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DVD Review: Caveman (1981)

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How Ringo Starr ended up in fur costumes, hunched over and spouting off “zug-zug” in this 1981 attempted comedy will forever be an unsolved mystery. There are moments of brilliance, and the David Allen animated creatures are classics. Other positives are bogged down in a dull narrative that doesn’t try hard enough to parody a small, limited genre.

Taking after the likes of One Million Years B.C., a bumbling caveman is banished from his tribe. His quest for revenge leads to building a rag tag group of characters intended solely for laughs that don’t come. Jack Gilford is the only cast highlight with any laughs, playing a blind caveman who manages to run into trouble at every turn.

The problem with Caveman is that while it tries to parody, it ends up copying. Scenes of the tribes discovering fire feel as if they’re lifted shot for shot from any other caveman “epic.” Action set pieces containing the wonderfully animated stop motion dinosaurs are amusing for the creature designs. The chases themselves are by the numbers.

Numerous slapstick attempts are bland, and a few visual sight gags go nowhere. A little toilet humor typically can go a long way, but here, it’s just something else to groan about. Performances are completely visual as the dialogue is nothing more than grunts. With a translation guide (and they do exist), you can laugh about caveman sex all day long… or not.

Carl Gottlieb directs this farce, and his talents are better served in an actor's role (see Jaws). The problem isn’t necessarily his style though, but a lazy script that fails to elicit more than a minor chuckle. Caveman is the right idea with the wrong execution.

This small, somewhat forgotten effort comes to DVD in a clean, sharp transfer. Minute print damage doesn’t interfere with the viewing presentation, and grain is visible only during double printed special effects shots (an unavoidable after effect). Low levels of compression artifacts maintain the cleanliness of the presentation, and color is bright.

Audio is basic 2.0 stereo. It is free of distortion, popping, or hissing. It’s flat without any bass to give it some depth.

Extras are limited to the trailer and nothing more. (No stars)

David Allen, who handled the special effects here, is criminally under-appreciated for his art. Following his death in 1999 due to cancer, only die hard stop motion fans recognize his name. His credits, aside from Caveman, include Q, *batteries not included, the entire Puppet Master series, and low budget epic Robot Jox (amongst many others).

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.