One Thousand Years B.C. (1966): Chaffey’s Kitschy, Anachronistic Tale, Featuring Raquel Welsh in Iconic Bikini of Fur

Don Chaffey’s adventure fantasy, One Thousand Years B.C., is mostly known today for the iconic image of Raquel Welch in fur bikini, in smoky rocky surroundings, standing with feet braced apart, hands away from sides, seeing threat in the distance.

C+ (**1/2* out of *****)

One Million Years B.C.
Theatrical poster with Welch against backdrop of dinosaurs attacking humans

theatrical release poster

Produced by Hammer Film Productions and Seven Arts, the movie is a remake of the 1940 American fantasy One Million B.C.

Set in a fictional age of cavemen and dinosaurs, the movie was shot on the Canary Islands in the winter of 1965.

The UK release prints were in dye transfer Technicolor.

The U.S. version was cut by 9 minutes, printed in DeLuxe Color, and released in 1967.

Like the original film, this remake is largely ahistorical. It portrays dinosaurs and humans at the same point in time; the last non-avian dinosaurs became extinct 66 million years ago, and modern humans (Homo sapiens) did not exist until about 300,000 years B.C.

Ray Harryhausen, who animated all of the dinosaur attacks using stop-motion techniques, said that he did not make One Million Years B.C. for “professors…who probably don’t go to see these kinds of movies anyway.”

The tale begins with a narration:

This is a story of long, long ago, when the world was just beginning… A young world, a world early in the morning of time. A hard, unfriendly world. Creatures who sit and wait. Creatures who must kill to live. And man, superior to the creatures only in his cunning. There are not many men yet. Just a few tribes scattered across the wilderness. Never venturing far, unaware that other tribes exist even. Too busy with their own lives to be curious. Too frightened of the unknown to wander. Their laws are simple: the strong take everything.

Tribal chief Akhoba leads a hunting party into the hills to search for prey. One member of the tribe traps a warthog in a pit, which Akhoba’s son Tumak kills it. The tribe brings it home for dinner.

Tumak and Akhoba fight over who deserves more of the meat, and Tumak is banished to the desert by his angry father.

After surviving dangers or and creatures such as a giant iguana, ape men, a Brontosaurus, and a giant spider, he collapses on a remote beach along the Western Interior Seaway, where he is spotted by “Loana the Fair One” and her fellow fisher-women of the blond Shell Tribe.

They are about to help him when an Archelon makes its way to the beach. Men of the Shell tribe arrive and drive it into the sea. Tumak is taken to their village, where Loana tends to him.

The Shell tribe is more advanced and civilized than the brunette Rock tribe. They have cave paintings, music, delicate jewelry, agriculture, and rudimentary language–things Tumak has never before encountered.

When the tribe women are fishing, a young adult Allosaurus attacks. The tribe flees, but in the panic, a girl is left trapped up a tree. Tumak seizes a spear from Ahot, a man of the Shell tribe, and rushes forward to defend her.

Loana runs out to escort the child to safety, and Ahot and other men come to Tumak’s aid, one of the men being killed before Tumak is finally able to kill the dinosaur.

In the aftermath, a funeral is held for the dead men – a custom which Tumak disdains. Leaving the funeral early, he re-enters the cave, and attempts to steal the spear with which he had killed the Allosaurus. Ahot, who had taken back the spear, enters, feeling upset by the attempted theft, and a fight ensues. The resulting commotion attracts the rest of the tribe, who unite to cast Tumak out. Loana leaves with him, and Ahot, in a gesture of friendship, gives him the spear over which they had fought.

Akhoba leads a hunting party into the hills to search for prey but loses his footing while trying to take down a Loaghtan. Tumak’s brother Sakana tries to kill their father to take power. Akoba survives, but he is a broken man, and Sakana becomes the new leader.

Tumak and Loana run into a battle between a Ceratosaus and herbivorous Triceratops; the Triceratops wins, charging its opponent. The outcasts wander back into the Rock tribe’s territory and Loana meets the tribe, but again there are altercations.

The most dramatic is a fight between Tumak’s current love interest Loana and his former lover “Nupondi the Wild One.” Loana wins the fight but refuses to strike the killing blow, despite the tribe’s encouragement.

Meanwhile, Sakana resents Tumak and Loana’s attempts at incorporating Shell tribe ways into their culture.

While the cave people are swimming, they are attacked by a female Pteranodon. Loana is snatched into air by the creature to be fed to its offspring, but is instead dropped into the sea, due to the intervention of a giant thieving Rhamphorhynchus.

Tumak presumes Loana to be dead. Sakana then leads a group of like-minded fellow hunters in an armed revolt against Akhoba. Tumak, Ahot and Loana, and other members of the Shell tribe arrive in time to join the fight against Sakana. In the midst of a savage hand-to-hand battle, a volcano suddenly erupts: the entire area is stricken by earthquakes and landslides that overwhelm both tribes.

As the film ends, Tumak, Loana, and surviving members of both tribes emerge from cover in a ruined, near-lunar landscape. Now united, they all set off to find a new home.

The exterior scenes were filmed on Lanzarote and Tenerife in the Canary Islands. The film features the Echium wildpretii plant, homage to Tenerife’s unique endemic flora.

As there were no active volcanoes in the Canary Islands, the studio had to construct a 7 ft (2-metre) volcano on the studio back lot. The eruption, lava explosions and flows were composed of wallpaper paste, oatmeal, dry ice and red dye. Harryhausen filmed the dinosaur visuals in his London studio.

