At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (KINO/Lorber)

By • May 8th, 2017 •

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BluRay & DVD review by Roy Frumkes

The War of the BluRay Dinosaurs is over.

First came WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH from Warner Archives, a good transfer boasting footage unseen in the US of two of the actresses naked, including particularly spectacular nudity (for what was clearly a film aimed at the family market) of current jailbird Victoria Vetri.

Next was VALLEY OF GWANGI, from Warner Archives, with no supplements but presenting a robust effort from the restoration wing to match the changing colors of the dinosaurs into something a bit more uniform.

And now there’s ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. from KINO/Lorber, and while all three are exemplary pressings, this last entrée wins the 2016/17 Dinosaur Skirmish with its satiating aggregation of supplementals.

Time has been on OMYBC’s side for certain. It actually looms as a good film today, with its two strikingly beautiful leading ladies – Raquel Welch and Martine Beswick taking their roles seriously and winningly, despite Ms. Welch’s protestations in her filmed interview, and Ms. Beswick’s admission that she tried to bail but was threatened with a lawsuit by Hammer honcho Michael Carreras if she fled the project.

There is of course the problem with ancient cave dwellers appearing as if there was a tanning salon and cosmetics store nearby. And there is what passes poorly for early hominid language (though this is the best of the three failed stabs at it). But I genuinely like the female leads, I like the choice of locations, the ambitious opening montage (which commentator Tim Lucas claims must have been seen by Kubrick and may have influenced 200l: A SPACE ODYSSEY which came out two years later), Mario Nascimbene’s score and sound effects which evoke a primeval landscape more effectively even than the visuals (not to knock the framing and lighting by Willie Cooper, which are terrific).

Looming above all this is the hand of acknowledged stop-motion effects genius Ray Harryhausen, who starts his magic show by materializing a magnified live lizard, I believe (despite Harryhausen’s statement to the contrary) as homage to the original 1940 version. He also lets a giant animated turtle’s hind legs drag due to budgetary limitations (an extremely funny detail if you know it’s coming).

There are filmed comments by Harryhausen, by Beswick and Welch (Raquel looks the same, but it was shot over a decade ago; Martine is lovely at 75, but unrecognizable as her former, hard-edged self, and over-lit to boot. There are no credits accompanying her interview, whereas the Welch piece boasts a proud crew.) And there’s the smooth, informative commentary track by Tim Lucas who has really gotten on top of his game over the years of doing these. At one point he generously quotes Films in Review which praised the film while most reviewers didn’t (and which we are, again, now).

Both ladies, and Lucas, make a point of mentioning male lead John Richardson’s drop-dead beauty. Perhaps it’s the scraggly beard, and beyond that the limited acting skills, but neither I nor the camera was seduced by him. But Martine was. They later married. And admittedly he does get better as the film proceeds.

The volcanic eruption that ends the film, turning it literally sepia-toned with possible sulfuric fumes, is most dated here in its use of rear-screen and other obvious effects, but there is a great moment at 1:37:05, as Martine, thrown off balance by the shifting terrain, twice uses her extended fingers to push herself back up to a standing position. She doesn’t survive, but it’s a wonderful detail.

There are two versions of the film presented here. The longer, international version is accompanied by Lucas’ voice over, and he points out the deleted shots, almost all done, it appears, to bring the film’s running time down to a more wieldy 90 minutes. No nudity has been clipped as in WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH, but lots of Harryhausen’s effects shots! What were they thinking?!

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