After Raquel Welch conquered the screen in One Million Years B.C., Hammer Studios followed up with When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, written and directed by Val Guest (The Quatermass Xperiment) and based on a story by J.G. Ballard (Crash). Victoria Vetri stars as Sanna, rescued from ritual sacrifice by Tara (Robin Hawdon), a member of a rival tribe. Her survival coincides with the mysterious formation of a new "fire" in the sky: the moon! Sanna's old tribe blames her for this affront to the sun; Sanna flees their wrath and Tara follows. Their shared adventures loom as large as the giants who once ruled the earth!
As they say, one good turn deserves another. Like dessert, that old adage is true in the film business. Why have only one film of a certain type when you can two? Or even dozens? Apparently, in the late 1960s and well into the 1970s, Cavemen were the en vogue sci-fi/fantasy sub-genre before 'Star Wars' made spaceships and lasers cool again. Not long after Hammer struck neanderthal gold with 'One Million Years B.C.,' they matched wits with author J.G. Ballard and writer and director Val Guest to bring us 'When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth.' Basically it's 'One Million Years B.C.' all over again, only this time it feels like everyone is in on the joke.
Humans and dinosaurs share the earth with the lowly mammals idolizing the gigantic thunder lizards. The fair-haired beauty Sanna (1968 Playboy Playmate of the Year Victoria Vetri) and some of her fellow blonde beauties are to be sacrificed to their sun god. When the winds kick up and she falls off the cliffs into the ocean, she's saved by the hunky fisherman Tara (Robin Howden) and taken to live with his people on the edge of the sea. As Sanna wins the heart of Tara, she causes a rift in the tribe and is cast out. On top of dealing with terrifying dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes, Sanna will have to fight for survival if she hopes to live a long and happy life with Tara.
It's kind of difficult to know where to start with a review for 'When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth.' Realistically, it's virtually the same film as 'One million Years B.C.' The cast speaks entirely in an unintelligible series of grunts and ughs and grunts but yet again, they all have distinct names. It's easy enough to infer what is being "said" between various characters, but after awhile it becomes a tiresome effort. Especially when you see that 'When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth' has pretty much the exact same plot structure and events. There's very little different here.
That said, 'When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth' does feel like it knows exactly what kind of movie it is. Where 'One Million Years B.C.' tried to make an earnest drama of sorts out of the conflicts those characters went through, 'Dinosaurs' makes no such attempt. In all honesty, they couldn't possibly try to be serious considering the gravity-defying outfits the female characters had to stuff themselves into. It's not like this flick is 'Quest For Fire' or anything! Surprisingly enough, this film finds a way to be even more titillating than Raquel Welch! Coupled with the dinosaurs, I imagine that was the intention of the Hammer producers all along as there is a decided increase in nudity for this international cut of the film.
However, even though Ray Harryhausen couldn't be wooed back to create the creatures, 'When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth' does sport some impressive critters courtesy of Jim Danforth. They may not be quite as unique or memorable as your typical Harryhausen creation, but Danforth's monsters certainly look impressive and make what would otherwise be a rather boring feature film a bit more entertaining. I particularly enjoyed the giant crabs as they're pretty ferocious and well animated! To that point, if you're coming expecting some top-tier stop-motion effects, you may not be bowled over with what you see in 'When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth.' However, everything else in the movie is so totally ridiculous that you'll be happy when these monsters stomp on screen. If you're looking to find a mate for 'One Million Years B.C.' for a double feature, it doesn't get much better than this. It's a true blue party movie. It may not be great, but it never fails to entertain. Which is a lot more than can be said for a lot of movies.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of the Warner Archive Collection. Pressed onto a Region Free BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu featuring traditional navigation options.
With a 1.85:1 1080p transfer, 'When The Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth' is a rough beauty. I couldn't find any information about when the last restoration work was done for this release, but it must be fairly recently as it's in pretty decent shape. Grain is present but stable, and only really pronounced during the film's visual effects sequences. Even then, grain isn't too noisy appearing. Details are beautiful here allowing the audience to take in all of the impressive creature effects work as well as some of the more furry attributes of the costuming. Colors are well balanced and natural looking with some bright primaries. At first, things look a little rocky, I had memories of the opening credits being a brighter, more pronounced yellow then they are here. But as soon as the credits are over everything starts looking terrific until a creature comes into view. During some of these optical effects, colors can look a bit bleached. This is probably more indicative of the source elements rather than the transfer, but it's worth noting. Flesh tones are appropriately pink and well tanned. Black levels are solid throughout offering up a decent sense of depth to the image without any crush issues to speak of.
The Caveman Grunt DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track provided for 'When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth' is serviceable if perhaps a little underwhelming at times. The grunts and ughs come through with decent audible clarity - even if you have no clue what they're saying. Scoring is well layered with the more natural and subtle sound effects work provided for the film. Problems pick up when any big action or excitement kicks in. The audio - granted this is probably due to the original recording elements - but distortion can creep in and voices, dino roars, even the wind can sound shrill and tinny. Thankfully these moments are relatively short, but when you're hoping to get a mighty roar from a creature the results can be a bit underwhelming. All around this is a solid mix, it gets the job done.
No HD exclusive bonus features.
If there is ever proof you can make too many return trips to a shallow well, 'When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth' should fit that bill. That isn't to say that it isn't a hoot and a holler, but it's most certainly a diminished return after the hokum that was 'One Million Years B.C.' It's enjoyable, it's fun, but the combined elements of skimpy furry clothing and stop-motion creatures starts to become stale after awhile when the only dialogue you hear is "Ugh! Ahgha! Ugh ugh!". Warner Archive brings this film to Blu-ray with a pretty great transfer, a middling but still very good audio mix. The supplemental package, on the other hand, leaves something to be desired, only a trailer is provided. If you love your cavemen furry, your cavegirls barely dressed, and your dinosaurs made of clay - 'When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth' should be right up your street. Worth a look.