One Million B.C.

One Million B.C.

One Million B.C.
Directed by Hal Roach
Hal Roach, Jr.
Produced by Hal Roach
Written by Mickell Novack
George Baker
Narrated by Conrad Nagel
Starring Victor Mature
Carole Landis
Lon Chaney, Jr.
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) 1940 (1940)
Running time 80 minutes
Country United States
Language English

One Million B.C. is a 1940 American fantasy film produced by Hal Roach Studios and released by United Artists. It is also known by the titles Cave Man, Man and His Mate, and Tumak.

The film stars Victor Mature as protagonist Tumak, a young cave man who strives to unite the uncivilized Rock Tribe and the peaceful Shell Tribe, Carole Landis as Loana, daughter of the Shell Tribe chief and Tumak's love interest, and Lon Chaney, Jr. as Tumak's stern father and leader of the rock tribe. Chaney's billing differs from that of his home studio Universal Pictures in that Hal Roach elected to retain the "Jr." instead of billing him under his father's name, possibly because Roach was co-directing the film with his own son Hal Roach, Jr.. The movie was one of the first to portray primitive humans in any sort of a serious manner.

One Million B.C. was a popular success and was nominated for two Academy Awards for its special effects and musical score. The film was remade in 1966 as One Million Years B.C. starring John Richardson as Tumak and Raquel Welch as Loana.

Both One Million B.C. (1940) and the remake/homage One Million Years B.C. (1966) have been criticised for the anachronism of having both dinosaurs and humans living together Alley Oop style in year 1,000,000 BC. However, most movie goers recognise both films as "what-if" fantasies rather than as docudramas.



After a modern day prologue, in which an anthropologist in a cave (Conrad Nagel, billed as the narrator in the opening credits), introduces the story to a group of hikers seeking shelter from a storm, the film opens with a young caveman, Tumak (Victor Mature), hunting a small Ceratopsian. An elderly man in the hunting party falls from a cliff and is left to die. Tumak wrestles the animal to death, and he and his tribe feed on the creature. The strongest feed first, then the women and children, lastly the elders (of which there are few) pick through the scraps left. During the feeding, Tumak is attacked by Akhoba, the tribe's leader (Lon Chaney, Jr.), after defending his portion of the food. The two fight and Akhoba knocks Tumak over a cliff as his mother watches. He awakens to find a mastodon (an elephant with a fur rug on top) advancing towards him. Tumak hides in a tree, which the mastodon rams into and knocks into a river.

As Tumak floats unconscious, he is found by Loana (Carole Landis). As he awakens, she blows a shell horn, alerting her tribe of trouble. A group of male members of the tribe come and confront the struggling Tumak, who passes out after trying to get up from the river. Inside the tribe's cave, the community gathers together as they help prepare a meal, which everyone shares together, the children, women and elders served first. Tumak awakes and Loana presents him with food, and he guards it as he eats, perplexing the Shell tribe who have do not fight over food or water.

As Tumak looks on an elder member of the tribe is carving reliefs on a wall, while another sits and eats while an infant bear comes and sniffs out the scraps left over from the meal. Meanwhile, Akhoba leads the Rock tribe on a hunt in the hills and comes across an animal, but is injured trying to take down an elk. As the other members of the tribe look on, a younger hunter battles Akhoba and takes his place as leader. They come down from the hills, leaving Akhoba behind to die. Akhoba, however, follows them and eventually rejoins the group as an elder member.

Tumak is slowly learning the people of the Shell tribe that have taken him in are not like his own tribe. The hunting call of a predatory animal sends out an alarm to the tribe who rush to the safety of the cave. As Tumak watches dumbfounded, they all sit and help prepare dinner, some of which he has taken as his own and hidden in his sleeping area. Loana tries to retrieve it, but Tumak stops her. As he soon learns, there is no need to fight over the food: after he takes food from a young male member of the tribe, Loana gives him her share, which results in Tumak into giving his stolen portion to her. Tumak then returns his hidden portion of the tribe's food back to the community pot.

Some time later, Tumak is adjusting to life with the Shell Tribe, and helps in gathering food by shaking the fruit out of a large tree. He tries to fish with Loana, but gets frustrated as he knows how to hunt land animals and cannot use a spear to catch fish. While he is fishing, a young Allosaurus slaughters a member of the tribe and traps that member's child in a tree. Tumak takes the spear of one of the tribe's men and uses it to disembowel the monster, but does not return the spear, thinking that by possessing it gives him the power in the tribe (As was so with the Rock tribe).

Later that night Tumak steals the spear and a hammer that the tribesman made and attacks him when he tries to take them back. Thinking the tribe will now accept him as leader, he's shocked when the tribal leader, Loana's father, orders him to leave instead. As he departs, Loana, already fallen in love with the savage Tumak, accompanies him as he leaves, much to his chagrin. Tumak, still relying on his own tribe's ways, pulls a couple of apples for himself, but then helps Loana pull down a couple for herself. As they continue they spot a strange creature(actually a Screaming Hairy Armadillo with glued-on plastic spikes and horns) but the animal, apparently carnivorous and/or territorial, sees them and chases them into a tree.

