When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

Directed by Val Guest
Produced by Aida Young
Written by Screenplay:
Val Guest
J.G. Ballard
Music by Mario Nascimbene
Cinematography Dick Bush
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
October 25, 1970 (UK)
Running time
96 min. (USA) 100 min. (UK)
Country United Kingdom
United States[1]
Language Aboriginal / English
Budget £566,000[2]

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth is a 1970 horror monster movie starring Victoria Vetri, set in the time of cavemen. The film was made by Britain's Hammer Films.

Like several of Hammer's previous films, such as One Million Years B.C. (1966), the film anachronistically portrays dinosaurs and humans alongside each other. Directed and scripted by Val Guest, it was based on a treatment by J. G. Ballard (author of Empire of the Sun), and nominated for an Oscar for its visual effects.

The special effects are considered a benchmark in stop-motion animation believability, and the film is referenced in the movie Jurassic Park. Stop-motion effects were created by Jim Danforth, assisted by David W. Allen and Roger Dickens.

The landscapes of Earth during the Quaternary period were filmed in Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura (Canary Islands). Locations included Maspalomas beach, Ansite Mountain, Amurga and Caldera de Tejeda.

The film was released on DVD as an exclusive from Best Buy with a G-rating, but was quickly recalled because it was the uncut version and contained nudity. The original is now a collector's item.

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth was the third in Hammer's "Cave Girl" series, preceded by One Million Years B.C. (1966) and Slave Girls (1967). It was followed by Creatures the World Forgot (1971).[3] The movie characters talk in a language that was constructed for the film, albeit of only a dozen words or so. A key one of these words that keeps popping up is "Neekro", which means "Kill", or a form of Ritual Murder for dominance.


A tribe on a cliff are about to sacrifice three blonde women. Three priests, wearing dinosaur hides, are about to kill them for their Sun God, but one of them, Sanna, escapes and jumps off the cliff. She is rescued by Tara and some men on a raft.

Tara takes Sanna to his seaside tribe, who also worship the Sun God. After building a Hut for herself, She joins them at a feast and celebration of a successful hunt. An Elasmosaurus attacks the seaside tribe until it is lured to a store of Oil and immolated. The feast continues, and a brunette woman, Ayak, is interested in Tara, but he is too fascinated with Sanna. He brings her food. After a ritual fight between Sanna and Ayak in the water, Sanna's former tribe arrives, looking for her. She flees and they give chase. Hiding in a tree, a large boa sees her, but attacks and kills one of the men instead. They think Sanna is in a nearby cave, but a Chasmosaurus makes its lair there and disembowels one man before injuring another with a deep gash. Vultures, drawn by the carcasses, jab, bite and slash at the wounded man. When Tara seeks Sanna, he finds the one man dead and, after the Chasmosaurus charges him. He is chased to a cliff, where he hides on a small ledge as the Chasmosaurus loses its footing and plunges to its death.

A funeral pyre at shore is followed by a tribal frenzy during which an enraged Ayak burns down Sanna's hut. Sanna meanwhile, running through a rainforest, sees a reptile and runs before it notices her. She becomes trapped by a Carnivorous plant, and she cuts off her hair to escape. Tara unfortunately thinks Sanna has been eaten by the Carnivorous plant.

Sanna sleeps in a large dinosaur eggshell. The other egg hatches and the dinosaur (of a nonexistent species of quadrupedal Predator - all predatory dinosaurs are bipedal by default) thinks Sanna is its sibling. The parent, thinking Sanna is one of its own, brings her a deer carcass. Sanna, enamoured by the beast, plays hide-and-seek with it, and teaches it to sit. She dives into a nearby lake and catches a fish in her teeth. She returns and finds the mother dinosaur in a fight with two men, but she distracts it so they can escape.

While Tara is hiking back to his tribe after getting a drink of water, he is carried off by a Rhamphorhynchus with a thirty-foot wingspan. At its nest, he kills it by ripping its wing, and then knocking it off its nest when it lands. Tara sees Sanna being followed by the dinosaur and assumes she is being chased, but he runs to her and finds she has domesticated it. They reunite at Sanna's cave where they express their love for one another and have passionate sex.

They are seen by a lookout, however, and when Tara returns to the tribe he is sacrificed to another Elasmosaurus. Ayak cries as he is set adrift on a raft to the animal, held in place by another woman and forced to watch. However, when they are gone, he re-emerges from the water still alive. Seeing they have left and somehow having evaded the beast, he escapes to Sanna.

But the tribe is still searching for Sanna, and see smoke from her fire. The two run away into a forest, where Sanna's dinosaur "parent" rescues her, but as for Tara they prepare to burn again. Giant Fiddler crabs kill and consume a few people as the weather grows ominous again. The moon seems to be forming, and a tidal wave looms. Sanna arrives to save Tara from one of the giant crabs, and a raft escape begins to take shape. The tribal leader tries commanding the water to heel, and is swept away and (presumably) drowns. While Ayak is running on the sand, she steps into a trap of quicksand and is sucked down to her death. Giant waves hit the shore, but Tara, Sanna and a few others survive on a raft. As the waters calm, the survivors stop to witness an eclipse, as now the moon exists.



The film was popular at the box office.[4]


  1. "When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth". American Film Institute. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  2. Bruce G. Hallenbeck, British Cult Cinema: Hammer Fantasy and Sci-Fi, Hemlock Books 2011 p204
  3. Sinclair McKay (2007): A Thing of Unspeakable Horror: The History of Hammer Films: 105
  4. Marcus Hearn, The Hammer Vault, Titan Books, 2011 p111

External links

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