Creatures the World Forgot (1971) **
The final entry in the Hammer Film Productions cave-girl tetralogy (after One Million Years B.C., Prehistoric Women, and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth), Creatures the World Forgot is in many ways the most serious and paints by far the most plausible picture of life in prehistory. Unfortunately, its complete lack of dialogue (not even in the ďNeanderthaleseĒ of its predecessors) and its sprawling storyline, stretching out to cover a period of at least 25 years, make it also far and away the hardest to follow. Worse still, its frequent scenes of cavemen trudging aimlessly across the African desert have a distinctly soporific effect that not even the fact that most of the actresses play the entire movie topless (amazing what you used to be able to get away with on a PG rating, isnít it?) can counteract.
The movie opens with a small band of cavemen hunting some sort of antelope (ibex, perhaps?) on the savanna. The successful hunters then bring their kill back to the craggy mountainside where their tribe, the Dirty and Hairy People, resides. The celebration of the successful hunt is soon cut short, however, by the forces of the Earthís interior, for the Dirty and Hairy People have the poor judgement to make their homes on the slope of a volcano, which now erupts, causing tremendous devastation. When the ground stops shaking and the lava stops flowing and the ash stops falling from the sky, the tribeís entire settlement has been destroyed, and many of its people, including the chief, lie dead. The tribal shaman, Unconvincing Wig Woman (Rosalie Crutchley, from And Now the Screaming Starts and Blood from the Mummyís Tomb), selects a new leader, whom I shall call Chief Lice-In-My-Beard (Brian OíShaughnessy, of Mutator and Claws). After defending his new office from a rival in the expected knock-down, drag-out fight to the finish, Chief Lice-In-My-Beard directs his people on a quest for a new home.
Hereís where that trudging I warned you about starts. The Dirty and Hairy People trudge across the full width of the savanna, and then trudge across the Big Sandy Desert, too. Finally, they reach the Land of Enormous Rusty Boulders, where they encounter the beautiful, blonde people of the Hygiene Tribe. (These folks must be descended from When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earthís Beach People, because most of their tools and ornaments are made from shells and other products of the sea, despite the fact that they donít seem to live within 1000 miles of any large body of water.) First contact between the two tribes is a tense affair, with Chief Lice-In-My-Beard entering into a fierce staring contest with Chief Where-Did-I-Get-This-Sawfish-Snout? while their respective followers look on nervously. The situation is saved when a group of Hygiene children begin playing with some of the Dirty and Hairy children, heedless of their eldersí mutual suspicion. Whatís good enough for the kids is good enough for the grown-ups, and the two tribes decide to live together in peace.
The alliance is cemented with a double marriage. The two chiefs each take a particularly attractive girl from the otherís tribe as a wife in a surpassingly bizarre ceremony that involves the two brides being stripped and then beaten with switches by Unconvincing Wig Woman, while the men of the Dirty and Hairy Tribe drum frenetically on tree stumps and a Hygiene girl (wearing even less clothing than usual) dances until she passes out. Hey, whatever works, right? Unfortunately, the Dirty and Hairy girl being married off to Chief Where-Did-I-Get-This-Sawfish-Snout? already has a boyfriend, and she sneaks off on her wedding night to elope with him. They donít get very far, though, and Unconvincing Wig Woman finds the two runaways dead of mysterious causes on what might be a termite mound a few thousand yards from the Hygiene Peopleís settlement. Obviously this is an omen. (Now if only I had some idea what it was an omen of...)
Nine months go by (quite a few of these paragraphs are going to start that way), and Chief Lice-In-My-Beardís wife bears him twin sons, though the experience kills her. The first-born takes after his mother; I shall call him Blondie (Tony Bonner, from Inn of the Damned). The other boy looks more like the chief; him I shall call Asshole (Robert John, who would resurface in Lolita 2000 some 25 years later), for reasons which will become obvious soon enough. Unconvincing Wig Woman serves as midwife at the birth, and something about it seems to trouble her. But before this plot thread can go very far, a bolt of lightning descends from the cloudless sky (I still havenít figured out whether the filmmakers meant to do that) and sets a nearby tree on fire. The pregnant girl who was standing in the shade of the small tree when the lighting struck instantly falls to the ground and gives birth to a child I will call Omen Girl (Julie Ege, from Mutations and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires), for reasons which should already be obvious.
