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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 10/30/01



Hammer's Amazons from
Lands Before Time


reviews by Florian Kummert of The Digital Bits


Prehistoric Women


Prehistoric Women
1967 (1999) - Anchor Bay

Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/C/B-

Specs and Features:

90 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), dual-sided, single-layered (extras on side B), Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, 2 TV spots for Prehistoric Women and The Devil's Own double bill, Worlds of Hammer documentary: Lands Before Time, film-themed menu screens, scene access (25 chapters), languages: English (DD Mono), subtitles: none




The Vengeance of She


The Vengeance of She
1968 (1999) - Anchor Bay

Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/C/B-

Specs and Features:

101 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.66:1), dual-sided, single-layered (extras on side B), Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, 2 TV spots, Worlds of Hammer documentary Lands Before Time, film-themed menu screens, scene access (25 chapters), languages: English (DD Mono), subtitles: none



The Viking Queen

The Viking Queen
1967 (1999) - Anchor Bay

Film Rating: D

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C/C-/C

Specs and Features:

91 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), dual-sided, single-layered (extras on side B), Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, Worlds of Hammer documentary Lands Before Time, film-themed menu screens, scene access (20 chapters), languages: English (DD Mono), subtitles: none


A movie from the Hammer Film Studios always guarantees some campy fun. Sometimes the films are true gems of classic cinema, such as the Terence Fisher-directed Dracula movies. But even if Hammer flicks aren't that consistently outstanding in terms of quality, they deliver great entertainment. Anchor Bay and Bill Lustig have released three Hammer productions from the late sixties that all share invaluable visuals... namely scantily clad amazons. Prehistoric Women, The Viking Queen and The Vengeance of She please us with a lack of story line and an even greater lack of costumes. So for you, our eager audience, we present a triple feature review featuring Hammer's Amazons from Lands Before Time!

Prehistoric Women

We all loved Raquel Welch in One Million Years BC, didn't we? Boy, what a… character! She sure had loads of... er, character, didn't she? Well, Ms. Welch's body and Ray Harryhausen's ultra-cool stop-motion body of work turned that particular film into a big-time success for the Hammer Studios. It was so successful, in fact, that a whole new genre was created, ushering in scantily clad female warriors and historically challenged dinosaurs like those seen in this first campy flick I'm about to review.

Prehistoric Women (in the UK known as Slave Girls) has a frame narrative that can be best described as "moronic crap" - and I mean that in the most loving way. Trying to kill a wounded, dangerous wild cat, big game hunter David Marchant (the boring and utterly colorless Michael Latimer) enters the forbidden hunting grounds of the Tribe of the White Rhinoceros. This is a big no-no, so he is, of course, swiftly captured and sentenced to death. Things don't look so good for our hero, as the "Devils" drag him into the sacred Rhino temple. But what's this? Just as the grumpy warriors are about to kill him, David touches the Rhino horn and, quicker than you can say "hakuna matata", some kind of dimensional portal opens. Crackerjack adventurer that he is, David steps through the portal and into another realm. Now the interesting part of the story begins. David finds himself millions of years back in time, when the eponymous "prehistoric women" ruled the area. Actually, "prehistoric brunettes" to be more exact, because prehistoric women hate the blonde women. They hate them so much, in fact, that they've enslaved them. Now, these primitive brunettes aren't too thrilled about this new male running around in their territory. So they punch David in the nose and capture him - seems the logical thing to do. Enter the villain (and the reason why the movie gets a B- and not an F): the evil Queen Kari. Martine Beswick plays her with enormous screen presence. Beswick, who appeared in two Bond movies, From Russia with Love and Thunderball (and also had a small part in One Million Years BC), delivers a commanding performance, mixing sensuality and cruelty in a perfect way. Beswick's career never really took off though and she ended up in weird flicks such as Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) and Oliver Stone's Seizure. Kari must have been the highlight of her career, although I doubt she'd admit that. Anyway, our hero Dave is coveted by the queen but (I told you he's a loser) he falls in love with a "good" but infinitely boring blonde slave. This very much vexes Queen Kari and she has Dave-boy thrown into the dungeon where the rest of the men dwell miserably. But Dave and his fair friends will not throw in the prehistoric towel that easily.

