New Meat on Old Bones – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

This weekend I went along to see Jurassic World: The Fallen Kingdom, the sequel to Jurassic World (Trevorrow, 2015) and the fifth in the franchise that began with Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1993) and continued with The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and Jurassic Park III (Johnston, 2001). Although the film has Derek Connolly and Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow both returning as screenwriters, with Trevorrow and Steven Spielberg acting as executive producers, the introduction of Spanish film-maker J.A. Bayona as director gives this movie a welcome dash of Gothic horror that anyone who has seen his darkly atmospheric The Orphanage (2007) will appreciate. While in many ways the film retreads the familiar, audience-pleasing scenarios of the previous films, Bayona’s background brings some enjoyable Gothic frissons to the franchise and some elements that will please fans of classic British horror films of old. He directed a couple of episodes of Penny Dreadful too, including the frightening and surprisingly poignant ‘Séance’ episode, which surely should have earned Eva Green an Emmy.

There will be no spoilers here, or at least nothing that isn’t apparent from the trailers

The events of this film take place a few years after the first Jurassic World movie, as dino-trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and the former park manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) return to Isla Nubar, a deserted ruin since the rampaging chaos of the first film. Claire’s career has changed tack somewhat, in that she is now leading a dinosaur-rights activist group, and the duo’s goal in returning to the island is to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from an imminent volcanic eruption and transfer them to safety. Their expedition is funded by the wealthy Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who – it is explained – was involved in the original dinosaur DNA experiments with John Hammond (the late Richard Attenborough.) His granddaughter Maisie Lockwood (engagingly-played by newcomer Isabella Sermon) spends most of her time bounding around the huge mansion learning about palaentology, but despite her youth, there are hints of mysterious connections between her past and that of the dinosaurs amongst whose skeletons she plays.

Supervising Lockwood’s rescue project is Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), an old friend of Claire’s. Now Spall will always be for me the frighteningly unstable Jay Wratten from the 2011 BBC series The Shadow Line and it’s no surprise to find him a villain here, following in the footsteps of Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) from the first film. He is just one of a great supporting cast of British actors, including Geraldine Chaplin and the ubiquitous but always-watchable Toby Jones.

While previous films have been pretty-much island-bound (part of the terror trap), Fallen Kingdom sees the dinosaurs moved off the island to their new home at the Lockwood Estate, a vast Gothic mansion with the inevitable basement in which unspeakable things go on. Much of Jurassic World was filmed in Pinewood Studios, but the exterior of Lockwood Manor is actually just a façade, constructed on Hawley Common, an army training ground near the Hampshire village of Minley. Bayona draws on his experience filming The Orphanage, as well as much older films and visual representations to explore the terror potential of dinosaurs loose in an old dark house.

The moral message of the film is not subtle – contrasting Blue Planet’s ethos of preserving natural environments and endangered species with the unregulated self-seeking excesses of capitalist greed, private militias and the mad science that has been condemned from Frankenstein through Westworld to the previous Jurassic movies. Genetic engineering has rarely been portrayed in a positive light on the big screen, and neither the Indominus Rex of the last movie nor the Indoraptor of this one do anything to change the impressions made by watching Deep Blue Sea (Harlin, 1999) Black Sheep (King, 2006) Splice (2009) or any other Promethean fable. While there are a number of deliberate and rather obvious references to scenes from earlier films in the Jurassic franchise, viewers might also enjoy spotting gentle nods towards much older dinosaur films such as One Million Years BC (1966) and Valley of Gwangi (1969), about which I’ve written previously [see here] While watching, I was also reminded of the comic-strip story ‘Flesh’ which appeared in 2000 AD during the late 1970s.

