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Teenage Caveman 

a/k/a Teenage Cave Man

a/k/a Prehistoric World

a/k/a Out of the Darkness

      "This is the God they fear. Once dead, they will fear it no more, the law will be gone, and a new way will be open to us."

--  Our Teenage Caveman   




Gonzoid Cinema




Roger Corman Presents Ingmar Bergman's Tonĺring Cavman.


Watch it!



Sights &

Other Points 

of Interest:

Fast, Furious
and Really,
Really Cheap:
The Early Films
of Roger Corman.

Monster from the Ocean Floor

The Fast and the Furious

The Beast with a Million Eyes

Teenage Doll

Machine Gun Kelly

Teenage Caveman

A Bucket of Blood

The Last Woman on Earth


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"In the beginning there was chaos, and eternal night. And a voice said, Let there be light; and the dark was separated from the light. There was created the waters, and the land. And there was made a sun to rule the day, and the moon to rule the night; and the stars to give light to the darkness. The earth was made to bear growing green things, and fruit. The animals were created, and they were fruitful and multiplied. And then there came ... Man."

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After a smattering of biblical blathering about the dawn of creation, our film hits the ground running with a rather spiffy animated credit sequence utilizing the cave paintings and etchings of the Cro-Magnons we're about to meet. These cave dwellers in question live in a small, blighted pocket of land between a great river and the desert of the burning plain, and here, they barely eke out a sustainable existence. They have no other choice, really, because to venture outside these strict geographical demarcations would break one of several engrained taboos. And though no one can really remember why these boundaries or rules were drawn up in the first place, to even question them, let alone break them, is punishable by tribal ostracizing on the first offense, and then with two strikes you're already out. Permanently.

With that background established, our story picks up when the men of the tribe return from a successful hunt. As the clan celebrates, the tribal symbol maker, whom we'll call Pops (Leslie Bradley), eagerly checks in with his wife, lets call her Mom (June Jocelyn), on the location of their son, who is noticeably absent. Fearing his offspring has ventured across the Forbidden River, Pops finds the boy, and lets call him Bob (Robert Vaughn), on a cliff overlooking the river, which gives a nice panoramic view of the valley beyond it that is teeming with life (-- pilfered from 1,000,000 B.C. and Mysterious Island). Apparently, Bob has reached that difficult age where the more you tell him not to do something the more he will go out of his way to do just that. Even though tribal law strictly forbids it, he has threatened to cross the river several times and, with all that food eagerly waiting just a stone's throw away, doesn't understand why his people are forced to settle for the bare pickings of the rock quarry they call home. Pops, however, is a traditionalist, which leads to an argument on the tenets of their tribal law, whose catch-22 logic only infuriates Bob even more. The Law must be obeyed, Pops says, right or wrong -- no matter how asinine, because it simply is the Law. And besides, there are worse things lurking beyond the river than the great beasts and sinking earth [a/k/a quicksand]. When asked how he would know such things, Pops admits that when he was younger he too crossed the river, but didn't tarry long for fear of running into the legendary Beast that Gives Death with its Touch.

Intrigued to know more about this hideous thing, Bob returns to the caves with his father, who refuses to elaborate further. The junior malcontent then turns his attention on a trio of elders who serve as keepers of the Three Great Gifts of Man: the first tends a small fire, the second spins a stone wheel, while the third constantly stacks up a pile of rocks only to knock them over to illustrate man's ability to create and destroy, as I'm sure their fathers and grandfathers did before them. All of this, of course, seems rather pointless to Bob, but when he begins to question them draws the unwanted attention of a certain surly caveman, lets call him Crank (Frank DeKova), who on one hand cajoles Bob into breaking the Law by crossing the river, and on the other, gives everybody else an earful for Bob's blasphemous ways, saying his lack of faith in the Law will certainly bring sickness and death to the clan. So, for some reason, Crank seems to be going out of his way to make a pariah out of Bob, looking for any excuse to get him stoned by the others -- and I'm not referring to the herbal variety. As to why, we'll get to that in a minute. For now, we jump ahead to the next hunt, where Pops falls victim to an unfortunate looking bear attack (-- and more on this Ursus Minor in a bit, too). Critically mauled, the others bring Pops back to the caves where, as wife and son watch, the tribal elder does his best to stitch him back together.

