Caveman (1981) Blu-ray Review

And you thought Yellow Submarine was weird

Caveman is like the opening to 2001. Only longer. And without apes. Plus it’s stupid.

Mind you, it is supposed to be stupid, a rowdy send-up of cavemen movies dating back to the formula of 1966’s lightly costumed One Million Years BC. From there, it drags in Ringo Starr to slouch, pick at rotten fruit, and react to Jim Danforth’s/David Allen’s gorgeously inept stop motion dinosaurs.

As the story goes, one zillion years ago (on or around October 9th we’re told), man created fire and the wheel. Chiropractic care too, and in addition, the handshake. They also learned to cook, play music, and conduct medieval warfare. It was a big day for humanity.

Or rather, it was Atouk (Starr) who progressed civilization forward a few centuries, mostly by accident. Starr is willing to spoof himself as the bungling hero role, incompetent if through no fault of his own. Evolution was simply unkind to his genes. For such a goofy role, Starr runs with it.

Caveman goes to bat for its gags, but does so with too full a count.

There is almost no spoken word in Caveman, at least none which are understood. Tribes mumble and grunt with the usual “zug zug” becoming one of the few notable lines. That one means sex. These were simple times, clearly. This film is equally simple in addition to being cheesy, plodding, and childish, albeit with a smile.

That’s sort of why Caveman has an appeal: it’s a cheerful oddity. Carl Gotttlieb, who only a few years prior wrote the screen adaptation for Jaws, directs this minor sort-of-gem with the right amount of exuberance and weirdness to almost make it work. What it lacks is snap. Caveman goes to bat for its gags, but does so with too full a count. It doesn’t give up even if things are beginning to flatten.

Ringo’s weary, saddened eyes account for a lot though. His Atouk is relentlessly bullied by tribe leaders; those sympathetic, defeated close-ups matter. By close, Caveman has – by total fluke – turned Atouk into a proud leader of the cave. Survival of the luckiest, it is. Chances are the clan was screwed once the credits rolled, but that’s probably part of the joke.

Movie ★★★☆☆ 

RIDE YOUR MIGHTY STEED RINGO! RIDE! @ 1:22:36

Olive Films issues this oft forgotten stop motion classic to Blu-ray with limited pizazz. Some of that is certainty the feature’s own doing. Hazy edits, dissolves, and effect shots leave a portion of the movie ragged. The film stock itself is acceptable although notably damaged. Considering Caveman’s long standing malnourished existence, a few scratches and pieces of dirt are fine.

Inconsistencies make it impossible to pass any broad judgments. Certain shots may even be pulled from secondary prints; they’re that far from one another. Colors veer from bold to bland, contrast from vivid to dull, and fidelity turns from intense to middling, sometimes within seconds. ‘Tis the nature of the early ’80s sometimes.

Olive does fine work though, as far as they can. Grain management is superior to many and the scan seems to have been performed at reasonable resolution. No one will go much further for Caveman. The film occupies a hefty amount of disc space to ensure compression is never visibly introduced. Images feel natural and maintain their source’s overall quality. When it peaks, Caveman shows plenty of welcome clarity.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

The included DTS-HD stereo mix is sonically aged. Just is. Nothing more. Obviously, the mono work is never adventurous. “Dialog” reveals flattening with time and Lalo Schifrin’s pleasingly small score feels underweight. Fading is thus evident, although the track has not succumbed to any damage. Caveman is one of the few films where all of this barely matters anyway. It’s not as if it needs a perfect mix to reproduce a slew of grunts and stale monster roars.

Still, Schifrin’s score is nice.

Audio ★★★☆☆ 

Olive offers the original trailer as a bonus – the only bonus.

Extras ★☆☆☆☆ 

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.