Despite healthy box office returns the film has received mixed reviews from critics, some of whom appear oddly confused about the aims of the creators of the Jurassic franchise; while one party carps about Fallen Kingdom sticking too closely to the storyline of earlier movies, another group grouches about the folly of taking the franchise in a different direction. I think it’s fair to say that the film aims at – and achieves – a balance between nostalgia and novelty. Feverishly debating how silly it may or may not be is as pointless as the endless controversy about the correct walking speed of zombies. As some of the pics above illustrate, the film has some superb visual effects with Bayona knowing how to play with panoramic sweeps as well as atmospheric shadows and reflections. Audiences can feast their eyes while the dinosaurs feast on the baddies. Isn’t that what the franchise is all about?

Mad Dogs and Englishmen….

On 7 May the BBC finally released a DVD of The Mad Death, some 25 years after the miniseries was originally broadcast in the summer of 1983. The programme imagined what might happen if rabies was introduced into Scotland, and over the course of three episodes follows the spread of the disease, its effect on victims, and the authorities’ attempts to control the outbreak. Filmed on location around central Scotland – including a memorable chase sequence in which a landrover pursues a rabid dog through the old Plaza shopping centre at East Kilbride – and containing some horrific scenes of rabies symptoms, including nightmarish hallucinations – the programme attracted a great deal of attention at the time, especially as the threat of rabies reaching the UK was a real fear then, and the subject of widespread media campaigns.

In retrospect, one wonders if we worried too much, and over the years my memories of watching the original broadcast have been tempered by further reflection about the other fears and anxieties that perhaps lay beneath all the lurid imagery and ‘protect our borders’ propaganda.

The BBC’s timing of their DVD release was rather serendipitous as it coincided with the publication of my illustrated article, ‘”Mad Dogs and Englishmen”: Hydrophobia, Europhobia and National Identity in “The Mad Death” (BBC Scotland, 1983)’ in the online periodical, The International Journal of Scottish Theatre and Screen. This was written for a special issue on ‘TV in Scotland: Past, Present and Future’, and some idea of the contents can be gleaned from the abstract:

BBC Scotland’s three-part series The Mad Death (1983) presented a fictional account of a rabies outbreak on Scottish soil. Although the story was based on a lurid unpublished novel and made use of classic horror tropes, including animal attacks, imprisonment in a baronial manor and terrifying hallucinations, it also reflected the sober tone of public information films and contemporary rabies safety campaigns. Filmed in Scotland and making effective use of Highland locations and actors such as Jimmy Logan, the ‘Scottishness’ of the production was nonetheless undermined by the vague presentation of the physical landscape, uncertainty over the parameters of the Scottish and English authorities, and an uneven depiction of social classes and dialects. A more detailed study of this content reveals the cultural anxieties that underpinned the narrative and characterisation, which remain acutely relevant as the 35thanniversary of the original broadcast approaches. Drawing on original production materials and personal discussions with screenwriter Sean Hignett, this article places The Mad Death in its social, cultural and political context, exploring how the series engaged with questions of national heritage and social identity while at the same time repackaging familiar tropes from the traditions of the horror genre. Particular attention is applied to the ways in which the spread of rabies is used to reflect anxieties about the dangers of European integration, employing language and attitudes that are all too familiar from the ongoing ‘Brexit’ debate in Britain. Through a close analysis of these issues it is possible to provide detailed insights into the production of The Mad Death, the adaptation process and the workings of the Scottish television industry during a time of social and political upheaval. The essay aims at providing a case study from which lessons can be learned that could help guide policy for future Scottish programming.

and also from a little ‘word cloud’ image that I generated:

For those who wish to read my article, it can be accessed (free-of-charge) here

’I Wouldn’t Leave My Little Wooden Box for You’ – Premature Burial, Postcards & Poe


Premature burial is no laughing matter. In fact many people found the idea of being buried alive so terrifying that they went to great lengths to ensure it couldn’t happen to them. Before his death in 1912 Archdeacon Thomas Colley specified in his will that his body was to be sent to a hospital for dissection in the aid of medical science, ensuring that any signs of life would be noticed by doctors in the event that he was still alive. A few years earlier, the  Third Marquess of Bute requested that doctors wait for unmistakable signs of decay before removing his heart, which was then sent for burial in Jerusalem. (See Rosemary Hannah, The Grand Designer: Third Marquess of Bute (Birlinn, 2012) p. 354. ) Aware of these and many other instances, I was intrigued to find the concept treated with great lightheartedness in the postcard below, which I purchased last week from an antique shop.
My hopes that a closer look at the card would make more sense have since been dashed. Is there any significance in the name on the gravestone? While pondering the images on the card, I was reminded of Harry Clarke’s chilling illustration for Edgar Allan Poe’s tale The Premature Burial (below.)


