One Million Years B.C.
|One Million Years B.C.|
U.S. Theatrical poster by Tom Chantrell
|Directed by||Don Chaffey|
|Produced by||Michael Carreras|
|Written by||Brian Clemens|
|Music by||Mario Nascimbene|
|Edited by||Tom Simpson|
|Hammer Film Productions
|Distributed by||Warner-Pathé (UK)
20th Century Fox (US)
|Running time||100 min. (U.K) 91 min. (U.S.)|
|Box office||$8 million (US$ 131.24 million in 2014)|
One Million Years B.C. is a 1966 British adventure/fantasy film starring Raquel Welch and John Richardson, set in a fictional age of cavemen and dinosaurs. The film was made by Hammer Film Productions and Seven Arts, and is a remake of the Hollywood film One Million B.C. (1940). It recreates many of the scenes of the earlier film (such as an allosaurus attacking a tree full of children). Location scenes were filmed on the Canary Islands in the middle of winter, in late 1965. The British release prints of this film were printed in dye transfer Technicolor. The film was released in edited form in the United States in 1967, printed in DeLuxe Color.
Like the original film, this remake is largely ahistorical. It portrays dinosaurs and humans living together, whereas, according to the geologic time scale, the last dinosaurs became extinct roughly 65 million years BC, and Homo sapiens (modern humans) did not exist until about 200,000 years BC. Ray Harryhausen, who animated all of the dinosaur attacks using stop motion techniques, stated that he did not make One Million Years B.C. for "professors" who in his opinion "probably don't go to see these kinds of movies anyway" (this was a comment he made for the DVD of the 1933 version of King Kong).
Akoba (Robert Brown) leads a hunting party into the hills to search for prey. One member of the tribe traps a pig in a pit, and then Akoba's son Tumak (John Richardson) kills it. The tribe brings it home for dinner and Tumak is later banished to the harsh desert because of a fight over a piece of meat with Akoba. After surviving many dangers such as a giant lizard, ape men, Brontosaurus and a giant spider, he collapses on a remote beach, where he is spotted by "Loana the Fair One" (Raquel Welch) and her fellow fisherwomen of the Shell tribe. They are about to help him when an Archelon (which is three times the size of the actual prehistoric Archelon) makes its way to the beach. Men of the Shell tribe arrive and drive it back into the sea. Tumak is taken to their village, where Loana tends to him. Scenes follow emphasising that the Shell tribe is more advanced and more civilized than the Rock tribe. They have cave paintings, music, delicate jewellery made from shells, agriculture, and rudimentary language – all things Tumak seems to have never before encountered.
When the tribe women are fishing, an Allosaurus attacks. The tribe flees to their cave, but in the panic, a small girl is left trapped up a tree. Tumak seizes a spear from Ahot (Jean Wladon), a man of the Shell tribe, and rushes forward to defend her. Emboldened by this example, Loana runs out to snatch the child to safety, and Ahot and other men come to Tumak's aid, one of the men being killed before Tumak is finally able to kill the creature. In the aftermath, a funeral is held for the dead men – a custom which Tumak disdains. Leaving the funeral early, he re-enters the cave, and attempts to steal the spear with which he had killed the Allosaurus. Ahot, who had taken back the spear, enters and is angered by the attempted theft, and a fight ensues. The resulting commotion attracts the rest of the tribe, who unite to cast Tumak out. Loana leaves with him, and Ahot, in a gesture of friendship, gives him the spear over which they had fought.
Meanwhile, Akoba leads a hunting party into the hills to search for prey but loses his footing while trying to take down a goat. Tumak's brother Sakana (Percy Herbert) tries to kill their father to take power. Akoba survives, but is a broken man. Sakana is the new leader. While this is happening, Tumak and Loana encounter a battle between a Ceratosaurus and a Triceratops. The battle is eventually won by the Triceratops which fatally gores its opponent. The outcasts wander back into the Rock tribe's territory and Loana meets the tribe, but again there are altercations. The most dramatic one is a fight between Tumak's current love interest Loana and his former lover "Nupondi the Wild One" (Martine Beswick). Loana wins the fight but refuses to strike the killing blow, despite the encouragement of the other members of the tribe. Meanwhile, Sakana resents Tumak and Loana's attempts at incorporating Shell tribe ways into their culture.
While the cave people are swimming – seemingly for the first time, and inspired by Loana's example – they are attacked by a female Pteranodon. In the confusion, Loana is snatched into the air by the creature, and dropped bleeding into the sea, when a thieving Rhamphorhynchus intervenes. Loana manages to stagger ashore while the two pterosaurs are battling and then falls down. Tumak arrives but is only greeted by the sounds of the Rhamphorhynchus eating the Pteranodon's young (the latter had lost the battle), actually believing it is eating Loana.
Tumak initially believes her dead. Sakana then leads a group of like-minded fellow hunters in an armed revolt against Akoba. Tumak, Ahot and Loana (who had staggered back to her tribe after the Pteranodon dropped her into the sea), and other members of the Shell tribe arrive in time to join the fight against Sakana. In the midst of a savage hand-to-hand battle, a volcano suddenly erupts: the entire area is stricken by earthquakes and landslides that overwhelm both tribes. As the film ends, Tumak, Loana, and the surviving members of both tribes emerge from cover to find themselves in a ruined, near-lunar landscape. They all set off – now united – to find a new home.
