Archive for One Million Years BC

Feature the World Forgot

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on April 4, 2017 by dcairns

Edited highlights of the cast list of CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT, Hammer’s third caveman epic. Just skip over it lightly, it’s not that thrilling in itself.

Julie Ege – Nala
Brian O’Shaughnessy – Mak
Tony Bonner – Toomak
Robin John – Rool
Marcia Fox – The Mute Girl
Rosalie Crutchley – The Old Crone
Don Leonard – The Old Leader
Beverly Blake – The Young Lover
Sue Wilson – Noo
Ken Hare – The Fair Leader
Derek Ward – The Hunter
Fred Swart – The Marauder Leader
Frank Hayden – Zen
Leo Payne – The Old Tribal Artist
Tamsin Millard – Rock Woman in Fight
Christine Hudson – Rock Woman in Fight
Cheryl Stewardson – Rock Girl
Samantha Bates – Rock Girl
Debbie Aubrey-Smith – Rock Girl
Audrey Allen – Rock Mother
Vera P. Crosdale – Old Rock Woman
Mildred Johnston – Old Rock Woman
Lilian M. Nowag – Old Rock Woman
Mark Russell – Rock Man
Dick Swain – Rock Man
Mike Dickman – Rock Man
John Hollis – Masked Attacker

Hammer made ONE MILLION YEARS BC which had excellent Ray Harryhausen dinosaurs and attractive starlets in fur bikinis. Then they made WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH which had excellent Jim Danforth dinosaurs and attractive starlets who took off their fur bikinis. Then they made CREATURES, which had no dinosaurs whatsoever and attractive starlets who hardly seemed to put their fur bikinis on at all.

The “stories” were never very great but they still managed to markedly decline across the informal tits-and-lizards trilogy, to the point where CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT makes ONE MILLION YEARS BC look like frickin’ Crime and Punishment. Hammer producer (boss’s son) Michael Carreras gave himself the job of writing it, because he was in a position to do so. Even though nobody else would have hired him to write an eye chart. True, he wrote BC also, but that was a remake. Left to his own devices, without a previously constructed narrative, he begins this one with the main characters being born, then sits back for twenty minutes while they grow up and we await the arrival of a plot. Jesus. In the absence of comprehensible dialogue, Michael Carreras, you had one job. Tell us a story.

The film is pretty near unwatchable for grown-ups and unsuitable for children. I can recommend it only to the senile or unborn.

The film isn’t even very useful for students of cinema to analyse as a bad example, because it’s awfulness is so obvious. And the thought experiment “How would I improve this?” can be answered in an infinite number of ways. Anything you do would improve it.

But I have one thought. Change the character names — make them the same as the actor’s names. It can still be in cavemanese, if you like, but make the leading lady a Julie, and her boyfriend a Brian. Hilarity ensues. Think of it! cavepersons called Audrey, Ken, Tamsin and Tony! Truly, when something is a sterile fantasy with no connection to the real, a dose of the mundane will spice it up. And when something is stale, flat and unprofitable social realism, a dash of surrealism is what you need.

“Mike!”

“Ugga ook heek moop, Mildred.”

“Nakk! Vera P. Crosdale acka pikk ungo, Derek.”

“Samantha! Cheryl! Urk anga!”

It would still be pretty low on my list of prehistoric adventures, but it would be better.

Havin’ a Heatwave

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on September 5, 2013 by dcairns

Sitting in the 99 Fahrenheit heat watching a six-year-old girl’s face contort in awe as she watches the trailer for ONE MILLION YEARS BC as my wife reads My Lunches with Orson and eats dried beans and a big golden retriever dismembers a bath towel in his powerful jaws. But when you read this I’ll probably be on an aeroplane en route to New York or London or eventually Edinburgh. More after touchdown.

State of Andress

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2013 by dcairns

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Fiona and I had both had the same experience of the Hammer film SHE — as kids, we’d caught the ending on TV and been horribly fascinated by it. Watching as adults, we had relatively meagre hopes for the movie, but it proved to be solid fun. It grips from the beginning, loses its way slightly in the desert, and arrives at its climax amid plenty of drama. Roy Ashton’s makeup effects are predictably crude, but the (spoiler alert) accelerated aging of Ursula Andress’s Ayesha still has some power to disturb, especially when Andress is replaced by a genuine old lady in heavy prosthetics — the hunched posture would be impossible for an actor to mimic.

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We were watching because of the Peter Cushing Centenary Blogathon hosted by Frankensteinia: The Frankenstein Blog. Cushing is typically fine in this, and it’s nice to see him in heroic mode, but it’s not one of his most memorable roles. He forms part of a trio of heroes a bit like the lads in GUNGA DIN, with John Richardson from ONE MILLION YEARS BC as the purportedly handsome one (Cushing is striking, which is better than being handsome) and Bernard Cribbins as the token working-class comedy relief.  Cribbins, his head a knob of gristle, ears like jug handles protruding either side, is played more grotesque than usual, I feel. He’s one of the neglected figures of British cinema (still going strong today) with roles in FRENZY, several of the CARRY ON series, and supporting roles to Peter Sellers. He also co-starred with Cushing in the awkwardly titled DALEKS’ INVASION EARTH: 2150 AD before returning to Doctor Who on TV in recent years.

Cushing’s hero was Olivier, and he aspired to his idol’s crisp delivery and athleticism — you can really see it in the climaxes of CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA, and in his Sherlock Holmes. “We admired the precision of his movements within the frame,” said Martin Scorsese, though I take leave to doubt how many of the future filmmakers teenage pals were appreciating Cushing’s use of his body as a compositional element in those 42nd Street grindhouses of the early sixties.

Cushing’s best scene in SHE, delightfully, is played opposite Christopher Lee, as the high priest of this lost tribe of Egypt (who are all curiously white). The film, true to H. Rider Haggard’s source novel, displays a number of retrograde attitudes, with the black natives a primitive bunch easily dominated by the pale pseudo-Egyptians (though the black uprising at the end is viewed more or less with favour!), but Cushing’s scene is amusingly sexist, as he tries to understand why Lee and his cohorts allow themselves to be dictated to by a mere woman. “You are many, and men, whereas she is alone, and a woman.” He reckons without the power of Andress’s frosty stare.

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Ah, Andress. She dominates the proceedings, not by means of acting, but by an admirable refusal to contemplate anything resembling a performance. She simply impresses. Director Robert Day lets it go at that, happy to move things around her as briskly as possible, while reveling in Les Bowie’s cheap-as-chips (but charming) special effects. Andress is also dubbed, by Nikki Van der Zyl, who not only revoiced her in DR NO, but replaced Raquel Welch’s too-American cave-speak in ONE MILLION YEARS BC — meaning that in both of his most famous roles, John Richardson found himself acting with Van der Zyl.

The movie made me admire Haggard, whom I’ve never read, more than previously. If this film is even remotely accurate to the book, Haggard’s original clearly not only inspired L’Atlantide, that much-filmed piece of Saharan exotica, but also bits of Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King. Not bad going. The film’s weakest point is probably the use of Roman soldier costumes for its Egyptians. Not quite clear what the thinking was there.

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The adventure yarn is a genre Hammer dabbled in, but didn’t really pursue with the doggedness of their horror cycle. I suspect the reticence was budget-driven. A shame — the hallucinatory mess that is THE LOST CONTINENT is probably Michael Carreras’ finest achievement, and SHE is one of their most entertaining non-horror flicks.

sherlock