“The Premature Burial” (1919) by Harry Clarke (1889-1931)
Dublin-born Clarke was a leading light of the Irish arts & crafts movement and provided the illustrations for a posthumous edition of Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination (London: George Harrap & Co. 1919.) This was later adapted for the cinema as the third in Roger Corman’s ‘Poe Cycle.’


Poster for ‘The Premature Burial’ (Roger Corman, 1962)


Poster for ‘The Oblong Box’ (Gordon Hessler, 1969), based very loosely on Poe’s tale of the same name.


This poster for the first of Corman’s Poe adaptations – ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ (1960) echoes of Clarke’s drawing, with the vertical orientation and the sinister tree.


Although this poster shifts the layout, the premature burial is still placed in the foreground. The screenplay for the movie was written by Richard Matheson.
I’ve just been teaching Poe’s Corman cycle to film adaptation students which is why these images were so much in my mind, and why the comic postcard seemed so incongruous. It took on a slightly different hue when I realised that the words ‘I would’nt leave my little wooden hut for you-oo’ are actually the refrain from a popular song, written in 1905 by Londoners Tom Mellor (1880-1926) and Charles Collins (1874–1923.)
Although Mellor and Collins are almost totally forgotten now, they were both prolific songwriters whose comic ditties were hugely popular in Edwardian music halls.  Their work received recognition in the film I’ll be Your Sweetheart (Val Guest, 1945), starring Margaret Lockwood and Michael Rennie – who appeared together the same year in The Wicked Lady. The film opens with the words ‘This film is dedicated to those grand old song writers of yesterday whose melodies are the folk songs of today. Their battle against the music pirates who robbed them of their just rewards, is the inspiration for this story.’ This is a reference to the absence of proper copyright protection for songwriters at the time ‘I Wouldn’t Leave My Little Wooden Hut for You’ was written.
As you can see from the lyrics, the song is about an unsuccessful courtship on a desert island and has absolutely nothing to do with premature burial. However, the association of ‘wooden box’ with ‘coffin’ was clearly suggestive, and my postcard was not the only one to use the phrase with in a macabre context:


Although this was clearly the work of a different artist, the idea is similar.


This early 1900s postcard comments upon current fears about badly-preserved foods, due to an ongoing scandal about malpractice in the American meatpacking industry.
If anyone knows of other examples of old postcards using this song title, or can cast further light on the graveyard humour of the first image, I’d be very pleased to hear of it.

Early Birds: Du Maurier’s Precursors

The terrifying concept of wild birds turning upon humans was presented to cinema audiences in 1963 with the release of Alfred Hitchcock’s screen adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s short story, The Birds, first published in 1952. The idea was not entirely new, however, and in today’s post I’m going to focus on two earlier novels: Melville Davisson Post’s The Revolt of the Birds (1927)  and Frank Baker’s The Birds (1936.)


Dust jacket of the first edition


The binding, blind-stamped with gilt images of birds in flight

West Virginian lawyer and author Melville Davisson Post (1871-1930) is perhaps best remembered now as a crime writer, and the creator of such brilliant detectives as Uncle Abner, Randolph Mason, Colonel Braxton and Sir Henry Marquis of Scotland Yard. A qualified lawyer, he had travelled in Europe and beyond, and his prolific output reflects both his wide experiences and love of the great outdoors. The Revolt of the Birds was published in New York by Appleton in 1927, three years before Post died following a fall from his horse. 

