Sunday, March 15, 2015

One Million BC (1940)

Hikers lost in a storm stumble on a cave being investigated by an anthropologist. He tells the group a story about the ancient people who once lived there.

One upon a time there were two tribes. The Rock tribe was brutal. The men take what they want from the weaker. The women and children eat after the men's dogs, and the old are lucky if they eat at all. The Shell tribe, however, share their food. They eat vegetables, sing, laugh, and enjoy life.

One fateful day, after his meat is taken a young rock tribesman (Victor Mature) makes the mistake of striking the chief (Lon Chaney Jr). After a fight, our young hero is banished from the Rock tribe and limps away. He happens upon the Shell tribe, who take him in. At first he is confused by all this sharing and caring, but there's a hot blond (Carole Landis), so he wasn't complaining.

Our hero saves a child from what looks to be a poor man's sleestak. I think he killed it less out of fear and more out of pity. As someone who studied Anthro for a bit, I need to divorce myself from the terrible science here. Some films seem not try to get the science right, but BC appear to have tried and failed miserably. I choose to suspend disbelieve on this point, so no more from the nerd.

Legendary director D.W. Griffith apparently walked away while making this project because of a disagreement with Little Rascal's producer Hal Roach. D.W. thought there aught to be character development somewhere in there. Silly directors, am I right people? Hal and Hal Jr finish the direction.

About a year and a half ago I saw Valley of the Dragons, which I liked. I understood it lifted some of the giant lizard scenes from One Million BC. What I didn't realize is that it lifted virtually the entire story from it as well. Two tribes, misfits, love interest, dino attack, volcano, bigger dino attack, happily ever after (except for the people who died). Valley focused the story more on the conflict between male leads and making them modernish (and blaming Jules Verne), but at best you can call it a slight reimagining.

One brief note about pretty Carole Landis. Lovely and charming, her career never really took off. She ran through a series of failed marriages when she decided to off herself at the ripe old age of 29. In keeping with the tragic figures theme, she had taken her first name after Lombard.

The sets looked good and the silly dino sequences were ambitious for the day (sleestak-man not-with-standing), and the scene of a woman being swallowed by lava was quite effective. The story, however, was dull. Not bad, I suppose, from a director accustomed to producing silly one-reelers, but it's hard to develop story when characters don't talk. D.W. was right. I suppose I need to see the Raquel Welch version now. AMRU 3.

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