When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970)

This film will appeal to fans of the celebrated “cavegirl-meets- caveboy” genre. Its time-honored, trademark conventions are all there, the stop-motion animated dinosaur effects artistry, and general ambiance of geological upheaval and turmoil, and of course the primitive Stone Age language they speak (with its all- English phonics). Hokey? You bet. But… this genre is refreshing in general for its unflinching, unpretentious attitude about the sexes and human relations, plus its visual celebration of physical beauty as an icon of attraction. There is an exuberant defiance of repressed, “post- modern,” pseudo-intellectual nerdiness in this genre, which fans rightly admire and appreciate. These films are not for Oprah, nor NPR.

Of course, “One Million Years BC” with Raquel Welch is the definitive epic of this type. “When Dinosaurs Ruled…” is not quite as taut by comparison, but it still delivers. The dinosaur scenes are generally good, even if none of them have quite the punch of some of those from “One Million Years BC.” Likewise, our leading cave lady Victoria Vetri is Very Nice, and indeed racks well in her cavegirl outfit, but for sheer screen presence she cannot really compare with Raquel.

In fact, the cavegirl bikinis here have a bit less of the magnificently rough-hewn deerskin-rawhide look of “One Million…” But they make up for it as best they can by actually being even skimpier (hard to imagine, I know…). And Victoria and her cavegirl cohorts do a prodigious amount of running, jumping around, and just general jiggling, putting the best foot of these unbelievably teeny weeny bikinis firmly forward. For this film, its what’s up front that counts, big time. I must say, those guys at Hammer studios sure do know how to costume, light, and photograph their cast. By the way, the guy’s outfits are also extra skimpy (not sure what they were trying to prove with that exactly). Nothing offensive though, it is all within tasteful limits.

Compared with “One Million Years BC,” there is a generally lower energy, less crackling intensity to “When Dinosaurs Ruled…” The themes are intact, though — we still get the catfights and violent interpersonal antagonisms over pecking order ranks, and access to mates that made “One Million …” such riveting fun. But the characters here are not quite as sharply drawn compared to the standard set in “One Million…” They seem a bit pale–not as much personality, not as much charisma. That goes double for the guys, none of whom could have taken on single-handed the rowdy carnivorous therapod of “One Million…” that attacks in the orchard, the way John Richardson did. In fact, the guys are all pretty much a bunch of putzes in this movie, its hard to root for them. But still, if you liked “One Million Years BC” you will definitely want to take in this one, just don’t expect it to be quite as good.

Perhaps the only aspect in which “When Dinosaurs Ruled…” surpasses “One Million Years BC” is in its extensive use of bear tooth necklaces. Everyone has got them, and they are totally stylin’….