The Revolt of the Birds is set in the China Sea, and – rather like an M.R. James ghost story – is relayed through an anonymous narrator as he listens to Bennett, a seaman with the notorious Wu Fan Shipping Company. The two men are seated in a warehouse bar in Hong Kong. Bennett, an Englishman, has a copy of The Times and The Passing of Arthur which shows ‘quaint pictures of the three queens, who came in the legend, in a mystic barge to take Arthur to Avalon.’ When they start discussing whether or not such a thing could ever happen, the conversation shifts to strange happenings in the Orient and Bennett begins to tell his tale – about Arthur Hudson, his unhappy affair with an English girl, his dreams of a mysterious ‘slender, dark-haired girl’ who always appears with a flock of birds around her or beside her, and his quest to find this girl in the islands of the China Sea….  The Revolt of the Birds differs from Du Maurier’s story in one very significant point – the intention of the birds towards the humans – but it introduced the idea of a large number of birds acting together in concert against the laws of nature.

There had been some precedents for this idea – Arthur Machen’s The Terror (1917), for example, features sustained attacks on Cornish folk from an array of wild animals, including birds and moths. The disturbing suggestion that individual birds might work together in order to carry out an organised mass attack also appeared in Philip Macdonald’s short-story ‘Our Feathered Friends’ which was published in Lady Cynthia Asquith’s anthology When Churchyards Yawn (London: Hutchinson, 1931.) Macdonald actually worked as a screenwriter on Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) – also an adaptation of a Du Maurier story – and ‘Our Feathered Friends’ was reprinted in the anthology
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories for Late at Night (New York: Random House, 1961.)Five years after Macdonald’s story, author Frank Baker (1908-82) published his full-length novel The Birds, exploring the possibility of birds carrying out a sustained war of terror against mankind.


The Birds (London: Peter Davies, 1936) dust jacket
There is no reason to doubt the claim of Daphne du Maurier that she was completely unaware of the existence of Baker’s novel when she came to write her own story with the same title. Apart from the basic concept, the two texts have little in common, and she actually drew her inspiration from something she witnessed near her Cornish home at Menabilly House. near Fowey. She was able to rent Menabilly from 1943 until 1969 because of the success of the book and film Rebecca, but she had known the area since the late 1920s when the family began taking holidays there, and was friendly with many of the locals. One day, while walking across to Menabilly Barton farm from her house, she saw a farmer named Tommy Dunn out ploughing in his field above Polridmouth Beach. Above his head, seagulls were swooping and diving, and she began to wonder what might happen if they suddenly began to attack….
She went home and began to develop this idea, turning Tommy Dunn into Nat Hocken, and suggesting that the birds become aggressive after a harsh winter with little food. Seagulls are the first to start attacking, but they are soon joined by birds of prey and finally even small birds. The setting is clearly rural, the characters are limited to Nat’s family and neighbours, and the atmosphere is reminiscent of wartime Britain with its fears about coastal invasion and German air raids.The story was first published in Good Housekeeping magazine in October 1952, with the text broken up into fragments and printed between pages 54 and 132, interspersed with sections of other short stories and juxtaposed with dozens of housekeeping tips and adverts: “Bread stays good longer when protected with ‘Mycoban,'” “Childcraft: America’s Famous (14-volume) Child Guidance Plan” or “Jell-O Salads: Like to add a touch of glamour to dinner tonight?” This homely material seems incongruous with the grim subject matter of Du Maurier’s story, which the editors clearly regarded as potentially unpalatable – the tagline proclaimed: ‘The Editors present this, not as the most popular, but perhaps as the Most Distinguished Short Story of the Year.’
Reading the story within the context of ‘good housekeeping’ tips does, however, draw attention to the prominence of domestic and familial concerns.  Nat is a former soldier who was injured during the war and receives a disability pension, but works part time on local farms doing light work in order to provide for his wife and two young children, Jill and Johnny. When the bird attacks begin, he uses his handyman skills to protect his family, boarding up windows and setting up barbed wire barriers, while his (unnamed) wife deals with the housekeeping matters: ‘It’s shopping day tomorrow, you know that. I don’t keep uncooked food about. Butcher doesn’t call till the day after.’ (Fridges were still a rarity in Britain in the early 1960s.) To distract the children from the horror, she makes them an early supper: ‘Something for a treat – toasted cheese, eh? Something we all like?’ Little details such as the need to stock up on candles, or heating up left-overs for the children, would resonate with the magazine’s readers, perhaps prompting them to think about how well they would cope in such circumstances.