Yes, there is much skin to study here. You'll find an endless row of beautiful women, in expertly designed fur bikinis, uttering forgettable dialogue. The dance sequences are outrageously campy, the plot's a big hoot and the white rhinoceros looks like a papier-mâché party gag from Walmart. But, you know what? Who cares? This film is all about Martine Beswick and her bikini girls. And it's just a hell of a lot of fun to watch brunettes and blondes bitch slapping each other for total supremacy of the prehistoric landscape. Thank you, Hammer!

And thank you, Anchor Bay. The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the transfer, while definitely not top-notch, delivers the goods. Unfortunately, it's non-anamorphic, which saddened me because the bikini resolution would have been greatly enhanced. So we'll get a sharp image, but it could be a tad more detailed. Flesh colors appear a little bit dated, but the blacks are rock solid. I also noticed some heavy grain and some obvious compression artifacting in parts. The soundtrack is a little less up to snuff - a hardly state-of-the-art Dolby Digital 2.0 mono with voices sometimes appearing muffled.

The disc includes a nice chapter menu, a hilarious theatrical trailer and two TV combo spots for Prehistoric Women and The Devil's Own, an equally campy horror flick. Also featured is the "Worlds of Hammer" episode Lands Before Time (all the extras, by the way, are on side B and the Lands Before Time doc can also be found on the other two discs reviewed here). It's basically a 25-minute ad reel for Hammer, narrated by the late Oliver Reed, and sadly doesn't tell anything interesting about Hammer or the stories behind the movies. But don't get me wrong - I had fun watching the movie. Prehistoric women entombed in a green paradise of evil and witchcraft. What else do you need? This is absolutely worth a look.

The Viking Queen

Shortly after her father (the Viking King) dies, Salina has to rule England and take care of the fragile peace treaty between the Britons and the Roman occupying forces. Of course, the druids and Salina's older sister are pissed off about A) the peace treaty, B) this young blonde chick sitting on the throne, C) the Romans (because they REALLY hate those rascally Romans) and D) everything else you can think of. Not to isolate ourselves from our druish readers, but these druids are always so grumpy.

Salina, in contrast, is kind and gentle - a real sweetie-pie. She actually likes the Romans, especially governor general Justinian. After an exciting chariot race through Britain's lush forests, the two end up in a lake, have a lakeshore encounter of the romantic kind and decide to get married. The druids are pissed again - which isn't surprising, is it? They get so pissed, in fact, that they capture and sacrifice some Romans to the druid god (which is oddly named Zeus. What the heck are the Greek gods doing up in Britannia?). Justinian can't tolerate this bunch of sickle-wielding, white-robed, bearded freaks running amok, so he decides to kick druid butt. Wouldn't you? During his ass-kicking campaign, his evil underling, Octavian, usurps the power, kills many Brits and, in a pseudo-kinky torture scene, has queen Salina whipped. When Justinian returns, the gap between Romans and Britons seems unbridgeable. "This is not the dream we made, my darling," a freshly whipped Salina sighs.

Well, Hammer, this is not the movie I dreamed about. The Viking Queen is really, really bad. It breaks the one big rules of adventure movies: don't bore the audience. While Prehistoric Women had cheesy dance numbers, lots of fur-bikini clad women and a delightfully evil Marine Beswick, The Viking Queen lacks that level of camp. Carita (who plays the Viking Queen), the - and the trailer says this, not me - "international beauty" has plenty of cleavage, yes. But damn it, I haven't seen such a wooden and boring actress in a long time. Cleavage is so meaningless without bubbly personality to work behind it. She looks like she's reading the dialogue off a big board someone's holding up behind the camera. And yes, she's international, unfortunately. Carita has a ridiculous accent and a whiny voice, all which doesn't help her portray a British queen (and, by the way, there are no Vikings whatsoever in this movie). She used to be a hair stylist before she started her one-film career... and guess what she did after Viking Queen bombed? Yep... styling hair. This film could have had great camp potential, but the casting director really dropped the ball on this one.

