Possibly the earliest film to focus on the perils of life in the age ‘before a book was written’ was the 1912 short called The Cave Man, a one-reeler featuring Ralph Ince (who also co-directed with Charles L. Gaskill) and Edith Storey. Sadly no print of this film is known to exist at the time of writing, but the fact that the character list features such names as Eric and Chloe can only leave film create your own brand custom eyelash scratching their heads in bemusement at exactly what kind of cave dwellers are involved.
Chror The Cave Man, which was released in April 1912, was quickly followed by Man’s Genesis, co-written and directed by no less than D. W. Griffith, arguably the father of cinema, in July of the same year. Subtitled as ‘A Psychological Comedy Founded Upon the Darwinian Theory of the Evolution of Man,’ it’s difficult to be sure whether Griffith actually intended this film to be taken seriously simply because it looks so comical today, despite the apparent earnestness of the cast, which includes Robert Harron and Mae Marsh. For all its shortcomings, this short was clearly successful enough for Griffith to film a 33 minute sequel – Brute Force – in 1914. This sequel re-united Harron and Marsh as man and mate belonging to a tribe whose women are kidnapped by the tribe of Bruteforce (Wilfred Lucas), who use sticks and rocks as weapons on their raid. To get his own back, Weakhands invents the bow and arrow and successfully wins back his create your own brand custom eyelash .
In 1917, The Dinosaur and the Missing Link was released. Played strictly for laughs, the film featured animated puppets, and provided an early example of the work of Willis O’ Brien. The entire film can be viewed on the America’s Memory site.
Six years later, in 1923, the comic genius Buster Keaton completed the transition from shorts to features with Three Ages, a portmanteau film that ostensibly parodies Griffith’s Intolerance by telling stories from three different eras in history – one of them prehistoric times. Concerned that moviegoers would not accept him in a feature, Keaton actually spliced three shorts together so that, if they didn’t work as a feature, they could be released individually. As it happened, Keaton needn’t have worried as he created a comedy classic. In all three sequences, Keaton and Wallace Beery fight over the attentions of Margaret Leahy, an actress of questionable talent who won the role in a create your own brand custom eyelash , and whose only film this was.
Cavemen films remained almost exclusively the domain of the comedy genre for the next seventeen years: an early Laurel and Hardy collaboration, Flying elephants (1928) sees Hal Roach still struggling to appreciate the boys’ strengths as a comedy duo; Willie Whopper, Ub Iwerks’ tall story-telling cartoon character appeared in Cave Man (1934). Five years later, Daffy Duck found himself the quarry of Casper the Cavemen (a Jack Benny parody) and his pet dinosaur in Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur (1939).
Cavemen movies finally came of age in 1940 with the release of Hal Roach’s box office smash, One Million B.C., the year’s highest grossing film in the States (excluding roll-over receipts for 1939’s Gone With the Wind). The film originally began as a project for D. W. Griffith, but he clashed with Roach over tits characters lack of depth so Roach and his son completed the film, and Griffith’s name was removed from the credits. The film gave 26-year-old Victor Mature his first leading role as Tumak, a member of the warlike Rock clan who woos and wins Loana (Carole Landis), the daughter of the leader of the peaceful Shell tribe. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards – Best Musical Score and Best Special Effects (which included a pig in a rubber dinosaur outfit) – and its footage was re-used in numerous films.
By the 60s, the caveman film appeared to have become mired in a B-movie hell in which perfectly coiffured Neanderthals roamed wobbly sets and fought unconvincingly with rubber dinosaurs or fled from lizards with spikes glued to their backs. Then, in 1966, came a movie event that put the prehistoric film back on the movie map. No, not The Man Called Flintstone, a feature-length version of the popular cartoon TV series, but the appearance of the buxom Raquel Welch with her false create your own brand custom eyelash and fur bikini in One Million BC, a remake of Hal Roach’s 1940 blockbuster from the Hammer studio. Suddenly Cavemen – or at least their women – were sexy: surely this would herald a new dawn for the Caveman genre?
Sadly not. The only people inspired by the bronzed babes of One Million BC were the likes of bad filmmaker extraordinaire Ed Wood, who released the atrocious exploitation flick One Million AC/DC in 1969 with the tagline See Vala, the voluptuous cave babe! See Dino, the plastic-eating dinosaur! The Italians briefly toyed with the genre with such unfunny comedies as Quando le donne avevano la coda (When Women Had Tails) (1970), and Quando gli uomini armarono la clava e… con le donne fecero din-don (When Men Carried Clubs and create your own brand custom eyelash Played Ding dong) (1971).
The emphasis shifted back towards comedy in 1978 with the French adult animated comedy Le chanon manquant (The Missing Link), which humorously followed the exploits of early man as he slowly learned and evolved. Three years later, in 1981, former Beatle Ringo Starr appeared in Caveman, a comedy that was arguably little funnier than those produced by the short-lived Spaghetti Cavemen films from the early 70s.