One Million Years B.C.: 1966 Stop Motion Animation Epic

One Million Years B.C. film poster
Dinosaurs and humans, eh?

Did you know they made a film in One Million Years B.C.? Yes, they did! And we’re doing a review of this stop motion animation classic. Wicked.

One Million Years B.C. (the film, not the year)

Directed by Donald Chaffey (1917-1990), this film has become famous for two reasons. They are:

  1. The fantastic early stop motion animation work.
  2. Raquel Welch doing that faraway pose with her cleavage showing.

Dinosaurs and attractive women, eh? Phwoah! Or should that just be… roar?

Whatever, there’s a Sixties cinema classic to discuss here and we want to flag up the sterling production efforts with this one.

Along with The Time Machine (1960) and Jason and the Argonauts (1963), there were some mighty impressive feats happening with special effects back then.

And Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013) was responsible for so many of them. Again, he took on the special effects duties for this production.

The Plot of One Million Years B.C.

Right! We’re not going to pretend the plot and acting in One Million Years B.C. are amazing, as this was clearly a production designed to push technological limits.

But there is a plot there. It’s an adventure fantasy film, it was also a remake of the 1940 film One Million B.C. by Hal Roach.

As with the predecessor, it’s an ahistorical film in that it lacks a lot of context.

Just as a reminder, humans never did live alongside non-avian dinosaurs. They were extinct around 66 million years before we turned up.

The opening narration to the film reads as follows:

“This is a story of long, long ago, when the world was just beginning. A young world, a world early in the morning of time. A hard, unfriendly world. Creatures who sit and wait. Creatures who must kill to live. And man, superior to the creatures only in his cunning. There are not many men yet. Just a few tribes scattered across the wilderness. Never venturing far, unaware that other tribes exist even. Too busy with their own lives to be curious. Too frightened of the unknown to wander. Their laws are simple: the strong take everything.”

And that is basically the plot to the film. As in there’s a tribe of humans like from that Gogs claymation show, who bumble about the place whilst dealing with massive monsters.

The result? A surprising amount of iconic cinema moments, courtesy of Ray Harryhausen’s genius. It all still looks fantastic now.

And this about sums up how the narrative develops. The tribe includes Loana (Raquel Welch), Tumak (John Richardson as Tumak (who unfortunately recently died in January 2021), and Sakana (Percy Herbert).

Plus, there’s the tribe chief Akhoba (Robert Brown). They blunder about the place sporadically battling maniac dinosaurs or lizards.

And in between such episodes, there’s internal fighting within the tribe.

Heck, we all know this film is about those special effects. So here’s another famous scene involving a giant tortoise.

On the acting front, Raquel Welch dominated proceedings and became famous for the fur bikini images to emerge from production.

Welch is now 80 and is most famous for a bunch of films from the ’60s, as well as being a bit on the curvaceous side.

There’s a reference to this film in The Shawshank Redemption (1994) when Andy Defresne has a poster of Welch up in his prison cell.

Those posters were the some of the hottest selling in history, it seems, marking this production as arguably one of the first to use scantily clad women to sell the product.

The New York Times had a bit of a weird spin on that. In its review from the time, it stated the fur bikini was:

“A marvelous breathing monument to womankind … although she had only three lines in the film, her luscious figure in a fur bikini made her a star and the dream girl of millions of young moviegoers.”

The image also appeared on over 90 front covers across European magazines.

One Million Years B.C.’s Production and Legacy

Although the stop motion work looks fantastic, there are a few odd scenes involving real animals (such as an iguana) exploded to large size and superimposed over actors.

Harryhausen felt, at the time of shooting, this would help immerse the audience further into the experience. It just looks a bit pants.

For the rest of the work, he took to his studio in London to complete the stop motion sections.

One of the film’s set pieces involved an exploding volcano. To deal with that, the crew built a seven foot version at the Associated British Picture Corporation’s London back lot.

They then made lava out of wallpaper paste, porridge, and red dye.

As is the case with stop motion work, this all took a great deal of time to create and required a lot of patience and on the spot thinking.

So, full credit once again to Harryhausen and his team as their work remains very impressive and pioneering stuff.

And it seems the crew enjoyed themselves during the shoot in the Canary Islands. As pictures from the production show.

On its £422,816 budget, the cast and crew headed out to the Canary Islands for most of the shoot, although it was mid-winter 1965 when that took place.

In the US alone it made back $8 million, which is a nifty little earner.

We can’t say, away from the special effects, that it’s an amazing film. Merely decent enough.

It just remains memorable for the remarkable work involving stop motion animation, plus one bikini on a young woman. The Swinging Sixties, eh?

5 comments

  1. That stop-motion work was fantastic. Harryhausen was a genius. It’s kind of funny: back in the 1960s dinosaurs were meant to be cold-blooded and look like bipedal crocodiles (but probably tasted of chicken), whereas today we know they were warm-blooded and feathered (and that there are more species of dino alive today than in the Cretaceous period, but only one of them actually tastes like chicken).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I grew up with my history books and whatnot depicting them as scaly lizards, but Jurassic Park was the first film to make me think they were bird-like. Roar etc.

      I like the idea humans living alongside dinosaurs. I’m sure that would’ve gone well. Although I do still come across people online who deny dinosaurs ever existed etc. Always great to encounter such prehistoric states of mind.

      Like

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