“discover a savage world whose only law was lust”
Dir: Don Chaffey | Cast: Raquel Welch, William Lyon Brown, John Richardson, Raquel Welch, Percy Herbert, Robert Brown (Akhoba) | 101min | Fantasy drama | US
Raquel Welch, who has died aged 82, is the star of this iconic 1960s outing that would make her the reigning champion of sex symbols, and a household name alongside the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Ann-Margret and Ursula Andress.
Rocking a furry bikini she stars as the sensationally attractive cave-girl Loana in a role that would become synonymous with sexual allure and voluptuousness. One Million Years B.C. (1966) reached cult status as one of Hammer Film’s most expensive and profitable ventures. A remake of the Hal Roach (1940) outing, itself originally inspired by Man’s Genesis (US, D.W.Griffith, 1912), English director Don Chaffey cut his teeth during the fifties and early sixties on TV titles such as The Avengers and The Prisoner, going on eventually to make films for children such as Pete’s Dragon and Jason and the Argonauts
Born Jo-Raquel Tejada of mixed Bolivian and Irish-American parentage in Chicago 1940, Welch’s stunning physicality and beautiful bone structure – not to mention her lustrous skin and ‘big hair’ – are the main attractions here. Already a graduate of San Diego State College on a scholarship, Welch had a marriage, two children, a modelling career, and several TV and minor film roles (notably in the 1964 TV show Bewitched, and (uncredited) alongside Elvis Presley in Roustabout (1964); and as Cora in Fantastic Voyage (1966) with Donald Pleasence, under her belt by the time 20th Century Fox signed her up and she was cast as the lead in this 1966 fantasy drama.
But the film is also notable for Ray Harryhausen’s impressive special effects of giant tortoises and lizards blended with stop-motion animation images of real creatures, known as the “dynamation process”. Chaffey had already used this in Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and it feels actually more plausible than current day CGI monsters.
Filmed in the craggy volcanic landscapes of Lanzarote ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. is so bad, it’s actually rather good. Authentic in its appeal, the film’s political incorrectness has an ingenuousness that seems entirely acceptable and weirdly plausible, as nowadays many men actually still grunt, gesticulate and swear, having lost the power of articulate speech. The slim narrative is irrelevant but largely boils down to an evergreen scenario: man falls out with his father, gets out a bit more and makes his name in the world before returning to care for his dad and taking over the family home. So what’s changed? Well here the characters are fit, tanned and gorgeous, rather than balding and pot-bellied. ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. is appealing, watchable and honest. MT
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