As the Shell people are attacked by a giant turtle, the women call it Archelon which is the real scientific name for the animal. The film uses four live creatures: a green iguana, a warthog, a Loaghtan and a tarantula (a cricket can be seen at the tarantula’s side). Harryhausen said they were his idea, feeling that the use of real creatures would convince viewers that all of what they see was indeed real.

Robert Brown (Akhoba) wears makeup similar to that worn by Lon Chaney Jr. in the same role in the 1940 One Million B.C.

Originally Hammer offered the role of Loana to Ursula Andress, who became famous after her bikini appearance in the James Bond movie. When Andress passed on due to commitments and salary demands, Welsch was selected.

Welch, who had finished doing Fantastic Voyage for Fox, was under contract to the studio and was told President Richard Zanuck that she would be loaned out to Hammer. Although reluctant, Welch said the selling point was the chance to spend 8 weeks in London, during the height of its “swinging” period.

Welch wore bikini made of fur and hide–she was described as “wearing mankind’s first bikini” and the bikini was described as a “definitive look of the 1960s.” The publicity photo of Welch became a best-selling pinup poster–and a cultural phenom.

The iconic image was copied by artist Tom Chantrell to create the film poster. Welch’s depiction is accompanied by the film’s title in bold red lettering across landscape populated with dinosaurs.

Welch stated in 2012 interview that there were three form-fitting, including two for a wet scene and a fight scene, by costume designer Carl Toms: “Carl just draped me in doe-skin, and I stood there while he worked on it with scissors.” Many noted photographers had been flown to Tenerife by 20th Century Fox on a publicity junket, but the iconic pose of Welch was taken by the unit still photographer.


The poster is a story element in The Shawshank Redemption, which also became a cult movie years after initial release.

Composer Mario Nascimbene’s striking soundtrack was released in Italy as a 7-track limited edition vinyl LP on the Intermezzo label in 1985.

It was first screened on 25 October 1966, at the London Trade Show with a general release in the UK on December 30, 1966, by Warner-Pathé and the US on February 21, 1967, by 20th Century Fox. The U.S. cut was censored for broader audience, losing around 9 minutes. Deleted scenes included a provocative dance from Martine Beswick, a gruesome end to an ape man in the cave and footage of young Allosaurus’s attack on the Shell tribe.

On October 17, 1966, the British Board of Film Classification gave the movie A certificate rating. It is currently a PG certificate applied on video in March 1989 distributed by Warner.

In 2002 Warner Bros. released a UK DVD, including a “Raquel Welch in the Valley of the Dinosaurs” featurette, a 12-minute interview with Harryhausen and the theatrical trailer.

A Region 1 DVD featuring the U.S. edit was released by 20th Century Fox in 2004.

In October 2016, a special two-disc 50th anniversary edition DVD and Blu-ray was released in the UK by Studio Canal, with new interviews with Welch and Beswick, new Harryhausen storyboard stills, and other promotional imagery

Despite the censorship upon release in the U.S., the film was  popular and made $2.5 million in rentals during its first year of release. The film needed to earn $2,250,000 in rentals to break even and made $4,425,000, meaning it made a profit.

In 1968, it was re-released in the UK on a double feature alongside She (1965), an earlier Hammer film. The pairing became the ninth most popular theatrical release of the year.

Variety wrote “the whole thing is good humored full-of-action commercial nonsense, but the moppets will love it and older male moppets will probably love Miss Welch.”

It was easy to dismiss the film as a silly spectacle, but Hammer production finesse is much in evidence and Don Chaffey has done a competent job of direction.

Though kitschy and retro, the movie is watchable, and even enjoyable.


One Million Years B.C. was the first in unconnected series of prehistoric films from Hammer, followed by Prehistoric Women (1968), When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) and Creatures the World Forgot (1971).

Reel/Real Impact:

Stock footage depicting the landslide was reused for Alex’s daydream scene in Kubrick’s 1971 film A Clockwork Orange.

The film was adapted into a 15-page comic strip for the May 1978 issue of the magazine House of Hammer (volume 2 #14, published by Top Sellers Ltd). It was drawn by John Bolton from a script by Steve Moore. The cover of the issue featured a painting by Brian Lewis of Welch in the famous fur bikini.

In the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption, a large poster of Welch in her role as Loana is used by Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) to conceal his tunnel digging.

In the 2021 film Belfast, Buddy (Jude Hill) and his family go to the cinema and his father (Jamie Dornan) chooses One Million Years B.C.

Raquel Welch’s fur bikini costume design and overall looks served as primary basis for the creation of the character Ayla for the 1995 video game Chrono Trigger. Ayla is prehistoric woman that lived in “65000000 B.C.,” and is also subject of anachronistic and ahistoric narrative, with other contemporaries from her timeline depicted as mixture of Rock and Shell people, who live in world where dinosaurs still roam the land.

Raquel Welch as Loana
John Richardson as Tumak
Percy Herbert as Sakana
Robert Brown as Akhoba
Martine Beswick as Nupondi
Jean Wladon as Ahot


Directed by Don Chaffey
Screenplay by Michael Carreras, based on One Million B.C., 1940 film by Mickell Novack, George Baker, Joseph Frickert
Produced by Michael Carreras
Cinematography Wilkie Cooper
Edited by Tom Simpson
Music by Mario Nascimbene

Production companies: Hammer Films, Seven Arts

Distributed by Warner-Pathé

Release date: December 30, 1966

Running time: 100 minutes (UK); 91 minutes (US)

Budget £422,816
Box office $8 million (US)


TCM showed the movie (which I first say as a kid) on August 16, 2022.

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