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PREHISTORIC WOMEN (1950)
|“Nobody knows when these events took place: maybe 10,000, maybe 100,000 years ago. It’s a story of romance, when the world was young....”|
Director: Gregg G. Tallas
Starring: Laurette Luez, Allan Nixon, Janet Scott, Joan Shawlee, Mara Lynn, Kerry Vaughn, Judy Landon, Jo-Carroll Dennison, Tony Devlin, James Summers, Dennis Dengate, Johann Petursson, David Vaile
Screenplay: Sam X. Abarbanel and Gregg G. Tallas
Synopsis: In prehistoric times, the members of a tree-dwelling, all-female tribe dance by the light of the full moon. The Wise One (Janet Scott) of the tribe tells the younger women their history: that once, their mothers were wholly subservient to the men of their tribe. Then, one fateful day, exhausted and angered by the cruel treatment inflicted upon the women, Tana (Jeanne Sorel) struck down the tribe’s leader and led the other women and the girl children away to found a new tribe. The women succeeded in learning the necessary skills to survive and lived happily until one day when three members of the tribe were attacked by a violent giant known as Guardi (Johann Petursson). Two of them were carried off, while Tana was mortally injured. Today, Tana’s daughter, Tigri (Laurette Luez), leads the tribe. The Wise One tells the others that they must capture husbands by the time of the next full moon. The next day, accompanied by one of their tamed panthers, Tigri leads the other young women, Lotte (Joan Shawlee), Arva (Mara Lynn), Tulle (Kerry Vaughn), Eras (Judy Landon) and Nika (Jo-Carroll Dennison), through the jungle. Meanwhile, some of the members of a cave-dwelling mountain tribe, Engor (Allan Nixon), Ruig (Tony Devlin), Adh (James Summers) and Kama (Dennis Dengate), are out foraging when they find themselves under threat by a tiger. They manage to lead it into a trap, and it is killed by the spikes in the hidden pit. Even as they examine the beast, the men are attacked by the women’s panther, which has broken free. Engor struggles with the animal and finally kills it. The other men treat Engor’s wounds, unaware that they are being watched. Suddenly, the women launch a savage attack upon the men with slings and stone-headed clubs. Engor alone escapes: Ruig, Adh and Kama are captured, bound and forced to walk to the home of the women. There, the Wise One inspects the captives and nods approvingly. Lotee, Eras and Nika each take possession of a man, with Nika roughly pushing Arva away when she shows a little too much interest in Ruig. The three women force their captives up into their individual tree-houses, where they begin to inspect these strange creatures known as “men”. Kama makes an effort to overpower Eras, but Arva and Tulle, below on the ground, hear the struggle and intervene with expert use of their slings; Kama is subdued and bound. Meanwhile, at the cave in the mountains that is the home of Engor’s people, the leader of the tribe points at a circling vulture. In hopes that it will lead to a wounded animal fit for meat, he takes out a hunting party. To their astonishment, the “wounded animal” is Engor. Carried back to the cave, Engor is nursed back to health, and tells the story of his friends’ capture. Angry and humiliated, Engor swears to rescue his friends, and to take revenge upon the tribe of women....
Comments: The truly sad thing about Prehistoric Women is that, as far as these kinds of films go, this is actually one of the better ones. Now, don’t get me wrong here: I’m certainly not making any artistic claims for this thing. Rather, this is my way of observing that amongst these cinematic accounts of primitive man, the bar tends to be set awfully low. It’s a negative form of praise, I suppose, to say that there’s nothing here to match the sublime silliness of this film’s namesake, Hammer’s 1967 Prehistoric Women, with its terribly, terribly British tribeswomen, and its society founded upon blonde = good, brunette = eee-vil (which might have been a tad less silly if any of those women had been natural blondes); or that, thankfully, it has a mindset quite removed from the utter crassness of Wild Women Of Wongo, which unblinkingly divides its evolving human society up into “hotties” and “ugmos”. We only have to look over at When Women Lost Their Tails to understand how philosophically ugly these things could get; but Prehistoric Women not only has obvious high hopes for the future of the society it depicts, it also makes any number of good-faith gestures towards feminism, in the proper sense of equality of the sexes, without ever wandering into the idiotic territory of Clan Of The Cave Bear. In fact, in a helpless, stumbling, bumbling sort of way, this is a refreshingly optimistic little film; and one moreover, that strives---well, not for accuracy, precisely, but for a kind of credibility....at least until the duck in the Halloween mask shows up.
