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One Million Years BC Blu-ray Review

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One Million Years B.CGI.

by Casimir Harlow Oct 23, 2016 at 9:15 AM

  • Movies review

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    One Million Years BC Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £14.99

    Film Review

    One Million Years B.C. celebrates its 50th Anniversary, and remains a landmark prehistoric adventure, although a 4K remastered Welch stands the test of time better than Harryhausen's celebrated effects.

    Billed as Hammer's 100th production, and reputed to be the most famous dinosaur feature in the 25 years up until Jurassic Park, One Million Years B.C. is a tale of survival in the dawn of ages, facing the elements, warring tribal factions and, perhaps most memorably, Harryhausen's stop-motion dinosaurs. Well, notwithstanding Raquel Welch's perpetually under-dressed heroine. With little dialogue beyond grunts and yells, the film's portrayal of instinct-based existence in this alien environment subsists on the novel effects sequences, with the limited story taking a distinct back-seat.
    Although John Richardson's exiled tribal son is arguably the lead player, it's Raquel Welch that remains the one most associated with the production, although Bond Girl Martine Beswick (who actually played a Bond girl twice) ostensibly displays more actual acting skills than Welch, beyond the requisite pouts and poses. In terms of films featuring Harryhausen's work, the Sinbad adventures likely have the edge, but all of his effects remain noteworthy and surprisingly effective, even in the current clime of CG-dominated extravaganzas.

    Picture Quality

    One Million Years B.C. Picture Quality
    Studiocanal's 50th Anniversary 4K restoration of One Million Years B.C. benefits greatly from the cleaned up and polished picture, but the work is not universally effective, with the filming techniques and, in particular, the effects, limiting - often quite significantly - the amount of noticeable restoration that can be done.

    There's no doubt that this is the best that the film has looked in the last 50 years

    There's no doubt, however, that this is the best that the film has looked in the last 50 years. The close-ups receive the most effective treatment, with some of the shots looking far better than ever before, right down to the hairs on Richardson's arms and even the faint lines on Welch's face. The faux fur bikinis offer texture, the hair designs (far too coiffured) are layered, and the rocky smaller-scale backgrounds remain finely detailed.

    Unfortunately the effects sequences don't look anywhere near as good, with the noisy painted backgrounds leaving characters blurry and soft; whilst the stop-motion effects - particularly when interacted with by the characters, suffer from the overlayed effect that leaves the image undeniably flawed. Often the creatures themselves can be saved, looking cleaner and crisper than before, but the second layer - with the actors - simply can't (there's some irony to complaining about how fake shots of prehistoric dinosaurs and humans together look, given the millions of years that, historically, separated the two). Still, beyond the many superimposed shots, the close-ups and location work not involving effects looks tremendous, and more than stands up even after 50 years.

    Sound Quality

    One Million Years B.C. Sound Quality
    The accompanying Linear PCM 2.0 audio track does a solid job with the half-century old material, promoting the limited dialogue, innovative effects and engaging score with more than enough passion and precision.

    The audio track has more than enough passion and precision

    Although there are grunts in the characters' native language, the majority of One Million Years B.C. plays out as a silent movie, with the haunting and remarkably effective score playing a far more important role in informing us about the narrative, tone and intensity of the scenes. Effects allow the alien environment to come to life, and the ones used for Harryhausen's creations are particularly imaginative, right down to the thunderous slowing heartbeats upon their deaths. Again, given the vintage, this is a remarkably effective track.

    Extras

    The commemorative release boasts a number of new features, including a new interview with Raquel Welch and a new interview with Martine Beswick, as well as some revealing artwork from the Harryhausen vault, offering up production stills, storyboards and even a glimpse at an unfilmed finale featuring a Brontosaurus.

    Blu-ray Verdict

    One Million Years B.C. Blu-ray Verdict
    A 4K remastered Raquel Welch cleans up better than Harryhausen's effects

    This 50th Anniversary release boasts noticeably remastered video - notwithstanding the effects overlays which limit the restoration work that could be done - and very good audio, as well as a nice selection of extra features, appealing both to fans of Welch and Harryhausen, who are often cited as the two primary reasons to watch this.


    You can buy One Million Years B.C. on Blu-ray here

    The Rundown

    Movie

    7

    Picture Quality

    7

    Sound Quality

    8

    Extras

    8

    Overall

    7

    7
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