Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ten Movies I would Like to See: One Million, BC

I don't mean the better known One Million Years, B.C., which is a film I'm not that fond of (which is something I never thought I'd say about something with cave people, Ray Harryhausen stop motion dinosaurs, and Raquel Welch's breasts).

No, I mean the original 1940 film of which Welch's B.C. is a remake. It was probably the biggest fantasy adventure spectacle since 1933's King Kong, and like King Kong, it came from the mind of a rogue producer. In this case, it was Hal roach, whose legacy includes mostly comedy, but also a few offbeat successes like Of Mice and Men.

The film also involved the talents of an even more legendary Hollywood misfit, D.W. Griffith, the man who invented Hollywood and hadn't had a job there in almost ten years. The subject seemed almost perfect for him, an effectively silent (except for sound effects and grunts) epic in which he would not have to indulge his smug racism. Griffith and Roach didn't get along, however, and Griffith left the project and had his name removed. No one seems to know for sure how much he directed, but popular sentiment seems to credit Roach with almost everything you see on screen.

And what you see on screen is dinosaurs. really cool dinosaurs played by big lizards with prosthetics, sarcastically dubbed "slurpasaurs" by genre fans.

I usually hate slupasaur effects, but there is something unaccountably cool about them in this film that could only be cool because of its time and that you wouldn't want to see somebody try again, like toys with sharp metal edges. (That last clause is lifted from a great review of Little Caesar that I once read.) The abusive treatment of animals would never be allowed today, and caused the film to be heavily censored in the UK in its original release.

Besides this, the film features star making roles for Victor Mature and Carole Lombard as well as Lon Chaney, Jr. in his first fantasy film. (He designed his own make-up, but the Cosmetician's Union wouldn't let him use it.)

I actually have seen this film at least once, but it's vague in my memory, maybe because my recollections of it are scattered among the many movie and TV productions that have borrowed its footage. Even color pictures used it.

It nos seems to be unaccountably hard to find on DVD for something that was nominated for two Academy Awards. TCM has the full feature available for viewing at cell phone size here.


At 12/4/10, 1:52 AM, Anonymous RPM said...

Cell phone size? THat's it eh? Well I do have the Castle Films 8mm film of it in my hands right now!All I had to do was move my old Viewmaster reels, and there it was. It's the 200 foot version on one reel.
I just wish we still had a working 8mm projector. I think I will work on that. I love legacy formats and equipment.

At 12/5/10, 1:21 AM, Blogger Monster, Indeed! said...

Ah, yes, those reels used to be the ultimate movie buffs possessions!

I wish I knew what holes pictures like this fall through. Was it financial? Legal? Was the print lost or damaged?

At 12/5/10, 2:22 AM, Anonymous RPM said...

I bet in an article buried in an old Filmfax we could find our answer. Now days I'm spoiled, it is real hard to do a keyword search on a pile of old magazines!


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