|When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth|
|Directed by||Val Guest|
|Written by||Val Guest|
|Story by||J.G. Ballard|
|Produced by||Aida Young|
|Edited by||Peter Curran|
|Music by||Mario Nascimbene|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|100 minutes (United Kingdom)|
96 minutes (United States)
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (titled When Dinosaurs Ruled the World in the U.K.) is a 1970 British prehistoric dinosaur film from Hammer Films, written and directed by Val Guest, and starring Victoria Vetri. It was produced by Aida Young. This was the third in Hammer's "Cave Girl" series, preceded by One Million Years B.C. (1966) and Prehistoric Women (1967); it was followed by Creatures the World Forgot (1971).
A time of beginnings, of darkness, of light, of the sun, the earth, the sea, of man! The beginnings of man living with man, by the sea, in the mountains. The beginning of love, hate, and fear. Man's fear of the unknown. Man's fear lest the sun should leave him, leave him alone in everlasting darkness. A time when the color of a woman's hair condemned her to sacrifice to the sun. A time when there was as yet no moon.
A cliff tribe led by a chief named Kingsor are about to sacrifice three blonde women. Three priests, wearing dinosaur hides, are about to sacrifice them for their Sun God, but one of the women, Sanna, escapes and jumps off the cliff. She is rescued by Tara and some men on a raft afterwards.
Tara takes Sanna to his seaside tribe, who also worship the Sun God, but without sacrifices. After building a hut for herself, she joins them at a feast and celebration of a successful hunt, in which the men have captured a plesiosaur. The plesiosaur attacks the seaside tribe after breaking free of its bonds until it is lured to a store of oil and burned to death. The feast continues, and a brunette woman, Ayak, shows her interest in Tara, but he is too fascinated with Sanna to return her feelings. Tara brings her food and gifts in the hopes she will stay with them. Later, Ayak, jealous, denounces Sanna as a witch and gets the elder women to join her in berating Sanna. After a ritual fight between Sanna and Ayak in the water, Kingsor and the rest of Sanna's former tribe arrives, looking for her after discovering she survived the fall from the cliff. She flees, and her former tribe gives chase. Hiding in a tree, a large python sees her but attacks and kills one of the men instead. The survivors think that Sanna is in a nearby cave, but a Chasmosaurus makes its lair there, and disembowels one man before injuring another with a deep gash. Vultures, drawn by the carcasses, attack the wounded man. When Tara seeks Sanna, he finds the one man dead and, after the Chasmosaurus charges him, it injures one of his companions. He is chased to a cliff, where he hides on a small ledge as the Chasmosaurus loses its footing and plunges to its death. Tara's friend dies of his injuries shortly after.
A funeral pyre at the shore is followed by a tribal frenzy during which an enraged Ayak burns down Sanna's hut. Sanna meanwhile, running through a rainforest, sees a huge Megalania (live-acted by a Monitor lizard), and runs before it notices her. She becomes trapped by a carnivorous plant, and cuts off a portion of her hair in order to escape. As Tara goes looking for Sanna, he finds her cut off hair trapped beneath the plant and assumes she is dead. Satisfied by this, Sanna's former tribe stop hunting her and join with Tara's tribe, with several of their men marrying the women in Tara's tribe.
Shortly after her escape from the plant, Sanna seeks shelter from a storm and sleeps in a large Megalosaurus eggshell. The other egg hatches, and the baby dinosaur thinks Sanna is its sibling. The parent, thinking Sanna is one of its own, brings her a deer carcass. Sanna, enamored by the baby beast, plays hide-and-seek with it, and teaches it to sit. She also dives into a nearby lake and catches a fish in her teeth. She returns and finds the mother dinosaur in a fight with two men, but she distracts it so they can escape. Tara meanwhile sees one of the women in Sanna's tribe dyeing her daughter's hair with tar, in an attempt to prevent her from being sacrificed like Sanna and the other blonde women in her tribe that are set to be tributes to their Sun God.
Some weeks later, while Tara is hiking back to his tribe, which has been taken over by the overzealous Kingsor, he is carried off by a giant Rhamphorhynchus. At its nest, he kills it by ripping its wing, and then knocking it off its nest when it lands. Tara later sees Sanna being followed by the dinosaur and assumes she is being chased, but he runs to her and finds she has domesticated the adult dinosaur. They reunite at Sanna's cave, where they express their love for one another and have passionate sex.
They are seen by a lookout, however, and when Tara returns to the tribe, he is sacrificed to a Plesiosaur by the zealous chief. Ayak cries as he is set adrift on a burning raft to the animal, held in place by another woman and forced to watch. However, when they are gone, he re-emerges from the water, still alive. Seeing they have left and somehow having evaded the beast, he escapes to Sanna.
The tribe then goes searching for Sanna again, and see smoke from her fire. The two run away into a forest, where Sanna's dinosaur "parent" rescues her, but Tara is recaptured and the tribe prepare to burn him again. Giant fiddler crabs kill a few people as the weather grows ominous and the water begins to recede. The moon begins forming, and a tsunami looms overhead. Sanna arrives to save Tara from one of the crabs, and they escape with two friends aboard a raft in spite of Kingsor attempting to stop them and kill her. Kingsor tries commanding the water to heel in a last effort to appease his deities, only to be swept away. While Ayak is running on the sand towards the raft, she steps into a trap of quicksand and is sucked down to her death. Giant waves hit the shore, but Tara, Sanna, and their friends survive by tying themselves to their raft. As the waters calm, the survivors stop to witness a lunar eclipse, left in awe by the creation of the moon above them.
Director Val Guest's screenplay was based on a treatment by J. G. Ballard (author of Empire of the Sun). But like Hammer's other prehistoric films, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth anachronistically portrays the dinosaurs of the Mesozoic era from aboutliving alongside Homo sapiens of the late Quaternary period (±200,000 years ago). The film's characters use a language that was specially written for the film, albeit of only a dozen words or so, a frequent one being "neekro", which means "kill", and also "akita" which is heard many times.
Exteriors were shot on Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. Locations included Maspalomas beach, Ansite Mountain, Amurga, and Caldera de Tejeda.
The stop-motion animation creature effects were created by Jim Danforth, assisted by David W. Allen and Roger Dickens.
Due to lack of time and money, and a violent altercation between Danforth and James Carreras, many scenes were canceled, including one that featured giant ants. Instead, stock footage from The Lost World were used.
The film had its world premiere on 1 October 1970 in London with a U.K. general release on 25 October 1970. It was released in the United States debuting in San Francisco on 10 February 1971.
The film was released on DVD as an exclusive from Best Buy with a G-rating, but was quickly recalled because it was the original uncut version and contained nudity; it is now a collector's item. The uncut version was also released on Blu-ray in the United States on 28 February 2017 and DVD on 4 April by Warner Archive.
The film was popular at the box office. In the United States the film grossed $1.25 million at the box office.
The film was nominated for Best Visual Effects at the 44th Academy Awards in 1971. It lost to the Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The nomination was given to Jim Danforth and Roger Dicken.
The special effects are considered a benchmark in portraying realistic stop-motion animation. The film's title is referenced in Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park with a large rectangular banner hanging in the island's visitors' center. It later plays a visibly prominent role in the film's final action sequence.