December 21, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: ONE MILLION B.C.

Starring Victor Mature, Carole Landis, Lon Chaney Jr., Conrad Nagal. Directed by Hal Roach & Hal Roach Jr. (1940, 80 min).

While science tends to ruin some movies over time, others are put together well enough that facts don't get in the way of the fun, no matter how much time passes.

Our human ancestors showed up long after the dinosaurs were gone, and when they did, chances are none were as photogenic (with perfect hair) as Victor Mature and Carole Landis. But One Million B.C. was never intended as a history lesson, so such a minor detail is moot. It's all about drama, action, monsters and special effects, the latter of which won an Oscar in 1940.

Mature grunts his way through the slight story of Tumak, a dreamy caveman ostracized from his own primitive tribe by their leader, Akhoba (Lon Chaney Jr.). He later ends up meeting equally-dreamy Loana (Landis) from a more intelligent, peace-loving group. Tumak takes her back to his old tribe and becomes their new leader, while she is a positive influence on their aggressive ways.

Eat your heart out, Rachel Welch.
There's peril along the way...fights for dominance, rampaging beasties and, of course, a volcanic eruption that threatens the cast. Much of the drama itself was probably silly even in 1940, but the film moves fast and is congenially entertaining throughout. And for a 75 year old movie, the special effects and production design are impressive enough that a lot of footage has been reused in countless later films and TV shows. Sure, those dinos are just magnified lizards or actors in T-Rex costumes, but it works nonetheless, as does the climactic eruption.

While One Million B.C. isn't high art, it's certainly a lot of fun, though its hokey old charm will likely be lost on those raised on a steady diet of Jurassic Park.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By film historian Toby Roan

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