Alas, with Pops laid up and unable to rein him in, Crank seizes this golden opportunity to goad Bob into exploring across the river. Bob, in turn, entices several other youths to accompany him, thanks to some stone-age fueled peer pressure. But once they cross the river, enter the surrounding jungle, and run right into a familiar looking monitor lizard and dorsal-finned crocodile, locked once more in their eternal cinematic combat, these wayward teenage cavemen are probably thinking at this point perhaps those old foolish taboos aren't so foolish after all...

If you ask Roger Corman, he'll tell you, quite insistently, that he never made a movie called Teenage Caveman. However, he will admit to making a film called Prehistoric World back in 1958. Now, 1958 was a big year for Corman. After ram-rodding almost ten features that ranged from Hawaiian intrigue in Naked Paradise to killer crustaceans in Attack of the Crab Monsters to Scandinavian hijinx with the marquee busting The Saga of the Viking Women and their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent  the year before, Corman took a much needed break and finagled a global round-trip vacation on American International's dime, where, during a stop-over in Fiji, Corman claims to have been inducted into a tribe of Melanesian headhunters. Anyways, upon his return, his next feature was a slight change of pace, a bio-pic on the notorious gangster, George Kelly, better known as Machine Gun Kelly. And with the help of a strong script and stand out performances by Charles Bronson as the cowardly Kelly and Susan Cabot as his deadly muse, the production was a turning point in Corman's career as the film earned some favorable reviews, especially the European critics, who praised the low-budget auteur for his themes and overall aesthetic. And while Machine Gun Kelly was finding its legs, Corman's next feature, The Wasp Woman, though it lacked the lofty notions of its predecessor, was another important milestone as it was the first film Corman financed and distributed independently through his new company, The Filmgroup. And all of this set the stage for his next feature, a strange mash-up of Kelly's psychological themes and subtext mixed with the gonzoidal schlock of The Wasp Woman, where Corman apparently believed in his new press-clippings, perhaps, a bit too much as he pretentiously pounded the resulting film within an inch of its life with a giant clown-hammer called significance.

For his script, Corman turned to Robert Campbell, who had done the screenplay for Machine Gun Kelly, and on whose insistence got Dick Miller dropped from the leading role, opening the door for Bronson. Campbell had also scripted Five Guns West -- kind of a scaled down version of The Dirty Dozen, Corman's first direct effort for Jim Nicholson and Sam Arkoff's American Releasing Corporation (-- later to become American International), and en lieu of a pay increase, the screenwriter settled for taking a part in the movie as one of the five pardoned Confederates who must track down a former comrade or face the hangman's noose. In between these productions, Campbell was nominated for an Academy Award for the Lon Chaney bio Man of a Thousand Faces, and he would go on to write The Masque of the Red Death and The Secret Invasion for Corman. Behind the camera, one cannot discount the contributions of another Corman regular, Floyd Crosby, who probably did more than anyone or anything else to establish the "Corman look." The father of singer David Crosby, Floyd Crosby had been making features since the 1930's, mostly award-winning documentaries. And before hooking up with Corman in 1954 for The Monster from the Ocean Floor, Crosby shot the likes of From Here to Eternity and High Noon for the majors, and he would continue to work with Corman for almost a decade before finishing up his career with William Asher on American International's Beach Party series. And for those of you walking in to this cold, expecting some massive dinosaur action I'll warn you off now. Perhaps still stinging from Jack Rabin's well-documented failure to deliver a passable monster for The Saga of the Viking Women, Corman appears to be content to ride the stock-footage express, and all we'll be getting for the duration are some clumsy inserts.

