One Million Years B.C. Blu-ray Review

One Million Furkinis

Raquel Welch stars as a calendar model in a fur bikini throughout Hammer Studio’s do-over of Hal Roach’s One Million BC. One Million Years BC is notable for Welch, yes, and also Ray Harryhausen’s contribution: the anachronistic dinosaurs which pepper the caveman saga.

Almost unarguably the most violent film of Harryhausen’s library, the once trend-setting pastiche of Hammer adds a few dollops of blood and some heavy brutality in this (mostly) wordless feature. It’s a movie of man eating reptiles and man killing people, entertaining as much as the premise will allow. One Million Years BC demands a bit of forgiveness for Welch’s perfectly groomed hair, co-star John Richardson’s faultless dental work, and a few senior citizens who quadrupled the normal life expectancy of early man.

There’s a kitsch value here, more so than Harryhausen’s nuclear menaces which reflected Red Scare paranoia and the fantasy epics which gave themselves away to fairy tale fiction. To what extent it can, One Million Years BC makes a plea to just be nice to each other – if a caveman tribe can do it, so too can we today. Of course, these cavemen and cavewomen already fit into preconceived notions of society. Woman look presentable, stitch clothes, and tend to the kitchen. Men stab stuff and get into sword fights with sticks.

What limited narrative value runs through One Million Years BC sees Tumak (Richardson) escorting a typically helpless Loana (Welch) through beautifully barren landscapes, fending off a dino or two, and trying to bring peace. Excluding the opening narration (a rather dim science lesson) words cycle between grunts and words that sound like grunts. Yet, the narrative still flows from visual cues and performance tics.

It’s pretty routine, enough for 1980’s Caveman to lampoon so wonderfully

If you’re here for Welch, you’re likely not alone. She dresses the theatrical poster more than she dresses herself, the inherent exploitation of the production not passing without notice. After all, sex sold this piece, not the dinosaurs.

That’s a shame though. It’s a strong cavalcade of Harryhausen beauties, eclectic too. Let the blue screen iguana and flat out awful tarantula pass. If anything, that pair serve as a homage to the original One Million BC’s rather pitiful dino offerings. Instead, give notice to the jaw-dropping giant turtle, the Allosaurus, the Ceratosaurus, the Pterodactyl, and a Triceratops, the latter realized to perfection decades before Jurassic Park did the same.

In-between Harryhausen’s stop motion stunners, there’s not much to One Million Years BC. Richardson isn’t given room to perform beyond a few expressions in close-up, and Welch splashes around in the water between moments of terror while waiting for a man to save her. It’s pretty routine, enough for 1981’s Caveman to lampoon so wonderfully. Caveman didn’t have Harryhausen though.

Video

Kino boasts about a new 4K scan, and the detail boost is evident. Sweaty close-ups certainly deliver a level of fidelity unseen on home video prior. Sharpness elevates well beyond what a DVD is capable of. This benefits the landscapes to a great degree, particularly in terms of texture. Rocks and plants take full advantage of this boosted resolution.

Some gripes enter quickly though. Encoding, despite spreading two versions of the film (International and US) across two discs, suffers from constant noise. The bitrate is sufficient for a 90-ish minute film, yet grain reproduction mirrors that of a disc trying to smash three movies onto one disc. A constant presence of chroma noise dots every shot, blotting out some detail, particularly when in motion.

Although the print is in flawless condition, the scan appears to brighten the image. Best guess? This is where the grain issue sprouts from. Mild color saturation gives One Million Years BC a pale quality, lacking in rich black levels and lessening contrast.

Compared to the quality of other Harryhausen features on Blu-ray, even recently in 3 Worlds of Gulliver, Kino’s disc disappoints. It’s fair to note this is in comparison to some marvelous efforts from Twilight Time/Sony and Warner (Beast from 20,000 Fathoms). However, it’s not unfair to hold the Kino to those standards.

Note the International and US cuts look identical.

Audio

Italian composer Mario Nascimbene gives One Million Years BC an organic score. A few tracks extend beyond clanging instruments, offering a hollow, auditorium sound from this DTS-HD mono offering. Spruce in the action and things begin to garble, lacking in precision, if not unlike other productions of the era.

Extras

Spread over two discs, bonuses offer a mix of features. Tim Lucas’ commentary over the international edition is worth a listen, joined by a trailer and stills/promo montage on the same disc. Those popping in the US cut can view interviews from Ray Harryhausen (12:29), Raquel Welch (7:45), and Martine Beswick (16:36). While the other interviews come from previous home video releases, Bewisck’s is new.

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