One Million Years B.C.
Tumak of the Rock tribe finds himself banished after falling out with his father Akhoba over a pork chop. He roams the dangerous prehistoric wasteland filled with dangerous beasts until he is eventually discovered by the more advanced Shell tribe. Tumak defends their settlement from a dinosaur attack but after fighting with one of their warriors finds himself banished again. Joined by Loana of the Shell tribe, who has fallen in love with him, Tumak journeys back to his people to teach them what he has learnt. When he returns he discovers that his brother Sakana has overthrown his father. This leads to a battle between the tribes until a volcano erupts causing losses on both sides and in the aftermath Tumak and Loana lead the survivors to find a new home.
Lets get this out of the way early. One Million Years B.C. is about as historically accurate as The Flintstones. It would be churlish to point out that these primitive people have not mastered a proper language but seem to have a full grasp of grooming techniques and supportive undergarments. You know going in that this isn't a documentary, despite the serious Attenborough-style voiceover that sets up the plot. This is pure exploitation cinema with monsters and girls in bikinis, but Hammer's production values give it an unexpected air of gravitas.
It starts simply enough: we are introduced to the Rock tribe as they trap and kill a wild boar-like creature. The different values of these people are shown as an old man falls into the pit and is left to be eaten by vultures. In fact the old are treated as desperate animals here, desperately foraging for any scraps of food discarded by the younger men.
Ray Harryhausen's name is displayed very prominently in the opening credits, so it's a little disappointing to see that the first monster Tumak encounters is of the “iguana projected to look huge” variety. As if that wasn't enough, a tarantula is given the same treatment and we don't see Harryhausen's handiwork until Tumak encounters a brontosaurus. After that his creations come thick and fast with giant turtles, the dinosaur attack on the Shell tribe village and best of all a dino vs dino tussle as a T-Rex takes on a triceratops.
The main characters have little dialogue and none of it is in an intelligible language, so there are times the story has to be distinctly unsubtle in order to get the story across. The moment Tumak is discovered by the Shell tribe's female hunting party looks like a stone age 50s beach movie. It is here we are introduced the film's most iconic character. Raquel Welch's Loana is undoubtedly stunning to look at, but there is a performance there as well. Loana is a sensitive soul who is fascinated by Tumak's primitive nature and is keen to teach him the ways of her people. She is ill-prepared for the dangers of the wilderness or for the brutality of the Rock tribe. This leads to a gratuitous cave girl cat fight.
For me the film had several points when I felt that the conclusion was near, only to have a new plot strand started. For instance Tumak returns and takes his place as leader and he and Loana teach the ways of the Shell tribe to his people. Just when you think all is happily ever after Loana is snatched away by a pterodactyl and Sakana has taken control of the tribe again. Just when you think the final battle has ended, a volcano puts in a guest appearance from out of nowhere and the film enters disaster movie territory with most of the main cast perishing in the disaster.
This is a silly film with little substance and destined to become bank holiday tea time fun. There will always be a place for films like this and ultimately, I enjoyed it. In the realm of stone age exploitation films it has no equal. I can think of no higher praise.
Join me next time when I will journey into slightly more recent history with Hammer's The Viking Queen.