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One Million Years B.C. (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000176424
Added by: Stuart McLean
Added on: 26/10/2016 07:03
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    Review for One Million Years B.C.

    8 / 10

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    ‘One Million Years’ was huge. I recall seeing posters of Raquel Welch on the walls of friend’s older brother's and being strangely affected, despite my age, by the fur-lined, hide-skinned bikini clad lady, poised and ready to run from a giant T-Rex. Potent stuff that is never forgotten.

    It wasn’t until a few years later, in the early seventies, by which time the film was on heavy rotation on TV in the U.S., that I was able to see the film for the first time, albeit interrupted every few minutes with an advert for Cheerios.

    Since then I have bought and enjoyed the film on VHS and then DVD; although the transfer was less than perfect, it was still the best I had seen it. Through adult eyes, what had once seemed impossibly frightening and romantic erred on the ridiculous, and through modern eyes, Ray Harryhausen’s stop-frame monsters looked unfairly pedestrian (despite being an incredible achievement back in the day) and the acting (with no dialogue other than grunts) less than convincing. But what did strike me on this revisit was just how fantastic the film looked. Raquel Welch stole every scene she was in and the wide prehistoric vistas, filmed in lava spilled upper plains in the Canary Islands (and in studios too for all the inner cave scenes).

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    Which is why I was very much looking forward to seeing this new 4K transfer. It didn't disappoint. In fact, the Blu-Ray looks positively stunning, almost 3D-ish at times (without the glasses) with pristine detail popping out in super sharp focus over a softer background. There are moments when the film's natural grain is in evidence, but there is no doubt that this 4K restoration perfectly reflects the film's original cinematic impact. In fact, it makes more sense of the film in a way - it was intended as a visual feast and, at last, is presented as exactly that.

    ‘One Million Years BC’ was Hammer’s 100th production and, budget wise, was given a hefty £400K budget which was half-decent for the day. As a result, the film had a spectacular big-screen feel and, thanks in no small part to the posters featuring that iconic image of Raquel Welch, was Hammer’s greatest commercial success to that point, even out-gunning the ever popular Dracula series.

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    The film features the brutal life of a caveman, Tumak (John Richardson), the son of a tribe leader, who is banished from his own tribe and left to wander the barren plains. He eventually comes across another tribe, (the Shell tribe) where he meets Loana (Raquel Welch), the daughter of the chief who is a kind man who nurses Turak back to full health.

    Needless to say, he and Loana ‘fall in love’ (well, he claims her as his own and she concedes) and we see the two battling with all the challenges of life, a million years before Christ. That includes inter-tribal fighting, hunger, volcanos, geysers and storms and giant dinosaurs – a far cry from the fun life of the Flintstones.

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    It's all wildly entertaining of course and time flies whilst they aren’t having fun – an easy film to watch and a perfect one to watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The music score, full of primitive stick-banging and dramatic orchestration (Mario Nascimbene) goes a long way to making the scenes as dramatic as they could be.

    The best parts of the film, other than the scenes with Raquel Welch of course, are undoubtedly the Dinosaur scenes. Although the first of these is nothing more than a magnified real-life lizard, later we get flying dinosaurs (I need an 8 year-old kid to help me identify these…) attacking Tyrannosaurus Rex and all kinds of Dinosaur-on-Dinosaur action.
    So in some ways, the film does have some very basic and essential ingredients for success – with a sexy lead actress, a romantic plot and tons of creature-feature action to boot.

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    It’s hard to believe that this is the film’s 50th anniversary on two counts. One, because that means I am five years older than fifty (how did that happen?) and the other is that the interview with Raquel Welch suggests she has aged much better than I, still cutting a glamorous figure. (To be fair, she must have had work done…).

    The contemporary interview with her is probably the best of the features and is a fun, candid recollection of the circumstances of the film – only her second on contract and one which she was not happy about doing. She also claims she was freezing in all the exterior shots and that the iconic fur-lined bikini was horribly uncomfortable. The best part about filming, she claims, was being able to visit swinging London which, in 1966, was the place to be.

    Also included is an interview with Martine Beswicke, another of the cave girls, who recalls the film as a lot of fun.

    For a special 50th Anniversary 4K transfer edition, I was surprised that this is as far as the extras went. A documentary about Ray Harryhausen would have been a welcome inclusion for example. But you can’t have everything. Or maybe mention of the British director, Don Chaffey (who had directed other Harryhausen favourites like Jason and the Argonauts) who went on to direct many iconic TV shows like Charlie’s Angels as well as the Disney Classic, Pete’s Dragon.

    The Blu-Ray 4K restoration is a total knock out, and the SD DVD version looks very good too - though clearly not a patch on the HD transfer. 

    In the meantime, for no good reason (consider it a kind of bonus) here are some gratuitous publicity shots from the original release which I found on a Google search. Naughty. But nice.

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