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One Million Years B.C. 1966 ****

After one week of my Hammer boxed-set, I have to admit, I’m now completely Hammered. I saw a sign for a shop called Price Crushers and genuinely thought it said Peter Cushing, so it’s probably time for a short rest from the horrors. But not before some praise for one of the main attractions, Don Chaffey’s quite remarkable One Million Years B.C.. Anything but a typical Hammer film, it breaks the mould in every way; instead of endless drawing room politeness, there’s practically no dialogue. Instead of masks and Kensington Gore, there’s stunning stop-motion effects from imported Hollywood master Ray Harryhausen. And instead of Caroline Munro or Jacqueline Peace, there’s imported big name Raquel Welsh. This was a game-changer for Hammer, and although sequels followed, the formula never gelled again.

One Million Years BC takes place in a pre-historic setting that never existed, where fearsome dinosaurs and manicured, eye-shadow-wearing women in furry bikinis live in close proximity. Tumak (John Richardson) tires of the patriarchy of his tribe and legs it over the mountains to the utopian enclave of Loana (Welsh). It’s a step-up for a caveman social climber, but there’s a lot more beasties on Loana’s side of the tracks, and Tumak must risk everything to protect his new love from her seemingly inevitable mastication.

Harryhausen’s work is impressive here, with the integration of the creatures and cave-men still boggling the eye; sure, there’s a few dodgy process shots, but not on Harryhausen’s watch; it’s quite a feat to see spears tossed by humans hitting dinosaurs square on the napper, or a flick of a mighty tail bringing down a shelter on unfortunate combatants. Harryhausen didn’t just get the technical aspects right, but he imbues each creature with personality; sure, Jurassic Park has great physicality, but the monsters never engage like the ones featured here.

So we don’t come to One Million B.C. for a history lesson, we come for entertainment, and there’s loads of thrills and spills, as well as comedy and social commentary; it’s clear that Tumak’s personal battles reflect man’s evolution, and one can see why Kubrick would admire this enough to use clips for Alex’s dreams in A Clockwork Orange. Welsh’s furry bikini also features in The Shawshank Redemption, but Chaffey’s film is more than just a cult influence, but an enjoyable film in itself. Before I ever went to the cinema, this was the first film I saw at 4 years old, sitting on my mother’s knee on a Sunday afternoon, and it still engages me today.

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  1. Stone-cold classic without doubt. Welch is icing on the cake. You go through the three ages of man when you watched this one – goggled-eyed at the monsters when you are a kid, goggle-eyed at Welch when you are a teenager and goggled-eyed at the work of the great Harryhausen when you grow up.

  2. I loved the opening sentence of this post lol. That said, I think I’ve seen this film, but for the life of me I can’t really remember if I did (if I have it’s definitely been quite a while back) Honestly though, I quite like films such as these. So going to try and track this one down to either jog my memory, or experience it for the first time 😊

    • Cool! Thanks! Films with no actual dialogue are fun to watch, particularly with friends, because you can add your own commentary. The link below the review should take you to Amazon in your territory, and let you see if they have it for streaming. It seems to me that Hammer’s films are not well represented; there really hould be a $20 dollar pass that gets you ten Hammer movies. As usual, I thought it was just me that was imprinted by this movie, but it looks like there’s something primordial going on since many others seem to feel the same!

      • Haha, sometimes surprises like these can be very pleasant indeed 😊😊 I have a hammer boxed set on DVD, but this film wasn’t included in that one 😊 Will definitely check it out when I have some time!

  3. it can’t be overstated how formative this thing was for so many — especially myself! It’s very existence is one of the things that makes me feel connected to the world.

    • So interested to hear other people feel the same way; I felt like this movie was imprinted in my mind, and probably influenced my own behaviour. Aren’t we all Tumak, searching for his tribe?

  4. The older I get, the more I can appreciate the technical aspects of what Harryhausen did with this work. While it looks silly next to things like Jurassic Park, when I stop and think about everything he had to do manually, it just blows my mind. The skill involved, man, makes me wonder if there is anyone in hollywood today with his technical genius? There probably is, but it looks so different that I simply can’t see it.

    and I 2nd, 3rd and 4th about furry bikinis and imprinting…

    • I had the pleasure of taking Ray and his lovely wife for dinner, no educational outcome, just to entertain him. Wonderful man, incredible to believe he made these effects alone, and not via the carpet of names we’re used to seeing in the credits of a blockbuster. A one man ILM. No one-person could ever do it again.

      And it looks like furry bikinis are going to be a thing, maybe make one day a year One Million BC day where everyone wears a tribal costume.

    • And mine. The whole film feels so familiar, as if every scene was lived by me as a kid. The integration of the effects into the story is very well-done here; you never know when some critter will spring out!

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