Friday, July 1, 2016

Into the Wilderness

CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT (1971)

In April 1970, a Hammer-Columbia campaign was launched to find the "Screen's New Sex Symbol of the 70's" who would be offered the starring role in CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT. Au pair, Penthouse pet and former Miss Norway Julie Ege was picked from over 2,000 replies; this is one of many publicity photos that attempted to make Ege the new Raquel Welch, a promotion in contrast to Michael Carreras' intention for a more historically accurate film.

AS exciting as watching cave paint dry, Don Chaffey's CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT was thankfully the last of Hammer's jaunts through prehistory. After a volcanic eruption kills many members of The Dark Tribe, Mak (Brian O'Shaughnessy) leads the survivors across a desert in search of a new home. They befriend a tribe of fair-haired people, the leader of which presents Mak with Noo (Sue Wilson), who gives birth to twin boys on the same day another woman delivers a mute girl (Marcia Fox), who an old witch (Rosalie Crutchley) adopts as her apprentice. Resentment escalates between the twins Rool (Robert John) and Toomak (Tony Bonner) when - after defeating a marauding tribe - Mak names Toomak as his successor and takes the defeated chief's daughter Nala (Julie Ege in an overwrought dark wig) as his wife. Even though Toomak saves his brother and his men from a forest tribe, Rool abducts and stakes Nala to a cliff-top pyre; Toomak saves Nala whilst the mute girl stabs an effigy of Rool, sending him falling to his death.

Shot in South West Africa, CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT was another of freelance writer/producer Michael Carreras' attempts to lure Hammer away from their gothic underpinning. Unable to secure the budgets for his extravagant fantasies, the studio's fourth cave girl picture also excluded any cumbersome stop-motion dinosaurs that had delayed ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. and WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH. But the studio also felt the picture could genuinely do without them anyway, punting the production into the then vogue of nihilistic, allegorical fantasies such as if... and 2001. For the late 60's/early 70's cinemagoer, there seemed no room for family-friendly adventures, typified by the box office failure of Ray Harryhausen's dino-cowboy epic THE VALLEY OF GWANGI; as the stop-motion master has noted, "a naked dinosaur just wasn't outrageous enough."

Julie Ege was far from happy with the long shoots in the Namib desert. Homesick and away from a newborn child, the actress also disliked her dark wig and cut-price bikini.

Before even a distribution deal or script was in place, Hammer commissioned Tom Chantrell to produce three concept posters, one of which even pitched a modern setting with jet fighters. Another outlandish concept came from Jeremy Burnham, who envisioned a subterranean world of murderous bat people, a story which was dismissed for the project but assigned another of Hammer's "posters", WHEN THE EARTH CRACKED OPEN. What eventually transpires is a gruntfest which fails to elaborate on its only interesting concept, that of the primeval mysticism and relationship between the characters played by Fox and Crutchley (and for creatures we are limited to an oryx, wildebeest and python).

CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT acts as both a limp finale for Hammer's prehistoric filmography and the non-start of Ege as an international starlet. Aside from the studio's publicity fanfare, in reality it was the press coverage the Norwegian gained from her largely naked role in Marty Feldman's EVERY HOME SHOULD HAVE ONE that swung the casting choice. Subsequently Ege appeared in a handful of "last gasp" horror and sex pictures and retired from the industry soon after Derren Nesbitt's bawdy THE AMOROUS MILKMAN; working largely in the Oslo public health sector after training as a nurse, she succumbed to breast cancer in 2008.