Director: Roger Corman
Lions Gate Home Entertainment

In this edition of Lions Gate’s continuing “Samuel Z. Arkoff Cult Classics” collection, two early Roger Corman directorial cheapies are coupled together sharing common themes of scantily clad warriors fighting for survival in distant settings. Both VIKING WOMEN AND THE SEA SERPENT (aka THE SAGA OF THE VIKING WOMEN AND THEIR VOYAGE TO THE WATERS OF THE GREAT SEA SERPENT, the onscreen title!) and TEENAGE CAVEMAN evidence Corman’s swift assembly line practices of second features required by AIP to fill drive-in double bills and promote beautiful poster art more exciting than what’s actually witnessed from the sweaty seat of a convertible. Both films run a little over an hour long, representing the always economically incomparable team of Corman and AIP at their entertainingly worst.

In VIKING WOMEN AND THE SEA SERPENT, a tribe of Amazonian Nordic women are tired of waiting for their Viking men to come home, so they sail out to sea to search for them. Along the way, their flimsy canoe is attacked by a dinosaur-sized serpent and they end up washed ashore on a mysterious island. While on dry land, the ladies encounter the savage Grimolts, a tribe of warriors who have actually been holding their blond beaus captive as cave slaves. Intending to make slaves out of the lofty women as well, a perilous escape is then planned. Before it’s all over, our heroes once again sail rough waters in front of scratchy rear view projection, and fend of a rubbery puppet of a serpent who is easily subdued when a plastic cocktail sword is flung at its head.

VIKING WOMEN AND THE SEA SERPENT is a mess of a movie with clumsy special effects, cheap costumes and sets, and a cast of familiar faces who sound more 1950s Californian than age-old Nordic. Amongst the statuesque Viking women are Abby Dalton (“Falcon Crest”), June Kenney (TEENAGE DOLL), Betsy Jones-Moreland (THE LAST WOMAN ON EARTH), Sally Todd (FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER) and Lynne Bernay. As the only raven-haired maiden of the mostly blond bunch, Susan Cabot (THE WASP WOMAN) as a scheming bitch who attempts to rub out her rival (Dalton) over a man, really stands out. The male cast includes a bleach-blond Jonathan Haze (LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS) who helps make the women seem taller and apparently did a lot of his own stunts, a blond-dyed Gary Conway (I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN) as the hunky handsome hero type, a hammy Richard Devon (WAR OF THE SATELLITES) as the head-dressed wicked leader of the Grimolts, Jay Sayer as his sissified son and Michael Forest (BEAST FROM THE HAUNTED CAVE) as a brutish lackey. Chock-full of unintentional laughs, this effort was made on a 10-day schedule for a reported $110,000, and on the first day of shooting, the initial leading lady called in sick, so Corman quickly replaced her with Dalton. It originally played on a double bill with the more enjoyable (but equally thrifty) THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER.

Corman originally shot TEENAGE CAVEMEN as “Prehistoric World” but the title was changed before release so that AIP could cash in on their intended rock n' rolling audience with ads that promised, “Prehistoric Rebels Against Prehistoric Beasts!” Robert Vaughn (nearly a decade before he gained fame in “The Man From U.N.C.L.E” TV series), plays the lead character, who is actually not give a proper name (a universal quality of R. Wright Campbell’s screenplay). A prehistoric tribe in shoddy loin clothes live in a remote valley (mainly Bronson Canyon). Vaughn’s character questions their rules and regulations, and is warned by his elders not to journey beyond the river to the land of the monster "that Gives Death with its Touch." Naturally being a rebellious teen (ha ha), he drifts off with three other pals and encounters giant lizards (real lizards made to look big), wild dogs (the same ones seen in this DVD’s co-feature) and eventually a man who comes out of nowhere to tell the truth about the nature of their world.

Sarah Marshall (here billed as “Darrah”) plays Vaughn’s love interest, and also appearing are Frank De Kova, June Joceylyn, Robert Shayne (who was just finishing a long run as the police inspector on "Adventures of Superman"), Jonathan Haze, Ed Nelson and Corman’s super trooper Beach Dickerson taking on four different roles (one of which utilizes a furry bear suit)! Stock footage and a monster costume borrowed from the same year’s NIGHT OF THE BLOOD BEAST only add to the ridiculousness of this $70,000-budgeted 10-day wonder! Vaughn, who was pushing 30 at the time, has often referred to this as "the worst movies ever made." Like VIKING WOMEN AND THE SEA SERPENT, it features a rousing score by Albert Glasser that’s better than the film deserves. A name-only remake came to cable TV in 2001.

The full frame, black & white DVD transfer on VIKING WOMEN AND THE SEA SERPENT looks very decent, with nice detail and sharpness, and the source print is in pretty good shape. The film was apparently shot open matte, and the compositions here never suffer too badly. TEENAGE CAVEMAN on the other hand, looks totally out of whack. Originally shot 2.35:1 widescreen, what’s presented here is a horrid cropped mess that at times chops talking heads in half or worse. Using what appears to be an old Teleworld TV transfer, blacks are very deep and the overall image is pretty sharp despite being zoomed in, but a full screen DVD presentation for this title is simply inexcusable. The mono audio on both titles is adequate, and no subtitle options are included.

Like the other titles in Lions Gates’“Samuel Z. Arkoff Cult Classics” collection, the packaging on this release is attractively eye-catching (featuring original poster art), but menus are very simple and unimaginative, and no supplements are included, not even the films’ trailers or trailers for the other available Arkoff titles. (George R. Reis)