Directed By: Kent Jones
Starring: Victoria Vetri, Robin Hawdon, Patrick Allen
Tag line: "Enter an age of unknown terrors, pagan worship and virgin sacrifice..."
Trivia: Victoria Vetri refused to dye her hair blonde, and instead wore a wig
Having reviewed both One Million Years B.C. and Creatures the World Forgot, I honestly thought I’d closed the book on Hammer’s “Caveman” series of films.
Then I saw the poster for 1970’s When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Let’s just say I found it too… enticing to pass up!
Set in prehistoric times, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth opens with a mountaintop religious ceremony, with three blonde beauties about to be sacrificed to the Sun God. But moments before the girls are struck down, a violent explosion in space triggers an earth tremor, causing Sanna (Victoria Vetri), one of the three sacrificial victims, to tumble into the sea. She is eventually rescued by Tara (Robin Hawden), a member of a seafaring tribe, and over time the two fall in love with each other. This doesn’t sit well with Ayak (Imogen Hassall), Tara’s current mate, who is more than ready to fight for her man.
To add to their worries, the priests who tried to sacrifice Sanna come looking for her, and convince the seafaring tribe that the newly-formed bright object in the night sky (the moon, actually; the creation of which triggered the earlier explosion) appeared because their ceremony was never completed. To avoid capture, Sanna flees into the surrounding wilderness, where, along with trying to outrun her fellow tribesmen, she must dodge some very dangerous dinosaurs!
Much like Hammer’s previous film One Million Years B.C. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth features some truly gorgeous women, starting with former Playboy model Victoria Vetri (who looks great in her extremely tight animal skin bikini). But aside from Vetri and some of her more bodacious co-stars, the scenes centering on the human characters are easily the movie’s weakest. The opening sequence (the attempted sacrifice) is more silly than it is dramatic, and while I understand the filmmakers’ decision to concoct an entirely new language for their characters, sitting through extended scenes of people spouting gibberish to one another proved a difficult task (If I had a dime for every time someone said “ataki” in this movie, I’d be a rich man. And no, I haven’t a clue what that word is supposed to mean).
While the film’s caveman-centric moments were definitely a letdown, the dinosaurs themselves, courtesy of Jim Danforth’s stop-motion animation, are incredible. From the beached sea monster that several tribesmen attempt to subdue to the pterodactyl that attacks Tara, the creatures Danforth conjures up for this movie are every bit as impressive as what Ray Harryhausen created for One Million Years B.C. In fact, the dinosaurs look so good that you’ll swear it was Harryhausen himself who breathed life into them. And that is high praise, indeed.
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth may not be perfect, but Danforth and his team got it as close to perfection as they possibly could.