DirectorHal Roach and Hal Roach, Jr.
Release Date(s)1940 (December 12, 2017)
Studio(s)United Artists (VCI Entertainment/MVD Visual)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: D+
Made long before viewers drooled over the curves of Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C., Victor Mature, Carole Landis, and Lon Chaney, Jr. starred in a more conventional but no less interesting take on the same material in One Million B.C. Produced by Hal Roach studios, this prehistoric genre nugget was released by United Artists in 1940 and has remained a favorite due to repeated TV airings over the years. It tells of the everyday lives of a group of cavemen, one of which is suddenly estranged from his group only to be accepted into another. Dinosaurs, erupting volcanoes, and clashing egos all work to separate not just them, but a blooming romance as well.
While it’s definitely dated by today’s standards, the special effects in One Million B.C. were quite good for their time, even going so far as winning an Academy Award (along with the musical score). The “traveling mattes” for instance, in which an actor was filmed against a projection screen with another image projected from behind it, look better in this film than they did in King Kong, which was produced several years earlier. The concept of spending time with a group of people who speak no lines, only occasionally grunting or using their own barbaric language, is something unusual for its time and is remarkable that it was even attempted by a major studio.
VCI Entertainment and MVD Visual presents the film with an above average transfer that’s much better than previous releases. Most of the film damage has been corrected, aside from a few minor instances of speckling and vertical lines running along the right side of the frame towards the latter half of the film. Grain isn’t overly potent and has likely been filtered to some degree. Black levels have depth to them but grayscale isn’t up to the challenge as the overall appearance of the film is dark, probably a little more than it should be. Contrast and detail are quite good, however, and there are no obvious digital anomalies leftover. The lone audio option available in an English 2.0 mono LPCM track with optional subtitles in English SDH. What little dialogue there is comes through well, but the track itself is fairly flat without much fidelity to it. This is mostly due to the material itself which doesn’t hold up to modern sound mixes, but score and sound effects elements come through ok, although slightly muddled. Also included with this release is a nice audio commentary with film historian Toby Roan and an animated still gallery.
One Million B.C. is mostly unknown to today’s newer generations of film fans as it’s not been readily available to them in the modern era. For many though, it was a TV favorite growing up and therefore has a tug on the old nostalgia heartstrings. The performances from the actors are good and there’s little in the way of boring moments, but One Million B.C. quietly marches on despite being overshadowed by similar, more elaborate, and more popular films from its era. VCI’s release of the film is a welcome one and long-time fans should be pleased.
- Tim Salmons