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Fox Home Entertainment presents
One Million Years B.C. (1966)

Loana: (gesturing) Ahot....Loana.....?
Tumak:.... (suddenly gets it)...Tumak!

- Raquel Welch, John Richardson

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: March 07, 2004

Stars: Raquel Welch, John Richardson, Percy Herbert
Other Stars: Robert Brown, Martine Beswick, Jean Wladon, Lisa Thomas
Director: Don Chaffey

Manufacturer: Panasonic Disc Services Corp.
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, bad rear projection iguanas)
Run Time: 01h:31m:41s
Release Date: March 09, 2004
UPC: 024543113119
Genre: fantasy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C+ CBB- D+

DVD Review

This picture, a remake of the abysmal Lon Chaney Jr/Carole Landis vehicle for the Hal Roach Studios, One Million B.C. (1940), is worth remembering for only two things... and I'm only counting the debut of Raquel Welch as one of them. The other is some dynamic dinosaur animation by master stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen. Whether they're worth what it takes to get there is a different question.

In this uneasy and ahistorical juxtaposition of cavemen and dinosaurs, the primitive tribe of the Stone People is led by Akhoba (Robert Brown). His two sons, Tumak (John Richardson) and Sakana (Percy Herbert) are in constant jealous conflict, and Tumak is driven off from the tribe. He wanders to parts unknown and at the edge of the ocean finds the tribe of Shell People, a blonde and tan group of proto-Californians. One of them, Loana (Welch), naturally attracts Tumak's eye, and when he singlehandedly slays an allosaurus, she's ready to follow him anywhere. That's good, because Tumak is soon driven away again by the jealous Ahot (Jean Wladon). With Loana in tow, Tumak must fight dinosaurs and other beasties as well as confront Sakana and their father.

The first half of this picture has deadly pacing, and Mario Nascimbene's minimalist percussive score doesn't help matters any. The primitive language is not done anywhere near as effectively as in the later Quest for Fire, in part due to a cast that seems to be unable to manage much in the way of nonverbal communication. There's a ton of dull scenery and smoking pits as well as a good deal of aimless grunting that fills the first half. Things pick up greatly in the second half, if you've managed to stay awake, once Welch in her unforgettable fur bikini hits the screen and the dinosaurs start to arrive fast and furious before the obligatory volcano eruption. Welch is almost unrecognizable from the neck up, however, since this film was made before she had her nose redone.

The treatment of the dinosaurs is rather curious. Harryhausen's work is top-notch as usual, with some very effective scenes. Among these are the battle between a triceratops and a ceratosaurus, the spear fight of Tumak against the allosaur (which seems like a rough draft of the roping sequence in The Valley of Gwangi), and the climactic abduction of Welch by a pterodactyl to be baby food. But either time or money or both ran out, because two scenes feature the ridiculous use of a rear-projected iguana blown up to gigantic proportions. There's also a similarly huge tarantula. The first appearance of a dinosaur in the film is in the form of the iguana, which surely must have led many 1966-67 kids to fear the worst, if not jeer outright. The same clumsy technique had been used in the Chaney film (and turned up in countless other movies as stock footage), so it's possible this was done as an homage, but it's so jarring compared to the elegant stop-motion dinos that I find that hard to believe. In any event, they're seen with the typically dodgy 1960s-era blue screen effects and are wholly unconvincing.

Unfortunately, Fox only provides the short US version of the film here. On its original release, the American cut was shorn of nine minutes of footage hat appears in the European version. There's some notable stuff missing, including more Harryhausen footage (and a longer version of the pterodactyl sequence), and an exotic dance by later Eurocult fave/Bond girl Martine Beswick. A snippet of the latter shows up in the trailers, but it's unfortunate that both versions of the film weren't provided. Usually Fox is more careful than this.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Although it was probably shown in Britain in a 1.66:1 ratio, American audiences saw it in a 1.85:1 ratio as is provided here. Which is correct? Hard to say, since it was a joint Hammer-Seven Arts (i.e., Warner) production distributed by 20th Century Fox. The compositions generally don't look crowded, so I think it's an acceptable presentation. While grain is heavy, it's rendered pretty well. Color is quite dated but the timing has been juiced up so it doesn't have the usual faded/pinkish 1960s look to it. There's a fair amount of edge enhancement that is particularly noticeable in the stop-motion sequences.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Spanishyes
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The English track is provided in both 2.0 mono and 2.0 stereo, though there's not a huge difference evident between the two versions. Both have a quite decent clean presentation, with little in the way of hiss or noise evident. The score sounds quite good, especially on the stereo track, though little directionality is evident. A mono Spanish track is also included, but that really just affects the voiceover at the beginnning.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
10 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Abyss, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Enemy Mine, Independence Day, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Fathom, Planet of the Apes (1968), Planet of the Apes (2001), Wing Commander, Zardoz
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:10m:31s

Extra Extras:
  1. Restoration demo
Extras Review: The only significant extra is a reconstruction demo comparing the 1993 film, the 1996 laserdisc master, the 2002 film restoration, and the 2002 version with video restoration. The results of the video restoration make it clear that this may look better on video than it would in a theater, and it's certainly a big improvement over the LD master both in terms of clarity and color. Otherwise, there's just a plethora of trailers, including two for the main feature: one each in English and Spanish.

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

There are few film debuts quite as memorable as Raquel Welch in a fur bikini being flown off by a pterodactyal, one of the few highlights in this otherwise forgettable picture. Alas, it's only the shorter American cut, but at least the transfer is decent. Not much for extras other than a cornucopia of trailers.

 


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