Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Teenage Caveman – Corman’s Least Effective Film

By Steve D. Stones

The problem with most cave men movies is that they portray women as curvaceous cuties with make-up and well groomed hair, and men with barbershop haircuts and Harvard accents. Roger Corman’s 1958 film – Teenage Caveman is difficult to take seriously because of this problem. Actor Robert Vaughn even called it “the worst movie of all time,” and never includes it on his resume of films he has starred in. The one thing going for Teenage Caveman is that it uses the bizarre monster costume seen in Bernard Kowalski’s 1958 film – Night of The Blood Beast.

Vaughn plays a bored teenager (in case you didn’t know already, even though he was well into his 20s when this film was made), who breaks the law of his tribe and wanders beyond the river in search of “the God whose touch kills.” In his first attempt, the tribe sentences him to death, but does not follow through with the sentence. Vaughn tries a second time, and confronts the monster known as “the God whose touch kills.” The monster is killed and revealed to be a caveman from another tribe in a costume attempting to scare off Vaughn’s tribe from traveling beyond the river.

When the monster is unmasked, Vaughn discovers a book inside the costume with images from the 20th century, such as a picture of an atomic explosion, the United Nations building in New York, and two military men shaking hands. We then realize that Vaughn and his tribe are not prehistoric men, but surviving members of a post-holocaust, post-nuclear war society. Maybe that accounts for their clean cut haircuts and fluent use of the English language?

Some accounts of this film have suggested that its original title was – I Was A Teenage Caveman, to cash in on the success of the 1957 Michael Landon film – I Was A Teenage Werewolf. However, no one has ever been able to verify this claim. In his autobiography – How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood & Never Lost A Dime, director Roger Corman mentions that the original title of Teenage Caveman was Prehistoric World, and was shot at Bronson Canyon above Los Angeles in just ten days for $70,000. The sequences of prehistoric monsters fighting each other is taken from an early 40s caveman movie – One Million B.C.  Happy viewing!!

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