The film opens to a rather earnest male voiceover, courtesy of Vic Perrin. "This is a story of long, long ago" he tells us, "where the world was just beginning". There follows a rapid reconstruction of the ice age meltdown beneath the opening titles, bringing us swiftly to the prehistoric era the bulk of the story is set in.
We meet man. Or rather, a whole tribe of men. The narration introduces us to the tribe's leader, Akhoba (Robert Brown), as he chases a hog into a trap and gathers his men to help kill it and drag it back to camp. By Akhoba's side are his two adult sons, Tumak (John Richardson) and Sakana (Percy Herbert). We're informed that ensuing tale will focus on the sibling rivalry which exists between these two.
After angering his father, Tumak is expelled from the tribe and forced to wander the desert aimlessly for days, encountering dinosaurs and - bizarrely - a giant tarantula on the way. At his lowest ebb, Tumak's luck changes when he happens upon the female members of another tribe as they bathe in the sea. Spotting that he is about to be eaten by a seriously oversized turtle, the women rush to his aide.
Nursed back to health by buxom beauty Loana (Raquel Welch), Tumak seems to have fallen on his feet for a while. But then the chief of this new tribe, Loana's father, also gives him the boot.
What will become of Tumak? Will he resolve his differences with brother Sakana? Will he find companionship with Loana? Or will dinosaurs eat them all first?
Beautifully lensed, colourful and bold in that, aside from the narration, there is no dialogue throughout the entire film, director Don Chaffey's ONE MILLION YEARS BC qualifies as one of Hammer's more original and leftfield efforts. It's also unintentionally amusing on frequent occasion, with Ray Harryhausen's charmingly dated monster effects raising wry smiles just as much as the sight of well-groomed stone-age women in perfectly stitched bikinis does.
But among the titters and keen cinematography, it has to be said that the film doesn't really add up to much. It's a mild diversion, matinee fare. It hasn't stood the test of time awfully well. It's a little dull: thankfully Harryhausen's pioneering FX work and the triple-threat star power of Welch, Richardson and Martine Beswick keep it all watchable.
And any film that's set in an age where dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and yet still feels the need to carry a disclaimer in the opening credits stressing "The characters in this film are fictitious and any resemblance to real people is coincidental" is fine by me!
Having enjoyed a UK DVD release from Optimum back in 2006, I was keen to see how Studio Canal's new 50th Anniversary restoration would look. And now it's arrived on blu-ray, and I'm able to tell you...
The film is housed as a nicely sized MPEG4-AVC file on this disc. Given the benefit of full 1080p resolution and presented in its original 1.85:1 ratio, it looks pretty magnificent. For a film that's half a century old, this presentation is quite remarkable. Colours are vivid and vibrant while remaining true throughout; blacks are deep and noise-free; skin-tones remain accurate while detail is incredibly pronounced. With a keen sense of depth and welcoming film-like texture to also boast of, and having been struck from an impressively clean print, this transfer can't fail to please.
English mono audio is similarly excellent: a clean, problem-free proposition which raises no concerns whatsoever. Optional English subtitles are provided for the hard-of-hearing. These are well-written and easy to read.
The disc opens to an animated main menu page. From there, pop-up menus include a scene selection option allowing access to the movie by way of 8 chapter stops.
Extras commence with an all-new 12-minute interview with Welch. She looks terrific (much work done, methinks?) and is in fine humour while reminiscing over making a film that she initially was opposed to doing. The clincher for her was getting to work in London for the first ever time. But she speaks fondly of the actual shoot, her co-stars etc.
Beswick is also interviewed in another new featurette - this one runs for 16 minutes. She describes how she got into the film business and how a friendship with the producer got her the role in ONE MILLION YEARS BC. Interestingly, while sharing an anecdote about the fight scene in the film between her and Welch, she contradicts the comments her co-star made in the previous interview by saying they were never friendly.
Both of the above extras are presented in HD and look great. Alas, the archive interview with Harryhausen which featured on the Optimum DVD is not present. But we do get a generous 5-minute selection of original sketches, storyboards, location photography and model imagery which demonstrates the late FX wizard's approach to his work on the film.
A second stills gallery consists of 18 promotional images.
ONE MILLION YEARS BC remains fun and will always be one of the more unusual entries in the fabled Hammer canon. It looks fantastic on blu-ray and the new interviews are a lot of fun.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Studio Canal|
|see main review|