VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS (1961)
Article 3063 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-26-2009
Posting Date: 1-2-2009
Directed by Edward Bernds
Featuring Cesare Danova, Sean McClory, Joan Staley
What it is: Low-budget caveman antics masquerading as Jules Verne epic
Two duellists are whisked up by a comet, where they find themselves in a prehistoric world that had been whisked up on the comet’s previous journey to earth.
I’ve been curious about this movie ever since it was mentioned in a quiz in Cracked Mazagine (and I’m sure some of you see no spelling mistakes there). In the quiz, they showed a series of stills from horror/science fiction movies, and you were supposed to pick out the name of the movie from a multiple-choice list. This was pretty easy, as the other titles were obvious fakes (I remember one called THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME WEARS BELL-BOTTOMS). This movie was one of the answers that was supposed to be correct, and the photo showed a real cool-looking dragon. However, as I was to discover a few years later, the dragon on display was actually the one from THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. This raised a question to me; did the mazagine get the wrong photo, or did VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS cop footage from THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD? As I’d never seen VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS, I didn’t know.
Well, now I’ve finally seen it, and I can say that no Harryhausen footage (new or borrowed) appears in this movie at all. Which is not to say that this movie was above borrowing stuff from other movies; the prop spider from CAT WOMEN OF THE MOON appears at one point, as does footage from RODAN and (especially) ONE MILLION B.C. Yes, this means we have Ignatz and Rumsford going through their battle once again, and we get the volcano destruction footage as well (just how many times have I seen that woman fall under the advancing lava?). It did make me wonder if ONE MILLION B.C. and all its footage vanished from the face of the earth, how many other movies would be swept up in the wake. Well, that’s a side issue. As far as this movie goes, despite the outlandish premise, it’s pretty much standard caveman escapades, with the addition of a couple of semi-modern (that is to say, nineteenth century) Engish-speakers to add to the comprehensibility and to teach the two tribes of caveman about cooperation (if the modern men had been named Ernie and Bert, I could make a good Sesame Street joke here). To its credit, the volcano footage doesn’t destroy this world in its entirety. It also has a bit of a sense of humor, which, given that the movie was directed by Edward Bernds (who helmed a lot of the Three Stooges shorts), is no real surprise. Overall, it’s no better than it sounds, but at least it isn’t a whole lot worse.