"This is a story of long ago, when the world was just
announces a grim authoritative voice, reminding us of traditional
"In the beginning" lore and suggesting divine origins,
intent, and sanction of what is to come.
Footage of gaseous formations, explosions, and lava flow accompany the credits:
A Seven Arts--Hammer Film (1966) [Twentieth-Century
Loana: Raquel Welch
Tumak: John Richardson
Sakama: Percy Herbert
Akhoba: Robert Brown
Nupondi: Martine Beswick
Ahot: Jean Wladon ["Waldon" in the Magill Movie Guide is incorrect.]
Sara: Lisa Thomas
Tohana: Malya Nappi
Young Rock Man: Richard James
Payto: William Lyon Brown
First Rock Man: Frank Hayden
First Shell Man: Terence Maidment
First Shell Girl: Micky De Rauch
Ullah: Yvonne Horner
Producer: Michael Carreras
Director: Don Chaffey
Writers: Michael Carreras, Mickell Novak, George Baker, Joseph Frickert
Cinematographer: Wilkie Cooper
Costume Designer (fur bikinis): Carl Toms
Music: Mario Nascimbene
Special Effects: Ray Harryhausen.
Accompanied by stark, slow, flute noodlings, the pompous narrative voice, god-like in its disembodiment and in vital-sounding fragments which insist that we view our ancestors with perspective and distinction and not as we do the other animals on earth, constructs the natural world as one of immediate antagonism:
"A young world. A world early in the morning of time. A hard unfriendly world. Creatures who sit and wait. Creatures who must kill to live. [We see a vulture, precariously wired to a stick with wings unnaturally outspread and a jungle snake in this arid desert.] And man, superior to the creatures only in his cunning. ["Iyeeah!" cries a caveman (read: "woo"), having proven his 'cunning' by leading a wild boar/warthog into a pit by acting as food-bait.] There are not many men yet--just a few tribes scattered across the wilderness, never venturing far, unaware that other tribes exist even. Too busy with their own lives to be curious, too frightened by the unknown to wander. Their laws are simple: the strong take everything. This is Akhoba, leader of the rock tribe, and these are his sons, Sakama and Tumak. There is no love lost between them. And that is our story."
And that is the end of the English language
in this film. Thus, we are confronted with a typical contortion
of the "survival of the fittest" principle, and the
whole of world events based on one male struggle, supposedly primal.
The biblical echoes seek to validate this nasty Western vision
in resonant myth.
[These first brief minutes of the film are
useful in a variety of teaching contexts. For further commentary,
see One Million Years B.C.
Tumak and Sakama fight for the right to slay
the animal in the pit. The dead animal is retrieved, and the
men return to their communal cave, leaving an "unfit"
old man to die. Vultures actually attack dying people in these
Hammer cave-movies (cf. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth).
Back home and surprisingly knowing enough to come in out of the
rain, they roast the animal on an open fire. A female taster
samples the food, and Akhoba tears a hearty chunk of pig for himself
(proving you are what you eat). With unseemly deportment, more
men grab and fight for pieces, and then retreat to various corners
of the cave to eat. Akhoba still hungry; want Tumak meat! Father
fights son until Tumak is forced off a cliff in front of the cave.
Sakama opportunistically takes Tumak's woman.
Pour another drink: Tumak's alive. He looks
around and heads off for the distant mountains. He turns back
and spits at his former home. A huge iguana (who looks dehydrated)
chases him, corners him, and lassos his leg with its tongue (or
something . . . it's clearly not the short pink tongue we saw
in the mouth of the iguana moments ago). Tumak frees himself
and bravely runs away into a cave where he finds water and drinks
in a most undignified manner. Looking about he sees skulls, then
hears a sound. An apeman emerges from another passage. Apparently
he isn't Tumak's type, for our young hero bravely runs away again,
finding an opening above onto the surface of this old muckball,
and climbs out.
Back home, Tumak's ex awakens and sneaks around,
finding a bone. Sakama awakens and sees Akhoba near her. Tension
Tumak finds huge "lizard" footprints
and lo, a brontosaur wanders by in the distance. This being a
wasteland tundra with no plants and no water, the sight is indeed
disturbing; Tumak bravely runs away, but into a huge tarantula.
