Prehistoric Women (1967)


“Prehistoric Women” is the most endearing and lovable of Hammer Films’ Cave Girls In Trouble films. I fell in love with it instantly during a late night creature feature screening at the age of 14 or so and pursued it for years before finally managing to tape it off cable. Now there are wonderful DVD releases of restored widescreen prints & home entertainment really never had it so good. It’s garbage for sure but exquisite garbage, a kitschy sendup of Great White Hunter films that is so poker-faced that one is often tempted to conclude that Hammer was trying to be serious here.

Mesmerizingly filmed on interior soundstages made up to look like what a juvenile might think a jungle resembles, the film packs the visual authority of a classic “Star Trek” episode with a plot more fitting for a Playboy magazine cartoon. It’s fun, sexy, campy, never boring, and perhaps the ultimate (sic) Jungal Trash movie, where white Anglo types go to exotic jungle locations to have all sorts of fascinating adventures, while the natives carry the luggage.

Martine Beswick may have found fame as a Bond girl (“From Russia With Love”, “Thunderball”) but her iconic image as a topless primal sex goddess rising from a dappled fake studio jungle pool will stick with me at least for the rest of my days. One might have wished that the movie had been made a couple years later so she could have turned to face the camera with her wonderful breasts, but half of the film’s charm is that it was made during a different era. The tension between the juvenile sex fantasy it suggests and the need for staid British respectability (cough) adds to the fun.

A word must be said about the slack-jawed, lunk-headed portrayal of the native population of wherever this film is supposedly set. It’s not racist so much as ignorant, or rather accuracy and cultural sensitivity were not the objectives. Same goes for the misogyny and sexism of the movie, which is buffoonish and groan-inducing, but hey, the target audience was white European males between the ages of 12 and 75, or whenever men stop responding to suggestive fantasies about cavorting with blond slave girls or being dominated by mean, leggy, shapely brunettes. Hubba-Hubba.

If you don’t fall into that demographic you might want to try something else a bit more sober, or even better yet just down a couple of adult beverages & have fun laughing at the movie. And surprisingly there really isn’t any content that goes beyond PG sensibilities and is actually wholesome enough for subversively twisted family entertainment. Just explain to the kids that it’s a cartoon, really, and has about as much in common with the real world as a Three Stooges short. Great escapist guilty pleasure fun, and just as silly as it was in 1967. May it stay just as silly for another forty two years.