Some time later, Tumak and Loana reach the area near his own tribe where they are trapped between a fight between two dinosaurs, (a Argentine Black and White Tegu and an alligator with glued-on spines) which frightens Loana into running for the hills, where the new leader of Tumak's tribe watches. He follows after her and gives chase. She blows her shell horn, which sends Tumak running to her rescue. He saves her, and defeats his former tribesman and claims the tribe's leadership.

The members of Tumak's tribe are confused by Loana's actions, and no one is more shocked by her actions than Akhoba, now a broken and neglected crippled shell of his former self. Tumak has Loana handle feeding everyone, which shocks everyone as she feeds the women and children first then Akhoba, who she has sit on his former throne. Once done, Tumak and all the men then grab for the meat.

Akhoba comes outside to see his tribe beginning to farm the fruits and vegetables, with Loana showing them which to eat and which not to eat (as she is familiar with what plants are poisonous and which are not). Loana and Tumak sit and talk but Tumak is called away to help hunt a deer while Loana helps search for a missing child. A nearby mountain erupts into a volcano, scattering everyone. The tribe's cave is destroyed and a child's mother is killed by the lava, but Loana saves the child from a similar fate.

Tumak searches for Loana as more and more animals are seen falling into the crevasses that the eruption created. Tumak searches for Loana but finds only a scrap of her clothing. However, one of her tribe finds Tumak and informs him that Loana is alive, but is trapped in a cave with a some of her other tribe members and cornered by a monster (an optically enhanced Rhinoceros Iguana). Tumak convinces his tribe to help Loana and kill the animal. Loana's group is running low on food supplies as Tumak and his tribe arrive. He orders the women and children to stay behind as they attack the creature at the cave entrance. They try to attack it but three of those attacking are slaughtered. As they fall back and regroup, Akhoba tells Tumak to distract the giant lizard while the rest of the tribe gets to higher ground in order to start an avalanche that kills the beast. Thus the tactical experience of the formerly despised and discarded elder Akhoba becomes a more appreciated skill among his once cold and unfeeling tribe.

The two groups now join as one, and Tumak and Loana become leaders of the new tribe.


Producer Hal Roach hired D. W. Griffith to produce this film and Of Mice and Men, writing to him, "I need help from the production side to select the proper writers, cast, etc. and to help me generally in the supervision of these pictures."[1] Although Griffith eventually disagreed with Roach over the production and parted, Roach later insisted that some of the scenes in the completed film were directed by Griffith. This would make the film the final production in which Griffith was actively involved. But cast members recall Griffith directing only the screen tests and costume tests. When Roach advertised the film in late 1939 with Griffith listed as producer, Griffith asked that his name be removed.[2]

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Musical Score and Best Special Effects. The "dinosaurs" seen in the film include a pig in a rubber triceratops suit, a man in a tyrannosaurus suit, an alligator with glued-on dimetrodon sail and a Rhinoceros Iguana.



Footage from this film, as well as numerous unused shots and outtakes, went into a stock footage library. This footage was then used by numerous companies through the years by producers who wanted to save money on costly effects shots in special effects films that featured dinosaurs. As well, even a few Westerns used footage of rockslides and volcanoes from this film too. Because of this, footage from this film appeared in numerous films throughout the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. These films include Tarzan's Desert Mystery, one of the chapters of the Superman serial, Atom Man vs. Superman, Two Lost Worlds, The Lost Volcano, the American version of Godzilla Raids Again, Jungle Manhunt, The Yesterday's World episode of The Schaefer Century Theatre, Untamed Women, Robot Monster, King Dinosaur, Teenage Cave Man, Valley of the Dragons, Journey to the Center of Time, Horror of the Blood Monsters (the stock footage was tinted in color for this film), the Mexican films Island of the Dinosaurs (La Isla De Los Dinosaurios), Adventure at the Center of the Earth (Aventura al centro de la tierra), and The Ghost Jesters (Los fantasmas burlones) , One Million AC/DC, TerrorVision, She Demons, The Lost Planet, Smoky Canyon, Space Ship Sappy, and Attack of the B Movie Monster.[3][4][5] The technique of using optically enlarged lizards to represent dinosaurs has been given the nickname of "slurpasaur" by fans.[who?]


  1. ^ Richard Lewis Ward, A History of the Hal Roach Studios, p. 109-110. Southern Illinois University, 2005. ISBN 080932637X. In his Biograph days, Griffith had directed two films with prehistoric settings: Man's Genesis (1912), and Brute Force (1913).
  2. ^ Ward, p. 110.
  3. ^ James Van Hise, Hot Blooded Dinosaur Movies, Pioneer Books Inc, 1993. Pg.20
  4. ^ Mark F. Berry. The Dinosaur Filmography, McFarland & Company. 2002.
  5. ^ Donald F. Glut. The Dinosaur Scrapbook, Citadel Press. 1982

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