1952 artwork by Seymour Mednick
The story was reprinted in Du Maurier’s collection, The Apple Tree: a short novel and several long stories (London: Victor Gollancz, 1952.) Editions of the anthology published after the movie were issued under the title of The Birds to capitalize on the publicity.


Comparison of the 1952 and 1963 covers
Hitchcock – who had made film adaptations of Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn (1939) and Rebecca (1940) – spotted the story and included it in his anthology Alfred Hitchcock Presents: my Favorites in Suspense (New York: Random House, 1959) as well as securing the film rights. He was reminded of the story after reading newspaper reports of bird attacks in the Californian press in April 1960 and August 1961 and within a few weeks had commissioned Evan Hunter to write a screenplay – but one that retained only the title and basic concept of Du Maurier’s story.  Apart from the obvious switch from Cornwall to California, the changes are too numerous to mention; it is only really in the siege scenes in the house where Du Maurier’s story can be recognised, although here and there little echoes of phrases and events recur. Other elements – such as the attack on a woman in a telephone booth, and the intrusion of an unusual female into the relationship between the male hero and his widowed mother – can be traced back to Baker’s novel.
In 1962, when Baker heard that a film was being made of The Birds without any apparent reference to his story, he wrote to both Hitchcock and Du Maurier to protest.  The director never replied, but Du Maurier responded with great sympathy; anyone who has read her letters will be aware of the tender solicitude she often showed towards her correspondents, answering questions in detail and almost acting as an ”agony aunt’ towards many of the lonely souls who contacted her. 


In the wake of the film, Frank Baker’s novel was reissued in 1964 as a Panther paperback

Baker heavily revised the text of his novel for the 1964 edition but only a fraction of these changes were implemented by Panther.

A new edition was published by Valancourt Press in 2013 which incorporates all of Baker’s original revisions, and comes with a nine page introduction by Ken Mogg, who runs ‘The MacGuffin’ webpage devoted to Hitchcock scholarship. Those wishing to know more about Baker’s life should read Paul Newman’s biography, The Man Who Unleashed The Birds: Frank Baker and his Circle (Abraxas Editions, 2010.)

Ante-Jurassic Antics: Hammer’s Prehistoric Quartet

Today sees the premiere of Jurassic World, the fourth installment of the lumbering prehistoric franchise that seems to have become a permanent fixture of weekend television. When I saw the trailer I had a sense of déja vunot simply with regard to myself, but also for the characters: does the basic premise not ring any alarm bells with anyone visiting a theme park with live dinosaurs? Has no-one learned anything? Anyway, the trailer was so laden with CGI that I found myself hankering for prehistoric hokum from an earlier era, and have therefore been feasting on some old Hammer dvds.

The name of Hammer will always be associated with the horror genre, but the studio’s output also included science-fiction, thrillers and comedies. During a short period in its history Hammer also turned their focus on the prehistoric era, resulting in four films: One Million Years B.C. (1966), Slave Girls (1967), When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) and Creatures the World Forgot (1971.) Compared to the contemporary Jurassic franchise, these movies might appear as antiquated as the period in which they are set, but they provide entertainment in areas that Spielberg left untouched.

1. One Million Years B.C.
(Don Chaffey, 1966)

The movie is actually a remake of One Million B.C. (Hal Roach, 1940) which starred Victor Mature as Tumak and Carole Landis as Loana – parts played in the Hammer film by John Richardson and Raquel Welch respectively. Tumak is the son of Akkobo, chief of a dark-haired and savage tribe known as the Rock People. He is cast out from his people after a squabble over who gets to the eat the biggest chunk of meat, and after surviving a series of dangers, is rescued by the lovely Loana from the more civilised Shell People. Tumak’s rough ways are gradually softened by living with the new tribe, but the prospect of peace is threatened by skirmishes with the Rock People, dinosaur attacks and a volcanic eruption.


