Sunday, October 24, 2021

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

"Akita osur!"

Roughly translated, that means: "Look, there's a dinosaur!" I know this because I got a copy of the promotional Caveman Vocabulary pamphlet distributed by theaters during the original run of Hammer's When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Released in 1970, this prehistoric opus is sometimes described as a sequel to Hammer's earlier One Million Years, B.C. (1966), which helped make a star of Raquel Welch. It's not a sequel, but both movies feature a lovely scantily-clad heroine, no English dialogue, and impressive dinosaurs.

Victoria Vetri as Sanna.
Victoria Vetri stars as the blonde-haired Sanna, who--along with two other fair-haired beauties--is about to sacrificed by her tribe during a sun ritual. During a solar disturbance, Sanna tries to escape but falls into the ocean. She survives the plunge and is rescued by Tara (Robin Hawdon), a fisherman from another tribe. There's an instant attraction between the two comely cave people. The only problem is that Tara's current girlfriend, Ayak, quickly becomes jealous of the blonde newcomer. The result is a catfight worthy of comparison to Krystle and Alexis in the early days of Dynasty.

Still, Sanna barely has time to get settled in her new home when her old tribe shows up. Still preferring not to be sacrificed, Sanna escapes into the rugged inland where dinosaurs dominate the landscape.

The simplistic plot serves as an adequate framework for the prehistoric creatures, which are naturally the highlight of When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Hammer originally wanted to reunite with Ray Harryhausen, who did the special effects for One Million Years, B.C. However, he was still completing the stop-motion animation for The Valley of Gwangi (1969). Thus, Hammer turned to Jim Danforth, who previously exhibited his special effects wizardry in movies like Jack the Giant Killer (1962) and 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964). 
The sequence with the Plesiosaur at night.

Danforth’s stop-motion animated dinosaurs are amazing, but Harryhausen’s creatures somehow seem more convincing. That said, a battle between Tara’s tribe and a plesiosaur on the beach is pretty jaw-dropping, expertly matching the movements between the human actors and the animated dinosaur. Danforth and special effects coordinator Roger Dicken earned an Academy Award nomination for their special effects work--something which somehow eluded Harryhausen during his illustrious career (he did receive an honorary Oscar in 1992).

As the principal human star, Victoria Vetri was unable to duplicate Raquel Welch's success from One Million Years, B.C. Using the name Angela Dorian, she had gained minor fame as a Playboy centerfold and went on to become the 1967 Playmate of the Year. When the auburn-haired beauty was cast in When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, she refused to dye her hair blonde and instead wore a wig. She later starred in one of Roger Ebert's favorite cult films Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973). However, her film and TV career stalled in the mid-1970s.

A handy sheet for non-cave people.
Victoria Vetri made headlines in 2010 when she shot and wounded her third husband following an argument. She pleaded no contest to attempted voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to nine years in prison. She was paroled in 2018.

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth was released with a G rating in the U.S. An "international version" includes a few seconds of nudity. It made a tidy profit for Hammer Films, but could not match One Million Years, B.C.'s box office. That didn't dissuade Hammer from releasing another prehistoric movie the following year: Creatures the World Forgot (1971). It featured an attractive star (Julie Ege)...but no dinosaurs.

This review is part of the 3rd Hammer-Amicus Blogathon hosted by Cinematic Catharsis and Realweegiemidget Reviews. Click here for the blogathon's full schedule.


  1. As Angela,she did Rosemary's Baby. Mia mistakes her for V.V.

  2. Thanks for joining us for the blogathon. This does look an interesting film and how cool you could translate its opening and really love your photos.

  3. Fun review! That caveman vocabulary sheet reminds me of a similar promotional item that was provided in theaters for Caveman (1981). Interesting fact about Vetri - that was news to me. Thanks so much for joining our little blogathon!

  4. A very entertaining review!
    I have not seen either when dinosaurs ruled the Earth or 1 million years BC, but I think I need to.

    I really enjoyed the brief history lesson of Victoria vetri. If I'm not mistaken, she had a small but important role in Rosemary's baby.

  5. Such a fun read. Apparently, pretty girls will only carry a picture so far. You gotta have dinosaurs.

    1. Victoria Vetri can carry my dinosaur any time

  6. Ahh, yes, Victoria Vetri. Gave Raquel a run for her money in the beautiful cave girl oeuvre. Love her appearance as Terry in Rosemary’s Baby when Mia Farrow spots her in the laundry room and says, “Sorry for staring. I thought you were Victoria Vetri, the actress.” Great article— I need to see this one again now.
    - Chris

  7. "Ugh" is caveman for didn't like.

  8. I haven't seen this one in eons, :) but it sounds like the plesiosaur vs. Ms Vetri scene alone is worth a revisit - almost as epic as Bambi vs. Godzilla! While I'm sure Danforth & crew deserved their Oscar nomination, it's a crime that Harryhausen was never nominated for a particular film. N'dino!

  9. This is a flawed, but highly entertaining movie. Great review!

  10. I am so envious of your caveman vocabulary pamphlet. That is a treasure!

  11. I share in the jealousy of others over your possession of the caveman vocabulary pamphlet. What a great promotional item!

    I love stop-motion animation and dinosaurs just seem like the perfect source material for that medium. I can forgive a lot in a movie with decent stop-motion dinosaurs. :D

  12. This sounds good! I'm sitting at home recooperating from Covid right now and would love to watch some dinosaurs wrestle onscreen. I think I'll watch it now. Petro for sharing this with Udela!