So, with his script set, his F/X already in the can, and an allotted budget of $70000, the cast and crew descended on Bronson Canyon for the majority of the scheduled ten day shoot. For those unfamiliar with this location [but five bucks says you'll recognize a few of its landmark caves that have appeared in hundreds of movies and TV shows], Bronson Canyon is a small part of Griffith Park that's just north of Hollywood, a sprawling 4200 acre refuge that also includes the Los Angels Zoo and the Griffith Observatory. Redefined by the Union Rock Company, who quarried out those caves to provide the concrete that helped pave Los Angeles, when the company folded in 1928 Bronson Canyon's relative isolation in the middle of a major movie-making metropolis drew plenty a filmmaker to its rocky environs, where everyone from the Lone Ranger to Ro-Man the Robot Monster stalked its familiar nooks and crannies. For the jungle scenes, Corman utilized another familiar Hollywood landmark, the LA County Arboretum and Botanical Garden that MGM had extensively used for their Tarzan features. Founded by race horse enthusiast, Elias "Lucky" Baldwin, the Arboretum was only part of his Arcadia estate that also included the Santa Anita racetrack. And it was here, in the Prehistoric Jungle section, which also included a stagnant lagoon that Corman passed off as the great river, that our hero leads his doomed expedition. And after sufficiently soiling their loincloths with both acey and ducey at the sight of those aforementioned stock-footage behemoths, the errant party of Teen-Magnons beat a hasty Benny Hill back toward friendlier environs. Alas, one of their number (Beach Dickerson) veers off course and falls victim to the sinking earth. And between that and the other horrors they've witnessed, those still alive leave Bob behind and return to the caves, where Crank happily listens in on their dire report, and then continues to poison the clan against Bob and his dangerous inklings.

Meanwhile, as the song goes, back in the jungle, after having the last word with a tormenting squirrel, Bob makes camp and starts a bonfire, which attracts the attention of some lumpy, beaked over-sized potato with legs and arms that could only be the Beast that Gives Death with its Touch. When the fire doesn't scare the thing off Bob quickly withdraws, but in his haste to get away scores a spectacular George of the Jungle face-plant on a nearby tree that knocks him out cold.

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On a quick side note, genre fans will probably recognize the Beast that Gives Death with its Touch from his earlier role as the alien from Night of the Blood Beast. Some credit this suit to veteran AIP F/X man, Paul Blaisdell, but I'm having a helluva time corroborating this. And there might be some confusion as several other Blaisdell creations show up in those abovementioned inserts. But, we're getting ahead of ourselves a bit. So for now, back to the review.

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Meantime, at the caves, Pops is finally well enough to receive the news that his son crossed the river two days ago and hasn't been seen or heard from since, and after one more night of recuperation sets off to bring the prodigal back home -- who is currently stumbling around in a daze, trying to walk off a most certain concussion. However, this blow to the head appears to have sped up the evolutionary process and gotten the creative juices going, allowing Bob to invent a rudimentary bow and arrow mock-up that he uses to bring down a stag. And with his prize slung over his shoulders, and having survived several days in the forbidden jungle relatively unscathed, Bob triumphantly heads back toward the caves. Alas, this celebration appears to be a bit premature when he is set upon by a pack of feral dogs. Luckily, they seem to be more interested in his kill than him, and with the timely arrival of Pops, they manage to extricate themselves from the mongrels' feeding frenzy and return home, where something even more perilous is awaiting our boy, Bob.

