Plot – Tale of Prehistoric survival and love between a male and a female belonging to opposing tribes that happened to be at slightly different stages of evolution.
Director – Hal Roach
Released – 1940
The film may be historically inaccurate in places, but for a film of this scope made during WWII One Million B.C. is a rather unique and creative little gem. This isn’t a film for archaeologists or historians as humans and dinosaurs most assuredly didn’t inhabit the same world and iguanas never grew to an excess of a hundred feet in length, but these inaccuracies and film making decisions made to keep the budget down is what makes One Million B.C. so special. They’re an example of what filmmakers imagined at the time and what audiences found memorizing all those decades ago.
Starting in the present day the film takes you back to ancient times, One Million B.C. basically a flashback, Possibly the most surprising aspect of the film is that first and foremost it’s a love story rather than a creature feature, which clearly takes inspiration from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, taking the time to show that people from the ancient world were not all barbarians and just how much they had in common with modern man. Starting in the present day the film takes you back to ancient times. And while it’s not the most powerful of love stories, it was nice to see the makers produce something more innovative than most monster movies of the time.
Not only was the storyline more adventurous than I expected, but so were the performances, with Victor Mature as Tumak and Carole Landis as Loana both hugely enjoyable to watch, while Lon Chaney Jr stole the show as Akhoba head of the Rock Tribe, which is all the more impressive given the majority of dialogue is stereotypical caveman speak, rather than English.
Made during wartime, the constraints of the budget are clear to see, preventing the makers from using the expensive stop-motion animation technique previously seen in King Kong or The Lost World. With the dinosaurs instead portrayed in one of three different ways: men in rubber suits, puppets and most commonly used graphically enlarged lizards and other reptiles, Coming long before animal welfare was a worry of filmmakers, the method of using live animals might put off some viewers, with the fight between a lizard and alligator with a rubber fin placed onto its back a particularly hard watch if you don’t like seeing animals getting hurt or killed.
One Million B.C. is a surprising little gem of a film that does more than just shows men fighting monsters and provides the audience with a world that all these years later still entertains. The only real downside being the budget limitations forcing the makers to use live animals and the laughably bad dinosaur suits.
If you liked: Godzilla, 10,000 BC, The Land Unknown