Prehistoric Women: a film that leans a little to the left.
Prehistoric Women also falls into that category of B-movie prehistory that has spoken language in its infancy, and its characters communicating mostly through gestures and a few broadly-employed words. Unfortunately, the makers of this film, clearly suffering from delusions of grandeur, decided that their story was complex enough, or important enough, to warrant not taking any chances of the audience missing anything it had to say; and thus they included a voiceover, contributed by one David Vaile. This kicks in right from the beginning, and proceeds to torture the viewer with the most mercilessly incidental narration of a film since Gigantis The Fire Monster. While there are few people who won’t be shrieking, “Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!!” at their TV screens within minutes of slipping in the DVD of Prehistoric Women, it has to be admitted that a considerable portion of this film’s entertainment value comes from this narration: not, I stress, because it is at all amusing in and of itself, but rather because of the dislocation between what we see, and what the narrator tells us that we see. In fact, although speaking from the far-flung and highly civilised future of 1949, the narrator is much more of a sexist jerk than any of the primitive tribesmen of 10,000 – or 100,000 – years earlier, whose story he is telling. Make of that what you will.
Prehistoric Women was shot at Corriganville, the movie ranch founded by actor and stunt man Ray “Crash” Corrigan in 1937, which would become the setting for films and serials and TV episodes without number, and then be opened to the public as an amusement park and a nature preserve in the late fifties. Corriganville (now a state recreation area) is situated in the Simi Valley in Ventura County, with the result that the backdrop of this film’s action understandably looks rather more like the Californian countryside than like the “wild tropic jungle” the narrator keeps insisting it is. The film opens with a blunt disclaimer: “Our knowledge of the prehistoric world, before the first historian sat down to write the story of his people, is vague.” The narrator goes on to insist that this story is founded on proven facts, but adds that “no-one knows” whether these events took place 10,000 or 100,000 years ago, which seems a little contradictory. But none of that matters beside the fact that it is a story of “romance, when the world was young”, and that it concerns itself chiefly with “one man and one woman”.
In lieu of an interpretable screenshot....
We meet our Juliet first, and her all-female tribe. A highlight of any of these “primitive civilisation” films is always the terrible dance sequences, and we cut to one of those now – more or less. Unfortunately, most of the existing copies of Prehistoric Women are in pretty rough shape, including the one used for this review, which was certainly not the - heaven help us! - “remastered edition” currently listed by Amazon. (Oh, yes, yes, yes: it’s the one from the SciFi 50-movie pack. But then, you knew that, didn’t you?) The daytime scenes are clear enough, though they’ve lost a lot of colour; but the night-time scenes are hidden by an impenetrable murk. This, alas, includes all of the dance sequences, with the result that we start the film by staring for several minutes at indistinct figures moving around behind a veil of gloom. Indeed, this opening dance number is so very lengthy, I was immediately put in mind of Blood Feast, and Herschell Gordon Lewis’s desperate (and unsuccessful) efforts to drag his masterpiece out to proper feature-film length.
(Incredibly, the completely static and unimaginative imagery of Prehistoric Women was the work of Lionel Lindon, who shot the beautifully-composed Destination Moon the same year, and who would go on to win an Academy Award for Around The World In 80 Days.)
