One Million B.C. (1940)

One Million B.C. (1940) movie poster

directors  Hal Roach, Hal Roach, Jr.
viewed: 02/11/2018

One Million B.C. is the very first Caveman feature film, a subgenre depicting prehistoric peoples and their adventures. It’s as corny as all-get-out and clearly absurd in ways as well.

It earned an Oscar for its special effects, which include such things as fur covered elephants as Woolly Mammoths, pigs dressed as Triceratops, alligators with fins glued to them and an armadillo with glued on horns. All of which is amazingly ridiculous. There is also a guy in a T. Rex outfit. But to be honest, the visual effects such as forced perspective and other techniques that make little things look big compared with the cavefolks, well, they are pretty impressive.

Less impressive is what can only be guessed at as animal abuse. One monitor lizard fights to the death with a finned gator, lays dying as blood pulses from its neck wound. I didn’t overly scrutinize the film, but I’d be willing to guess that more reptiles were endangered, harmed, or even killed for dramatic effects of fire and volcanoes and earthquakes.

Victor Mature is the lead caveman (TCM’s brief description of the film: “An exiled caveman finds love when he joins another tribe.”) who winds up exiled by Lon Chaney, Jr., the head of the rock clan and falls in with the lovely Carole Landis and the shell clan. What’s interesting here is that the shell clan seem vaguely more evolved than the rock clan in their more communistic sharing of food and materials. The rock clan is more grabby-grabby and the strong take from the weak in a (social?) Darwinism of sorts. I know some writers did actually try to leak in Communist themes in some films. Is this the case here?

One Million B.C. was directed by Hal Roach and his son, Hal Roach, Jr. and it seems as well with the dialogue limited to gestures and few “words” that the old Silent Film aesthetics and acting paid off for this picture.

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