showcasing some good-looking promotional images and publicity material, as well as the International trailer. The shorter U.S. Cut has In the Valley of Dinosaurs, a 2002 interview with Raquel Welch, who seems to, at least at the time, not be a too big a fan of the film that gave her her pop culture icon status. She’s good-humored about it, and comes across like a real trooper, but she doesn’t consider this film to be more than a blip in her career. There’s also a 2002 interview with everyone’s favorite stop motion special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen who walks us through many of his still-in-action creature models. It’s very informative about his work, his influences and his love for all things dino. Rounding it all out is a new interview with Martine Beswick who seemed to enjoy her One Million experience more that Welch – even if it was just as uncomfortable for her and the U.S. theatrical trailer is also included.
One Million Years B.C. is a very fun film, an absolute classic of 1960s cinema and, as Tim Lucas shows us, it may even be a very important one. For fans of good old-fashioned dinosaur films and Hammer-styled sci-fi, it’s a must own and it’s highly recommended by The Bits.
- Todd Doogan