Fourteen or fifteen years go by. (Told you!) Like the last jump through time, this one will last for only a couple of scenes, the point of which is to establish the characters of the three children born in the last one. We see Blondie and Asshole at play. Blondie, smart kid that he is, has invented a primitive snare with which to catch porcupines. Never mind that thereís no reason to want to catch porcupines specificallyó itís the principle of the snare that counts. Meanwhile, Asshole has been watching his brother, and he has been equally busy inventing anti-intellectualism. For no good reason, he jumps on Blondie and beats the paleolithic nerd to a pulp, then when Omen Girl comes bouncing around the bend behind them (and believe me, ďbouncingĒ is the right word!), he tries to rape her. Blondie does a slightly better job defending Omen Girl than he did defending himself, and Asshole loses interest and runs off.
Finally, in the next scene, it is another ten years or so later, and everybody is all grown up. Unconvincing Wig Woman has begun training Omen Girl in the ways of shamanhood, while Chief Lice-In-My-Beard is grooming Blondie as his successor. Asshole isnít being groomed for shit. His resentments inspire another attempt to force himself on Omen Girl, and again, Blondie comes to her rescue. But this time, the brothersí fighting is interrupted by an attack from the God-Awful Ugly Tribe. The raiders kidnap Omen Girl, and the two rival brothers return to their village to raise an alarm. All-out war between the two tribes results, ending with the massacre of the God-Awful Uglies at the hands of the Hairy-Hygiene Tribe. Blondie, who rescued Omen Girl while her captor was busy fighting the worldís worst cave bear, gets a special reward, in the form of Why-Arenít-I-Ugly-Too? (A Coffin for the Brideís Marcia Fox), who appears to be the God-Awful Ugly Tribeís only woman.
Tragedy comes hot on the heels of triumph, however, for Chief Lice-In-My-Beard is attacked and killed by a mad wildebeest (Iím completely serious) soon after the battle. This leads inevitably to a power struggle between Blondie and Asshole, which Blondie just as inevitably wins. But unexpectedly, Blondie doesnít approve of the Dirty and Hairy tradition whereby the winner of such a contest kills his rival, and rather than slay his twin brother, he merely cripples him with a spear-thrust to the leg and then contemptuously hands him the symbolic Necklace of Leadership. Blondie then burns down his own hut in an equally symbolic gesture of contempt, and sets off into the wilderness with Why-Arenít-I-Ugly-Too? and about a quarter of the tribeís men.
His point is well made. The Hairy-Hygiene Tribe doesnít much care for Assholeís incompetent leadership, and the lame chieftain feels compelled to put together a search party and go hunting for his brother. His aim, clearly, is to kill Blondie and leave his people with no choice in the matter of leadership. Omen Girl, too, goes looking for Blondie, apparently realizing that Asshole is up to no good. But by the time either one finds the disgruntled rightful chief, far away in the Land Where Things Actually Grow, Blondie has unknowingly strayed into the territory of the Mud Mask People. A band of Mud Mask warriors ambush Asshole and his hunting party, and they are saved from having their eyes gouged out and being forced to serve as slaves to the Mud Masks only by the timely intervention of Omen Girl and Blondie. Asshole is an ungrateful little bastard, though, and this act of heroism on his brotherís part is not enough to stop the feud between them. The final showdown between the brothers takes place at the top of a steep peak in the Land Where Things Actually Grow, and its outcome suggests that there may be something to Unconvincing Wig Womanís magic after all.
I hate to say this, considering how rare it is to find a movie that makes a good-faith effort to portray prehistory in a paleontologically valid manner, but Creatures the World Forgot desperately needs some dinosaurs! The long-running intrigue between Asshole and Blondie for their fatherís position simply isnít interesting enough to carry the movie, and the clashes with the other hostile tribes are resolved too quickly to add much entertainment value. And given that this movie is called Creatures the World Forgot, and not Half-Naked Chicks the World Forgot, the lack of old-fashioned monster action is made doubly conspicuous. I understand the motivation behind the no-dinosaurs policy, and I accept it as far as it goes. But you know what? It didnít have to be dinosaurs. Hammer could just as easily have brought Jim Danforth in to build a stop-motion bestiary of mammoths and Smilodons and borhyaenids, and the results would have been ever so much more satisfying than watching Chief Lice-In-My-Beard wrestle with a goddamn wildebeest. The kernel of mostly-unrealized ambition at the storyís core and the phalanx of topless cave-girls are enough to save Creatures the World Forgot from being a complete waste of time, but by themselves, they canít make it especially worth watching.