- Raquel Welch as Loana
- John Richardson as Tumak
- Percy Herbert as Sakana
- Robert Brown as Akhoba
- Martine Beswick as Nupondi
- Jean Wladon as Ahot
The exterior scenes were filmed on Lanzarote and Tenerife in the Canary Islands in the middle of winter. The film features the Echium wildpretii plant, as a homage to Tenerife's unique endemic flora. However, the plants are set in scenes filmed on the Lanzarote beach. In actuality, this plant only flowers from May to June. It is found in Tenerife mountain zones higher than 1,600 m (5,200 ft). As there were no active volcanoes in the Canary Islands, the studio had to construct a 6–7 ft (2 metre) high volcano on the ABPC studio back lot. The eruption, lava explosions and lava flows were composed of a mixture of wallpaper paste, oatmeal, dry ice and red dye.
Harryhausen filmed the dinosaur visuals in his personal studio in London.
As the Shell people are attacked by a giant turtle, the women call it "Archelon" which is the real scientific name for the animal. The film uses two live creatures: a green iguana and a tarantula (a cricket can be seen at the tarantula's side). Ray Harryhausen was asked repeatedly about these two unanimated creatures, and he confessed they were his idea. At the time, he felt the use of real creatures would convince the audience that all of what they were about to see was indeed real.
Shortly after, Tumak encounters a dinosaur skeleton. This supposedly massive skeleton was actually only about 12 inches in length, made of plaster and shot against a blue backing and matted into the foreground. The skeleton was also used to keep the audience in anticipation fo further encounters, such as the Brontosaurus and Archelon.
The scene where the allosaurus attacks the village is something that was also used in One Million BC (1940). Shortly after the creature appears it plucks a real man out of the water. They used a real actor suspended on wires and Ray positioned and animated the model over the real man on the rear projection plate so as if it seemed that it was eating the live actor. In later scenes a model man was used so the creature could actually kill and eat him. Another hard-to-plan sequence in this part was when the men are fighting it is traps them under a support and grabs the real support and collapses it. The team used a full-size shelter that was rigged to collapse at that point during the action. Ray then built a smaller size part that was put in the creature's mouth and, when all lined up on the rear projection plate, blended in perfectly. The final notable scene in this sequence is when Tumak impales it on a spear from below. John Richardson, the actor who played Tumak, held nothing in the long shots but just pretended to have a pole in his hands, but did hold a pole in the close-up shots. A miniature pole was built and used for the long shots. It was placed in the studio in front of John's hands, and then Ray animated the allosaurus suspended on wires in front of John, on top of the miniature pole.
The Pteranodon sequence took much time to create, primarily because of how hard it would be to make a model pterodactyl pick up a real woman. However the solution was simple: Instead of using a large crane on location, the crew had Raquel Welch fall behind a rock, and then the model pteranodon swoops down and flies off with a model of Welch, which was substituted for the single second in which she is behind the rock and not visible. Later, when the creature takes her to its nest, the nest was matted into the scene atop a real rock face by double printing the film. For the Pteranodon/Cearadactylus fight scene, when she is dropped into the water, Ray and the crew released her from two dummy rubber pteranodon claws and while the real Raquel fell onto a mattress, the film cut to a long shot of the Raquel model suspended on wires.
The publicity photograph of Welch from the movie became a best-selling pinup poster and something of a cultural phenomenon. Many noted photographers had been flown to Tenerife by 20th Century Fox on a publicity junket, but the iconic pose of Welch was taken by the unit still photographer (as recalled by Welch in an interview). The poster was a story element in the film The Shawshank Redemption.
Originally Hammer offered the role of Loana to Ursula Andress. When Andress passed on the project due to commitments and salary demands, a search for a replacement resulted in the selection of Welch.
Roughly nine minutes were cut from the American print, including a provocative dance from Martine Beswick and a gruesome end to one of the ape-men in the cave. Some footage of the allosaur attack on the Shell tribe was also deleted from the initial release, but restored decades later.
The movie was re-released in the UK on a double bill in 1969 and became the 9th most popular film of the year in that country.
All the dinosaur models from this film still exist. The Ceratosaurus and the Triceratops however were remodeled for Gwangi and the Styracosaurus respectively, in The Valley of Gwangi (1969).
In other media
The film was adapted into a 15-page comic strip for the May 1978 issue of the magazine House of Hammer (volume 2, # 14, published by Top Sellers Limited). It was drawn by John Bolton from a script by Steve Moore. The cover of the issue featured a painting by Brian Lewis of Raquel Welch in the famous fur bikini.
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- "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, 3 January 1968 p 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
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- One Million Years B.C. at the Internet Movie Database
- One Million Years B.C. at AllMovie
- One Million Years B.C. at the TCM Movie Database
- One Million Years B.C. at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
- Screen Captures Of One Million Years B.C.
- One Million Years B.C. at DBCult Film Institute
- One Million Years B.C. at Rotten Tomatoes