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I believe I saw One Million B.C. at the old Rialto Theater in New York
City 65 years ago. "B" films always premiered at this small cinema,
i.e., the Laurel & Hardy films were shown first here, along with
others. Anyhow O.M.B.C. was a surprise hit in 1940. The special effects
were crude compared with today, but nevertheless, they were well done
for the period and all in all the film holds up very well today. The
animal/"dinosaur" sequences are exciting: woolly mammoths, alligators
with sailfins attached to resemble prehistoric Dimetrodons, the Rock
People fighting hand to hand with horned animals -- all well done. Lon
Chaney, Jr. has his best role (except perhaps for Lenny Small in Of
Mice and Men) as the bullying, tyrannical leader of the Rock People
that gets his comeuppance, Victor Mature, good as his son and the
beautiful and athletic Carole Landis, an ideal cave-girl. Incidentally,
I'd take Carole any day over Racquel Welch in her remake, One Million
The creatures are of course live, and recognizable as today's animals, despite attempts to disguise them. To me, the fact that they are living creatures adds excitement, whereas we know today's special effects, good as they are, are still only someone's artificial creation. The fight between the Dimetrodon (alligator) and the lizard is rousing and bloody and the finale "leecha" sequence --the giant dinosaur besieging the Shell People, provides excitement and is also well done.
Last but definitely not least, we should not forget the splendid musical background score for the film. While I give the 1940 One Million B.C. a 9 rating our of 10, the music deserves a 10 out of 10.
This film was reportedly a big hit in 1940. Today you must forgive the very silly story and over the top acting. Production-wise though, the photography, art direction and musical score are all quite good. Special effects are fairly impressive. Indeed, the dinosaur and volcano eruption sequences show up later in many low-budget films of the 40s and 50s so don't be surprised if they look familiar. Give it a shot - it's worth a look ! Footnote: For years, this circulated around under different titles and variable quality prints. Hal Roach Studios went back to the original 35MM elements and produced a very nice video transfer for television broadcast.
A group of mountain travelers find refuge in a cave where professor Conrad Nagel is examining prehistoric wall drawings. Nagel soon goes into a lengthy examination of the meaning of these pictures for his newly arrived guests which turns into the flashback which is the film. The pictures are the story of two prehistoric peoples: the tribal, brute rock people and the pleasant, peaceful shell people. Naturally, the story is a romance between stars Victor Mature(just his second feature film) and the lovely blonde Carole Landis. This film, produced by Hal Roach, has some things going for it. I liked the division between the two tribes and how each sustained life in a prehistoric world. The acting was surprisingly good with Mature and Landis doing credible jobs despite spouting occasional gibberish meant to be taken as caveman lingo. Landis in fact is quite affable and charming(being in a mini-cave dress always helps too). Lon Chaney Jr. gets his start in this type of film so to speak as the head of the rock people and as Mature's father. Chaney is good and is able to emote lots of emotion while using little dialog. The special effects are unfortunately not too special as we are basically given Irwin Allen/Bert I Gordon dinosaurs. You know the type. Iguanas and other common lizards, as well as an alligator, dressed up in fins and the like. For the technology used, these effects are okay and predate my examples of movies using them. There are also some very non-scientific bits of information used throughout the film...like man has already got domesticated dogs for just one example. Overall, this movie is a pleasant fantasy of what life might have been back then. It should not be taken too seriously as it is in truth a fairly simple tale with a simple message of how man might change through the influence of another(Landis on Mature and his people).
My brother and I first saw ONE MILLION B.C. in the 1960's. It was
always shown in our area as part of a one (1) week Halloween
celebration on the local channel. We liked it then and I still think
highly of it now. This is a fun and for its subject matter gentle film
and find it more enjoyable then the technically superior Ray
Harryhausen remake. It is very easy on the eyes in B&W compared to the
rather harsh color of ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. It also boasts a very
enjoyable and sentimental musical score.
The acting is credibly done to the level of the subject matter. Mr. Chaney, Mature and Ms. Landis are not performing RICHARD III. We believe in their characterizations because they are sincere and not over the top. The Special Visual Effects of course could have used Willis O'Brien (yes, we knew they were lizards even back then in the 60s) but there are several convincing scenes. The drift down the river with various creatures in the background, the march through the jungle pursued by what appears to be a Armadillo, duel of the dinosaurs in the desert and finally the Volcano and the saving of the Shell People. All are well mounted and succeeded in their intent which we don't believe was to scare the audience but to involve them in the story line. You wanted these characters to succeed against nature and each other.
So take a chance on this one (1). In fact watch both versions and I bet you will come back with a better appreciation of what the Hal Roach Studio presented. Hopefully they will reissue (restored) on DVD. It needs it badly since like KING KONG it suffered much in re-releases and sale to television and bits and pieces that have been grafted into so many 1950's horror/sci-fi films. Like THINGS TO COME it would be nice to see it in its original premier release.
Prehistoric man strives to elevate himself above the bestial in ONE
Hal Roach Studios produced this vivid and exciting film which ambitiously takes on nothing less than presenting the Birth of Civilization and the Beginning of Civility. That it does so without seeming pedantic or foolish is due in large measure to fine performances and special effects which still look good many decades later. The viewer knows the exploding volcano is a fraud and the dinosaurs are actually magnified lizards, but somehow it does not matter. The entertainment value is real and the sentiments presented by the actors still ring true.