However, as the narrator assures us, there is a reason that this particular dance number goes on and on – and on: the young women of the tribe are, ahem, “restless”, although they don’t know why; and are driven by, ahem, “a feeling of frustration” to dance until they collapse in exhaustion.
Once the panting tribeswomen are all sitting around on the ground, the obligatory Wise One draws near in order to deliver – THAT talk: to explain to the girls the reason for their, ahem, restlessness, and what they have to do about it. I find myself lost in admiration here of the Wise One’s communication skills, given that at this point, the tribe’s language seems to consist of about four generic words. It’s even more impressive when you consider how many parents today still seem to have trouble finding the right words for THAT talk.
She is Tana - hear her roar!
Along with explaining the facts of life, the Wise One also tells the women the history of their tribe. Once upon a time, she recounts, when they were very young, they were part of a tribe consisting of both men and women, in which the women were treated as slaves. One day, exhausted by their labour – specifically, carrying a pole-slung animal carcass back to their tribe’s home – the women stopped to rest for a moment. The leader of the tribe immediately came to them in a rage to force them back into action. One woman, Tana, dared to defy him, and was brutally knocked to the ground. But as she lay sprawled on the ground, Tana’s hand came to rest upon a rock. In a moment of fury, she threw it at the leader, striking and stunning him. Realising what the outcome of her act of rebellion was likely to be, Tana then hurriedly gathered the other women and the girl children and led them away through the jungle. The other men of the tribe then came upon their leader, still sitting on the ground and clutching his head. He ordered them to go after the women and bring them back, but the men could find no trace of them. The men then lifted their leader and led him back to the home of the tribe – where, presumably, he soon found himself facing a vote of no confidence in his leadership.
Elsewhere, the women, under Tana’s leadership, were finding that they could get along just fine on their own. Over time, they developed the skills necessary for survival, and lived a peaceful life until one terrible day when they were attacked by a giant known as Guardi, who lived only to kill. Two of the tribeswomen were carried off, and Tana was mortally injured.
At this part of the Wise One’s story, the young women shudder: all these years on, the dreaded Guardi still roams the jungle.
However, the main thrust of the Wise One’s story, if you’ll pardon the expression, lies elsewhere. She explains that although because of their history they hate “ahneer”, or men, if the tribe is to survive the women must find, ahem, “husbands”. And so the next morning, the tribeswomen – all six of them – set out on their quest, accompanied by a pet panther on a vine leash. Thankfully, this happens in daylight, so that we get our first look at our heroines – all of whom are, I’m sure I need hardly tell you, not only physically attractive, but neatly coiffed and completely depilated. Moreover, one of them, Tulle, is an obvious platinum blonde.
Savage! Primitive! Deadly! Dyed! Permed!
The composition of the tribe is another of Prehistoric Women’s refreshing touches. We’re so used to finding a vapid blonde in charge of these “jungle tribes” that it’s something of a shock to find this tribe under the leadership of the brunette Tigri, who is the daughter of Tana – and that Tigri isn’t even the prettiest of the brunettes, although she does give the impression of strength and general competence. This isn’t to say that Laurette Luez isn’t attractive, but rather that she isn’t the usual “type” – which is undoubtedly why she was condemned, for most of her career, to playing “natives” and “slave girls”. (Prehistoric Women is hardly the forum for deciding how far Ms Luez’s acting abilities might also have played a part in that.) And while I’d like to say that the matter of Tigri’s leadership was decided on purely philosophical grounds, it is a fact that Laurette Luez and Gregg Tallas were married not long after this film was made, although sadly it didn’t last. Amongst the other tribeswomen, we find one very familiar face: Lotee is played by Joan Shawlee, who had a long and very successful career, mostly in television. However, she also appeared in Conquest Of Space before working several times for Billy Wilder (she was Sweet Sue in Some Like It Hot) and then becoming yet another of the endless Corman alumni.