The image quality, in non-anamorphic widescreen, is inconsistent. During the first two-thirds of the movie, flesh tones are accurate, colors look beautiful for a film of this age and the blacks are deep. The last third of the movie, though, features scenes that look grainy with washed-out colors. The Dolby Digital mono sound is dated and a bit distorted. Voices sound very harsh at times. The DVD features an amusing theatrical trailer and the "World of Hammer" episode Lands Before Time (which, as I mentioned, can also be found on the two other DVDs).

Casting Carita as The Viking Queen was not a spectacular choice. In fact, the film suffers because of her. So much is riding on a film named after its lead character that, when she can't act and isn't even intriguing enough to warrant looking at her, you end up feeling dirty. This film sucks. The Viking Queen is surely not recommended. Stay away at all costs.

The Vengeance of She

Much more entertaining than The Viking Queen is The Vengeance of She, the follow-up to Hammer's 1965 hit She (based on H. Rider Haggard's novel about a beautiful but cruel queen Ayesha or "She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed"). In the original movie, adventurers Peter Cushing and John Richardson stumble upon the queen's kingdom. As it turns out, Ayesha is immortal and really dangerous. She lures Richardson into the cold flame of eternal life and turns him into her lost love, Killikrates. But upon entering the flame, Ayesha loses her immortality and crumbles to dust. She was a big success for Hammer and, three years later, the studio hired Modesty Blaise writer Peter O'Donnell to cobble together the campy follow-up, The Vengeance of She. Ursula Andress had no interest in playing the part a second time (wisely, as the film bombed). So Czech beauty Olinka Berova took over.

Carol, a mysterious young woman, is haunted by nightmares in which hallucinatory voices call her "Ayesha." The movie starts with Carol meandering along the coast of the French Riviera. The poor girl doesn't know anything about her past or what she's doing here. She only remembers her name and the fact that she is Scandinavian (with an admittedly strong Czech accent). For whatever reason, she decides to take off most of her clothes and swim in her lingerie to a party yacht, where she meets Dr. Philip Smith. The dear doctor falls in love with the well-endowed Carol. But, alas, the voices won't stop calling her Ayesha. Once back on shore, Carol runs off towards the East, drawn by a mysterious force. Philip follows her and eventually they reunite and reach the hidden kingdom of King Killikrates (played by Richardson again). The immortal king thinks Carol is the reincarnation of Ayesha and plans to take her body into the immortal flame. Philip, of course, isn't too excited about this, but Killikrates has him incarcerated. Can Philip save the day? Sure, what the hell.

Compared to Prehistoric Women and The Viking Queen, The Vengeance of She is actually a pretty decent adventure flick, with mildly entertaining action, a big-breasted heroine and a fiery finale. All right, admittedly it's absurd and silly. But it's so much fun to watch Olinka Berova in her exiting Ayesha gown. Olinka Berova does a much better job here than Carita did in Viking Queen. Carol/Ayesha remained her only major role, though, and Berova was actually deported from the UK in the early 70s as a suspected Czech spy (I'm not kidding!). While the original She is far superior Hammer fare, The Vengeance of She ranks as my favorite among the three DVDs reviewed here.

The video quality of this disc, a non-anamorphic 1.66:1 transfer, is okay. Images are sharp and blacks deep, but undefined. I did noticed some compression artifacts, which stike the video grade down a bit. The Dolby Digital mono soundtrack displays dated fidelity. Compared to the two other discs, the soundtrack appears to be mastered on a much higher level, with the voices sounding unnaturally loud. The disc includes a funny theatrical trailer, two TV spots and the "World of Hammer" episode Lands Before Time.

What better way is there to while away the hours of a boring evening than by spending some time with Amazons from Lands Before Time? Chop Viking Queen off the list and you have a couple of great films that are loads of fun. Hammer knew what they were doing, and they did it better than anybody. Do yourself a favor and check some of these movies out - you'll be glad you did. I know I am.

Florian Kummert
floriankummert@thedigitalbits.com


Prehistoric Women


The Vengeance of She


The Viking Queen


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