While not historically accurate by any means, ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. is a timeless fantasy of epic proportions. It made an international sex symbol and pin-up girl out of Raquel Welch, allowed animator Ray Harryhausen to create some of his best visual effects ever, and became Hammer Films' most mainstream excursion, bringing in a lot of box office mula for U.S. distributor 20th Century Fox. Like any Ray Harryhausen or Hammer title, ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. has been a top-want on DVD for quite some time, but Fox messed up big time with this release. More on that further down.
The plot of ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. is a simple one. Illustrating the earth in its infancy, there's a tribe of rock people who are on the savage side--greedy and great hunters. Tumak (John Richardson) leaves the tribe's dark cave after a spar with his father Anhoba (Robert Brown), the acknowledged leader, and his rival brother Sakana (Percy Herbert). After confronting the swelling sun and horrific creatures of varying sizes, he is rescued by the lovely Loana (Raquel Welch) who shows him the refined, cultured ways of her shell tribe. Tumak tries to fit in and saves a little girl from a flesh-hungry Allysoraus, but is soon banished from the cave after ticking off one of the leaders. Greatly attracted to him, Loana takes off with Tumak, journeying back to the tribe from which he came from, and facing further perils of the prehistoric kind.
Itself a remake of an inferior 1940 film starring Victor Mature and Carole Landis, ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. is by no means perfect but it still has all the ingredients for an entertaining popcorn movie. Harryhausen's effects are as usual, top notch, even for today's standards, and only let down by the inclusion of a real tarantula and iguana, unconvincingly exhibited as mammoth sized. The convincing Harryhausen creatures include a giant turtle, an Allosaurus (the battle between it and the spear-yielding cavemen is a grand sight to behold), a Brontosaurus, a Triceratops, and some Pterodactyls, one which takes off with Ms. Welch. With her unforgettable animal-skin bikini, staggering body and false eyelashes, Raquel is no doubt the most stunning cavegirl ever to grace the screen. The film was shot mostly on location in the Canary Islands, giving it an epic and surreal landscape, enhanced by Don Chaffey's competent direction and Mario Nascimbene's superb music score. Hammer attempted the prehistoric/cavepeople angle a few times more, most successfully with 1970's WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH. Chaffey was also responsible for the disastrous CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT, which omitted the dinosaurs in exchange for triple doses of boredom.
The huge disappointing blow with this release is that 20th Century Fox Home Video has released the shorter, U.S. version of the film, which is missing a full nine minutes of footage. The full 100-minute version was released on laserdisc in 1996 (which opened with "Associated British Pathe presents a Hammer Production" rather than "A Seven Arts/Hammer Production"), so there is absolutely no excuse for this. Some of the footage missing from this version include where cavegirl Martine Beswick performs a sexy tribal dance, violence during a fight between some savage apemen, and a good chunk of Harryhausen's animation. A "Restoration Comparison" (one of the disc's few supplements) explains that the original negative was lost, and that two 35mm duplicate negatives were used for this transfer. Using a split-screen, the superior transfer is shown in comparison with the earlier ones done for the 1993 film master and the 1996 laserdisc release, which again, was UNCUT. This DVD is missing nine minutes, so what was the point of going through all the trouble on a new transfer?
On a better note, the new DVD transfer looks far superior to the old VHS and laserdisc releases. Letterboxed at 1.85:1 (yes, the true ratio for all those online complainers that maintain the false belief that various Hammer films were not shot in open matte 1.85:1) with anamorphic enhancement, colors are distinct if not overly vibrant (with natural fleshtones and deep blue skies). Detail is sharp, and even when optical effects are on display, the picture hardly drops in terms of quality. The mono is perfectly audible, and even though it's in mono, carries the sound effects and music to nice effect. A separate Spanish dialog track is included (for what little spoken narration there is, the rest is caveman gibberish), as well as English and Spanish subtitles.
Aside from the aforementioned
"Restoration Comparison," the only other extras are the U.S. trailer,
the Spanish trailer ("Un Million De Anos A.C."), and "Fox Flix"--
trailers for other Fox sci-fi DVDs. Unlike the British DVD (released by Warner
Bros./Studio Canal) which is UNCUT, there are no interviews with Raquel Welch
and Ray Harryhausen. You think that a big company like Fox could at least license
these, but if you're going to release a heavily edited version of the film,
what's the point? 20th Century Fox Home Video surely missed the boat on this
one, and it's going to sink to the bottom of the ocean at the hands of outraged
fans. We can only hope that enough complaints create grounds for a more definitive
and complete U.S. DVD release! (George
BACK TO REVIEWS