Prehistoric Women
U.K. DVD cover
Directed byMichael Carreras
Written byMichael Carreras
Produced byMichael Carreras
StarringMartine Beswick
Michael Latimer
Carol White
Steven Berkoff
CinematographyMichael Reed
Edited byRoy Hyde
Music byCarlo Martelli
Production
companies
Distributed byWarner-Pathé Distributors
Release date
  • 7 July 1967 (1967-07-07)
Running time
95 min.
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Budget£140,000[1]

Prehistoric Women (originally released as Slave Girls in the U.K.) is a 1967 British fantasy adventure film in DeLuxe Color and CinemaScope. The film stars Martine Beswick as the main antagonist and stage actor Michael Latimer. Steven Berkoff features in a small role at the end.

Plot

David Marchant (Michael Latimer), a British explorer, along with Colonel Hammond (Robert Raglan) and a guide are pursuing a leopard on an African safari. The Colonel takes aim, but misses and only wounds the animal. With the guide warning that it will soon be dark, David decides to find the beast and put it out of its misery before following the party back to camp.

Walking some way, he passes various trees with a picture of a white rhino, but ignores them. Finally, the weakened leopard attacks him and he shoots it dead, whereupon David is ambushed and captured by a primitive tribe. They accuse him of disturbing the spirit of the white rhinoceros and take him to their leader's temple. As the high priest/leader makes his decision, David notices a large, ancient stone statue of a white rhino and realizes this is what the tribe worship. Interested, David reaches out to touch it. Just as he is about to be killed for his trespassing and disturbing the spirits, David touches the statue and there is a flash of lightning that opens a giant crack in the cave wall.

Wasting no time, Marchant makes his escape and finds himself in a lush paradise jungle within a large valley. He hears a noise, and a terrified fair-haired beauty (Edina Ronay) tumbles out of the bush. David tries to help her, but the woman bites him and runs off. Following her, David tackles her to the ground, but they are both attacked by dark-haired women. David is escorted with them to their village, while the fair woman is bound and taken with them. As they reach the outskirts, David is astounded to discover another white rhino statue, only it looks less ancient and possibly even newer.

Entering the settlement, David finds that the fair-haired women serve the dark-haired women, who themselves are ruled by the beautiful, dark-haired Queen Kari (Martine Beswick), who immediately takes an interest in David and chooses him as her mate, but he is appalled by her cruelty and spurns her advances.

Angered, Kari orders her guards to throw David into a windowless cell. Getting to his senses, David finds the same woman he encountered earlier and introduces himself. She reveals her name is Saria. When David asks if Saria's people have ever fought back, she replies that Kari is protected by the Devils, the guardians who shield the people from the "cruel world outside". In return, one of the blonde women must be taken as a thanksgiving for protection.

David is then moved to where the other men are, in a cave and now living in fear of Kari. At mealtime, an elder tells David of how it all began; their ancestors moved into the area and hunted the white rhino to extinction. This done, they erected a false image to convince others that they still existed. In doing so, they offended their gods, and the legend of the white rhinoceros was born.

The elder goes on to say that they were sent a tribe of "dark people", who came to this land seeking protection. They were described as less intelligent and were enslaved. The only protection Saria's people had was the lie that the white rhino protected them, until a slave girl escaped and told them of the lie. As a result, the men were enslaved and the slave girl was made their Queen, Kari. The tribe will only become bonded by the spirit again when the false idol is destroyed.

As time passes, a "Devil" chooses who should be made the next bride of the white rhino. The chosen one is Saria. Learning of this, David urges the men to join forces with the blonde women and against the dark people. Escaping, the men disrupt the ceremony as the rhino-masked "Devil" is about to take Saria. David jumps the "Devil" and unmasks him as an African man, who then flees. David battles Kari, knocking her unconscious and then frees Saria. More rhino-masked "Devils" emerge from the jungle, but the men and allied women pursue them, unaware they do not know the jungle as well as they do, despite David's protests.