Anyway, having met Juliet, it’s now time to be introduced to Romeo and his pals. Engor (played by Allan Nixon, last seen in this neck of the woods in Mesa Of Lost Women) is not the leader of his tribe, merely a member; and he and his buddies are out on a foraging expedition when they “corner a savage tiger”. (The animal in question goes through this entire sequence glancing around with an hilarious, “Where the hell am I!?” expression on its face. Moreover, this “vicious monster of the jungle” looks like it just wants its ears scratched.) The attack scenes are amusingly unconvincing, with bad superimposition work, and much cutting back and forth between the tiger and the hunters that never, for some mysterious reason, manages to get both of them in shot at once. Finally, Ruig uses himself as bait to lure the tiger towards a spike-lined pit (when did they find the time to dig that?). He leaps over it, and the chasing tiger – which presumably doesn’t know the covered pit is there – also leaps into the air. It misjudges the jump though, and plunges into the trap. In an unwise (although reassuring) touch, the film then gives us a shot of the “dead” tiger, which we find carefully placed between the rows of spikes....
The men literally didn't know what hit them...
The men are still celebrating the killing of the tiger when the women draw near. Their panther – “excited”, the narrator assures us, “by the scent of the dead tiger’s blood” – breaks free and rushes upon the men. Ruig, Kama and Adh beat feet, but Engor wrestles with the animal. This is a wonderful sequence for many reasons. For one thing, the panther, a young adult, becomes hardly more than a kitten once it comes into contact with its human enemy; and for another, they chose to disguise the animal’s handler here by dressing him in a shoulder-length wig that bears no resemblance whatsoever to Engor’s neat (and distinctly 1940s) hair-do. The “fight”, for the most part, consists of the trainer holding the juvenile panther from behind, under its front legs or by the scruff of its neck, and rolling from side to side while more or less waving the animal in the air, at one point turning it on its head. The panther doesn’t look too happy about this mishandling, and you can’t really blame it.
Finally, “Engor” wrestles the cat to the ground and kills it with blows from his stone-headed club. His friends, who all throughout this fight were hiding in the bushes, now rush in to carry Engor to one side, propping him up against a tree while they tend his injuries. And this is what they are doing when they receive the biggest shock of their lives.
While all this has been going on, the women have been watching from the other side of a creek. However, their mingled apprehension and fascination at this first glimpse of “ahneer” changes to outrage at the killing of their pet, and immediately they go on the offensive, sending against the unprepared men a barrage of stones from their expertly-handled slings. The narrator, always willing to make a crack at the women’s expense as the film goes along, is here splutteringly indignant on the men’s behalf – “They’ve been attacked by members of the weaker sex!?” – but speaks no word of praise of the women’s skill with their slings. Nor does he point out (as I, therefore, shall) how amusingly apt it is that the women should be so very proficient with rock-throwing, considering the circumstances of their tribe’s founding.
Had Engor not been a leg man, the course of human history might have been very different.
Taken by surprise in more ways than one, Ruig, Kama and Adh are soon overpowered and bound. Kama does briefly get the better of Eras, but Arva comes to her aid and knocks him out with her club. Engor alone manages an ignominious escape into the bushes; and he cowers there, motionless, as Tigri searches for him; a posture that, if not exactly dignified, at least allows him an excellent view of Tigri’s shapely and remarkably hairless legs. Meanwhile, Tulle, having inspected the mortal injuries inflicted upon the panther, furiously snatches up her stone-headed club and cracks the already-prostrate Adh over the head with it, purely on principle.
Still angry and grieving, the women sling the body of their pet to a pole, so that it may be taken home with them, presumably for burial; and as a final humiliation, the men are forced to carry it. The narrator has no comment to make on this piece of cross-generational payback, either.
