“Discover a savage world whose only law was lust!”

raquelwelch

Today TCM is airing a batch of great fantasy and adventure films produced by Hammer starring some of the studio’s most memorable leading ladies including the exotic brunette beauty Martine Beswick in PREHISTORIC WOMEN (1967), blond bombshell, Ursula Andress in SHE (1965) and the ravishing redhead, Raquel Welch in ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966). ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. is undoubtedly the most popular and widely seen film of the bunch thanks to a lucrative distribution deal with 20th Century Fox and financing from Seven Arts Productions that allowed Hammer to hire the up-and-coming Welch and procure the services of special effects maestro Ray Harryhausen. The bigger budget for ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. also allowed Hammer to shoot the film on the exotic Canary Islands where the rocky volcanic landscape and lush beachfronts made for a surprisingly believable primordial setting. The plot was based on the similarly titled 1940 Hal Roach film starring Victor Mature, Lon Chaney Jr. and Carole Landis that was nominated for a number of Academy Awards. The Hammer remake didn’t receive any award nominations but it did become the studio’s most commercially successful film and it made Raquel Welch an international star.

ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. takes place in a prehistoric world inhabited by gangs of violent cave dwellers and large dinosaur monsters with an appetite for human flesh. In the film Raquel Welch plays a young woman named “Loana the Fair One” who is part of the Shell People tribe. Loana makes the mistake of falling in love with a man called Tumak (John Richardson) from the more primitive Rock People tribe and together the two fur-clad lovebirds are forced to fight for the survival of themselves and their budding relationship in a harsh world that seems determined to destroy them both. The film plays out like a prehistoric retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet and includes some thrilling action sequences that make great use of Ray Harryhausen’s special effects including a particularly memorable scene involving a giant flying Pterosaurs that manages to sweep down and carry Raquel off so she can become a meal for the Pterosaurs’ babies. Moments like that make ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. one of Hammer’s most exciting and action-packed productions and a genuine treat for fantasy film fans.

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Although there’s very little dialogue in the film, some of movie’s best actors were able to make a notable impression including John Richardson as the chest-thumping Tumak and Bond girl Martine Beswick who plays his pre-Raquel love interest, “Nupondi the Wild One.” Beswick was a unique beauty and a scene-stealing presence in a number of films made during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Even up against the indisputably lovely Raquel Welch, Beswick manages to make a huge impression in ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. playing a hot-headed cave woman who ends up in a nasty hair-pulling, cat scratching brawl with the film’s star. No one has ever accused Raquel Welch of being a great actress but her performance here is particularly notable. Due to the lack of dialogue in the script she was forced to use her body language and facial expressions to let the audience know what her character is feeling throughout the course of the film. This may sound like an easy task but it’s not and Raquel does a nice job of working with a very limited vocabulary made up of grunts and imaginary words. She’s commendable in a film that doesn’t require much from her and she brings a warmth and sensitivity to a role that could have easily become forgettable in another actor’s less capable hands.

The film was directed by Don Chaffey who made a number of popular fantasy films for children and adults (JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS; 1963, THE THREE LIVES OF THOMASINA; 1963, CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT; 1971, PETE’S DRAGON; 1977) and it benefits from a powerful score composed by Mario Nascimbene (ROOM AT THE TOP; 1956, THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA; 1954, A FAREWELL TO ARMS; 1957, LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA; 1962) but a large part of the film’s success was undoubtedly due to its cutting-edge special effects and its eye-catching female star. Hammer launched one of the most widely seen ad campaigns in the studio’s history for ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. and it really paid off. Posters and publicity stills from the film featuring Raquel in a provocative stanch wearing nothing but a fur bikini circulated around the globe appearing in countless magazines and newspapers before the film was even released. This generated an unprecedented buzz about the movie and thanks to Hammer’s publicity blitz Raquel Welch became one of the most widely recognized film stars in the world.

You can see Raquel fight for the man she loves while enduring dinosaur attacks today on TCM: 3:15 PST and 6:15 EST!

5 Responses “Discover a savage world whose only law was lust!”
Posted By Mike D : December 11, 2014 9:46 pm

Times sure have changed. My 12th grade math teacher had that poster of Raquel Welch hanging up on the classroom bulletin board in 1969. Can you imagine some teacher trying that now!

Posted By Susan Doll : December 12, 2014 2:31 am

“A savage world whose only law was lust!” Why does that seem so funny to me in context of all the Christmas movies on TCM this eve?

Posted By Murphy’s Law : December 12, 2014 4:44 am

The score is really interesting.

Posted By jbryant : December 14, 2014 9:10 pm

When I was a kid, my dad took me to some kind of expo, and I bought the Racquel fur bikini poster for a dollar. When I got home I remember my mom and grandmother sharing a look that said, “Well, it’s started.”

Posted By John Mather : December 18, 2014 4:40 am

How and where can I obtain a dvd of the 1940 version. I love it.

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