Summer Review: When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970)

It wouldn’t be summer without some Weekend Reviews of older films, classic, curious, or forgotten, of interest to the Bureau. This 1970 creature feature follows up Hammer’s better-known One Million Years BC. It’s not as celebrated as that film, but it’s better than Hammer’s other quaintly ridiculous “Cave Man Pictures”—and it exists in both family-friendly and slightly more adult variants.

And these old features come, after all, the closest SF usually gets to a beach movie.

Title: When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970)

Cast and Crew

Directed and written by Val Guest.
Based on an idea by J.G. Ballard

Victoria Vetri as Sanna
Robin Hawdon as Tara
Patrick Allen as Kingsor / Narrator
Drewe Henley as Khaku
Sean Caffrey as Kane
Magda Konopka as Ulido
Patrick Holt as Ammon
Jan Rossini as Rock Girl
Carol Hawkins as Yani
Imogen Hassall as Ayak
Lizard with fins as Adinosaur

Special effects by Jim Danforth and Alan Bryce

Available in Unrated and G.


In a world where primitive but well-coiffed humans coexist with dinosaurs and giant crabs, the prejudice against blondes and the birth of the moon create conflict.

Really, what more do you need to know?

High Points:

The effects aren’t as good as Harryhausen’s work in One Million Years BC four years earlier, and they pale beside today’s visuals. However, the stop-motion is charming, and we get a couple vintage slurpasaurs thrown in for fun. Sanna’s interactions with the dinosaur family that adopts her (See, after she sleeps in a dino egg shell, she gets mistaken as one of the hatchlings) provides goofy entertainment.

Low Points:

I’m prepared to swallow a fair helping of pseudoscientific idiocy in these films. The trope of The Prehistoric World, where everything from a trilobite to your bachelor uncle’s suit coexists, cannot be avoided in these movies. But the birth of the moon happening with human witnesses? With craters already marking its surface? Having no effects on the world below beyond some extra light at night? That’s not even trying, especially for a film adapted from— seriously— a J.G. Ballard treatment.

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6

Effects: 4/6 Hammer didn’t have Harryhausen this time around, but it happily rips off previous films. This film includes some stock from The Lost World (1960), and a scene very like One Million‘s pteranodon attack. This time, a ludicrously upsized rhamphorhynchus menaces our scantily-clad ancestors.

Acting: 3/6 Valerie Vetri is no Raquel Welch.

Yeah, that’s the level of acting in this movie.

Production: 4/6

Story: 3/6

Emotional Response: 4/6

Overall: 4/6 You cannot watch this film seriously. It’s a guilty pleasure if you enjoy cheesy special-effects flicks from the end of the drive-in era, and therefore makes passable viewing at the end of a summer day.

In total, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth receives 24/42


Four things differentiate this film from its predecessor, One Million Years BC. It lacks the slightly-serious approach, its effects aren’t as good, it doesn’t star Raquel Welch, and it includes nudity.

In many markets—the US, notably—those scenes were excised, in order to tap the younger audience that otherwise wouldn’t be able to watch. The nudity crept into a family-rated Best Buy release (quickly recalled), and can now be seen on the DVD/Blu-Ray release, for the benefit of those who have absolutely no interest in big rhamphorhynchi.