A battle breaks out between the two tribes in the jungle. Kari regains consciousness and, grabbing a knife and determined to kill David, sets out through the battle. Suddenly, there is an almighty roar and both tribes, to their horror, see a white rhinoceros. Despite Kari telling the tribes it is their god and they will not be harmed, the beast charges and impales the false idol, Kari, with its horn. The creature begins to drive out the "Devils" and disappears into the jungle.

Finding Kari's corpse, David takes a wooden brooch with a white rhino on it and offers it to Saria, who then refuses it saying that the "Devils" will not be returning. She goes on to say that the legend is partly fulfilled and she heads over to the rhino statue while David follows, stuffing the brooch into his chest pocket. David tells her that he will not leave her, despite Saria telling him that her world is not his.

Suddenly, there is thunder and it begins to rain. David confesses his love for Saria, but she moves away and tells David that her love for him will always remain. She leaves David alone in the rain, along with the statue of the white rhino. As if hypnotized, David moves forward and touches the rhino's horn as lightning strikes.

In an instant, Marchant is back in the high priest's temple just as they are about to proclaim judgment over him. Suddenly the rhino statue begins to break and crumble to pieces. The priest joyfully announces that the legend of the white rhinoceros is true and that they are free at last. The priest then orders the destruction of the "false idol's temple" whilst David discreetly leaves and joins the guide, who has been waiting for him.

As they both head back, David is surprised at how little time has passed for the guide. Once back at the camp, David wonders whether it really was a dream or he had really traveled back in time to reunite a lost African tribe and end a million-year-old legend. As he cleans himself, he discovers the white rhino's brooch in his pocket, proving some truth in his experience. David is then asked to greet some people from London. To his amazement, one of the guests is the image of Saria. The guest then introduces herself as Sarah.

Clutching the brooch, David shakes her hand.

Cast

Background

Hammer used nearly all the sets and costumes left over from the film One Million Years B.C. (1966), which had starred Raquel Welch and featured Martine Beswick.[2] Further films by Hammer which traded heavily on the appeal of scantily-clad cave girls were When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) and Creatures the World Forgot (1971).[3]

Shooting took place from 10 January to 22 February 1966.[4]

Reception

Box office

According to Fox records, the double feature of the film and Devils needed to earn $1,450,000 in rentals to break even and made $1,265,000, meaning they made a loss.[5]

Critical response

“…[Beswick] was cast as Queen Kari in the film Prehistoric Women, a sort of follow up to the successful One Million Years BC. As the seductive and deadly leader of a tribe of lost amazons, Beswick had one of the great roles of a lifetime. Unfortunately, the production was plagued by indifferent direction, a low budget, and the fact that it was following up a gargantuan worldwide box office hit ...”[6]-- Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Films and Television 1962-1973

"An eccentric and unloved Hammer film that uses a blondes vs. brunettes scenario."[1]-- The Hammer Vault

"Idiotic Hammer Film in which the Great White Hunter stumbles into a lost Amazon civilization where blondes have been enslaved by brunettes. Honest! Nevertheless it has developed a cult following due to Beswick’s commanding, sensual performance as the tribe’s leader."[7] -- Leonard Maltin's 2010 Movie Guide

References

  1. ^ a b Marcus Hearn, The Hammer Vault, Titan Books, 2011, p. 90
  2. ^ Kinsey, Wayne (2010) Hammer Films: The Unsung Heroes, Tomahawk Press, Sheffield, England, p. 66 [1]
  3. ^ Sinclair McKay (2007): A Thing of Unspeakable Horror: The History of Hammer Films, p. 105
  4. ^ Bruce G. Hallenbeck, British Cult Cinema: Hammer Fantasy and Sci-Fi, Hemlock Books, 2011, p. 165
  5. ^ Silverman, Stephen M (1988). The Fox that got away : the last days of the Zanuck dynasty at Twentieth Century-Fox. L. Stuart. p. 326.
  6. ^ Lisanti, Tom (2002) Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Films and Television 1962-1973, Jefferson, N.C: McFarland and Company, p. 61
  7. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2009) 2010 Movie Guide. New York: Signet Books, p. 90.