Written by Michael Carreras
Directed by Michael Carreras
Starring Martine Beswick, Edina Ronay, Michael Latimer
US Release Jan. 25, 1967
RT 91 min.
Home Video Anchor Bay
Classic Horrors rating = 6 (out of 10)
Warning: review contains plot spoilers; ending of movie revealed.
If my information is correct, Prehistoric Women (aka Slave Girls in the UK) was made after One Million Years B.C. but was released in the United States a month earlier. The former was made using sets from the latter shortly after production ended, so I suppose Hammer wasn’t counting on box office success of one to release the other. The point is, I find it interesting that we in the states saw the lesser product before the greater. On the other hand, that point doesn’t really matter because they’re two very different movies.
There are no dinosaurs in Prehistoric Women; instead, there’s a mythical white rhinoceros that the tribe of dark-haired, scantily clad women, led by Kari (Martine Beswick), worship. Jungle guide David Marchant (Michael Latimer) stumbles upon their “lost city” when he’s tracking a wounded leopard. He discovers a statue of a white rhino, touches it, and with a crack of lightning, a doorway opens in a cave wall. On the other side are colorful trees and flowers, a newer looking version of the rhino statue, and a community of blonde, scantily clad women who are slaves to the others.
Kari believes fate brought David to her and wants him to serve her. When he refuses, he’s thrown in a cave with one of the blondes, Saria (Edina Ronay). He asks her why they’ve never rebelled against Kari. Saria says, “You make it sound so easy.” It’s not, though. She believes Kari is protected by “the devils,” guardians who shield them from the outside world and to whom sacrifices must regularly be made. After we see one sacrifice so we understand how it works, Saria is later chosen for the same and David rallies the blondes, and other men who are also imprisoned, to rescue her and free the slaves.
There’s some good chemistry between Beswick and Latimer as Kari and David. Their few scenes of dialogue are a welcome change from all the ceremonies and dancing. (Seeing a choreographer as one of the major opening credits was not a good sign.) “What makes you so cruel?” he asks. “Cruelty makes me cruel,” she replies. OK, what exactly does that mean? She used to be a slave, I guess, and says, “You would have pitied me, not wanted me.” “I don’t want you now!” he answers. “Then, like the others, you will become my slave. Tomorrow you will learn what happens to those who try to master me.”
Prehistoric Women is an odd movie, particularly with the way it treats its romance. It’s no surprise that David and Saria fall in love. However, long after he’s returned home and is missing her, a new group of British explorers arrive and one of the women looks just like her. It’s a happy ending! I just didn’t realize all along that the movie was going to have this fantasy element. It’s part Brigadoon and, forgive me, Xanadu. The ultimate failure of the movie is that you don’t care. Nothing happens to make you believe their romance is strong enough to transcend space and time.
The movie would have been just fine without it. That’s not to say it would have been better, but it adds a depth that’s just not appropriate for the tone of the movie. What I mean is, who can take such a heavy love story seriously when the focus of the movie is creating as many opportunities as possible to show women in loincloths and bikini tops gyrating in the jungle? There are pleasures in that, I suppose, but trying to make more out of the material than is there seems like a wasted effort. With a movie called Prehistoric Women (or Slave Girls), you don’t expect anything more than the titles suggest.