Back at their jungle home, the women show off their trophies to the Wise One, who goes through the usual inspecting-the-specimens movements and nods approval. The women divvy up the spoils; and oddly, the tribe’s two blondes miss out: Lotee claims Adh; Eras, Kama; and Nika, Ruig. Arva does show more than a little interest in Ruig, but Nika shoves her away. The three victorious women force the men up into their tree-houses, as the narrator, on behalf of Ruig, gasps, “What kind of women are these, who attack men and live in trees!?” Ruig then undergoes some rather rough inspection at the hands of Nika, which truthfully he doesn’t seem to mind; at least, not nearly as much as the narrator does. Lotee and Adh discover that they have something in common – they’re both ticklish – while the feisty Kama again tries to overpower Eras. Hearing the struggle from the ground, however, Tulle puts an end to his rebellion with one well-directed rock. Kama ends up bound to a strut, and Eras gives her blonde sister a grateful grin.
Prehistory's answer to Facebook.
Now of course, the blondes were not the only ones to miss out upon the division of the spoils. Tigri herself is man-less; and while it may seem odd from one perspective that the leader of the tribe chose not to exercise her prerogatives, dramatically speaking we know very well why that was. The object of Tigri’s restraint is, meanwhile, staggering and limping in the opposite direction. At length he is found by his own people, carried home, and nursed back to health by his mother. Rather incredibly, Engor then tells his people all about what happened....and is suitably punished when his story is preserved for the ages by a local rock-wall artist. One can easily imagine that Engor’s shame as he gazes upon the pictorial tale of his woe is something like that of the person who discovers that those mobile phone snaps of the night before are now all over the internet. And indeed, Engor reacts just as the victim of modern technology might: in short, he swears bloody revenge.
However, Engor’s quest to rescue his friends and enslave the women gets off to an embarrassing start when his mother literally has to take him by the hand and point him in the right direction. He is barely on his way when, out of the blue, he is attacked by----
AN UNWOOLLY MAMMOTH!!!!
Okay, not all of them were woolly; but given the prevalence of tigers here, we’re somewhere in Asia, so this one probably should be. Actually, the narrator just calls the thing chasing Engor an “elephant”. To the film’s credit, this time around the hunter and the hunted are actually in shot together. Engor is just ahead of the pursuing beast when he trips. I would have given this film anything if he’d sprained his ankle, but no: he just drops his weapon, a club. Scrambling up, Engor makes it to the cover of some rocks, and the elephant charges on by and out of the story.
The birth of the expression "HOLY CRAP!!"
The point of this interlude is that Engor must now make himself a new weapon. (Why he doesn’t just go back for the old one remains a mystery: they could at least have had the elephant step on it.) He collects a branch and some rocks and, dreaming about what he’s going to do with that club when he meets the women, starts to strike the rocks together in order to make a sharp edge on one. He strikes and he strikes, holding them just over some very dry grass and leaves, and then suddenly – BLAMMO!!
This “discovery of fire” sequence is actually rather nicely staged, with the astonished Engor finding out what this strange substance can do, burning himself on it, putting it out with water, and realising that it can be used as a weapon. Of course, he doesn’t exactly endear himself to me by waving his torch at an unfortunate boa constrictor that’s just wandered into his vicinity. Engor carefully tucks his magic rocks away inside his skins, and sets out again with renewed purpose.
And from this essentially thoughtful sequence, we cut to perhaps Prehistoric Women’s dumbest moment: the women diving off a cliff and swimming, as the narrator comments, “Strangely, the swan-dive was invented before the swan...!” Okay, second dumbest moment: we haven’t gotten to the duck yet. Obviously, someone here had a weird kind of ornithophobia.
Tigri, Eras and Tulle are on their way back home – fussing with their hair, of course – when suddenly they are attacked by the long-unseen Guardi. Fortunately – I guess – a tiger then attacks! Guardi drops the women in order to fight with it, and the women make their escape.
"So, uh, whaddya wanna do tonight?"
"I dunno, whadda you wanna do tonight?"
Then Engor, too, has an encounter with Guardi. Like the women, he is terrified, but manages to hide up a tree. There is a terrible moment when Guardi seems to have seen him, but – ho, ho! – he’s really after the piece of fruit dangling under Engor’s foot.