For his flagrant violation of tribal law that resulted in the death of another, Bob must face a tribunal to see if he will meet the same fate. For the prosecution, Crank sounds off on the long list of heresy charges against the defendant and believes a death sentence is in order; and for the defense, Pops paints his son as a first time offender and seeks probation. When the village elder sides with Pops and passes sentence that Bob must be treated as one who is dead until he reaches the age of manhood, Crank loses it, and then attacks the defendant. After a nasty dust-up, the parties are separated before they can kill each other, and then Bob's silent-treatment sentence commences, as no one is allowed to interact or give voice to him for the duration ... Effectively grounded, Bob refocuses his attention on a fair-haired maiden, lets call her Blondie (Darah Marshall). And while she does a little skinny-dipping at the local watering hole, Bob serenades her with a Zamphyr flute, cobbled together during his genius-attack across the river. A progressive kind of gal, Blondie ignores the law and speaks with him, and together, they have a healthy conversation on what lies even beyond the river, the future of the clan, and the horrors of a group-think theocracy. As their love is cemented, Blondie begs Bob to take it easy and not get himself killed, for her sake if nothing else, when suddenly, their conversation is interrupted by a loud commotion back at the caves.

Turns out the cause of all this hubbub is a lone rider (Beach Dickerson -- What? Him again?), who approaches from the burning plain, where, according to the law, nothing can live. And since these people have never seen a man ride another beast before, one can understand and appreciate why they're all a little weirded out by his sudden appearance. Crank, of course, immediately brands this contradictive anomaly evil and demands that they kill it before the thing gets too close. Recognizing another brave explorer like himself, Bob does his best to calm everyone down, but soon enough fear wins out, the spears are flying, and the stranger is knocked from his steed. And while Crank leads the charge to kill the horse, too, Bob rushes to the rider's aid. He's still alive, but only manages one word, peace, before Crank finishes him off. With this golden opportunity wasted, Bob is beside himself. However, it wasn't a total loss as Pops and several others admit that their eyes are now open to the fact that some laws might just be a tad bit antiquated. But when he tries to express these thoughts at the next tribal council meeting, Pops is shouted down and loses his job as the symbol maker to Crank. 

And here, we finally get to the root of Crank's insidious behavior. For not only did he covet the symbol maker's position, he's also had a lecherous eye on Blondie, which helps explain why he's so darned insistent on getting Bob impaled on the end of his spear. Fortunately, Bob behaves himself and goes through the motions until his sentence is commuted. Now a man, he can make it official with Blondie, and at her suggestion they make their own cave to *ahem* lie in, which really pisses Crank off because there is no law against such a thing. And for awhile, Bob is content doing what caveman do; but eventually, the wanderlust overtakes him. This time, however, he has a plan. And that plan is to cross the river and slay the Beast that Gives Death with its Touch, and then bring its head to the tribal council to show them how flawed the Law really is and destroy it forever.

After he sneaks off, with the way Blondie keeps mooning and staring at the path that leads to the river, it doesn't take Mom long to deduce what has happened. She quickly rounds Blondie up before her behavior alerts anyone else and tells Pops, who then takes up his spear and goes after his son again. Alas, the ever lurking Crank figures it out, too, and after gathering everyone together, goes into a long sermon filled with fire and brimstone about evil seeking out evil, and to save the clan from pestilence and death the former symbol maker and his son must die. His megalomaniacal speechifying soon has everyone else riled up, too, and then Crank leads this armed rabble to the river, all of them looking for blood. However, in an interesting twist, Crank has to do some fast talking to convince the others that since they're on a Holy Crusade it is okay for them to cross the river just this once in service of the Law.

Bob, meanwhile, armed with his trusty bow, manages to track down his prey just as Pops catches up with him. Taking aim while filling Pops in on his grand plan to slay the monster and slay the Law in one fell swoop, however, when the Beast doesn't attack but gestures openly with its hands, Bob lowers his weapon. Realizing the Beast is trying to communicate with them, Bob starts to mimic its actions until the Crank led posse breaks into the same clearing -- with that pack of feral dogs hot on their heels! Then, all hell breaks loose as the tribe fends off the dogs, allowing Crank to sneak away and seize a large rock that he chucks toward our hero. Now, I'm not really sure who he was aiming for, the Beast or Bob, but the Beast takes the rock to the noggin and collapses in a heap. In retaliation, a well placed arrow finally puts Crank out his, and Bob's, and our misery.

