It's no Jurassic World but, for years, Hammer Studios' 1966 remake of One Million BC stood as the definitive humans with dinosaurs pic. It also kickstarted Raquel Welch's career, and sold more than one million copies of that fur bikini pin-up.1
The plot: a rebel kicked out of the Rock Tribe encounters a fetching young woman from the more civilized Shell Tribe. Star-cross'd love, rampaging dinosaurs, and erupting volcanoes ensue.
The visual imagery take you on a tour of the non-scientific pop understanding of the Prehistoric World. It recreates a number of popular concepts, from the predator dinosaur battling a triceratops to the Cro-Magnon funeral2 We have pop cavemen battling ape-men of uncertain species, and both coexisting with dinosaurs. The scenes with Loana and Tumak evoke depictions of the Garden of Eden; there is even a serpent.
And of course, movie dinosaurs always live near volcanoes.
Effects legend Ray Harryhausen serves up a slurpasaur, a close-up lizard, for his first dino, perhaps as a tribute to the original film.3 Afterwards, he delivers some of the best stop motion animation of his career, with an assortment of dinosaurs, recreated more-or-less to match then-current understanding, and other prehistoric beasts. The pteranodon and the archelon have been modified and magnified from their fossil forms, but they're fun to watch. I don't know why, however, they bothered with the giant spider and grasshopper. They're not prehistoric, they appear for mere seconds, and seem to have wandered in from another production.
I'll forgo any deep discussion of hair colour (The Rock Tribe are brunettes, while the Shell Tribe are blond). Or of hairspray and make-up, to which the cavewomen clearly have access. We should, however, discuss the performers. Raquel Welch had previously won some beauty queen titles and appeared as an extra in film and television. She owes her initial fame to this film. The other actors do reasonably well with a script made up (almost) entirely of fabricated language.4
The narrator who presides over a rather plodding introduction, however, proves both ponderous and pointless. He quickly disappears, never to be heard from again. I'm hoping the ceratosaurus got him.
Imagine, say, that it's 1966 and you're between the ages of 8-16.5 If you can view One Million Years BC with that perspective, you will find this prehistoric romp entertaining.
Directed by Don Chaffey
Written by Michael Carreras from the original screenplay by Mickell Novack, George Baker, and Joseph Frickert
Special effects by Ray Harryhausen
Raquel Welch as Loana
John Richardson as Tumak
Percy Herbert as Sakana
Robert Brown as Akhoba
Martine Beswick as Nupondi
Jean Wladon as Ahot
Lisa Thomas as Sura
Malya Nappi as Tohana
Yvonne Horner as Ullah
Nic Perrin as Narrator
1. That pin-up went on to play a key role in The Shawshank Redemption.
2. The 1868 Cro-Magnon find indicated a gravesite with deliberately placed items, and the Cro-Magnon Funeral, and attempts to recreate Cro-Magnon beliefs from it, has long been a staple of anthropological and popular reconstructions.
3. Not the only tribute: Robert Brown's make-up for Akhoba has been based, very clearly, on Lon Chaney, Jr.'s 1940 version of the character.
4. Biggest nerdy laugh: when the giant sea turtle appears, one of the Shell Women cries out the correct scientific name, archelon!
5. The 8-year-olds may be watching it for somewhat different reasons than many of the 16-year-olds, of course.