Guardi is played by Johann Petursson, a professional circus giant from Iceland who stood well over seven feet tall. Stupidly, the film never really uses him so as to emphasise his height: there are far too many shots of him in frame by himself, with no-one else there to provide the proper perspective, as if anyone with a beard might have played the role. It is only Guardi’s later fight with Engor that convinces us that he is the “terrible giant” he is supposed to be.
We then get another of the film’s better-staged scenes. Tigri catches a glimpse of the approaching Engor. The women are delighted at this turn of events, and set a trap. Eras and Tulle hide, while Tigri sits in the path with her back turned, looking oh-so-innocent and unaware. Sure enough, Engor spots her and starts to creep up on her – only to be ambushed by Eras and Tulle. The three women subdue Engor and, like his friends before him, he is forced to walk into the women’s territory bound and under guard. His friends, all up in their tree-houses, greet him delightedly, but also give him rueful looks. In return, Engor waves his bound wrists at them.
Here we learn that the women keep another of their pet panthers on a long leash that allows it to patrol under the tree-houses, just in case the men have any idea of escape. So Engor obediently starts climbing up Tigri’s ladder (uh, that’s not a euphemism), as the narrator hurriedly reassures us that by staging no protest, he is merely being “cautious”.
The men suffered terrible hardships at the hands of their captors. Bedsores, for one.
That night, however, Engor tries to climb down a vine and make a run for it, only for the panther’s snarling to wake the tribe, with Engor literally left hanging. Tigri unrolls her vine-ladder and climbs down, ordering Engor to climb down the vine and back up the ladder, with a little physical punishment in between. Back up in the tree-house, Tigri stands over Engor, her whole attitude asking, “What am I going to do with you?” We can only assume that she eventually thought of something, because at this point we suddenly get a discreet fade to black....
The next day, while the women are eating, Tigri, an enlightened leader, orders the others to feed their men. We note that the men are never compelled to do any labour, other than what presumably occurs between scenes. Now, when Engor was first brought back to camp, Arva made a move on him, as she had on Ruig, only to be seen off by Tigri (to the accompanying condescending tones of the narrator: “It seems that women were women in those days too!”). Arva tries it again here, starting to climb up Tigri’s ladder with some food, only for Tigri to run over and drag her down.
The confrontation between the two women provides us with perhaps the perfect example of exactly what’s wrong with this film’s narration: two angry glares, one emphatic shake of the head and a pointing finger, which honestly speak perfectly well for themselves, are translated for us thus:
“[Tigri] angrily informs Arva that she has decided that Engor is to be her husband! But Arva violently disagrees!”
And of course, these two women, shown to this point to be physically strong and skilled in the use of their clubs, drop their weapons and collapse into a flurry of shrieking, slapping and hair-pulling.
Gimme a break.
"It seems that men were men in those days too!"
Anyway--- Tigri is finally triumphant (NB: because she picks up her club again); and thoroughly exasperating as this embarrassingly girly fight scene is, the film almost redeems itself when Tigri, having vanquished Arva, turns upon the others with her club held high and an hilarious YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME? HUH?? expression on her face.
We then follow Tigri through a series of little humiliations of Engor, just to make sure we get how the women totally have it coming when the men overthrow them. (Oops! Sorry for that shockingly unexpected spoiler!) The last one is kind of interesting, though: Tigri orders Engor to move a boulder, even though she knows he can’t. She then pushes him aside and introduces him to the concept of “leverage”. Engor is pretty impressed by this, and has the grace to admit it. He stretches out a hand towards Tigri. She flinches back, but he intends only an admiring pat on the shoulder. She finds that she likes it, and rubs her cheek against his hand. He reaches out his other hand, and begins to stroke her hair. The two of them end up – gasp! – nuzzling. And then, somewhat belatedly, they decide it’s time for introductions, with a classic me-Engor-you-Tigri scene. And then they head back to the tree-house with their arms around one another.