With Crank dead, the dogs beaten off, and the Beast Who Gives Death with its Touch lying prostrate before them, the surviving caveman cautiously gather around and realize it is dead, too. Looking closer, Bob seizes its head and removes it, revealing it was some form of helmet; and underneath it they see the wizened face of something very human. Totally confused, further digging finds a book filled with pictures of modern man circa 1958. That's right. All the time, it was ... They finally really did it. Those maniacs blew it up! Ah, damn them! God damn them all to hell!

Confused? Don't worry about it, as the film gives us the first posthumously narrated epilogue to clear things up. Apparently, the Beast was really an astronaut who was off planet when the bombs fell. And though technically dead, he goes on to explain that after the Atomic Armageddon, the world was thrown back into the stone age, where several pockets of humanity managed to survive. Over the ensuing years this astronaut watched from afar, as the lingering radiation of his survival suit that kept him alive all this time also killed anyone who got too close, as mankind, not wanting to make the same mistake twice, let several Luddite notions take root, keeping things nice and primitive. But now, with progressive folks like Bob and Blondie leading the way, civilization will take its first steps in properly starting over again. However, the film leaves us with these sobering thoughts:

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"This happened a long time ago. And as you know, men did meet other men; and fire smelted metal ... made explosives. The wheel turned machines and made gun barrels. The towers were built and flattened. How many times. Will it happen again? And if it does, will any at all survive the next time? Or will this finally be..."

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The End

At first glance, Teenage Caveman is perhaps the strangest adaptation of Peter and the Wolf ever conceived. However, if you've read Stephen Vincent Benét's short story, By the Waters of Babylon, you would know that Corman and Campbell raided and plundered that pantry and left nothing behind, then wrapped it up in loincloths and furs and stock-footage lizards and hoped nobody would notice. As far as I know, no one did but Corman would do the same thing again with The Brain Eaters, which was a blatant rip-off of Robert Heinlein's The Puppet Masters; only this time he got caught, got sued, and eventually settled out of court -- and one should note that despite his victory, one of the stipulations of the settlement was to keep Heinlein's name OUT of the credits. 

One would like to give Teenage Caveman some credit for beating the post-apocalyptic revelation of Planet of the Apes to the punch by almost a decade, but this, too, was stolen wholesale from Benét. But, maybe he stole it from someone else, too? Anyways, the resulting film barely breaks over an hour, and with its heavy allegorical themes it might have been better suited as an episode of The Outer Limits, where I think it would fit right in somewhere between The Zanti Misfits and The Controlled Experiment. Don't get me wrong, I like the movie quite a bit and have always admired Corman's chutzpah of wheedling and weaving his progressive and anti-establishment views into his films; sometimes subtly, other times not so much; and with Teenage Caveman he's about as subtle as a punch to the face when expressing his thoughts, through his protagonist, on the horrors of teen angst, the generation gap and sticking it to the man and his archaic dogma.

To pull this off, Corman found another diamond in the rough in the form of Robert Vaughn, who was around 26 at the time of filming. Born into a showbiz family -- his father was a radio actor, and his mother a stage actress -- Vaughn found his acting legs with several television roles that led to this, his first feature. And this time spent in the trenches soon paid off as the very next year found him nominated for an Oscar for The Young Philadelphians, and the year after that found him riding to glory with The Magnificent Seven. As for his co-stars, this appears to be the only film for Darah Marshall, which is too bad, but several sources say she went on to a fairly successful stage career. And I'll also give a big shout out to Frank DeKova, still a few years from playing Wild Eagle on F-Troop, for his snake-in-the-grass take on the villian. And speaking frankly, when you take into account the overall tenor of the leaden and and heavy-handed dialogue they were required to regurgitate, dressed like that, and in that setting, all of the actors and extras involved deserve some major props for keeping a straight face, which brings us to the real star of the show, Beach Dickerson, who was called on to play several different characters who kept getting killed off, including that unfortunate looking bear.

