image

Cast: Victor Mature, Carole Landis, Lon Chaney Jr, John Hubbard, Nigel de Brulier, Robert Kent, Conrad Nagel, Mamo Clark, Inez Palange, Edgar Edwards, Mary Gale, Jacqueline Dalya, Jean Porter.

Director: Hal Roach.

AKA: Man and His Mate/ The Cave Dwellers/ Cave Man

image

A group of tourists hiking through alpine-like mountains are caught out in bad weather, stumble on a cave, seek shelter within, and therein find a hermit archaeologist who entertains them with a rather imaginative interpretation of Paleolithic wall paintings. If you are saying to yourself this is just an contrived coincidence that leads to the real story then you'd be right. For with a waver and a fade it's suddenly One Million B.C. and the hikers have been transformed into Paleolithic tribesmen.

image

That's right from mountain climbers in lederhosen the cast suddenly transforms into prehistoric cave men. In one corner are the Rock People who, before you can rub two sticks together to make a fire, banish Tumak. Tumak is thus left to face the dangers of the prehistoric wilderness alone where he ends up falling into a river where he floats down stream to be found by a amazingly well coifed blonde. Of course the blonde nurses Tumak back to health whereupon, after several lame comedic sight-gags, he integrates into the tribe.

And who are these kindly good Samaritans of the prehistoric world?

The Shell People. I'm guessing calling them the River People would have been too predictable. Anyway the girl is Loana and you can probably guess Tumak's reaction to her. Even for 1940 this sort of plot contrivance was old hack, but it works. As does the trope of having the actors speak in little more than grunts accentuated with exaggerated body language.

Of course it's really the actors that make or break the suspension of disbelief in these sort of movies and, luckily, Victor Mature and Carole Landis breath life into what could have been otherwise extremely dull roles.

image

The special effects employed may be somewhat crude but they have a realism lacking in many big budget CGI heavy features today. This can be plainly seen when Victor Mature's character fights a dinosaur, he's really interacting with something solid. Sure it's a guy in bad rubber suit but, and here's the genius, you never actually see the beast full on. It's always either shot through the obscuring canopy of tree limbs and leaves or in a soft focus long shot. While the effects may be dated and the clichéd riddled plot doesn't exactly make for a particularly gripping story this is still worth watching, if only to see compare to the Ray Harryhausen remake ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. that made Raquel Welch the fantasy poster girl of young adolescent males the world over originated.

Availability:

This movie plays from time to time on cable TV and has been released to the home video market in the following formats: 8mm & 16mm film, VHS, and Laserdisc. At present there are no known DVD releases.
image

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

[This is an archived review. Original appeared here.]