Caveman (1981)

“Atouk alounda Lana.”

Caveman Poster

Synopsis:
During prehistoric times, a caveman (Ringo Starr) lusts after the bodacious girlfriend (Barbara Bach) of the bullying tribe leader (John Matuszak) while ignoring the romantic interests of a sweet new acquaintance (Shelley Long).

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that while “most critics mocked” this “funny prehistoric spoof done on the cheap”, “fans of the genre will get a kick out of the humorous dinosaurs created by David Allen”, as well as the “silly 15-word caveman vocabulary… created by director Carl Gottlieb and his co-writer, Rudy DeLuca”. Indeed, I was surprised to find myself genuinely amused when revisiting this cult favorite, which is filled with “hilarious sight gags” — including Peary’s favorite, in which “a giant insect land[s] on sleeping Dennis Quaid’s face, whereupon the concerned Starr squashes it, causing this gooey mess to pour over Quaid”. It’s all unbelievably silly stuff, but it’s impossible not to giggle (for instance) when watching the group’s attempts to fry an enormous egg (the “special effects” in this scene are impressive), or listening to the gaggle of misfits making nifty improv music together around a campfire. My main complaint is with how badly Starr treats poor Long, who sticks by his side no matter how many times he boots her in favor of obnoxious Bach; Starr’s character wins a prize as one of the most bone-headed, least appealing cinematic protagonists ever.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Several amusing and/or clever sequences
    Caveman Back Straightening
    Caveman Fried Egg
    Caveman Dinosaur
    Caveman Music
  • Lalo Schifrin’s score

Must See?
No, though it’s recommended for one time viewing, given that it may be to your liking.

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One Response to “Caveman (1981)”

  1. First viewing. A once-must for its unique contribution to the comedy genre.

    This could have been a really bad idea. In fact, I’ve long thought – based on the little I knew about it – that it just sounded too dumb for words (and what do you know – it *has* no real words, although the one scene that does use a handful of real English words is one of the best scenes in the film).

    Because the film is so simple and so silly – it may not be realized just how clever it actually is. A considerable number of situations are very carefully constructed for effective pay-off. This is not (as I thought it might be) a hastily thrown-together attempt to cash-in on mindless, unfunny slapstick. It’s strategic work.

    The cast is clearly having a ball – what they are all asked to do is always firmly rooted in every caveman-related film we’ve ever seen. The film does nothing but capitalize on those and it does it well.

    It’s a nice added touch that perennial pro Jack Gilford graces the film as Long’s father, affording the flick a comic ‘gravity’. He’s brilliant.

    I don’t see Starr as being “one of the most bone-headed, least appealing cinematic protagonists ever”. Whether or not his character is appealing is, I think, irrelevant. He’s a necessary device for bridging the total neanderthals with the ones who have an ounce of humanity. Of course, the character is not very bright – but his position is clear in the midst of his own bewilderment.

    The film is a particular gift as a successful parody of Ray Harryhausen creations. I don’t know what the film’s budget was but, if it was indeed low, it nevertheless allowed for what may be the only real (and very affectionate) poke at Harryhausen’s work.

    This is one underrated comedy.

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