Faced with a giant lizard, Tumak (Victor Mature) clearly finds Loana (Carole Landis) a more attractive sight. Who could disagree? ‘One Million BC’ (1940)

Rather than using the costly stop-motion process to depict his dinosaurs, director Hal Roach used magnified footage of live reptiles wearing stick-on fins and horns. Ludicrous although it sounds, the effects were actually so good that they were re-used in several other films such as Tarzan’s Desert Mystery (Wilhelm Thiele, 1943), Two Lost Worlds (Norman Dawn, 1951) and Valley of the Dragons (Edward Bernds, 1961.) The most iconic image from the film is, of course, that of Racquel Welch in her fur bikini; it would be a dreadful sin of omission if I failed to include a picture.


Loana (Racquel Welch)

The 1966 movie sticks fairly closely to the story of the original, but for the dinosaur scenes they turned to Ray Harryhausen, whose stop-motion animation technique has recently been used in Jason and the Argonauts (Don Chaffey, 1963) and First Men on the Moon (Nathan Juran, 1964.) Some live action sequences – involving a magnified iguana and tarantula – were also included as a nod of respect towards Hal Roach’s movie.

Highlights include a battle between a tyrannosaurus rex and a triceratops, an attack on the settlement by an allosaurus, where a young girl is stranded up a tree, Loana being carried away by a pterosaur or flying lizard (below.)


A pterosaur, looking surprised at the sight of humans

2. Slave Girls/ [In U.S. – Prehistoric Women]
(Michael Carreras, 1967)

As executive producer of Hammer Films from 1955, Michael Carreras was the driving spirit behind much of the studio’s output over the next two decades and was the producer of all four films featured here. Slave Girls (released in America as Prehistoric Women) is, however, the most ridiculous of the quartet, and studio executives were well aware that it was a sub-standard effort. It was shot in four weeks, re-using sets and costumes left over from One Million Years B.C. – a cost-cutting tactic frequently used by Roger Corman for his B-movies.

The script is far-fetched, to say the least. Big-game hunter David Marchand (Michael Latimer), has been captured by African tribesmen and is about to be sacrificed when a time portal opens up and transports him back to a prehistoric world populated by two tribes of women – one blonde, the other brunette. The latter are the dominant tribe, headed by Queen Kari (Martine Beswick), and the poor blondes – who happen to be rhino-worshippers – live in a state of slavery, while the men are imprisoned in a dungeon. Marchand’s arrival makes things worse, especially when he falls for blonde slave girl Saria (Edina Ronay). Whether these are prehistoric slave girls or merely women in a jungle somewhere is never resolved, and there is even a hint that the entire episode may have been some sort of dream after Marchand passes out.

Despite the absurdity of all this, Martine Beswick delivers an impressive performance as the imperious Queen Kari. A less dignified scene sees her recreating her catfight with Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C., this time with Carol White, whom sharp-eyed viewers might remember as the young Sibella in Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949) – she was soon to receive great acclaim in the role of a homeless single mother in Cathy Come Home (Ken Loach, 1966.) Beswick went on to appear in From Russia with Love and Thunderball, but her Bond girl roles were really a step down from Queen Kari.


This image of Queen Kari graces the cover of I.Q. Hunter’s excellent book ‘British Trash Cinema’ (BFI, 2013.)

In many UK cinemas Slave Girls was screened as a double bill with The Devil Rides Out (Terence Fisher, 1968)

3. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (Val Guest, 1970)

Basically a reworking of One Million Years B.C., using a screenplay worked on by J.G. Ballard – earning his first screen credit – and adapted by Val Guest, director of the original Quatermass Xperiment (1955) and The Abominable Snowman (1957), When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth was filmed at Shepperton Studios and on location at Fuertaventura in the Canary Islands, between November 1968 and January 1969. The stop-motion animation of the dinosaurs was executed (superbly) by Jim Danforth, as Harryhausen was busy in America doing stop-motion work for The Valley of the Gwangi: in a shrewd marketing ploy Warners had the two movies released as a double bill.

