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One Million B.C. (1940) - Blu-ray Review

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3 beersThe movie begins with a lightning strike and then another.  A cascade of rain pounds against the backs and heads of a team of hikers who take shelter in a cave while the storm rages on.  It is there they meet the bearded narrator of One Million B.C.; an anthropologist (Conrad Nagel) who totally hangs out in caves and interprets the drawings for strangers who just happen to be passing by on dark and stormy nights just like the one that kicks off this American fantasy created by Hal Roach Studios and released by United Artists.

And now this prehistoric adventure – originally nominated for the Academy Award in special effects and for its wonderful musical score – arrives on blu-ray thanks to VCI Entertainment. 

Melodramatic through and through, this is an unforgettable tale that pits two separate tribes against one another when a romance between the rock tribe’s leader, Akhoba (Lon Chaney, Jr.) son, Tumak (Victor Mature), and a female member of the shell tribe, Loana (Carole Landis), blossoms in spite of their warring differences.  While it might be more of a popcorn muncher than anything else, there’s no denying that this visually rich fantasy is still damn effective. 

Full of angry dinosaurs (read as lizards) and rampaging mastodons (read as fur covered elephants), the world of One Million B.C. is a dangerous one and these cave folks are lucky to survive each day.  The movie is punctuated with a consistently solid use of models and clever special effects that use everything from pigs in rubber suits to men dressed as dinosaurs.  While today we can see some of the limitations in the work – thank you 1080p – some of these sights are still visual marvels to be witnessed and appreciated concerning the time period.

The film is directed by Hal Roach and Hal Roach, Jr. and, ultimately, key sequences land on the shoulders of D.W. Griffith, who exited the production early on, over a disagreement he had with the Roach team.  His filmed sequences are still in the movie, mind you, and  - with a free moving camera that absolutely celebrates the scope of its own movement – there are a lot of new angles to enjoy in this story of the dawn of man.

The romance in the picture overshadows far too much of the fantasy; that sad fact even plagued the film’s remake with Raquel Welch in the 1960s.  Hell, the sappy romance even dwarfs some of the dinosaurs running loose in this film.  That’s not a good thing either.  Sure, Landis is nice to look at, but she and Mature just aren’t that interesting.  And they especially aren’t as interesting as watching a baby alligator with a glued-on sail waddle across the screen acting all fierce-like.

One Million B.C. remains a solid genre offering.  We just don’t care so much about the needless flirting involved in all the quiet moments between the killer attacks as this version of Tarzan finds his Jane and beats his chest truly, madly, deeply.   Rawr.

One Million B.C. - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
80 mins
: Hal Roach Jr., Hal Roach
Mickell Novack
Victor Mature, Carole Landis, Lon Chaney Jr.
: Adventure; Fantasy
See the most exciting adventure in a million years!
Memorable Movie Quote:
Theatrical Distributor:
United Artists
Official Site:
Release Date:
April 5, 1940
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
December 12, 2017
Synopsis: One Million B.C. is an American historical epic fantasy film produced by Hal Roach Studios
and released by United Artists. Boy meets girl – prehistoric style, in this classic of man’s battle to survive against the terrors of the prehistoric world. Big-chested Victor Mature stars as protagonist Tumak, a young caveman who strives to unite the uncivilized Rock Tribe and the peaceful Shell Tribe, Carole Landis as Loana, daughter of the Shell Tribe chief and Tumak’s love interest, and Lon Chaney, Jr. as Tumak’s stern father and leader of the Rock Tribe. Dinosaurs, savage nature, man and a gigantic erupting volcano are part of the camp adventure classic.

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Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: VCI Entertainment
Available on Blu-ray
- December 12, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
: English
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

VCI Entertainment presents One Million B.C. on 1080p with a nice sheen that cleans up the picture and enlivens it a bit with crisp details and solid resolution.  Very few moments of dirt and debris are visible in this transfer and the film greatly benefits because of it.  The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 and sports a solid Mono PCM track for its music and sound effects.  Black levels are solid and grays are pure.  All in all, this is a great transfer for this film from the 1940s.



  • Provided by Film Historian Toby Roan, the commentary is a solid one, offering up bits of random information about the film, its legacy of special effects, and its cast and crew.

Special Features:

A photo gallery is the film’s only supplemental material.

  • Photo Gallery

One Million B.C. - Blu-ray Review

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