Notes: United Artists / Tuman-Foster Production. 91 minutes.
Atouk: Ringo Starr
Tala: Shelley Long
Lar: Dennis Quaid
Lana: Barbara Bach
Tonda: John Matuszak
Gog: Jack Gilford
Ock: Avery Schreiber
Abominable Snowman: Richard Moll

Written: Rudy DeLuca, Carl Gottlieb
Produced: Lawrence Turman, David Foster
Directed: Carl Gottlieb
Music: Lalo Schifrin.

Summary: "One Zillion B.C." The film begins with Atouk's search for "ool" (food) as he runs into a carnivorous plant and escapes. He sees a small lizard on a rock and reaches for it but is seen by a giant lizard behind him, who chases Atouk back to his tribe. The chief runs into a tree, clumsily knocking everyone else out, and a few cavemen try throwing rocks which the lizard tries eating. Bleh.

The lizard carries off a caveman and has injured Lar. Atouk teaches him to hop --

[This isn't working. I have to force myself to type "Atouk"--so forget it. From now on I just have to call him Ringo.]

Ringo teaches Lar to hop on one foot but the others, especially Tonda the leader, declare Lar "pooka" and leave him to die. Back at the cave, Ock mimes the day's events. Atouk gives Lana a piece of fruit he has stashed away, but she gives it to Tonda. A dinosaur howls at the moon.

The next day, to test berries, they make Ringo eats them. He stashes some away, eats one, and passes out. That night he stuffs some in a piece of fruit, gives it to Lana who gives it to Tonda, and Tonda passes out. But Lana ate some too, so Ringo's Bolero-accompanied attempts to have "zug-zug" with Lana fail. He wakes up between Lana and Tonda, and gets kicked out of the tribe. He meets up with Lar and they accidentally discover upright walking. They bend over in mockery of Tonda. At night Ringo moons over Lana and smashes an enormous bug which has landed on Lar's face.

The next day they meet up with old blind Gog and Tala at the bubbling tar pits. They teach them to straighten up too. Gog stumbles into a dinosaur who chases them, licking its lips and rubbing its hands in anticipation of a meal. Ringo accidentally spears it in the chest and decides he's brave enough to face Tonda. They return to the tribe's cave, Lana wants "ool," and when Tonda returns with an enormous drumstick, Ringo hides. Tala mocks him. A kidnapping attempt fails, and in running away they meet up with lots of other outcasts: an Asian who knows English words, an African, a gay couple, a dwarf, a family. Ringo discovers fire--"araka"--when lightning hits a tree branch and the accompanying music imitates "Thus Spake Zarathustra" (2001). When trying to pull apart a large bird in imitation of Tonda and his drumstick, two of the new tribe struggle with the carcass over the fire, inventing roast chicken. The dwarf discovers a noise when he blows the jug; others join by clacking chicken bones, shaking gourds, and generally jamming into the night.

In the morning, a dinosaur charges them. Ringo lures it to step on the campfire and it runs away. During the search for food, the Asian's pet lizard is used as a pointer and they find a giant egg. Tonda's group steals it, but is chased by a pterodactyl. The egg falls into a volcanic crater, gets poached, and Ringo's group enjoys a meal. Ringo also saves Tala from a dinosaur by shoving those intoxicating berries in its mouth.

Tonda's tribe fish by dunking women underwater. Lana accidentally gets swept away by the rapids, and Ringo saves her, but Lar gets carried away in the current to "A Nearby Ice Age." He pees ice cubes and we see an abominable snow monster stalking him.

Lana seems attracted to Ringo finally, but he joins the search for Lar. They find Lar and the abominable snow beast frozen mid-chase and thaw him out. They escape the simultaneously unfrozen beast who whimpers off.

A jealous Tala meanwhile has gone to Tonda to have him carry off Lana. Tonda is choosing a new woman, but he and his tribe raid Ringo's tribe, carrying off Lana and others. Ringo's men make slings, slingshots, catapults, and other weapons and smoke out Tonda and tribe. They ambush, and Ringo rides into battle on a tamed dinosaur. Ringo takes a beating from Tonda, and even Lana kicks him. Tala punches her. Ringo wins by slinging a rock at Tonda. He is cheered by the crowd and promenades with Lana to "Pomp and Circumstance." Finally though, he drops Lana into a pile of dino-doo, and chooses Tala.

Commentary: The New Yorker says: "The picture doesn't have the dirt or meanness or malice to make you explode with laughter, but it's consistently enjoyable." A distinct Gilligan's Island feel to the film is overcome by the very human qualities of Ringo and his outcast batch, who make discoveries but more importantly share them. While seeing and writing up dozens of grim dinosaur films, I had been saving this one as a joyous change of pace. Now what will I do?

Still, many of the achievements involve making slaughter easier and more efficient. The first scene of the film establishes plants as predatory and therefore dismissable as food, and the only other example of plant food is a powerful narcotic, so that the "ool" quest is always for meat and eggs.

The lizard scene, also at the beginning of the film, is a perfect, compact, filmic distillation of the "eat or be eaten" dynamics so characteristic of dinosaur films in general and discussed in my Abstract. The film also supplies valuable material for the Dictionary of Cavespeak. In any case, the film is a delight.