Victor Mature & Carole Landis do quite well in roles which demanded speaking little more than nonsense words and grunts and using a significant amount of pantomime. They have no difficulty in conveying their thoughts and emotions to the audience. Their characters' efforts just to survive in an exceedingly harsh environment elicit the viewer's interest and respect.
Lon Chaney Jr, in a role his father would have relished, plays the brutal chief of the Rock People. Silent film actor Nigel De Brulier portrays the Shell People's gentle patriarch. Another star from silent days, Conrad Nagel, appears in the movie's opening sequence as the slightly obsessed scientist who interprets the cave paintings which tell the film's tale.
This movie is a classic ,and is in the same class as king kong. The animation is good for the time period,and victor mature,and the rest of the cast were great.Since the speech was very limited,the characters in the movie did a fine job getting across to the audience what they were thinking.their likes,dislikes.their fears,etc.I was saddened to hear victor mature passed on early this month.
I've seen One Million BC a couple of times and enjoyed it, although its
remake, One Million Years BC with Raquel Welch and Ray Harryhausen
special effects is much better. This was released on video in Germany,
of which I have a copy which a mate ordered for me from Amazon.
A group of explorers go into a cave and look at some cave paintings done by Stone Age Man. The movie then goes back in time and we learn how these people lived. One of these, Tumak meets a girl from a rival tribe and falls in love with her. After getting up to different adventures including battles with dinosaurs and other prehistoric life (more of which later), a volcano erupts and there is also an earthquake towards the end.
Now to those creatures, starting with those "dinosaurs". These are enlarged lizards and alligators with sails stuck on their backs to resemble Dimetrodons. We also see a T-Rex which is just a man in a monster suit and seems to be dancing. At the beginning, the cavemen kill a rubber Tricertops for food. Other creatures we see are Woolly Mammoths which I think are just elephants covered with fur, a giant armadillo, aardvark and snakes. Some of these creatures look OK and some look rather shoddy.
Stock footage from this movie was to appear in many others in years to come, including Teenage Caveman, Tarzan's Desert Mystery and King Dinosaur.
The cast includes Victure Mature in his first movie, Carole Landis, horror star Lon Chaney Jr (The Wolf Man) and John Hubbard.
Though not fantastic, One Million BC is certainly worth a look and is a worthy addition to any collection, especially for fans of dinosaur movies like myself.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After teaming Laurel and Hardy, and making Our Gang shorts, Hal Roach
made this wild movie about cavemen. In it, Victor Mature plays a young
caveman ousted from his tribe of brutal, club weilding cave-thugs. He winds
up rescued by a peaceful, nicer tribe (We'll call these The Tribe of
Pillow-Fighters!) He falls in love with Looana (a youthful, pretty Carole
Landis coming across like a pre-historic Brittany Spears) The Thug tribe and
the Pillow-Fighters are constantly at war with each other, until a nearby
volcano explodes. Vic rescues many from both tribes, and in the finale
scene, the two tribes live together, singing around a campfire!
What helps make this film a little silly is that Ms. Landis always has pretty, combed, fluffy hair, the dinosaurs are clearly guys in goofy T-Rex suits, and the rest of the dino cast is pet store lizards with fins and what-not glued to them (Where was PETA during this?) Regardless, you can't bad mouth a movie like this. This is pure silly fun. Bring some friends over, knaw on a raw Sabre-Tooth Tiger bone, and enjoy
All right enough already, so they got the order of prehistoric life
wrong in One Million BC. But it sure looked good to have Victor Mature
tangling with that T-Rex and saving the shell people. And that's what
the movie-going public paid to see, Victor Mature and Carole Landis
scantily clad in front of the camera.
Small studio producer Hal Roach busted the budget for this one, released by United Artists. Conrad Nagel as an archaeologist interprets the cave drawings for a group of weary young people on a hike who take shelter where he's doing some research. The two protagonists Louanna of the shell people and Tumac of the rock people look a whole lot like Carole and Vic.
Vic's from the savage rock clan who basically operate on a survival of the fittest basis. After a quarrel with the head of the clan, Lon Chaney, Jr. he's exiled and he's found in the primeval forest by Carole Landis who definitely likes what she sees.
Her shell people are a bit far up the evolutionary scale and she and the rest strive mightily to break Vic of his individualistic and isolationist ways.
And that's the key to One Million BC. Think of the time it came out and what the world was facing. There's a lot of aggressive wildlife in the forest primeval and the savage wildlife in 1940 had two legs instead of four. Time for the clan and rock people of the day to put aside their differences and face the common foe of nature.
This was supposed to be D.W. Griffith's comeback film and it's open to speculation as to how much he did shoot on this. I think the protagonists have an innocence about them, even the savage Mature before he gets housebroken so to speak the way Griffith protagonists do.
For the next 30 years the footage of One Million BC was used over and over again in every kind of monster film going. Those lizards got to be old friends after a while. It also launched the careers of both Victor Mature and Carole Landis. Though both of them did have considerably more dialog in later films.
After over 60 years One Million BC is still a great film to watch and be enthralled by the special effects as they were originally done. One Million BC got two Oscar nominations for Special Effects and Best Music Score.
Will the rock and shell people find they have a common foe? Watch and find out.
I really enjoyed this movie as a kid, and it's still fun today. The dinosaur special effects were advanced for its day, and frequently "borrowed" by later films. The music score was nominated for an Oscar, and quite impressive. And Carol Landis was a babe!
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