Teenage Caveman

Director: Roger Corman

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Teenage Caveman One of the coolest of crap films from the 1950s is Teenage Caveman (1958) which chronicles the spiritual life of a young cave man of a prehistoric tribe.

He questions the laws & faith of his people, & symbolized teen rebellion as the source of all advancement in human society. What a great idea for a film aimed teenagers crowded into big old Chevys in drive-in theaters of the late 1950s!

In the land forbidden, dinosaurs roam. Our hero (Robert Vaughn) wants to hunt in that forbidden place, though he risks his people's Law, to be sacrificed to the God Who Kills With A Touch if he trespasses beyond the river. In the course of his rebelliousness he invents the pan-pipes, & the bow & arrow, the first one being a pretty ridiculous thing that nevertheless kills big animals.

Teenage CavemanThe ritually honored Fire & Wheel, each with an overseeing priest, is simultaneously comedic & kind of awesome. And our questioning hero's father is the priest of the Symbols for Cave Paintings. The cave-teen keeps asking for deeper meaning to all these things, in a society whose conservative elders cannot tolerate such curiosity.

In the the forbidden zone, we're treated to a battle between a tegu lizard fighting with a baby caimen with a big sail-fin glued to its back; stock footage of a "prehistoric" boa constrictor, armadillo, & mighty grey squirrel; hysterically hokey dinosaurs with big heads that don't match the bodies; a wrestling match with a mangy bear suit; & a pack of deadly Great Danes & other domestic fobbed off as wild terrors, the same pack seen in The Saga of the Viking Women (1957).

Teenage CavemanAnd of the course the God That Brings Death with a Single Touch, the goofy costume for the God is actually very artful as cheapo hairy bug-eyed monster suits go. And this monster will provide the "twist" ending which you might see coming from a mile away but even so I liked it as truly significant storytelling for its decade.

The combination of cartoony plot & serious tone is marvelous in its absurdity. The pokerfaced comedy was no accident, from the director who gave us our first classic comedy-horrors in such as A Bucket of Blood (1959), Little Shop of Horrors (1960), & The Raven (1963) with the funniest "dressing up" scene ever filmed. Yet somehow Teenage Caveman has frequently been mistaken as "accidentally" funny, when Corman clearly knew exactly what he was doing, even if its star didn't.

Though Robert Vaughn is on record identifying this as the worst film he was ever in, & it was mercilessly chided for Mystery Science Fiction Theater 3000, fact is this is an enjoyable example of '50s camp worthy of seeing without the puppet commentary.

For another reptilian giant, continue to:
Gamera Invincible (1966)

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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