ONE MILLION B.C. (1940) on Blu-ray [updated with replacement edition details]

One Million B.C. is available on Blu-ray today from VCI Entertainment.

Important Update: the picture quality issues that I identified in my review have been acknowledged and corrected by VCI with a corrective replacement edition, the announcement of which is linked below. Kudos and thanks to them for their graceful response. My original review follows as originally published.

Note the screenshots herein are from the original release; the combing issues they show have been corrected.

As I popped this disc in and began to watch the film’s plot unfold, I realized that the story was a familiar one, very similar in fact to When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth, another film which I reviewed for Cinapse quite recently. As it turns out, they’re part of the same progression of films — sort of. When Dinosaurs Ruled is a gender-swapped spiritual sequel to One Million Years B.C. (the one with Raquel Welch), which is in turn a remake of the subject of this review, One Million B.C.

Hal Roach’s One Million B.C. stars a young Victor Mature in his first major role as Tumak, a prehistoric man who is beaten and exiled from his savage tribe. He is rescued by Loana, a pretty girl from another tribe — a very different community built on principles of cooperation and sharing. When he wears out his welcome through his selfish behavior (the only kind he’s ever known), the pair venture out into the dinosaur-filled wilderness together.

The monster effects here are not achieved through stop motion, but mostly with the use of live animals such as lizards and alligators affixed with fins and horns and composited into shots with human actors. The result is more “realistic”, but that ends up being a big drawback considering the amount of actual violence perpetrated, such as watching a monitor lizard and alligator actually fight each other until one appears to be, at best, badly injured. A close up of the dino’s mortal wound shows blood pulsing from its neck — and it doesn’t look like a special effect.

Even dismissing the animal cruelty as a product of the time, the film’s got some issues. The framework is a haphazard one. The movie opens with a wraparound story about a group of young people who seek refuge in a cave, bumping into an anthropologist who regales them with the story of Tumak and Loana which he has deciphered from the ancient cave paintings. These actors are projected into the story, and it would seem fitting for the film to end by returning to this bookend, but it never happens. It’s just an introduction that gets abandoned.

From a technical perspective, the dino stuff is actually well shot and pretty cool. As much as I despise the animal cruelty, I have a certain fondness for dinosaur movies like this — they really captured my imagination as a kid, both frightening and exciting me.

The Package

One Million B.C. comes to Blu-ray today in a new edition from VCI Entertainment.

UPDATE: The video quality issues noted in my review have since been fixed by VCI in a corrective replacement edition. My review follows as originally published.

Unfortunately, the major disappointment here is picture quality. This transfer involved a 2K restoration from the original 35mm negative, so it should look astounding. And in a certain sense, there’s a sense of clarity here that demonstrates that. It’s not murky or blurry like some old movies tend to look, and it probably looks better than any other version floating around (of which there aren’t many, if any, available).

But, as is evidenced in the screenshots in this review and even in VCI’s own restoration preview shown above, there’s a really odd jaggyness to the image, most noticeable in edges or areas of fine detail. Normally I’d identify it as combing or interlacing, except that it’s vertical. I don’t know what the correct term is for this, but my guess is that it’s an encoding issue and not a fault of the restoration itself.

Here’s a few more screenshots along with close-ups to better illustrate the artifacts. (You can also open a full-screen image into a new tab to see the finer detail).

Special Features and Extras

Commentary by Toby Roan
An informative knowledge-dump style commentary from film historian Roan. While it’s pretty clear he’s reading his thoughts from a script more than watching and responding to the film, that kind of preparedness is certainly preferable to other sparse commentaries with awkward silences.

Photo Gallery (10:08)
A high-quality video gallery of marketing posters, lobby cards, and photos from the film’s making and marketing.

A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon:

Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression inherent to file formats or the website’s display engine. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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