DOC’S JOURNEY INTO HAMMER FILMS #103: CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT [1971]

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Directed by:
Written by:
Starring: , , ,

 

UK

AVAILABLE ON DVD

RUNNING TIME: 88 mins

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic

 

In the time of prehistoric man, a volcano erupts and an earthquake opens up a crevasse, swallowing up many members of the Dark Tribe including their chief. A fight for leadership between two survivors, Mak and Zen, soon breaks out. Mak is victorious and leads the surviving tribe members across a desert in search of a new home. They meet and befriend a tribe of fair-haired people and Mak is presented with a gril called Noo, who bares him twin boys. As adolescents, dark haired Rool and fair haired Toomak can’t stop fighting each other….

I’m assuming that the creatures this film is referring to in the title are its primitive humans, as all the animals that turn up are still with us. Its’s easy to see why this is the least popular out of the films in Hammer’s caveman trilogy, what with it not containing any dinosaurs and not really being one you can show to the kids. And yet a concerted effort was obviously made to make this the more realistic of the three films – well, aside from curious though perhaps unsurprising anomalys like the setting obviously being Africa and all the animals being African but all the cast members being white. The plot is a little convoluted and can sometimes be hard to follow considering the lack of words spoken, but has a rather Biblical feel about it and there’s certainly no shortage of action, while the much-criticised-at-the-time increased brutality and sexuality can hardly be considered gratuitous and is nowhere near as extreme as you may have been led to believe. Some sensitive viewers probably hate the treatment of women in this film – they’re basically there to be used even if they don’t want to be. However, I hate to say this but that’s probably how the fairer sex was treated back then. I’d only seen Creatures The World Forgot once before a great many years ago and recall finding it something of a drag. Watched now, it does have its qualities and commendable aspects even if we’re certainly not talking about Quest For Fire here!

Creatures The World Forgot went into pre-production even while When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth was having its extensive post-production period. As they often did, Hammer came up with the title before anything else. They commissioned several story outlines including one set in the present day featuring subterranean bat people. Writer Anthony Marriott came up with a semi-sequel to One Million Years B.C. featuring the warring descendants of the Rock People and the Shell People plus a variety of perils including a giant bat, giant spider, the half-monkey Tree Tribe, giant crocodiles, giant ants and the cannibalistic Mud People. Columbia agreed to back the exciting-sounding film, and Hammer head James Carreras’s son Michael to produce, though he also rewrote Marriott’s script to remove all the prehistoric monsters with more believable and less expensive animals like a wooly mammoth and a giant ant eater, though they also disappeared in a further rewrite. Filming took place at Elstree and in Namibia and South Africa often using real relics from Johannesburg’s Museum of Man and Science. The shoot was gruelling, while star Julie Ege had recently given birth and her going to bed early made the crew think she was stuck up, so they contrived to keep her out of shot as much as possible, much to the annoyance of Hammer in London. Hammer tried to get an ‘A’ certificate despite the increased sex and violence. The BBFC said an ‘AA’ [a recently introduced certificate allowing in people 14 and above] would be fine if a rape scene was shortened, but then Columbia asked for an ‘X’ so that was that. Often billed with the sex comedy A Touch Of The Other, the film was not a success.

Shots of actual cave paintings precede a lengthy pan across an animal-filled landscape before resting on the face of a human, the most deadly creature of all, though saying that there’s a very vicious antelope [honestly] in this movie which charges at huge speed towards somebody and gores him, something which almost makes up for the lack of big cats. One thing I found odd is that the humans in this story are supposed to be a bit more advanced than the ones we’ve previously seen. They may still dive in and rip meat off a dead animal but don’t fight over it so much and even throw the oldies some decent bits. However, their language has now been reduced to lots of grunts and the odd sound like“ay”!. In a way this benefits the movie, it somehow makes it a bit more believable, but surely this lot would actually have a better sense of language than their forebearers? Anyway, we soon get a volcanic eruption, quite well done with some good shots of flames suddenly bursting out of the ground and lava emitting from the top, though there are some shots from One Million Years B.C. cut in which look a bit different to the other shots so are noticeable even if you don’t recognise their origin.