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    "I must be the only person in the world who ever played three death scenes and attended his own funeral in the same movie. I had to be the guy who drowned in the Sucking Sands ... Then we go to Bronson and we're filming the funeral and Roger says, 'What are you doing here?' and I say, 'Roger, this is my funeral.' ... He says, 'No one will recognize you,' so I played the tom-tom at my own funeral. Then he asks me to be the Man from the Burning Plains, who rides in, drops off the horse, and dies. 'What about a stuntman?' I ask. 'Put Beach in the strangers outfit,' he yells, and they drape me up looking like General Grant with a bearskin rug and a big black wig ... Then we go to the big bear hunt scene. 'Who do you have for bear?' I ask Roger. 'You," he says and they bring me this huge bearskin suit. 'How in the hell am I going to play a bear?" I ask him. 'How do I know?' he says. 'Don't make trouble. Just do it.' The true Roger Corman speaks."

-- Beach Dickerson      

     "I asked Beach to double as a bear that stalks the tribe. I had him come down a steep path, stop, look over the valley below, then continue down. That's all I told him. How much direction or rehearsal can you give a bear? So Beach came padding down to his spot, stopped, lifted his paw to his forehead, and shielded his eyes with it as he scanned the valley. I yelled 'Cut! Beach, a bear doesn't pick up his front paw and hold it over his eyes against the sun!"

-- Roger Corman      

     "So after a couple of these takes where I come down the hill with my head hanging between my legs, it's 150 degrees inside this @#%*ing bear suit, and I'm dying. I get down the hill, he yells, 'BEAR. STAND UP!' I stand up. 'BEAR, GROWL!' So I growl. He goes, "MEAN, BEAR, MEAN!" I growl louder, scratch the air violently with my deadly paws. 'MEANER, BEAR, I WANT YOU MEANER!' he yells. I'm dying inside this suit, growling and flailing, and then he yells to the rest of the extras, 'Okay, tribesman, KILL THAT @#%*ING BEAR!' and thirty guys jump on me, take me down, and beat the shit out of me."

-- Beach Dickerson      

       Roger Corman: How I Made a 100 Movies

in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime

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In his book, Fast and Furious: The Story of American International Pictures, author Mark Thomas McGee also devotes several paragraphs to the filming of this epic scene. He also reveals that on the first take of Dickerson falling off the horse his bearskin suit flipped open, revealing his tightie-whities underneath, necessitating another take, much to his director's annoyance. And if you look real close, one of the villagers throwing spears at the rider is also played by Dickerson, meaning there's a pretty good chance that he offed himself, too. While noodling that paradoxical can of worms, one can only watch and boggle as the extra keeps popping up over and over again no matter how many times he gets knocked off, which is what ultimately inspired me to create The Beach Dickerson Drinking Game, and if you click right here, you can learn how to get yourself totally snockered with this ersatz version of Where's Waldo.

Hoping to cash in on Herman Cohen's wildly successful I Was a Teenage Werewolf, it was the brass at American International who changed the title from Prehistoric World to Teenage Caveman -- it was even packaged with Cohen's third Teenage monster-fueled sequel, How to Make a Monster. Regardless of whichever title you see it under, Corman's prehistoric/post-apocalyptic tale is by no means a bad film, a bit pretensions maybe -- hell, definitely, but I still dig it, and it ranks as one of my absolute favorite episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. But in the end, just like with a lot of Corman's other earlier works, from what I've read what winds up on screen doesn't prove nearly half as entertaining as the story behind the actual making of it.

Teenage Caveman (1958) Malibu Productions :: American International Pictures / EP: James H. Nicholson, Samuel Z. Arkoff / P: Roger Corman / D: Roger Corman / W: R. Wright Campbell / C: Floyd Crosby / E: Irene Morra / M: Albert Glasser / S: Robert Vaughn, Darah Marshall, Frank DeKova, Leslie Bradley, June Jocelyn, Jonathan Haze, Beach Dickerson

Originally Posted: 12/15/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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