So it all comes as a bit of a shock when the narrator informs us that, “It is the night before the full moon, and time is running out for the captive men!” What!? Oh! – okay. It turns out that the looming threat is not death, but marriage. Thus, as the women dance again (not quite so much in frustration this time, perhaps), the men look on with “mixed emotions”. Engor, or so the narrator would have us believe, decides that it must be “escape or servitude!”. Oh, that’s just rude! – and, by the way, hardly gels with our last glimpse of Engor and Tigri, giggling and cuddling together; or with the fact that throughout that preceding sequence, the men were completely unrestrained yet made no attempt either to fight or run.
"Ask yourself, do I feel lucky? WELL, DO YA, PUNK!?"
The narrator keeps up his valiant efforts to convince us that the men are suffering terrible hardships, though: a shot of them lounging around on the ground comes with a grave reference to “the watching women” and “the ever-guarding panther”. (Uh, that panther’s on a leash. Just saying....) We also get one of the all-time great examples of Misdirected Answering here, as the narrator takes a moment to explain that, “Ruig, who seems to have a fetish for being clean-shaven, is scraping his cheek with a sharp-edged stone.” Alas, we get no concomitant shot of one of the women scraping her underarms or her shins.
“Engor is trying to figure out a way out of this trap,” comments the narrator gravely, as we get yet another shot of the men at their perfect ease, unrestrained, and a good ten yards from any of the women or the panther. Under the equally puzzled but unsuspecting gazes of his friends and the women, Engor begins fashioning a torch, and then striking his magic rocks together. At length, Tigri decides that this odd male behaviour warrants closer investigation, and she is heading over to Engor when a huge shadow passes over the area.
OH MY GOD IT’S A DUCK WEARING A HALLOWEEN MASK.
Actually....I’m not sure what the hell it is. It’s meant to be a pterodactyl, and it may be a pelican, or even a seagull, or maybe a cormorant - assuming it’s the same bird in every shot. I thought for a moment that it was a tufted duck, a species that does have a distinctive cluster of feathers jutting from the back of its head (and this specimen certainly does have something there); but what it looks like in most shots is a duck that someone has tied a fake sharp beak on. This is “Korax, the flying dragon, the scourge of the skies!” – and its presence provokes the women to hysterical girly screaming. Oh, please - ! Worse still, Tigri trips over for no reason and then just lies there helplessly. The other women cower behind a big frond-y plant, while Ruig, Kama and Adh hide in the bushes (rather than, say, escaping). Engor finally gets his torch alight and rushes in to rescue Tigri, managing to set Korax alight. It squawks, and dies an unimpressive death.
Is there an ornithologist in the house?
Engor then seems to be hanging over Tigri in concern, but suddenly realises that he has her at his mercy. This being the case, he takes away her sling and grabs her by the wrist. As he stages this act of rebellion, the others, men and women alike, stare at Engor as if they can’t figure out what on earth he’s doing. Finally, the men – with an Ohhhhh! look on their faces – run over and grab a woman each. They’re still outnumbered, of course, but this scene is carefully framed to keep the ungrabbed women out of shot. Tigri calls desperately for the panther, which breaks its leash and tries to help, but Engor wards it off with his torch. And thus is the overthrow of the women complete.
And then, to the accompaniment of cheerful wah-wah-wahhh music, and as the narrator chortles merrily over what he clearly perceives to be the re-establishment of the natural order, we see the men exercising their powers in the usual way: making the women fan them and feed them grapes. (Honestly, guys: is this really the best you can do?) Nearby, Nika shaves Ruig; hmm, I’m not sure I’d trust her with a sharp rock in her hand, under the circumstances. Up in the tree-house, Engor and Tigri seem to have taken up their usual positions, except that now he’s looking her over, instead of her looking him over. With all the studied nonchalance in the world, Tigri strikes a series of cheesecake poses that seem to have had their desired effect when Engor draws her gently to him. And we get another fade to black....
