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One Million Years B.C. (1966)


Main image of One Million Years B.C. (1966)
DirectorDon Chaffey
Production CompanyHammer Film Productions
ProducerMichael Carreras
ScreenplayMichael Carreras
Director of PhotographyWilkie Cooper
StudioElstree Studios
Presented byAssociated British Pathe

Cast: William Lyon Brown (Payto); John Richardson (Tumak); Raquel Welch (Loana); Percy Herbert (Sakana); Robert Brown (Akhoba)

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Tumak, a hunter of the fierce and violent Rock tribe, is exiled after a fight with his chieftain father. He wanders across the desert, braving many dangers, until he encounters the peaceful, more advanced people of the Shell tribe. With his newly-learned skills, Tumak returns to claim his birthright.

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Don Chaffey's One Million Years B.C. (1966) was one of Hammer Films' most expensive and profitable films. Shot with a budget of over £400,000, it was a remake of One Million B.C. (US, d. Hal Roach/Hal Roach Jr, 1940), which in turn had been inspired by Man's Genesis (US, d. D.W.Griffith, 1912). The film was also notable for its use of American talent.

The box office success of One Million Years B.C. was largely due to Ray Harryhausen's remarkable special effects. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (US, d. Nathan Juran, 1958) and Chaffey's Jason and the Argonauts (1963) had both featured Harryhausen's stop-motion animation creatures (the 'Dynamation' process), and had been very profitable. Hammer's film exploited this burgeoning trend.

The effects themselves blend stop-motion animation and enlarged shots of real creatures. The first 'dinosaur' to be seen is a real iguana. Harryhausen claimed that a live reptile was used to persuade the audience that all the subsequent monsters they saw were real as well. This technique isn't particularly effective; the iguana harks back to the 1940 version, where all the dinosaurs were prosthetically enhanced reptiles, and paradoxically look worse than the animated creatures.

Another contributing factor to the film's success was Raquel Welch's casting as Loana. Dressed in a bikini-styled fur costume , her image on the film's posters soon became iconic. Welch's performance earned her sex symbol status and contributed to her later success, but her selection for the role was partly due to the British audience's fascination with American stars. In the British version of the film her name is first on the credits, while in the US cut she only receives second billing.

One Million Years B.C. was filmed in the Canary Islands. The volcanic geography of Lanzarote provides an effective backdrop, and has a genuinely prehistoric feel. Coupled with the fact that the actors only grunt and gesticulate (in the 1940 version, Victor Mature and Carole Landis spoke perfect English), there is a bizarre authenticity to the film, despite the absurdity of cavemen fighting dinosaurs.

The film's profits spurred Hammer to produce Slave Girls (d. Michael Carreras, 1968), The Lost Continent (d. Carreras, 1968), When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (d. Val Guest, 1970), and Creatures The World Forgot (d. Don Chaffey, 1971). None of these films achieved comparable success, so further projects like Dinosaur Girl and Zeppelin vs. Pterodactyls never materialised.

George Watson

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Video Clips
1. Dinosaur attack (3:54)
2. Learning to swim (3:07)
Original poster
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Land That Time Forgot, The (1974)
Carreras, Michael (1927-1994)
Cooper, Wilkie (1911-2001)
Hammer Horror