Thursday, February 2, 2017

WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (1970) (Blu-ray Review)

WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (1970) 

Label: Warner Archive

Rating: Unrated
Duration: 100 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director:   Val Guest
Cast:  Sean Caffrey, Robin Hawdon, Patrick Allen, Drewe Henley, Victoria Vetri

Synopsis: After Raquel Welch conquered the screen in One Million Years B.C., Hammer Studios followed up with When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, written and directed by Val Guest (The Quatermass Xperiment) and based on a story by J.G. Ballard (Crash). Victoria Vetri stars as Sanna, rescued from ritual sacrifice by Tara (Robin Hawdon), a member of a rival tribe. Her survival coincides with the mysterious formation of a new "fire" in the sky: the moon! Sanna's old tribe blames her for this affront to the sun; Sanna flees their wrath and Tara follows. Their shared adventures loom as large as the giants who once ruled the earth! 


When dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) was the third entry in Hammer's "Cave Girl" series, preceded by One Million Years B.C. (1966) and Prehistoric Women (1967). The star of the movie is curvy cave girl Sanna (Victoria Vetri,  Invasion of the Bee Girls, also Playmate of the Year in 1968!) as a member of a cliff dwelling clan who worship the sun. The clan are just about to sacrifice poor Sanna to their sun god, it seems that the sun god prefers blonds! As the sacrifice is about to commence the Earth's nascent Moon begins to form in the night sky causing a big storm, in the commotion Sanna escapes and falls into the ocean and is swept out to sea. Adrift and alone she is rescued by Tara (Robin Hawdon, Burke and Hare) and a small raft of men from a neighboring tribe. 

Tara takes Sanna back his seaside clan where she is met with scorn by brunette cave girl Ayak (Imogen Hassall, Carry On Loving) whom is also competing for the affections of the kind-hearted caveman Tara. In typical cave girl movie fashion the tribe-crossed lovers must fight for survival, not just against the neighboring tribe, who want Sanna back, but against a plethora of menacing stop-motion animated dinosaurs!

As a kid the main draw for me to these cave girl films were obviously the scantily clad babes in animal skins, which were pretty much fur bikinis, with their ample breasts constantly threatening to bust loose from their prehistoric garb. Watching these well-endowed woman fighting-off dinosaurs and the Quaternary period male chauvinism made for some fun watching. The movie even has it's own language, which even at a young age I was able to more or less decipher, not that it was hard to decipher, it could have been just cavemen grunting and the story is pretty easy to follow. The abbreviated vocabulary is made up of just 27 words, annoyingly the characters say "akita" about as many times as you hear the name "Carol Anne" in Poltergeist III, and it did begin to wear on me after about 10 minutes. 

Ray Harryhausen had done the stop-motion special effects for Hammer's One Million Years B.C. but he did not return for When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, but fear not stop-motion lovers, in his place we got the very capable Jim Danforth (The Stuff) who created some truly amazing dinosaur creations for the movie. They're all very meticulous with smooth motion, this is fantastic stuff. In particular the scene of the amphibious elasmosaurus attacking the seaside village is wondrous, with the beast being set aflame and dying, the battle is ferocious and I found myself feeling like a kid again watching it. The movie locations look great, filmed in the Canary Islands and enhanced by some epic matte painting work. It is also worth noting that the late David Allen (Puppet Master, Robot Jox) also did some stop-motion work on the movie. 

Other cool anachronistic dino-creations include a fearsome chasmosaurus, vultures, giant fiddler crabs and the flying menace of a rhamphorhynchus (not a pterodactyl as I had remembered), plus a real life boa constrictor and a lizard dressed up as more fearsome dino-creature, which  was maybe the worst effect in the movie after an ill-looking carnivorous plant, which tries to take a bit out of Sanna, only to make off with some of her hair. Otherwise the special effects are top notch, earning this movie an Oscar nomination for Best Special Effects that year.

The story is pretty hackneyed caveman stuff, but the stop-motion effects are pretty darn cool, even today I marvel at the artistry that went into stop-motion in these movies. The movie culminates with the new Moon causing an enormous tidal wave which threatens to destroy everyone, with one of the tribal leaders attempting to command the tidal wave to dissipate, not unlike Moses parting the waters of Red Sea, with less favorable results. 

A fun movie for the dino-spectacle, the story is rote even for it's time, but I still love these stop-motion classics, movies from a bygone era which still manage to capture my imagination.  Of note, this is the original International Theatrical release version which contains some nudity with star Victoria Vetri, so if you're watching this with the kids just know they might get an eyeful of boobie, and please don't deprive them of one of life's simpler pleasures, cave girl boobies from the 70s. 

Audio/Video: When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) arrives on Blu-ray from the cinema lovers over at Warner Archive, framed in 1080p HD widescreen (1.85:1).  Not sure f this is from a print or a new 2K scan of the negative, but the source is in great shape, aside from some white speckling there's not much to critique. The mixing of stop-motion and live action tends to soften the image, but I think this looks grand on Blu-ray. 


Audio is limited to a DTS-HD MA Mono track, there's not a whole lot of dialogue, aside from the 27 words created for the language, but it handles the limited vocabulary, dino sounds and drum-centric score very well and without distortion, very crisp and clean. The only extra on the disc is a 3 minute trailer for the film, I only wish we had a Hammer historian on hand for a commentary on this one. 


Special Features:
- Trailer (3 min) HD 

Fans of vintage prehistoric stop-motion animation and gorgeous 70s babes in fur bikinis need look no further than Hammer's When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth (1970) on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive - and remember, cave girl boobies.  3/5

 

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