The next morning we see that the men, like their forefathers, and unlike the women, force their captives to labour for them while denying them food. Kama compels Eras and Tulle to gather firewood for him, chomping down on a slab of meat and smirking at them as they gaze hungrily at his meal. Then, having eaten his fill, instead of at the very least giving them his leftovers, he – gasp! – drops the rest of the joint into the fire. Meanwhile, under Ruig’s orders, Lotee chops at a tree with a blunt stone-headed club, for no readily apparent reason; while Engor forces Tigri to gather fruit for him, although again he forbids her to eat any of it. The narrator finds this hilarious. “The once proud, fiery leader of the tribe now meekly obeys!” he gloats. However, since Tigri is only carrying her now-empty stone bag, which looks like it can hold about four apples maximum, it doesn’t seem that her labours, at least, will be all that arduous. Indeed, we get the feeling that Engor is just making a token gesture as a cover with his mates.
"But Mr Sheffiiiiiieeeeeeld---!"
Besides, when yet another tiger suddenly appears (damn! – I wish there were this many tigers per square mile these days), Engor’s first thought is for Tigri’s safety: he again seizes her by the wrist, this time so that the two of them can make their escape together. They end up next to the fire with Kama, and suddenly Engor notices that the smouldering joint smells kind of nice. As Kama and Tigri stare at him, he pulls the blackened meat out of the fire and tears it open. He cautiously tastes the cooked meat inside, and----whoa, MAMA!!!!
It takes a while for Engor to convince Kama and Tigri to accept his offer to share (he’s forgotten, apparently, that Tigri is supposed to be on short rations), but once they do----
<Insert Homer Simpson drooling noises here>
So, men discovered “cooking”. Bet you didn’t see that one coming.
Well, this enslavement of the women has been fun, and all, but Engor’s thoughts are turning to his home, and his mother. He announces that they’re going back to the mountains, and so are the women, whether they like it or not. (Tigri clearly doesn’t. It’s probably the clear prospect of a mother-in-law.) However, there is a certain generosity of spirit inherent in the fact that the men take the Wise One along as well. They all set out through the jungle – the women, like the men earlier, are entirely unrestrained but make no attempt to escape – and all of a sudden, Guardi looms up!
At first, everyone takes refuge in a “natural cave” made of tumbled slabs of rock. Guardi, too big to get through the narrow opening, shoves one arm inside and gropes around. Engor – again guarding Tigri – slams his club down on Guardi’s fingers, but Guardi returns with a long branch that he thrusts into the gap in the rock, striking Tulle a cruel blow. Guardi then tries to use his strength to demolish the artificial cave. Inside, Engor orders the men to make torches and lights them with his rocks. They succeed in driving Guardi away and making their escape, but Guardi comes again. The women, weaponless, can only look on as the men trap the giant in a ring of fire. Engor, too, is briefly caught behind it and must fight for his life; he finally eludes Guardi, and swings over the flames on a vine! Guardi, however, is trapped, and dies in the fire. Hopefully this is the end of it, but given that the tribespeople have just developed a taste for cooked meat, well....
At last! - some perspective on the subject.
This display of valour by Engor wins Tigri over, and she indicates her willingness to go to his home. Engor, however, has a better idea (sorry, ma!): instead of rejoining the mountain-people, they will all return to the home of the women and found a new tribe.
Now, you see what I mean about Prehistoric Women being an optimistic movie? – with these men and women, with their distinct but complementary skills, coming together in an equitable society, not because they have to, but because they want to. And really, folks: isn’t this how things should be?
We last see the tribespeople sitting around a blazing fire and sharing a companionable dinner of cooked meat. The Wise One calls Tigri and Engor to her, and performs a marriage ceremony that consists of cutting their arms and mingling their blood.
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