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Director: ROGER CORMAN
"In the beginning, there was chaos and eternal night. And a voice said, let there be light. And the dark was separated from the light. There was created the waters and the land. And there were made the sun to rule the day and the moon to rule the night. And the stars to give light to the darkness. The Earth was made to bear growing green things and fruit. The animals were created and they were fruitful, and multiplied. And then there came... Man!"
The above narration is not from the beginning of a DeMille biblical epic; no, it's the start of.. TEENAGE CAVEMAN! (Roger Corman, however, has stated that he directed something called "Prehistoric World" not this cheesy-titled piece). It's a misnomer, in any case; Robert Vaughn and most of his peers look like they're in their mid-twenties.
Vaughn plays a young member of a small tribe (prehistoric, or so it seems), calling themselves 'The Clan' and living in a canyon which looks suspiciously like an area I've seen in Robot Monster and Invasion of the Star Creatures. His father is the "symbol-maker" - which makes him a combo of the tribe's interpreter and chief artist/designer, I guess. The tribe governs itself with various dopey laws and taboos, most of which revolve around forbidding anyone to wander very far outside the immediate area; the further one goes, the more chance they have in encountering stock footage of dinosaur-like beasts from One Million BC (1940). There's also rumor of some dark god out there somewhere, whose touch means death. Vaughn yearns for more than this limited lifestyle; he questions; he wonders; he daydreams; he rebels. He says "aye" a lot.
A stumbling block to all of Vaughn's plans is a tribe member nick-named the "Black-Bearded One." This guy uses any excuse to keep the tribe frozen in fear - fear of what's on the other side of the hill, fear of a god out there somewhere and even fear of other men who may wander in. This guy may be a caveman-version of today's politicians or religious zealots (but why doesn't everyone have a beard? A question for another time). Vaughn does lead a small group of young cavemen to the forbidden area, encounters a weird monster and knocks himself out on a tree. Vaughn's papa follows him to bring him back (a plot turn that seems to repeat throughout the film). Ed Nelson also pops up near the end as a blond caveman member.
The themes and ideas are, as is usual in a Corman film, undercut by the low budget and silly instances. The first time Vaughn and his buddies encounter stock footage of giant beasts, for example, Vaughn throws his spear in a limp fashion at monsters which are obviously ignoring him (they're not in the same shot). He just tosses away his weapon for no reason. Vaughn's performance isn't too bad, actually; he plays it as if he's a bit more intelligent than all the other tribe members, who are all superstitious dolts, but he comes off as a college joe on summer break, not a struggling caveman. BoG's Score: 5.5 out of 10
- Here be the SPOILER: in the end, the monster / god turns out to be the last remaining scientist of a scientific party of 23 persons who survived a nuclear war; he wears a strange radiation suit which gives him a monstrous appearance. This is revealed in an odd manner via more narration, courtesy of the now-dead scientist. The narration explains how the few surviving humans of the atomic war went back to caveman ideals, except the 23 scientists wearing these radiation suits. The suit also prolonged the scientist's life, perhaps to the tune of hundreds of years.
At this point, we're also shown stock footage from another Corman film, The Day the World Ended (which could be a prequel to this, aye?) and The She-Creature, as it's explained how strange creatures grew from the atomic aftermath - including dinosaurs. Vaughn also finds a book in the suit, with pictures of Hiroshima. Finally, new narration kicks in as it's further suggested that these holocausts are cyclical. The events of the film are also, it's revealed, in some dim past, as mankind again advanced after Vaughn and his dad did away with all the superstitions. "How many times? Will it happen again?" I hope not.
Article @MOVIE FANFARE: THE EVOLUTION OF THE CAVEMAN
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