19 July 2012 | dougdoepke
Worth a Closer, Slightly Off-Center, Look
Considering how much worse this movie could have been, I'm a bit surprised, what with old Hollywood taking on prehistoric times with the well-scrubbed likes of hunky Victor Mature and nubile Carol Landis. Frankly, both look like they just stepped off the pages of Photoplay, even if their fashion attire is a bit dated, to say the least. But whatever the expected Hollywood nonsense, the underlying story is a good one, with lessons even for today.
Apparently, the Rock people are early ancestors of our modern rugged individualists, even if their table manners leave a lot to be desired. No sir, no one here depends on anyone else. Catch dinnertime among these no-nonsense Rock people where the pecking order is strictly enforced—it's the roughest guy first, then the hunting dogs, then the rest of the guys, and finally the women, all grabbing what they can. Maybe that also accounts for why so few kids are seen among them. Anyway, everyone jealously guards his own hunk of meat since somebody else will grab it if they can. And better not get injured because if you do, you'll have to take care of yourself. No medical insurance here. But one thing about this tribe, they're tough as nails.
Then there're the Shell people, probably forerunners of modern day European socialists. They all eat out of a communal vegetable pot, even passing plates of food from one to another. Just as importantly, each eats in peace knowing his neighbor can get more from the pot instead of grabbing someone else's. Then too, there's leisure activities, such as small group singing that's more like synchronized grunting, along with etching on rock walls for later archaeologists to find. So, since they all seem to get along with one another, it's not surprising a ton of kids are running around. The trouble is the tribe's terrorized into group huddles by one of those big lizards Hollywood was so fond of. What the Shell folks need is a dose of the Rock people boldness. And what the Rock folks need is a dose of Shell people civilization.
Good thing for both tribes that Hollywood's got a Neolithic version of Romeo and Juliet that eventually brings the two groups together. But then what can you expect when hunky Tumac (Mature) from the Rock people meets up with the winsome Loana (Landis) from the Shell folks. Just goes to show, I guess, that no matter what, biology trumps all else, especially when all you're wearing is a bear skin. Still, I would like to know just how Tumac gets such a smooth shave—and I do mean smooth shave-- when the other Rock guys don't. But then how else could we recognize TCF's newest heart throb if he didn't. At the same time, I'm wishing I was born a lot, lot, sooner so maybe I could meet up with a prehistoric babe like Loana. I mean Las Vegas showgirls in their skimpy costumes have nothing on our great-great-great
(you get the idea) grandmothers.
But then, if I were born a lot, lot sooner, I might meet up with one of those scary big lizards that seem always fighting with one another or I might get blasted by a volcano or swallowed up by an earthquake. Thanks to the screenplay, it's just one prehistoric hazard after another, and I'm thinking the special effects crew really deserved their Oscar nominations-- especially since there's no digitalized computer to fill in the blanks. All in all, I guess it's just as well that I'm knocking around in the 21st century where my biggest worry is commuter traffic at rush hour.
Anyhow, skeptics have poked a lot of fun at this epic over the years, and truth be told, it's not too difficult. But despite the occasional silliness, the importance of learning from others is still more than just a prehistoric challenge.