One Million B.C. (Budgetary Constraints)

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For some reason this credit kind of tickled me. I wish they’d gone all the way and said “Directed by Hal Roach and Hal Roach”. Has anyone ever done that? Harold Ramis should’ve with MULTIPLICITY, it might have added the single laugh needed to allow the film to qualify as a ’90s American comedy.

Things I enjoyed — the random animal noises during dinosaur fights — elephants trumpeting, leopards growling, and a dog barking. Victor Mature makes a convincing Tarzan-type cave-dude, better than John Richardson in the remake. Carole Landis has a nice strappy top. The idea of the present-day foreword, in which a bearded expert starts to tell Carole, Big Victor, et al about prehistoric life, and then we go into flashback and the same actors are playing cavefolks. It’s like the previous year’s THE WIZARD OF OZ – “And you were there, and you, and you!”

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Roy Seawright’s process work is excellent — humans interact with lizards, crocodiles and even an armadillo with a sproingy rubber horn glued to his snout, and the animals really do seem to be gigantic. They don’t seem remotely like dinosaurs, mind you.

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I was struck by how the plot was near-identical, incident for incident, with that of the Hammer remake, which added YEARS to the title and entertained me hugely as a kid. It still does. Rubber dinosaurs, cavegirls with false eyelashes, a dubbed Raquel Welch (her grunts were too American), Maltese landscapes… Where the remake departs, it generally improves — for instance, it sensibly ends with the volcanic festivities, rather than dragging on for another dinosaur fight. And the Hammer film is guilt-free, since no real animals were harmed during its making. ONE MILL duplicates a splendid set-up from the ’33 KING KONG, with humans walking in place in the foreground as a dying dinosaur tracks past in the background, but the Roaches movie appears to use either a real dying lizard, or a dead lizard that’s been rigged with a bladder to make it “breathe” in an agonised way, and a bubbling geyser of stage blood. All of which is rather unpleasant to think about despite the technical skill involved.

But I’m not so nice that I didn’t laugh at some of the reptile antics. When the inevitable earthquake-volcano apocalypse strikes, most of the lizards voluntarily hurl themselves into the chasms opening at their feet, as if anxious to enjoy as little screen time as possible. Their eagerness makes me suspect, and hope, that at the bottom of the chasm was a nice bed of lettuce, rather than searing lava as the Roaches would have us believe.

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“Business stinks, I don’t wanna live!”

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13 Responses to “One Million B.C. (Budgetary Constraints)”

  1. Fundies love this stuff. Central to their beliefs is the notion that man and disnosaur co-existed. A charming fantasy.

  2. I am amazed you didn’t mention the famous anecdote about ”One Million B.C.” – D. W. Griffith’s involvement. He chose Victore Mature and Carole Landis for the roles and was supposed to direct some scenes but then dropped out or his illness made him drop out.

  3. Quite true, Arthur. That’s why some, highly mistaken, critics give DW partial credit for the film. He was far too ruined by alcohol to so much as show up on the set as an advisor.

  4. I suppose Hal Roach felt that he had to keep Griffith in the job since they both went…way back and he was finished then professionally.

    Victor Mature(who I always liked) has a reputation as one of the great hams of cinema but how many actors can say that “I was discovered by D. W. Griffith.”

  5. Dear old Ray Harryhausen once wrote soemthing about how our understanding of the fossil record keeps changing, so maybe the humands-and-saurians thing will turn out to be true in the end, which rather underestimates the tens of millions of years involved!

  6. Discovered by Griffith and developed by Sternberg.

    Roach may have needed help with casting, since he had a kind of anti-genius for it: having united Laurel & Hardy, he then failed to norice they were good together, and separated again. This happened a couple of times before he actually realised he had a potential double-act.

  7. It took Leo McCarey to put them together in the end, or so he says anyway.

  8. If only more people could see the pan-and-scan VHS version of Multiplicity it would enjoy the same kind of cult success as the edited-for-TV version of The Big Lebowski. The worst pan job I’ve ever seen provides all the humor that the dialogue fails to deliver.

  9. Leo McCarey did indeed put them together and supervised the production of many of their best films. Roach however took credit for it later on, a real producer. McCarey didn’t like Roach unsurprisingly.

  10. That’s interesting! Presumably in this version there’s only one Michael Keaton at any time, undoing thouands of man-hours of special effects?

  11. Roach seems like a thoroughly dishonest chap. McCarey is obviously quite fond of taking credit for things — his description of how he created Cary Grant’s whole approach to acting is pretty boastful — but he’s probably telling the truth.

  12. Right – for a while I assumed there weren’t multiple Michael Keatons, that during the pan he was running around behind the camera.

  13. That sounds fantastic! And if they’d actually made the film that way it’d have been much funnier and more interesting. Must try and get ahold of that.

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