|Copyright 1958 American International Pictures
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 6 January 2007
- The Symbol Maker - He who draws the crude symbols and is revered for it.
- The Symbol Maker's Son - Robert Vaughn! An inquisitive young caveman, he believes that a whole world of opportunity awaits the tribe on the opposite side of the river. It will be Paradise...if they can avoid the dinosaurs, wild dogs, and quicksand.
- The Symbol Maker's Son's Woman - These relational titles start getting pretty long. Imagine if she had a child from a previous marriage.
- The Old One - You will lament the fact that he does not wear an animal skin to cover his scrawny chest.
- The Boy Who Could Not Float - He sank.
- Three Wise Men - They tend the three gifts given to Man: fire, a wheel, and something else.
- The Evil Lame Caveman - He covets the Symbol Maker's power and eventually earns an arrow in the chest.
- The God That Kills With Its Touch - Konstantin Karaghiosis! (Or his son.) Not a god at all, but a man who was born before the nuclear war. Radiation gave him amazing longevity and made him deadly to any who might approach. Brain mushed.
|First things first: typing "The Symbol Maker's Son" over and over is a surefire way to drive me batty. I am going to do it anyway, rather than use a catchy acronym like "SMS." Would you like to know why? The movie goes over the same thing, time after time, and I watched the movie in order to write about it for you. At the very least, you can suffer through me being repetitious as well.
The movie is set in a primitive time, when men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures lived in fear of being skinned and worn by them. The Symbol Maker's Son is unhappy with his lot in life. He questions the Law that governs the tribe, preventing them from crossing the river and hunting in the lush forest that lies beyond. Each time that he questions the Law, the usual answer from older cavemen is, "Because, that is the Law!" Convincing, when the agitated elder is standing in front of you with a club in his meaty hand, but the young man persists in his quest for "Why?"
Understanding the Symbol Maker's Son's unhappiness with the status quo is not difficult. Game and forage is sparse on the tribe's traditional hunting grounds, yet the cavemen refuse to venture farther due to the Law. Their solution to the lack of game is to spread out, shaking rattles and making noise until something attempts to eat one of the men. Other hunters quickly rush to his aid and kill the animal, hopefully before it does too much damage. The Symbol Maker is badly injured by a bear during one such hunt and is carried back to the tribe's cave on a litter. Luckily, the Old One has a medical leech handy.
Hold the phone! This guy gets chewed on by a bear and the remedy is to stick a leech on him? Who else thinks that the tribe probably has a high mortality rate?
Fed up at last, the Son of the Symbol Maker (ah, mixed it up on you) gathers a group of young men together and crosses the river. They find a land of plenty, but with many hazards. One of which is the famous and often reused scene of the caiman fighting a lizard from "One Million B.C." No matter how many times I see it, that fight always makes me cringe. After throwing some spears at the monsters, the caveteenagers flee from the terrible beasts. During their return trek, a member of the group is lost to quicksand (or, in this case, I believe it was quickmud). Knowing that the Law looks down on those who break it, particularly when the transgression results in the death of another, the Symbol Maker's Son elects to remain in the forbidden lands. The other teenagers return to the tribe's cave.
While exploring his new domain, the Symbol Maker's Son spies a squirrel. At first, I was under the impression it was supposed to be enormous, about the size of a large dog. How neat would that have been? Unfortunately, the director (Roger Corman, you may have heard of him) missed the opportunity for a unique arboreal menace. When the protagonist fells the sciuridae with a thrown rock, it turns out the rodent is regular-sized. He then builds a fire to roast the meat, but the feast is interrupted by the God That Kills With Its Touch. Fearing the hideous monster, which looks a lot like the suit from Night of the Blood Beast, the Symbol Maker's Son flees into the dark forest. He quickly runs into a tree and knocks himself out cold. I imagine that the man inside his radiation suit was disappointed by the caveman's reaction. "And to think, this is the smart one!"
I would like to point out that Robert Vaughn's skills with simple flint and tinder are miraculous. Remembering that he must be using true flint and steel, rather than what is called such today by many people, the fire building scene is terribly wrong. He grabs a huge wad of dry brush, stuffs it into a pile, puts both hands with the flint and steel down into the mess, and instantly has a blazing fire. No fine wood shavings, char, nor even a small handful of carefully selected dried grass and leaves were used. Maybe he is a pyrokinetic caveman! Now, that would be a fun movie to make. You could have Oog, raising up his hands and hosing down a threatening Allosaurus with a gout of flame created from thin air.
I probably just described the plot of next summer's blockbuster movie, "X-Men: One Million B.C."
During his brief exile, the young man invents the reed flute, bow, and, presumably, the bowline knot. He only gets into trouble after killing a deer with his new bow. While carrying the carcass (notice the terrible taxidermy job on the stuffed deer) back to his camp, a pack of feral hounds catches the scent and comes after him. The Symbol Maker, now recovered from his wounds, has been searching for his son and arrives just in time.
