When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth (1968)

The superior pseudo-sequel to One Million Years B.C. lacks Raquel Welch (pinup queen Victoria Vetri has the lead this time), but makes up for it with more action and an even more gonzo storyline. Vetri is a would-be sacrifice to the sun (we're informed that, somehow, the moon doesn't exist yet) who escapes and joins up with a new tribe.

Things go south when she develops a romance with a man of the new tribe (the cave language is in play, again) which inspires jealous rage (read: catfights, and lots of 'em) in the other women. Eventually both tribes are at war with Vetri lending a hand via a giant mama dinosaur who has adopted her as its child (long story).

Ironmaster (1983)

Nestled somewhere between a caveman epic and a Conan rip off, you'll find this famously silly Italian production with a singularly nutty premise. A rogue caveman digging through the aftermath of a volcanic eruption discovers a hunk of spontaneously-smelted iron and invents the sword several centuries ahead of schedule.

As you'd expect, this boils down to an excuse for staging gory hack-and-slash violence in a prehistoric setting, but it's nothing if not novel - particularly when all the iron-mastering starts a caveman arms -race culminating in the somehow more anachronistic feeling bow and arrow.

When Women Had Tails (1970)

Oh, Italy. What would the low-budget movie world be without you? Here's a one-joke comedy ("sex puns ... with CAVEMEN!") built entirely around the premise of watching a tribe of dopey cave guys who for some reason can't figure out what to "do" with actress Senta Berger as a be-tailed female. Almost unbearably dumb, but popular enough (it was the 70s) to score a sequel two years later in When Women Lost Their Tails.

Clan Of The Cave Bear (1987)

To date, this is the only film adaptation of the (at that point) widely popular book by Jean M. Auel, the first in what ultimately became a series (only recently concluded) called "Earth's Children." It's best known for a somewhat schizophrenic mix of faux-history, junk science and (some) surprisingly accurate extrapolations about prehistoric man that science wouldn't officially confirm until much later.

Darryl Hannah has the lead as Auel's cave-heroine Ayla (yes, the same-named cavewoman from Chrono Trigger is a reference to her), a Cro-Magnon orphan raised by Neanderthals who functions like a kind of Mary Sue inserted into evolution itself. In the books she's the first to discover that sex creates pregnancies, can tame animals Snow White-style and invents fire-starting, sewing, various medical and surgical procedures and the brassiere.

Quest For Fire (1981)

Here's a singularly oddball mix of an attempt at a "serious" prehistoric narrative with the romance and tribal-warfare tropes of earlier, sillier cave flicks. Based on a 1911 novel and billed in theaters as "A Science Fantasy Adventure," think of it as a gritty reboot of the genre - The Flintstones by way of Christopher Nolan. It's definitely the most visually striking film on this list, courtesy of naturalism-inclined French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud of The Bear.

Everett McGill, Nameer El-Kadi and Ron Perlman (because, really, who else would you get?) star as three Neanderthal tribesmen who are sent on a mission to bring fire back to their people after their sole source is extinguished (they only know how to use it, not make it). During their quest they encounter cannibals, wild animals, other early humans both more and less advanced and spar over a female (Rae Dawn Chong) rescued along the way.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

Comments on