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.
"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
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
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.
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.