[Giant spiders! They're everywhere!] Our gomless young friend
continues wandering towards the sun. The ocean? A mirage? The
screaming angel/shrew voices of song don't say. Tumak passes
Fortunately, he's stumbled, literally, onto
the Beach of the Blondes--excuse me: the Shell Tribe. The Blonde
Chick People--excuse me: the women of the Shell Tribe are cavorting--
nay, hunting--in the sea. Loana (Raquel Welch) goes to investigate
Tumak. A giant sea tortoise peers over a sand cliff and intends
to waddle down to the water. This evil scheme is tended to by
the Shell Tribe: the women blow conch shells to summon the men,
who threaten the animal with spears and throw rocks in its face.
Meanwhile, Tumak is dragged to safety and thence to the beachfront
Back among the Rock Tribe, Akhoba chases a
goat. He climbs rocks until Sakama gets his chance to knock the
old man off the cliff and proclaim himself leader.
Tumak awakens surrounded by the industrious
and productive blonde tribe. Loana graciously brings him food;
however, you can take the rockman out of the rocks but you can't
take the rocks out of the rockman: he eats like a ravenous vicious
Akhoba isn't dead and returns one stormy night
to the horror of the tribe, bloodied and half-blind.
Tumak awakens again and finds the cave empty:
they're outside working. Ahot shows him a snazzy new invention--a
spear--and how to jab with it. Names are exchanged: Loana, Ahot,
Tumak. Loana shows Tumak the fishing pond. Uproarious laughter
accompanies her success at spearing a fish (which writhes in agony
at the end of her spear) and his awkward attempts to do the same.
An allosaur drops by and eats a human. Tumak attacks the dino,
defending a child he put up a tree earlier. More men join the
fight but not successfully: another dies. The allosaur suffers
a spear in the mouth, which it spits out, an impaling on a large
stake, and finally Tumak's spear in the neck, the last accompanied
by profound music.
After a funeral later, Tumak and Ahot get into
a fight in the cave. Tumak is kicked out of the tribe, but Loana
follows him. Rock-idiot goes back to the apeman cave, where Loana
picks something that looks like an eggplant out of a pine tree.
The apegoons arrive, so the two climb the tree. Loana drops
her eggplant which starts an ape fight. They spend the night
in the tree and climb upwards in the morning. A triceratops (vegetarian)
charges them, whereupon they hide among rocks as a T. Rex fights
the triceratops for the privilege of predatorization of the humans.
The triceratops wins, uncharacteristically, but in the meantime,
Loana has emerged out of the other side of the rocks while Tumak
has been trapped. The Rock Tribe is out and about, probably hunting,
and Tumak saves Loana from Sakama. Loana stops Tumak from actually
killing his brother. Back at the old cave, Tumak's former woman
and Loana fight. Loana wins and is encouraged to kill off this
woman, but Tumak intervenes. "Violence is wrong, " the
big lug seems to be implying. The next day he teaches them how
to make spears.
After some tension with Sakama, Loana teaches
the tribe about another new Shell People invention: bathing.
Hydro-fun is interrupted again, though. This time a pterodactyl
attacks and squawks off with Loana in its talons. About to feed
her to its young, this dino is attacked by another pterodactyl.
In the fight, Loana falls into the sea, swims out, and passes
out. One pterodactyl goes down, but Tumak arrives to see the
dinochicks eating, apparently Loana. He is rather Boethian about
it all, though, and goes to help a hurt friend.
Loana struggles back to her tribe, but commands
a delegation to go with her in search of Tumak. They meet up,
and return to kick Sakama et al. butt. Melee. Tumak is about
to crunch his brother again when a volcano erupts. In the cataclysmic
geophysical upheavals, Akhoba buys the farm, Tumak finally spears
Sakama, many die, lots of rocks fall.
In the steamy aftermath, the survivors trudge
off, presumably to start a new tribe, face human destiny, whatever.
This is supposed to be a final vision of the persistence of the
species, and the film has sanctimoniously turned sepia to convey
The forcing of humans and dinosaurs together in this and other
films suggests the attempt to root meat-eating in necessity.
All conflict here seems to originate in dispute over women;
but actually most of the conflict stems from the pursuit of meat
and the attendant macho posturings over spear-rights. (Perhaps
women are so desirable because most of male life is spent away
from them pursuing meat.)
The animals are never just "there";
they are invariably seeking to eat humans. The more generalized
antagonistic relationship between humans and the natural world
is assumed to lie beneath all subsequent layers of civilization.
(But what about Native American cultures?) This kind of pop
anthropology is seldom examined as spurious, and that this film
passes its vision off as somehow canonical is discouraging.
[Final Note: You'll enjoy going about the
house grunting incoherently--Tumak! Oodala! etc.--but this wears
off after about an hour.]