I hardly have to explain why I'd go fetch this one from the vaults, since it's the only known anecdote for 10,000 BC. Roland Emmerich certainly hasn't lost his delicate touch, has he? I feel the pain of people who had ten year old sons and thus were dragged into it. You get force marched through the tundra for what seems like hours only to arrive at the Pyramid of the Fancy Boys. And the only real diversion besides 3 minutes of saber-toothed tiger, are those devil-ostriches. After I got out, I couldn't wait to have a look at director/writer Carl Gottlieb's satire of the all-purpose caveman movie. Unfortunately, I never saw Caveman back in the day, despite the high-spirited tagline on the posters: "Back When You Had to Beat It Before You Could Eat It!" I think the reason I skipped it was because of all the genial oafs I knew who kept quoting the dinosaur poop joke in the film. They are there, alright, but happily it's only a tiny part of the comedic inanity set in "One Zillion Years BC...October 9."
My favorite Beatle, Ringo Starr, was the best natural actor of the Fab Four. If it hadn't been for his Sunday hangover scene in A Hard Days' Night, that film might have evaporated from pure hipness. He plays Atouk, a soulful cave wimp fixated on a prehistoric dish called Lana (Barbara Bach, who has been Mrs. Starr for 27 years now). Unfortunately, Lana is the mate of the muscly alpha-male of the cavemen, Tonda (former Oakland Raider defensive tackle John Matuszak). Atouk's own position in the clan is test-monkey; they use him to find out if fruits are poisonous or not. On a primitive marijuana bush, Atouk discovers some cherry-tomato sized berries that produce instant sleep. He tries to drug Lana and Tonda with them....this sequence is a little too close to a session with the dreaded roofies for the 2008 audience, but rest assured that every fact in this film has been vetted by trained anthropologists. Happily, the skeevy plan doesn't work. Atouk is discovered and ejected into the wilderness.

He sojourns out with his best friend Lar (Dennis Quaid), an anthropoid who really hasn't learned how to walk yet. They encounter an accident prone elderly blind man (Jack Gilford) who tends to wander into tar pits; the man's daughter is Tala, Shelly Long, a lissome blond comedian who would be better known in coming years. Escaping a thunder-storm, the group discover fire on a tree hit by lightning. Drawn by the light, other cave-rejects gather: they include Evan Kim, never to be forgot from the "A Fistful of Yen" sequence parodying Enter the Dragon in The Kentucky Friend Movie; a gay male couple, a dwarf, and the clan of dejected humanoids with bones in their hair. Around the world's first campfire, they produce polyrhythmic music, in a theme by Lalo Schiffrin.

Atouk discovers another innovation: all humans need is to have their backs cracked, chiropractor-wise, to be able to stand upright. Then follows the accidental invention of the first poached egg. Atouk leads this band of brothers back to the cave, to claim the cavewoman he loves. I remember reading that Anthony Burgess himself was hired to do the dialogue for Clan of the Cave Bear. Director/writer Gottlieb does it cheaper but makes it a lot clearer in less than two dozen words, which become more intelligible as the movie goes on. Witnessing a fellow trog carried off by a dinosaur, a caveman makes the familiar spread-handed gesture, seen wherever Jewish people congregate: "Ehhhhh...." And "Zug-zug" is the word for the unprintable act. Lana is undeniably zug-zugable-Bach's "twitchy bottom is like a whirligig," said Pauline Kael-but this veneer of beauty blinds Atouk to the good woman Tala, who loves him.

Now it's time to praise Jim Danforth, the dinosaur designer for Caveman. Incidentally, what the hell was up with the lack of dinos in 10,000 BC? Spoilsports says that humans and dinos never co-existed, but who are you going to believe, them or the movies? For that matter, there's incontrovertible truth that Earth is only 6,000 years old anyway, so you might as well have dropped a few T-Rexs into 10,000 BC. Danforth's critters for this movie are better than you'd imagine; he'd been a long time critter-wrangler in everything from The Vengeance of Hercules to 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, Equinox, Planet of the Dinosaurs and When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth. Danforth's hard work really shows. The thunder-lizards are delightfully goofy creations. The T-Rex leers with hunger, swabbing his teeth with his lolling tongue and rubbing his belly with both teeny arms. There's also a giant horned chameleon-monster that can't quite sync up its rolling bulging eyes. (In what looks like a tribute to the first ever dino movie, Gertie the Dinosaur, the reptile fields a pumpkin right on the tip of his horn.) While a comedy this silly could have got away with jerky, badly animated creatures, Danforth and his team gave them credible life.

Here we have an authorative listing of caveman movies including a picture of Darryl Hannah looking very fine with clown-white and racing stripes on her face. This list misses Eegah! (they had film titles in those days) and what's wrong with The Caveman's Valentine? I heard the story of a person dissuaded from buying a ticket to Howard's End because he hadn't seen Howard's Beginning. One wonders if anyone bought a ticket to The Caveman's Valentine thinking Samuel L. Jackson was going to stare down a brontosaurus.
categories Features, Cinematical