Caveman (Blu-ray)(Olive Films, 2.17.2015)
It would be almost irresponsible to make a cerebral cavemen movie, but co-writer/director Carl Gottlieb (Jaws) proves there’s plenty of room for wit and creativity. Starring Ringo Starr, Dennis Quaid, Barbara Bach, and Shelley Long, Caveman is a relatively straightforward story about an inexpressive caveman’s clumsy love life, and the other day-to-day struggles of his people. After a strong start, the film prematurely runs out of steam, but Gottlieb’s bag of tricks is sufficient to make up for most of the film’s shortcomings. For one, he chooses to make his characters almost completely incapable of speech, resulting in a refreshing lack of dialogue, grunts notwithstanding. This isn’t quite a silent film, but the effect is similar.
Gottlieb also brings a uniquely idiosyncratic sense of humor to the proceedings (for example, an early caption reads “One Zillion B.C.” then “October 9th”), particularly in the sequences involving dinosaurs. Tapping into the spirit of Ray Harryhausen, these creatures may seem unconvincing to some, but that’s part of the fun. Their handmade rough edges add a pleasing humanity, as do their moments of eccentric behaviour. (One dinosaur is particularly fond of burping.)
As you can tell from these descriptions, Caveman doesn’t take itself too seriously, nor does it amount to much. Without dialogue, Gottlieb has a hard time adding complexity to the narrative, but where else can you see a claymation Ringo Starr riding a dinosaur? Throw in an excellent Lalo Schifrin score and you have a surprisingly likeable, good-natured cult oddity just waiting to be rediscovered. -- Jonathan Doyle