Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Space Travelers In A World That Time Forgot

Written and directed by Edward Bernds, a veteran of Blondie, Bowery Boys, and Three Stooges programmers, the 1961 release VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS can scarcely be called science fiction, because the science is ludicrous, even by era standards. It’s supposed to be an adaptation of Jules Verne’s OFF ON A COMET, but is really a remake of 1940’s ONE MILLION, B.C. and includes copious stock footage from it. I could tell you that there are no dragons in it, but you’ve already guessed that, haven’t you?

Filmed completely on soundstages in cheapo black-and-white (and forget that “Monstascope” nonsense proclaimed on the posters), VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS stars Cesare Danova (CLEOPATRA) and Sean McClory (CHEYENNE AUTUMN) as Frenchman Hector Servadac and Irishman Michael Denning, respectively, who traipse into the Algerian desert in 1881 to duel for a woman. At the count of ten, a fiery comet smashes into the Earth and transports the two men and the ground they’re standing on to its surface, where they encounter cavemen, an aggressive (and hilariously phony) giant spider, and several prehistoric creatures played by regular-sized animals in disguises on miniature sets. Much of the first act is McClory and Danova standing around with bored looks on their faces watching stock footage of fighting animals from ONE MILLION, B.C.

Fortunately for them (and us, to be truthful), they also find sexy cavebabes played by Danielle De Metz (in Bernds’ RETURN OF THE FLY) and Joan Staley (who has an eye-catching underwater swimming sequence) who like kissing and don’t speak English. I don’t think Bernds shot a foot of original special effects—even Rodan shows up—but if you don’t mind seeing all that ONE MILLION, B.C. action again, you gotta admit that VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS moves. Kids are probably the best audience for this rapidly paced piffle that buries supporting players I. Stanford Jolley, Gil Perkins, and Mike Lane, among others, under hairy makeup.

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