Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
One Million BC

Two Prehistoric Fantasies, 2 a remake of 1.

1. One Million BC (vt The Cave Dwellers; vt Man and His Mate UK) US movie (1940). Hal Roach. Pr Hal Roach. Dir D W Griffith (uncredited), Hal Roach, Hal Roach Jr. Spfx Roy Seawright. Screenplay George Baker, Joseph Frickert, Grover Jones, Mickell Novak. Starring Nigel De Brulier (Peytow), Lon Chaney Jr (Akhoba), Mamo Clark (Nupondi), Jacqueline Dalya (Ataf), Edgar Edwards (Skakana), Mary Gale Fisher (Wandi), John Hubbard (Ohtao), Carole Landis (Loana), Victor Mature (Tumak), Inez Palange (Tohana). Voice actors Conrad Nagel (Narrator). 80 mins. B/w.

Lost mountaineers come across a cave where an archaeologist gives them his interpretation of a series of prehistoric wall paintings. According to this, Tumak, son of the chieftain of the brutish Rock People – who have yet to invent the spear but seem to have invented shaving – is driven out for picking a quarrel with his father, Akhoba. After an encounter with a rogue mastodon, he drifts downriver to be rescued by the pacifistic, more civilized Shell People, who teach him the art of sharing. But eventually he is driven from them, too, because of his greedy aggression; the beautiful Loana follows him. The two, after various scuffles with Dinosaurs and other Monsters, reach the Rock People once more, and teach them niceness. A volcanic eruption mars the idyll, but in adversity the two tribes discover cooperation and unite.

This is not a fine movie. Though it has a certain raw strength and surprisingly good spfx, it features some startlingly wooden acting. D W Griffith (1875-1948), originally involved, reportedly left the project because he felt the humans should use modern dialogue; in truth, this is a silent movie with a soundtrack. It may also be regarded as a sort of prehistoric Tarzan Movie; the UK vt was likely an attempt to cash in on the popularity of Tarzan and His Mate (1934). OMB gave rise not only to 2 but also – and in some ways more direct comparisons can be made – to The Clan of the Cave Bear (1985). [JG]

2. One Million Years BC UK movie (1966). Associated British-Pathé/Hammer/20th Century-Fox. Pr Michael Carreras. Assoc pr Aida Young. Dir Don Chaffey. Spfx George Blackwell. Vfx Ray Harryhausen. Mufx Wally Schneiderman. Screenplay Carreras. Based on 1. Starring Martine Beswick (Nupondi), Robert Brown (Akhoba), William Lyon Brown (Payto), Percy Herbert (Sakana), Richard James (Young Rock Man), Mayla Nappil (Tohana), John Richardson (Tumak), Lisa Thomas (Sura), Jean Waldon (Ahot), Raquel Welch (Loana). Voice actor Nicolette McKenzie (Loana). 100 mins. Colour and some sepia.

A faithful remake of the core tale of 1, with somewhat less wooden acting and an enhanced sense of anachronism – not just in that (obviously) the extinction of the Dinosaurs occurred long before the emergence of Homo but also internally in the depiction of this prehistoric world: in particular, the women of the pacifistic, fair-haired shore-dwelling Shell People are curvaceously well fed, well manicured and very modern-seeming, with elegant hairstyles. As with the core of 1, there is no dialogue aside from gibberish, grunts and names, plus a narrated start like that to a Disney True-Life Adventure short.

Hugely popular (that curvaceousness is only scantily covered), OMYBC sparked off a string of imitative Prehistoric Fantasies, starting with When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1969). By any objective measure the movie is nonsense, yet it is fun and has fine (and some less fine) spfx in the classic tradition. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.