CAVEMAN wasn’t the worst movie of 1981 (there were a lot of contenders), but it’s arguably the dumbest. Cleverness alternating with desperation, it’s also scattershot funny, more so if you’re a kid or stoned, like we’re assuming many of the participants were. Set in “One Zillion B.C.”, though only 92 minutes long, it sometimes seems to last an age, but for every groan (or three) there’s something so cheerfully silly that it will make you gasp (coughing into the bong), exclaim “this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen”, then laugh in semi-wonder.
Ancestral everyman/dork/hero ‘Atouk’ (Ringo Starr) lusts after spoiled fur-bikinied bombshell (clubshell?) ‘Lana’ (Barbara Bach) but she’s the “zug zug” trophy of mean & mighty ‘Tonda’ (John Matuszak), who boots Atouk out of the tribe. Finding a pal in ‘Lar’ (Dennis Quaid), he forms a rival clan, which includes feisty ‘Tala’ (Shelley Long). Fights with daffy dinosaurs are just part of the road back to tackling Tonda and choosing between Lana and Tala. Where’s the pipe?
“Written” by Rudy de Luca and Carl Gottleib (the script consisting of fifteen or twenty primordially goofy word-sounds), directed by Gottleib, the $4,500,000 exercise in inoffensive inanity was shot in the Stone Age scenery provided by Mexico’s Sierra de Órganos National Park.
Ringo is assuredly likable, Bach is attired so as to bring your Neanderthal DNA to the surface, Long (30, with only one dinky movie to her credit and a year away from Cheers) uses her comic chops as best the generally infantile situations allow. Six-foot-eight ex-footballer Matuszak is daunting, especially with the big, hairy boots they gave him.
The cartoonish stop-motion reptiles were built by Jim Danforth (uncredited) and animated by Randall W. Cook. An added plus is Lalo Schifrin’s catchy score: unsung, it’s one of his best. At the very least there were good vibes on location between Starr and Bond babe Bach; they married after the production, and as of ’22 have stayed together five times longer than The Beatles. We always knew Ringo had it going on.
Grosses of $15,965,000 put it 53rd in ’81, where it was probably best viewed at drive-in with weed wafting out the windows of your Firebird. With Jack Gilford, Avery Schreiber, Cork Hubbert, Evan Kim, Ana De Sade. “Alunda”. “Hiraka”. “Macha.” “Ool.”