OK, let’s be honest. Nobody is going to argue that Prehistoric Women is even remotely a good film. This is not Citizen Kane. It’s not even the Citizen Kane of cheesy jungle adventure movies. But it is great fun, and it is very very camp.
A big-game hunter leading a safari through darkest Africa stumbles upon a lost world. This is a world ruled by dark-haired women. There are also a great many blonde women but they’re kept in a state of cruel slavery. At first there appear to be no men at all, but later we find that the men are kept in a state of even greater subjection and humiliation, chained together and forced to work in a huge cavern.
The evil queen of the dark-haired women is Kari (Martine Beswick). David (the big-game hunter) first encounter one of the blonde women (Saria, played by Edina Ronay) making an escape attempt. Both are taken to Kari. Kari is being entertained by the dancing of her blonde slave girls. This is not the only function the blonde women serve; from time to time one is chosen as the bride of the demonic rhinoceros god thing that the tribe worships.
The white rhinoceros had once been plentiful in these lands, but was hunted to extinction. Now there is only a statue of the rhinoceros, but there is a legend that the land will be freed from bondage when the white rhinoceros returns.
The unfortunate brides of this god are never seen again after their wedding days. There is something even worse in store for poor David. It seems that he is destined for a fate that strikes fear into the hearts of all men - to be forced to satisfy the insatiable lusts of the beautiful evil queen. A terrifying prospect indeed. Naturally David refuses indignantly to serve as Kari’s sex toy, and he is cast into the cavern with the other men. At least there he only has to endure back-breaking labour and brutal torture, which is obviously preferable to being forced to share the bed of a gorgeous sex-crazed queen.
Young David bears his fate stoically since he has fallen in love with the beautiful blonde Saria. Of course you know there’s going to a rebellion and the plot unfolds in the expected way.
This movie was also released under the title Slave Girls but despite the luridness of the title it’s all very tame. There’s no nudity at all. There’s not a huge amount of violence either although there is a slightly gruesome scene in which Kari despatches a challenger to her power.
Michael Carreras has a fairly low reputation among Hammer’s directors but this is not a movie you’re going to see for anything other than its camp appeal. Which it has in abundance. In fact it may go close to being Hammer’s campest movie ever, which is saying quite a lot.
These women may not have anything other than the most primitive stone age technology, but clearly they have at least invented hairspray and cosmetics. They all sport elaborate 1960s hairstyles. Just because she’s living in a jungle doesn’t mean a girl can’t be well-groomed. This is the sort of thing that makes me love movies like this.
It also has that wonderful shot-in-a-studio look to it. The increasing trend towards location shooting has ruined movies like this - they always work best when they look as artificial as possible and this one looks very artificial indeed.
It goes without saying that a great deal depends on the quality of the beautiful evil queen. Is she beautiful enough? Evil enough? Sexy enough? In fact Martine Beswick scores very highly on all counts. And she throws herself into her role with enormous enthusiasm, chewing the scenery with great abandon.
Apart from the high camp delights the movie also has the kind of deliciously kinky implied naughtiness that movies used to have back in the days when very little could be shown but a good deal could be suggested.
This may be one of Hammer’s silliest movies but it delivers plenty of entertainment. If you have a taste for 60s camp then it’s an absolute must-see.