Upon returning to the tribe, the Symbol Maker's Son is condemned to a year of being a ghost, ignored by the rest of the population. The censure does not prevent him from flirting with the pretty cavegirl who is destined to become his mate.
An unexpected event stirs up the primitive society: the appearance of a man riding a horse, emerging from the impassable desert that borders the tribe's land. Unfortunately, the horse does not recognize the danger and the man is too weak from his ordeal; the Evil Lame Caveman and others chuck spears at the "strange apparition" until they knock him off his mount. Despite an impassioned plea by the Symbol Maker and his son, the wayward explorer is greeted as any new or different thing is dealt with.
It means that they stick a spear in him. Carry on.
Following the murder of the stranger, yet another long discussion of the Law takes place. It is so drawn out as to wear on the viewer, even if you go to the bathroom and fix a snack while the characters debate. Think of it as a caveman filibuster. If you do stay to watch the entire thing, God bless your patience, you will learn that the cavemen believe in precedent. They also believe in food and sometimes in cooking such food. Mostly, they believe in food. Who can argue with that sort of reasoning?
Troubled by the enforced isolationism, the Symbol Maker's Son makes another foray into the forbidden lands. His father goes after him, no doubt bored with this constant game of, "Come get me, I am in the forbidden lands." The disappearance of the two is highly suspect and Evil Lame Caveman, who has gained much popularity in the tribe by persecuting the pair, immediately rallies the hunters. This time, the party intends to find and kill the breakers of the Law, not merely deny them a voice in tribal matters. The single, glaring problem is that the primitive fugitives have already waded across the river.
The conversation between the Evil Lame Caveman and the other hunters is priceless. Let me paraphrase it for you.
Evil Lame Caveman: "The Law is not to cross the river. We must kill them for crossing!"
Hunter: "But they are already on the other side."
Evil Lame Caveman: "Well, go across and kill them for it!"
Hunter: "Wait, what was that first part again?"
Will the Symbol Maker's Son survive his ordeal, discover the secret of the God That Kills With Its Touch, and make lots of inquisitive babies with his blonde mate? Find out, by watching "Teenage Caveman" yourself! (Or you can hazard an educated guess based on all available information.)
|Things I Learned From This Movie:|| |
- "Teenage" has had different meanings over the years.
- Some cavemen were capable of weaving fine cloth, while others would hollow out a sheep to wear.
- Dinosaurs evolved due to the fallout from a nuclear war.
- Bear maulings rarely result in any visible wounds.
- Spears must be kept dry.
- Sometimes, your worst enemy is a tree.
- Gazing at your betrothed with loving eyes is a demanding task under the right circumstances, like a waterfall.
- All that some women want from their husband is a nice, warm cave.
- Men with large noses often die from having heavy objects dropped on their heads.
- Opening Credits - Who eventually domesticated, ate, or irradiated everything else.
- 3 mins - You two need a larger pole.
- 6 mins - The prop manager should have reminded him to use the same spear for every scene.
- 21 mins - Crikey! Look at the size of that goanna!
- 32 mins - Your strategy is what, exactly? Jamming your arm into the dog's mouth, so that it cannot bite you?
- 42 mins - You guys need a website!
- 49 mins - I should have counted how many times they say, "The Law." On second thought, I am not certain that I can count that high.
- 59 mins - Ah! Dogs out of nowhere!
- 62 mins - Nearly a third of the plot is explained in the next thirty seconds, so pay attention.
- The Symbol Maker: "It's forbidden."
The Symbol Maker's Son: "Why?"
The Symbol Maker: "The Law!"
- The Symbol Maker: "A Law is truth to itself. We must find a new Law."
| ||Audio clips in wav format||SOUNDS||Starving actors speak out|| |
||Evil Lame Caveman: "What does the Law say of he who would question the Law?" |
Caveman Elder: "He must be punished."
Evil Lame Caveman: "How?"
Caveman Elder: "All will keep their voices from him for a time according to the years."
||The Symbol Maker's Son: "Are we to be made afraid by an old one's baby dream?" |
Other Caveboy: "The Law..."
The Symbol Maker's Son: "Is old, but age is not always truth!"
||Evil Lame Caveman: "I say it is evil! Kill it, kill!" |
The Symbol Maker's Son: "Stay! Look, it moves! It is no one beast, but a man atop an animal!"
Evil Lame Caveman: "There is no such thing!"
||Evil Lame Caveman: "What does he do?" |
The Symbol Maker: "He makes a sleeping place for him and his woman."
Evil Lame Caveman: "Why? The old caves are big enough for all."
The Old One: "There is no Word of Law against it."
| ||Click for a larger image||IMAGES||Scenes from the movie|| |
| ||Watch a scene||VIDEO||MPEG video files|| |
|The Evil Lame Caveman and other hunters have tracked down the Symbol Maker and his heretic offspring, who are looking at the God That Kills With Its Touch. Then, dogs out of nowhere!
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