Veteran comedy producer Hal Roach decided to try a change of pace, creating this epic about the early days of mankind. The story concerns two tribes, the warlike mountain dwellers known as the Klang People, and the more peaceful beach folk who are called the Shell People. Chaney, the
grizzled oppressive patriarch of the Klang People, has a falling out with his son, Mature, and banishes him from the tribe. Wandering alone, Mature is forced to fend off several "dinosaurs" (lizards made up to look mean and then matted into the frame to appear enormous) before finding the lair of
the Shell People. The kindly beachcombers take the big lug in and soon one of the women, Landis, is in love with Mature. Landis teaches Mature a crude form of table manners and he becomes a bit more civilized. Not surprisingly, the inter-tribal relationship causes a bit of tension between the two
peoples. Luckily, through a series of disasters (including a volcanic explosion), and battles with prehistoric beasts, the Klang People and the Shell People put aside their differences and join together in the fight for survival.
The production history of ONE MILLION B.C. was almost as titanic a struggle as the fight for existence in prehistoric days. Looking to lend some credibility to his project, producer Roach, Sr., sought out legendary producer-director D.W. Griffith, who had made a one-reeler about prehistoric people
called MAN'S GENESIS in 1912 (he remade it in 1913 as BRUTE FORCE). Griffith had virtually disappeared from the motion picture business and hadn't directed a film in nine years. Interested by Roach's offer to let him "supervise" the project, Griffith arrived at the studio to report for work. Roach
sent out three conflicting press releases announcing Griffith's participation in the project. The first said that he was directing, the second that he was producing, and in the third he was back at directing. After having cast Landis and Mature (he also shot their screen tests), Griffith found
that his opinions and advice were being virtually ignored. He seemed to spend most of his time on the project with the special-effects crew and was heard to praise their work. When the production was completed, Griffith picked up his last paycheck and demanded his name be taken off the credits.
Roach complied, and to this day no one is really certain whether Griffith actually directed any of ONE MILLION B.C. The film was also something of a frustration for one of its stars, Lon Chaney, Jr. Fresh from his triumph as Lennie in OF MICE AND MEN, Chaney was cast as the patriarch of the Rock
People even before his previous film was released. Chaney's enthusiasm for the project was such that he created his own special makeup for the role, echoing the skills of his famed father. From all accounts the makeup was quite impressive, but Chaney was unable to use it because the cosmetician's
union wouldn't allow an actor to apply his own makeup. Hollywood had definitely changed since Chaney's father was in movies. The special effects in ONE MILLION B.C. are a disappointment. To save money, Roach, Sr., opted for dressing up lizards instead of building realistic models of prehistoric
animals and animating them the way Willis O'Brien had done in THE LOST WORLD (1925) and KING KONG (1933). Considering the cheapness of the approach, the effects work fairly well. Well enough, in fact, to have been reused dozens of times in other films, and to earn an Oscar nomination; the film's
score was also nominated for an Academy Award. ONE MILLION B.C. was remade in 1967 by Hammer Studios as ONE MILLION YEARS B.C., using the top-notch stop-motion animation talents of Ray Harryhausen. Though the effects are superior, star Raquel Welch caused more excitement in her animal-skin
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- Review: Veteran comedy producer Hal Roach decided to try a change of pace, creating this epic about the early days of mankind. The story concerns two tribes, the warlike mountain dwellers known as the Klang People, and the more peaceful beach folk who are called t… (more)