Thursday, February 2, 2017



     Watching Hammer's 1,000,000 YEARS BC for the first as a child (for me at least) was one of those movie touchstone events that forever turned me into a movie geek. I saw it at the drive-in with my father probably in 1967 on a forgotten double bill that of which I most likely fell asleep during the second feature. Watching it on the big screen (and even later on TV) was an awe inspiring spectacle as the film had a truly epic majestic look to it, as if we were watching the Lawrence of Arabia of prehistoric caveman/dinosaur movies.
     Billed as Hammers "100th Production" (it wasn't) and fueled by the double shot of Raquel Welch in her fur bikini and Ray Harryhausen's stop motion prehistoric beasts, it arrived on a wave of publicity in 1966 and was both Hammer's most expensive (£422,000) and the highest grossing production as it raked up $8,000,000 in the U.S. alone. Directed by Don Chaffey (JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS), it was shot on location in the Canary Islands (with interior stuff at Elstree) and has a wide open spacious look to it unlike the set bound Gothic horrors that Hammer was known for. Producer (and writer) Michael Carreras smartly hired both a director and cinematographer (Wilke Cooper) who had both worked with Harryhausen before.

      Anybody whose reading this is hopefully familiar with the basic plot as Tumak (John Richardson BLACK SUNDAY) is banished from his violent tribe of "rock people" and upon wondering through a barren landscape comes across Luna (Raquel Welch FANTASTIC VOYAGE) along with her proto-hippie "shell people" who show him a gentler way of life. Welch who was under contract to Fox at the time was about to loaned out to MGM for the role of Domino in THUNDERBALL when Fox changed their mind, casting her in FANTASTIC VOYAGE and then setting her off to London for a role and look that would pass into mid 60's cultural history. How many adolescent boys ordered that poster out of Famous Monsters and had it hanging in their bedroom ?
     Originally clocking in at 100 minutes Fox cut it down to 91 minute for U.S. release losing some blood, violence, hints of cannibalism along with a bit of wild cave woman dancing by Martine Beswick (most likely it was also probably cut a bit for better double feature compatibility). In a really bizarre move Fox edited some of Harryhausen's stop-motion animation work including bits of the Allosaurus attack which is one of his greatest creations.

     Often unfairly labeled and mocked (sure its popcorn, but its GREAT popcorn),it was obviously taken seriously by all involved and watching the film today its pretty amazing how dark and grim it is through the first sequence with Tumak's rock people and how other worldly the film looks in terms of scenery. Shot entirely without dialogue (just some grunts & a few verbal commands from the shell folk), it's  Mario Nascimbene's (he's credited with "music and special music sound effects") score that carries the film's audio side which combines sound effects, wind and sometimes even the mixing of two different pieces of soundtrack music along with choral passages to create a score that alternates between disjointed primitive soundscapes along with sweeping grandeur.
    Kino Lorber's spectacular new blu ray shares the same 4k restoration that Studio Canel released last year of the longer British cut while adding a second disc with the same restoration of the 91 minute U.S. version.  Extras include interviews with Martine and Raquel (who at 75 looks like she could still climb into that fur bikini with no problem), a vintage interview with Ray Harryhausen, still gallery & trailers and a full length fact packed commentary by Tim Lucas on the long cut.


All above screen Caps Are From The Kino Lorber Blu-Ray

No better way to watch a Hammer dbl. feature then if your "scientifically cool" !

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