Ten thousand here, one million there, and pretty soon you’re talking real history.

Ten thousand here, one million there, and pretty soon you’re talking real history. February 2, 2008

I have to review 10,000 B.C. next month, so I figured I might as well see the similarly-titled One Million Years B.C. (1966) last night — and I have to say, I kept staring at Raquel Welch’s eyebrows. Yes, her eyebrows. I know she has other assets, too, but they didn’t seem remotely as anachronistic or implausible to me as those perfectly manicured lines above her eyes.

Of course, the two films presumably don’t have all that much in common, beyond the similarities between their titles.

One film takes place in truly prehistoric times, with cavemen and dinosaurs somehow occupying the same timeframe, whereas the other film — based on what we see in the trailers — seems to take place in the earliest days of civilization, with cities and temples and the elaborate social and physical structures that go with that. (I don’t know where the new film takes place, but cities like Jericho and Damascus are believed to have been inhabited as early as 9,000 B.C. and 10,000 B.C., respectively.)

What’s more, One Million Years B.C. has no intelligible dialogue — everyone speaks in a “prehistoric” language — whereas the most recent trailer for 10,000 B.C. indicates that the actors in that movie will probably speak English. And in a weird sort of way, that difference alone almost makes me want to take the Raquel Welch movie more seriously than the other movie.

As cheesy and stupid as One Million Years B.C. may be, the lack of modern dialogue gives it a sense of “otherness” that helps to transport the viewer back in time, whereas I suspect the dialogue in 10,000 B.C. will sound hopelessly modern, no better than the lines that were spoken by The Rock and friends in The Scorpion King (2002). And let us not forget that 10,000 B.C. is directed by Roland Emmerich, whose Revolutionary War film The Patriot (2000) featured such absurdly anachronistic exchanges as: “May I sit here?” “It’s a free country — or at least, it will be.”

And speaking of Mel Gibson movies, the trailer for 10,000 B.C. makes the new film look like Apocalypto (2006) with CGI mammoths — and Apocalypto, of course, also benefitted from foreign, ancient-sounding dialogue, even if the dialogue was undercut at times by modern colloquial subtitles. So that’s one more comparison that doesn’t work in 10,000 B.C.‘s favour.

Incidentally, the night before I watched One Million Years B.C., I happened to see Jason and the Argonauts (1963) on the big screen — and both films feature visual effects by Ray Harryhausen. That was purely coincidental, and in fact I had forgotten that the Raquel Welch movie featured his work, but it was a nice surprise to see his name in the credits again, twice in two nights.

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  • Funny, I never seemed to notice Ms. Welch’s eyebrows.

  • When people criticize “One Million Years B.C.” for its lack of scientific accuracy (I get amused how when reading the comments section at imdb, this film becomes the occasion for some people to go off in rants against advocates of Intelligent Design theory by suggesting falsely, this is the ID version of “accurate science”), they often fail to realize how the film should be taken in the first place. As pure fantasy for which “otherworldly” is indeed an appropriate term. You might as well just presume you’re looking at people who are inhabitants of another planet where this strange amalgam of early man and dinosaurs can exist together. And if you don’t want to take that approach, then ask yourself when was the last time you watched a “Sinbad” movie or “Jason And The Argonauts” and wondered about the “scientific accuracy” of those kinds of otherworldly fantasy films set in the realms of ancient Greece and the medieval Arabian world? Humans didn’t co-exist with the Cyclops or the Minotaur in ancient Greece, so just forget all about the matter of “scientific accuracy” and enjoy or dislike the film for whatever other reasons you have, be they Ray Harryhausen FX or Raquel Welch becoming the last of the old-Hollywood sex symbol icons.