ONE MILLION YEARS B.C (1966)

PrintE-mail Written by James Evans

If you’ve never seen One Million Years B.C. (restored here in 4K) you’re probably at least familiar with Pierre Luigi’s iconic photograph of young star Raquel Welch in her ‘costume’.  Those of you who are sticklers for scientific and historical accuracy might not want to delve too much further than that, for this Hammer hit is almost the definition of ahistorical. The plot, such as it is, focuses on the plight of tribesman Tumak, played by John Richardson. After fighting with his dad over a juicy piece of meat (it’s never about the meat, though, is it kids?) Tumak is banished to the hot desert - actually Lanzarote and Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Here he will come into contact with giant lizards, spiders, dinosaurs (that a-history, folks) and the many dangers present when a young caveman finds himself out alone in the world.

It’s not all bad, as he’s noticed by Loana (Welch) of the advanced Shell tribe. After they save his life he is taken in by them. Eventually he’ll make his way back to his own people, leading to two tribes actually going to war. Well, kind of.  It’s not really about the plot though. Made in 1966 when Hammer were riding almost at their highest, some things make One Million Years B.C. stand apart from the handful of dinosaur/prehistoric movies Hammer would make later on.

Firstly, due to their distribution deal with 20th Century Fox they secured the services of the up-and-coming Welch in the lead. Seven Arts financing helped pay for the location shooting. It also helped pay for the special effects work of Ray Harryhausen, and this is the biggest thing that makes the film stand out. Director Don Chaffey had worked with Ray just a few years before on the classic Jason and the Argonauts. Their pairing would prove profitable again when working for Hammer, as this turned out to be a box-office success.

You could imagine viewing this through a modern filter might diminish its eccentric charms, but happily that’s not the case. The cast have a ball playing at being prehistoric, it’s tightly directed by Chaffey, who also understands how to present scale on a relatively low budget. It’s helped immeasurably by the sterling work of Harryhausen, and his special magic elevates the action sequences just as you would expect.

Extras are limited to two new interviews (one with the ever-enthusiastic Welch) and a stills gallery of Harryhausen’s prep work. However, if you’re a fan of Hammer or Harryhausen then this comes highly recommended. For those with a more casual interest in fantasy films still consider this worthwhile as it’s a huge amount of fun.

ONE MILLION YEARS B.C (1966) / CERT:PG / DIRECTOR: DON CHAFFEY / SCREENPLAY: MICHAEL CARRERAS / STARRING: RAQUEL WELCH, JOHN RICHARDSON, PERCY HERBERT, ROBERT BROWN, MARTINE BESWICK / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 24TH


 


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