The Primevals is more than a love letter to the pulps of yesteryears. Here, the long production history must be noted before I can go into the review. Back in the late 60s, David Allen (who did the animation in Young Sherlock Holmes and Ghostbusters II) came up with the idea, and this stop-motion animator turned filmmaker had a lot of wonderful ideas which were ahead of its time. It’s tough to say if he knew of Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods and the theories he posed as it was published in 68, with translations not necessarily emerging until a year or two later.
It probably doesn’t matter. Sadly, to get this movie made back then was tough. That was partially due to how the studio system worked and other politics that held this project back.
While much of this story was filmed back in the late 80s, the project was shelved and this individual’s untimely passing meant it’d never get finished. Thankfully, his work with Chris Endicott, Charles Band and Full Moon Studios meant that everything that was done got carefully warehoused. It wasn’t until 2018 that the team sought crowdfunding in order to finish this project. Other talents volunteered their time as this idea shouldn’t be lost to history too.
This film has a lot of moments to admire. As it predates Stargate the Movie and even The Mummy, the set pieces are more familiar than not. Here, we have a tale about Claire Collier (Juliet Mills) wanting to prove that there are still Yeti lurking high amongst the Himalayas. The corpse that got smuggled to America to put on display isn’t enough, and she fears they may go extinct! She recruits a very dashing Matthew Connor (Richard Joseph Paul) and hires two Sherpa–Siker (Tai Thai) and Kathleen (Walker Brandt)–to locate their home. The threat comes from what they discover instead of with their own kind, intent on hunting the last of the Bigfoot down.
Although there’s no unexpected plot twists, what’s revealed is best not said anyway since it ventures into theory few know more about. To say Ancient Aliens is enough to get those in the know to realise how everything ties together. I’d rather buy into this premise a lot more than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Skulls.
What’s presented is like The Lost World (1925) meets Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1959), with a bit of Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) tossed in for good measure. Between the reptoids and apes, the fight for power is real, and as for where the human heroes fit into this conflict is like that of an intrepid investigative team who don’t realise they’re entering a hornet’s nest. It’s classic B-Movie style action all the way!
The stop-motion animation is nicely mixed in with live-action, and I’m fairly sure there’s even costumed actors too. Although the frame rate seems to drop here and there when the latter is included, it’s easy to forgive because to sync everything up would mean more time should 24 picture stills be used over the traditional 15.
In The Primevals, to witness a world that’s brought to life using the tried-and-true techniques pioneered by Willis O’Brien and later improved upon by Ray Harryhausen only feels nostalgic. I don’t think I could love this film had it been done digitally. Sadly, we’ll never get a sequel, as I believe there’s more that can be revealed as the survivors don’t look ready to let their discovery be forgotten. Although we’ll never get a movie quite like this anymore, thankfully Shangri-la will always be re-imagined time and time again on celluloid for new generations to discover.
4 Stars out of 5