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Cinophile: CAVEMAN

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There is a lot of controversy about how long the human race – and everything for that matter – has been around. Are we descended from primates, aliens, divine intervention? And when did that happen? 6,000 years seems a tad short, but 4.5 billion years sounds like a Facebook acquisition bid.

I need a number I can work with – a real number with some serious gravitas. A zillion years – that sounds about right. 1 zillion BC, to be specific, so that is actually a zillion and two thousand and fourteen years. Gregorian.

This is when Caveman takes place, so if it will serve as my time benchmark, I might as well take the rest at face value. It does go a long way to explain several crucial parts about our past. Did we always walk upright? How did we discover fire? Did dinosaurs roll their eyes? Is Ringo Starr awesome?

No. Lightning. Yes. You better believe it.

Caveman stars Starr and a cohort of other interesting actors in this under-appreciated slapstick classic. ‘Prehistory’ is a broad movie genre – from Iceman and Quest For Fire to 10,000 B.C., Encino Man and The Croods it runs the course from very deep and serious to at least Nick Cage is getting paid. But there are few true slapstick takes on the genre, such as the opening chapter of Mel Brook’s History of the World, Part I.

But Caveman is the unspoken champion of all things neanderthal homo sapien. It’s a pastiche of the ridiculous. The story is simple: Ringo Starr and his young buddy Dennis Quaid are banished from the local cave people tribe, but manage to hook up with an odd bunch of other cave people, leading to some quick evolution and Ringo conquering the tribe that rejected him.

In between there are drug plants, howling lizards, giant eggs, inventing roast chicken and the most awesome T-Rex to ever appear in a movie. There are no distractions here like fossils, vindictive snakes or pyramids. Caveman needs no Monolith. This is humans versus the world. No holds barred. Full contact. The rude truth of our beginnings. And it is what I’ve always suspected. We’re f***ing idiots.

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Ringo Starr was perhaps not the best of The Beatles, but he had infinitely more acting talent than the rest of his band mates. The movie starts on 9 October for a reason: this was co-Beatle John Lennon’s birthday. The famous musician was killed five months before Caveman‘s release, so Ringo Starr had the date added in memory of Lennon.
Caveman assembled a very interesting set of actors. Other than Ringo Starr audiences could also see a young Dennis Quaid as one of the cavemen. Shelly Long would go on to be famous later and most recently appeared as DeDe Pritchett in Modern Family. Barbara Bach may not ring as much of a bell, but she met Starr on the set and later became his wife. And the film’s antagonist, John Matuszak, would become best known for playing the deformed Sloth in The Goonies.
To many Caveman fans, the real stars were the strange but awesome dinosaurs. Just like the cavemen, the movie aimed for ultimate realism, so the dinosaurs look strange, roll their eyes and act as goofy as the humans they keep trying to eat. The T-Rex in particular steals every scene it is in. The dinosaurs were created by Jim Danforth, arguably the most important stop-animation artist after Ray Harryhausen. His work has been nominated for Academy Awards several times and he is perhaps most famous for animating Pegasus in the original Clash Of The Titans. Danforth was also apparently the co-director, but quit because Directors Guild rules would allow a co-direction credit. As such he isn’t credited anywhere in the film, which a a bit sad considering his work made a lot of it the classic it has become.

Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

Last Updated: September 22, 2014

One Comment

  1. The one scene I remember fondly from this movie is the giant mosquito 🙂


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