One Million Years B.C. (1967)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 6/19/05
Producer: Michael Carreras
Director: Don Chaffey
Special Effects: Ray Harryhausen
Cast: John Richardson, Raquel Welch, Martine Beswick

Is it art or exploitation, or a little a both? If nothing else, it's the film that introduced the world to the incomparable Raquel Welch and launched her into stardom. "One Million Years B.C." is the tale of two tribes of prehistoric man: the violent Rock People, and the gentle Shell People. When Tumak of the Rock People (John Richardson) is banished from his tribe, he stumbles across the kind and intellectually more sophisticated Shell People. Loana (stunning Raquel Welch) takes a liking to him and nurses him back to health, while the other Shell People show him how to make spears and catch fish. His violent tendencies get him into trouble, though, and he is banished from his new home. Loana decides to go with him, and together they make their way back to Tumak's old stomping grounds. Once there, Tumak tries to teach the Rock People what he has learned, but his jealous brother stirs up trouble and a war breaks out. Ultimately, the Rock People and Shell People unite - or at least what's left of them after a volcano wipes out the land.

The film is wonderful to look at and the location footage is desolately beautiful. It really feels like another time and another place. Apart from a brief narrative introduction, the film contains no comprehensible dialog, which sometimes makes it difficult to determine the thoughts and motivations of the characters. In fact, the trailer for the film contains more dialog than the film itself. John Richardson makes a wonderful wide-eyed savage, and he plays his role to perfection. Raquel Welch is stunningly beautiful, and her skimpy cavegirl fashions only accentuate that fact. Even though Ms. Welch is lovely to look at, what really sells the film is Ray Harryhausen's spectacular special effects work. While dated by today's standards, the stop motion dinosaur animation is fascinating to watch and the miniature work is fabulous. The film is basically one giant flight from peril, as the primitive humans run into all manner of large and frightening creatures during their daily activities. Unfortunately, it's imaginative fantasy films like this that will forever confuse young children by perpetuating the notion that dinosaurs and Man lived together. How much should one sacrifice social responsibility for the sake of entertainment? While the film is very well made, one nagging question remains - why was the ending shot in sepia toned black and white? Very odd.