Gentlemen prefer blondes – but the men in the dinosaur monks are clearly no gentlemen, as these three fair ladies are lined up as sacrificial offerings.

The movie is underpinned once again by rivalry between blondes and brunettes. A dark-haired tribe are about to sacrifice a group of blonde victims as an offering to protect them from dinosaur attacks, when a freak storm (apparently to do with the creation of the moon) disrupts the ceremony. One of the blonde women, Sanna (Victoria Vetri) escapes by plunging off the cliff into the sea, from which she is rescued by members of another tribe – including Tara (Robin Hawdon), whose affection for her rouses the jealousy of his ‘wife’ Ayak (Imogen Hassall.)

The hostility of Ayak is just one of the difficulties faced by Sanna – she has to fend off dinosaur attacks, escape from giant snakes and carnivorous plants, while the priest (Patrick Allen) from whom she escaped at the start comes looking for her and manages to convince her rescuers that she is responsible for their misfortunes. Everything comes to a head on a beach, just as a tsunami prepares to roll in – one of many scenes in which the laws of nature appear to have been suspended.

The film follows the same structure as One Million Years BC, and the caveman ‘language’ is used much more extensively – which does become tedious rather quickly. There is some effective handheld camera work and intriguing scenes, such as one where we see one of the Beach Tribe women applying tar to young girl’s blonde hair.

Highlights include a beach attack by a plesiosaur, a battle with a triceratops-like chasmosaurus , a delightful baby dinosaur and its less delightful mother, and another flying lizard snatch.


Beauty and the beast – Victoria Vetri with a made-up dinosaur (rather like the Rhedosaurus in ‘The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms’) in hot pursuit.


4. Creatures the World Forgot
(Don Chaffey, 1971)


Deer little boys – Toomak and Rool

The title is slightly misleading, as the reference to creatures raises some expectation of more dinosaurs, but alas, the movie is devoid of prehistoric monsters and instead provides another tale of rivalry between dark-haired and fair-haired tribes. This conflict is personalised when a woman gives birth to twin sons, one blond (Toomak) and the other dark-haired (Rool); recalling Biblical tales of Cain and Abel or Jacob and Esau, the two grow up as rivals, the situation exacerbated when Toomak is given the hand of Nala (Julia Ege), daughter of a tribal chief. We do get to see a sabre-toothed tiger and a python, but despite the presence of former Miss Norway, Julia Ege, the film is more concerned with cavemen rather than women, whose dialogue consists of grunts that are even less eloquent than the prehistoric ‘dialect’ used in the previous film. It may be just as far-fetched as the films outlined above, but there is a sense with Creatures the World Forgot that Hammer was making a stab at realism: the world depicted here is certainly a more plausible than one in which dinosaurs and humans romp about together. There are some interesting depictions of folklore rituals involving masks and talismans, and the film makes the most of the location shots in Namibia, incorporating footage of native wildlife.

The influence of these films is discernible upon subsequent prehistoric romps such as The Land That Time Forgot (Kevin Connor, 1975) its sequel The People That Time Forgot (Kevin Connor, 1977) and the totally anachronistic nonsense of 10,000 BC (Roland Emmerich, 2008) whose time-specific title must surely be a respectful nod towards the earlier Hal Roach/Hammer movies. Although they have managed to move away from the sexist and racist overtones of the Hammer era, the Jurassic Park franchise continues to indulge audiences’ desire to see humans and dinosaurs on screen together, and they even make a direct allusion to the earlier movies:


Note the movie title reference on the banner
Anyway, to end, here’s the posters for Hammer’s prehistoric quartet. If anyone goes to see Jurassic World, feel free to add a comment below with your opinion!