FACE-OFF (SORT OF): PREHISTORIC WOMEN (1950) vs. PREHISTORIC WOMEN (1967)
You’d think two movies called PREHISTORIC WOMEN would be a natural for a face-off style review, right? So did I, until I actually sat down to write this, and realized that while you can compare certain aspects of these films, you can’t measure the comparisons quantitatively, because these are both pretty bad movies (though PW II is marginally better) so just about every round would come out to 5-5, which would make for a pretty boring review. So I’m going to just do some compare and contrast. First, though, some background info.
PW I (aka: THE VIRGIN GODDESS) was made in the US in 1950 by a bunch of people you’ve never heard of and suffers from a restrictive budget and the restrictive mores of its time. PW II (aka: SLAVE GIRLS) was made in 1966 in the UK (US premiere 1967) by Hammer, springing full-born from the forehead of its director-writer-producer, Michael Carreras, who was the mastermind behind a raft of Hammer films (including ONE MILLION YEARS BC, just the year before). It had the advantage of a bigger budget and looser mores, which enabled it to add quite a few more prehistoric women to the script and dress them much more scantily, but these advantages obviously didn’t help with the fans of Fanex 1994, who voted it the worst Hammer film ever.
Female Leads: The head p.w. in PW I was Tigri, played by Lauette Luez (the biting one, below), whose most important quality as an actress was her impressive 34-25-35 physique, which I’m sure would have equaled the stature of Martine Beswick (looming over the male lead, below) if you could see it under the furry one-piece suit she wore. Before PW II Beswick, an ex-Miss Jamaica, had small parts in THUNDERBALL and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, and was also in ONE MILLION YEARS BC. Perhaps her most interesting prior role was that of the dancing silhouette behind the opening credits of DR. NO. Miss Beswick was indeed a nimble minx, which she showed at every opportunity in PW II. Edina Roncey (yes, the well-known fashion designer) was the bonus fenale lead in PW II, and as an actress was also quite beautiful. Actually there’s little to choose between the two sets of actresses. The Hammer girls had the advantage of tight fur bikinis and push-up bras (where needed), but both sets of actresses clearly knew their way around Woolworth’s cosmetic counter. For p.w. they were also all curiously well made-up and coiffed.
Male leads: The male lead in PW I (Engor) was Allan Nixon, whose main claim to fame was that he was also in MESA OF LOST WOMEN. As the pics below show he and his loutish pals were typical primitive screwheads, although they did make a point in the movie that for some reason Engor felt compelled to scrape his face every day with a sharp rock (see below) to remove his no-doubt wispy beard. He also did discover fire (about half a million years later than archeologists would have you believe). Michael Latimer, the male lead of PW II was a morose and somewhat effete Englishman who kept getting beaten up and hog-tied by the p.w.. That’s cool if it’s your bag.
Villians: In PW I you had Korax the Dragon. They kept going on and on about him, about what a horrific killing machine he was. When he finally appeared, it was quick and blurry and choppy, but as the pic below shows, he clearly looked like a duck. In fact, I would go so far as to say he probably was a duck, making him the worst SpFx dragon, ever.
As a secondary villain they had this almost eight foot tall hairy Icelandic guy (no kidding) roaming around grunting annoyingly (more below). In PW II the villain was Martine Beswick, the queen of the brunette p.w, who had enslaved the blonde p.w. (whose exemplar was Edina Roncey). I’ve got to say that Beswick appeared to be much more dangerous than Korax the Dragon (or even the nearly eight foot tall Icelandic guy). Apparently Latimer thought so, too. When Beswick was squirming on her bed demanding his company, he chose banishment to the (literal) man-cave instead of capitulation.
Sets; PW I: a lush tropical jungle that looked suspiciously like southern California. PW II: a lush tropical jungle that looked suspiciously like a sound stage somewhere in the UK.
Language: Look, do we cavil when we’re watching, say, The Three Musketeers and they’re speaking English, not old timey French? No. So I don’t get it when film makers make films set in prehistoric times where the characters communicate with obstreperous grunts, which is what happens in PW I. Because of this, they have an ominpresent narrator telling you in annoying detail what you’re watching. Yeah, I get it. Korax the Duck just attacked. Thanks, I would never have figured it out. On PW II the p.w speak with sultry British accents. Win.
Plot: The plot of PW I is pretty simple. Men were mean to women. Women split. Next generation the women find themselves doing sexy (for the time) dances to the moon and not knowing why. Fortunately the Wise One tells them, go out and kidnap some males. They do. Mild bondage occurs. Engor uses his new discovery of fire to defeat both Korax the Duck and the giant hairy Icelandic guy. Men act, again, the primitive screwheads. The end. The plot of PW II resides at the other end of the scale. It’s completely incomprehensible. I know that I must have seen a movie at some time that made less sense, but I can’t say what it was. There’s this white hunter (our hero) who gets captured by an African tribe. He grabs the huge horn of their life-sized plastic white rhino statue (no symbolism there)
and he’s transported to this magical past time where the brunettes have enslaved the blondes, but that’s okay because at one time the blondes had enslaved the brunettes, and all the men folk live in the man-cave and everyone speaks with English accents. Everyone (except the men) dances sexily whenever they have the opportunity. Oh, and although they were p.w. they were not without the comforts of suede and bubble bath.
Eventually Latimer and Edina release the men from their man-cave and poor Matine Beswick gets penetrated, but not in a good way, by the giant horn of THEIR life-sized plastic white rhino statue (ditto)
and Latimer is thrown back into his own time, where, surprise, Edina shows up as the daughter of his new client.
Which leads us to our last comparison:
Screenwriter’s drug of choice: PW I: cheap Scotch, and plenty of it. PW II: LSD, some of it gone bad.
As I mentioned, neither of these are good movies. I have to go with what Bill Warren said about PW I in his indispensable KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES: “It’s not good in any way, but its unsophisticated unbelievability lends it a certain daffy charm.” PW II is like that, too, only sexier. Watch them with friends, and have plenty of your own cheap Scotch on hand.
PRIMITIVE WOMEN (1950): 3
PRIMITIVE WOMEN (1967): 4+