As a critic, I’ve dedicated myself to raising awareness of this underrated comedy; the case for Caveman is always worth making. Why? Caveman came out in the post-Airplane fad for zany, and there’s some terrific, anything-goes comedy here. Carl Gottlieb’s film features Ringo Starr as the lead, and is probably the best film featuring any of the Beatles in a substantial role. And it’s got a to-die for cast. Shelly Long, Dennis Quaid were pretty young at the time, but both get to shine here. And Ringo met his wife, Barbara Bach while making this, so clearly everything worked about better than might have been expected
It’s One Zillion BC, specifically October 9th, as a subtitle suggests. Atouk (Starr) is low on his tribes pecking order, and lusts after his chief’s wife Lana (Bach). Atouk is swiftly ejected, but falls in with an adventurous group of fur-booted explorers who encounter various monsters, and even spill into a nearby Ice Age, where a de-frosted abominable snowman gives them the run around. Can Atouk find ‘alunda’ with Lana and achieve true happiness? Of course he can, and this meandering, low-stakes journey to love is easy to watch.
Writer and director Carl Gottlieb worked on the script for Jaws, and co-wrote The Jerk as well as playing Iron Balls McGinty in that Steve Martin movie. He does a nice job of keeping the laughs coming here through various wordless comic skits, but what’s really surprising here is the effects. The dinosaurs are done with stop-motion, in the Ray Harryhausen style that few could imitate. Except, by luck or design, the results are just amazing, the monsters are well matched with the action and show bags of personality too.
Caveman was a reasonable success at the time, but I can’t say I’ve been deluged with opportunities to re-assess this film. But with a 40th anniversary to celebrate this year, novices would do well to give Caveman a spin; it’s got some killer jokes, and the dinosaurs are pretty good shakes too. Did I mention the great Jack Gilroy is in this? Or what about Lalo Schifrin’s infectiously catchy score? One of the most free-wheeling comedies you’ve probably never seen, check out Caveman or remain in the stone age forever….