JURRASIC WORLD and its CGI dinosaurs have stomped their way to box office domination this year, raking in over five hundred million dollars (and counting). The youth market just eats up those computer generated special effects. But for my money, you just can’t beat the prehistoric hijinks of Hammer Films’ 1966 ONE MILLION YEARS BC. Two reasons: Ray Harryhausen and Raquel Welch.
Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013) learned the art of stop motion animation from the master, KING KONG’s own Willis O’Brien. After assisting O’Brien on 1949’s MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, he struck out on his own, using his Dynamation process on such sci-fi/fantasy flicks as BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA, and 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. Later films included VALLEY OF GWANGI, GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD, and his last, 1981’s CLASH OF THE TITANS.
The second reason is Raquel. Full disclosure: I had a huge crush on Raquel Welch during my adolescence. I had the iconic poster of her in her fur bikini from this movie on my bedroom wall through most of the Seventies. I also had pictures of her from TV GUIDE taped in my locker at school, which got me in hot water with my 6th grade teacher. What a prude! Oh well, it may have been my first time in trouble at school, but it certainly wasn’t the last.
But I digress. Let’s take a trip back to the dawn of time in ONE MILION YEARS BC. There’s a prehistoric tribesman named Tumak (John Richardson) who’s ousted from his people due to a sibling rivalry with brother Sakana. He wanders aimlessly into an unknown world, encountering giant lizards and spiders along the way. Tumak reaches the seashore, where he meets up with a tribe of blonde beauties led by Raquel and her fur bikini. A giant turtle attacks the girls on the beach and Raquel blows her seashell, summoning the blonde males of the tribe. They, along with Tumak, chase the turtle away with their rocks and sticks. The tribe decides to accept Tumak as one of their own.
Which is good for Raquel, because the fur-bikini clad damsel has developed a thing for Tumak. This, however, makes her blonde boyfriend Ahos very jealous. After saving a little girl from a hungry Allosaurus, , Tumak and Ahos duke it out over possession of the victory spear. Tumak gets banished yet again, but this time he’s accompanied by Raquel and her fur bikini.
Across the wasteland we go again, as the couple run into a band of unevolved ape-men, and a battle between a Triceratops and a T-Rex. Tumak and Raquel (and the bikini) are amushed by Tumak’s old tribe, and Tumak vanquishes Sakana. But a Pterodactyl attacks and carries Raquel off, fur bikini and all! The lovers are separated as the flying terror tries to feed poor Raquel to it’s babies. Eventually, they’re reunited, just in time for a fight between the rival tribes. The battle’s just getting underway when a volcano erupts, spitting lava and causing massive earthquakes. The villages now all destroyed, the two tribes band together and march toward an uncertain destiny.
ONE MILLION YEARS BC may be pretty goofy, but it does has some bright spots. Harryhausen’s special effects are always a joy to behold, and I’ll still take them over CGI any day of the week. John Richardson makes a sturdy leading man, even with dialogue that mostly consists of grunts and groans. There’s a scene with the lovely Martine Beswick (DR JEKYLL & SISTER HYDE) doing a sort of Jurrasic watsui that’s a highlight. Oh, and did I mention Raquel and her fur bikini…..