Pre-Commentary: One Million B.C. [a.k.a. Man and his Mate (in Britain),The Cave Dwellers (a rerelease without the modern-day introduction)] was adapted from a novel by Eugene Roche. D.W. Griffith, by now ignored by Hollywood and alcoholic, began directing the project under the title When Man Began. Roy Seawright and Frank Young stuck fins on and photographically enlarged various crocodiles, lizards, iguanas. The film inspired the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to ban such gruesome uses of these animals, so footage from this film was later recycled for Tarzan's Desert Mystery (1943), Two Lost Worlds (1950), Tarzan's Jungle Manhunt (1951), Untamed Women (1952), Robot Monster (1953), King Dinosaur (1955), Teenage Caveman (1958), and Valley of the Dragons (1961), and '50s and '60s television shows such as Ramar of the Jungle and Jungle Jim. The film was remade with mostly stop-motion techniques in 1966 as One Million Years B.C. and starred Rachel Welch.

Notes: United Artists, 80 minutes.

Tumak: Victor Mature
Loana: Carole Landis
Akhoba: Lon Chaney, Jr. [next year's Wolf Man!]
Ohtao: John Hubbard
Nupondi: Mamo Clark
Peytow [not Peyton as The Magill Movie Guide has it]: Nigel De Brulier
Tohana: Inez Palange
Skakana: Edgar Edwards
Ataf: Jacqueline Dalya
Wandi: Mary Gale Fisher
Narrator: Conrad Nagel

Produced: Hal Roach
Directed: Hal Roach and Hal Roach, Jr.
Screenplay: Mickell Novak, George Baker, Joseph Frickert
Cinematography: Norbert Brodine and Roy Seawright
Edited: Ray Snyder
Musical Score: Werner R. Heymann
Descriptive Narration: Grover Jones

Summary: Rain forces a group of feckless wanderers into a cave where an archeologist greets them. He has been studying "these markings hidden for many centuries." In fact, he says, they tell a "complete story. On this wall a learned man left his saga." We're in for his "interpretation of the simple story left here." Some dolt feeds him the line: "Do you mean there were people of intelligence that long ago?" [And I'm lost already. What is that supposed to mean? Somebody invented intelligence in the 1920s?] Archeologist: "Intelligence, my friend, is inherent. Education and culture are acquired. Civilization, of course, has brought complications. But here are the same thoughts, the same emotions, the same struggles with the problems of life and death that, that we of today experience." [Okay, hold on, Chuckles; so you're post-romantically reading emotion out of cave drawings, fine, but what are we saying in 1940 about "The War"?]

Mr. Gomless: "I always thought of those ancient people as animals instead of humans." [Makes it ethically easier to slaughter and eat them!] Fascinating. Anyway, the "saga" concerns a "young hunter of one tribe and a girl of another." The boy belongs to the Rock Tribe and the girl the Shell People. "His was a cruel tribe. Pity and compassion played little part in the existence of those people, who ate only what they could kill; they depended solely on their ability to kill for sustinence. They despised weakness, worshipped strength. They ruled by the power of might. . . . Animals were abundant; none of them had learned to fear man, which made the hunter's life most hazardous. [You'd think it would make being a hunter easier!] Here life lived hand in hand with death. [???] And compensation came only to the strong."

We have faded into the prehistoric world, and Tumak has killed a boar. Dire music accompanies the interminable contentions over meat rights and ownership of chunks, and Tumak ultimately fights with Akhoba, leader of the Rock Tribe, and falls off a small cliff. A mastodon chases Tumak up a tree and butts the tree into the water below. Tumak drifts unconsciously to the Shell People and is discovered by a spear-fishing woman, Loana. The Shell People take him in despite his uncouth ways, especially his suspicion and pigginess regarding food. We see some wall-carving going on and a baby bear stealing food.

Back among the hunting Rock Tribe, Akhoba is battered by an ox, but staggers back to the cave. Hm . . . welfare or tough luck?

The Shell People have a predator alert briefly. But we soon focus on a meeting of the mimes as Loana and Tumak teach each other their names. Tumak also gradually learns communism, that is, he should share his food and help in the equal distribution. A bit of a love triangle emerges with another Shell man, but Tumak is valued for shaking trees to make fruit fall down. While he fails to learn spear-fishing from Loana, a rubber-suited dinosaur attacks the settlement and Tumak slays the animal. He struts back to the others, but later fights his rival and is ordered out of the tribe. Loana goes too.

On the odyssey, we encounter a slurpasaurus [as later in The Lost World (1960); in other words, a regular lizard with junky fins glued to him], we see a gigantic mongoose haul off a gigantic snake, and an armadillo chases those crazy kids up a tree. We also see two lizards fight each other, which is real and pretty brutal, and enhanced by jungle screechings and roars.

Blood wells at the neck of the losing lizard when Tumak walks by. Loana blows her shell to signal trouble, for the Rock Tribe are around. Reunion with Tumak's original tribe involves lots of fighting, all tentatively smoothed out by the two new peaceniks. Food other than meat is introduced to an old man.

But wouldn't you know it, just when everything's going so well, cataclysmic volcanic activity, lava, earthquakes, etc. ravage the land. Lizards are panicked and tortured and it looks as if they get burned too.

A lone shoe suggests to Tumak that Loana was disintegrated by lava trying to save a cave-brat. But a horn-blowing shows otherwise. Tumak's last heroism is saving a cornered batch of cave-people from a gigantic iguana. He inspires them to harass the animal, which roars and eats a guy, and then lures the iguana away to where we can start an avalanche on top of it, underneath which the creature is buried.

Hymnal sounds signal our glorious ending as Tumak, Loana, and the cave-brat between them realize here comes the sun and it's all right.

Commentary: The ideological implications of the introduction are interesting given the historical context--1940--but the introduction also gives voice to the general attitude in all these dinosaur films regarding this warped view of social Darwinism read back into the prehistoric world. The film, nevertheless, shows favorably the growing impulses towards civilized behavior. But this in turn is undermined by the filmmakers' treatment of the lizards used for dinosaurs. The cruelty is pretty upsetting.