Now one peculiar thing about this film is that in synopses the five major characters are given monikors like ‘The Old Crone’ and ‘The Dumb Girl’, yet the end credits don’t give any of them proper names. I’m going to go with the former. So the ruthless Mak becomes the new leader and sets off with the surviving others to find a new place to live, eventually settling with a blonde tribe who like to have frenzied dance rituals where a bride is presented atop what looks like a model of a shark while Mak scourges a disobedient woman for not allowing herself to be passed from her lover to the blonde tribe’s chief. At the same time as Mak’s new wife gives birth to twins, lightning strikes a tree and a woman gives birth to The Dumb Girl [she wouldn’t be called that now would she?] . The tribe wants to kill this bit of bad luck, but The Old Crone, basically an early witchdoctor who adds a slightly mystical element to the story which remains vague and unexplored, adopts her. Time passes as we see the dark haired Rool and fair haired Toomak [familiar name] as teenagers battling for the attention of their father and then the Dumb Girl, then as adults fighting for control of the whole tribe and the delectable Nala. Of course the dark haired twin is the nasty one, his technique with women being to sexually assualt them, though Toomak doesn’t need to make any effort whatsoever himself as they just tend to offer themselves to him. Much of the film is dedicated to wondering about and encounters with various tribes, one of which consists of albinos wearing rather freaky masks, but there’s usually something going on, the desert locations – superbly photographed by Vincent Cox – are effectively unfamiliar backdrops, a perfect playground for prehistoric man, and it all ends with a fight atop a mountain where Nala is tied up and menaced by a snake!

Actually the brawls, despite being very numerous, aren’t too well staged, but there are two girlfights this time and it’s all more brutal. Many of the clubbings, impalings etc are more suggested than shown, though there’s an early version of Max Cady’s face-biting routine from Cape Fear. It’s the various animal attacks which spill the greatest amount of the red stuff, including an encounter with a silly looking man-in-suit bear. Otherwise all the animals seem to be real, and from the editing it doesn’t look like any of them were harmed or killed. I’d have liked to have seen a ‘proper’ love scene to balance out the two attempted rapes. The clothes seem to be more realistic than before – less of the perfectly fitting bikinis here, and no groomed, glamorous beach girls – though it’s kind of funny that the girls who show off their assets have their faces conveniently obscured by hair, and that a couple of the men are clean shaven. It’s also kind of funny when Rool gets stabbed with a big spear into the thigh, yet he walks away from that as if it were but a scratch, and then when he later gets thrown off a cliff onto a big rock he still walks away from it as if he’d been thrown onto a giant sofa. This lot also seem to have made rope as it’s obviously used in one action sequence yet otherwise don’t seem to be intelligent enough to be able to do so. There’s a lot of silly stuff in all three of these movies.

This time Swedish Julie Ege was the starlet Hammer promoted like crazy, though she’s only in the second half of the film and giving an unflattering dark wig. She plays her part reasonably well though I found Rosalie Crutchley to be stronger as The Dumb Girl who’s treated like dirt throughout. The male leads are okay but don’t make a huge impresson. Mario Nascimbene again does the score and brings back some of the primitive percussive instruments from One Million Years B.C., augmented by at least one native African one. As with When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth, it’s mostly one theme used in various guises, and this one is actually the same as the one in Nascimbene’s score for Solomon And Sheba. But it works well for the picture and the action music gets a bit more developed towards the end. I cannot deny that Creatures The World Forgot contains some stuff to chuckle at, but Hammer at least tried to provide a reasonably accurate portrayal of primitive man. None of the three films in this mini-cycle are worth most of the derision that they tend to receive and together form a lovably eccentric and not uninteresting deviation from the familiar Gothic horror stuff.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Dr Lenera
About Dr Lenera 2034 Articles

I’m a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don’t really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly ‘have a life’, I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I’ve always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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