One Million Years B.C.
If we can learn anything from One Million Years B.C. it’s that maybe things weren’t always better in the old days. These days if you go and see a film about cavemen struggling to survive in a world full of monsters, then you can expect a decent amount of dinosaurs in return for your hard-earned cash. But in 1966, I’m afraid, you would have had to put up with your money being used to answer the question: ‘What if we made a prehistoric soap opera starring a bunch of unwashed, grunting simpletons?’
The thing is, I was sure I was going to like One Million Years B.C. I mean, if I told you there was a Hammer film where Raquel Welch was THE iconic cavewoman in a world full of Ray Harryhausen monsters, you’d bite my bloody hand off to see that film, wouldn’t you? But if you then spent that movie having to ask yourself a) why would anyone think pointing and grunting could communicate fundamental truths about the human condition and b) when are the effing dinosaurs going to get here? Well, then you might be a bit miffed. And those are the two words that would best describe me throughout his movie - bored and miffed. I bloody love Ray Harryhausen monsters, and I bloody love dinosaurs. So don’t promise me both, fail to deliver, and expect me to be happy about it.
Maybe I could have handled it if there were other things to look at, but it seems like it was filmed in one single horrible location. Yes, yes, the harsh indifference of nature to the human struggle, but an hour and half of grey rock doesn’t make for great viewing, especially when the things that could liven it up, say… dinosaurs, are conspicuous by their bleeding absence. The epic journeys people make also appear to be the distance of a quick stroll down the shops, which cuts down on the sweeping spectacle that you might otherwise be hoping for when cavemen venture far beyond their known world. It’s all very well having the hero made up to look like he’s spent weeks in the desert when he turns up at Raquel’s seaside spa for grunting hippies, but if for the rest of the movie the two tribes (black hair - warlike, blonde hair - peaceful - strewth...) keep bumping into each all the damn time that sense of a vast and unknown wilderness does feel slightly cramped.
What I’m apparently supposed to care about in all this, is cavemen learning that being angry and selfish only leads to bad vibes. Wouldn’t we be better off lending each other our sticks and listening to old people instead of leaving them to die in a ditch? Whereas I quite strongly couldn’t give a monkey’s cup of piss about any of that cobblers. I want to see the prehistoric world with all its beautiful flora, and especially its massive and murderous fauna.
But you know what we do get? To start off with? A large lizard. Now, I know technically dinosaurs were sort of large lizards. But I also know the bloody difference between a normal lizard that’s been artificially enlarged using ‘special effects’, and a dinosaur. Also, where’s the Harryhausen magic in a ‘Whoo! look at that big lizard!’ Any idiot, and you’d have to be an idiot, can do that. Also, shortcut-loving producers, lizards aren’t scary because what’s he going to do to the caveman? Gum him to death? You have to have huge, jagged teeth to be a scary dinosaur, that is just a rule. And what the hell is the enormous turtle that shows up later going to do to anyone? The cavemen seem most frightened of its cumbersome flippers knocking them over, presumably because they don’t want to fall down and scrape their knees. And then we get a spider the size of a building just knocking about! Which doesn’t exactly jive with the archaeological record does it? So what’s this ‘C’ that we’re a million years before then? Are we on some alien world where a million years after ginormous spiders wandered around, a messiah named Clive appeared and told everyone to just jolly well grow up and stop being mean all the time?
And when Ray finally gets to strut his stuff, there isn’t nearly enough of it. There’s one very cool fight between two dinosaurs where you get a real idea of how bloody difficult it would have been to pick a fight with another dinosaur, as opposed to the modern day quick-cut CGI standard beats of all cinematic fights. But that’s your lot really, apart from some cool, cruel pterodactyls.
Nope, unless you want a movie jam-packed with hairy actors silently and earnestly gurning at each other in order to get across the idea of ‘Hey man! Fighting each other isn’t cool!’ then you are bang out of luck with One Million Years Before Clive.
I suppose in the end I was hoping that Ray and Raquel had created a timeless monster movie for the ages. But perhaps you have to be disappointed sometimes in order to appreciate the things you want that you do manage to get. Speaking of which…