Evolving ideas of fun

Alunda is cave-speak for love in bloom

Published: Aug 27 2015, 01:01:am

Tuesday, May 5,1981.
CAVEMAN. Co-written by Rudy de Luca. Music by Lalo Schifrin. Co-written and directed by Carl Gottlieb. Running time: 91 minutes. Mature entertainment with the B.C. Classifier's warning: some suggestive scenes.
THE DEATH NOTICES MAY be premature. Although there is no denying that the film business is in serious trouble, there's still a lot of interesting action off in left field.
    A disaster like 1980's Heaven's Gate is somewhat balanced by the well-earned success of Excalibur (1981). Disappointments such as The Formula (1980) are forgotten with the discovery of a surprise hit like Caveman.
    Who would have thought it? A slapstick comedy set in the year "One Zillion BC," Caveman is an unexpected, unpretentious little delight.
    It opens with the Hostile Tribe out picking fruit. Atouk (Ringo Starr), too small to fight for the near trees, ranges further than the rest.
    Suddenly he's face-to-fang with a large, hungry dinosaur. "Macha! Macha!" he yells, raising the alarm to warn his cavemates.
    "Macha" is the Hostile's word for any dangerous critter. It is part of the simple, 15-word language that writer-director Carl Gottlieb has created for his actors.
    What he's done, of course, is design a story that works in purely visual terms, a physical comedy that requires its cast to work as silent-screen mimes.
    Scrawny Atouk loves Lana (Barbara Bach), the only cavewoman with cleavage. Unfortunately, she belongs to Tonda (football star-turned-actor John Matuszak) who rules by virtue of his size and mean disposition.
    Here's a film that might easily have been called "Evolution for Fun and Profit." Gottlieb's plotline plays with such familiar notions as the discovery of friendship, fire, cookery, music, weapons, narcotics and, in a skillfully-handled sentimental turn, romantic love.
    Special effects supervisor Roy Arbogast has provided Gottlieb with the most engaging collection of critters since 1974's Flesh Gordon. Performers Starr, Bach, Matuszak, Shelley Long, Dennis Quaid, Jack Gifford and Avery Schreiber put across his story with admirable energy, producing in Caveman something fun and different.
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FEW PERFORMERS HAVE HAD a film career as full of bizarre projects as Ringo Starr. Exclude the four Beatles features — A Hard Day's Night (1964); Help! (1965); Yellow Submarine (1968); and Let It Be (1970) — and we're still left with nine strange items.
    Candy (1968), Starr's solo acting debut, was based on a pornographic comic novel. In The Magic Christian (1970), he played eccentric millionaire Peter Sellers's adopted son.
    Fellow rock star Frank Zappa directed Starr in the videotape-to-film oddity 200 Motels (1971). He plays a Mexican badman in a 1971 spaghetti western called Blindman, and a John Lennon-like musician's best friend in That'll Be the Day (1973).
    He produced Son of Dracula (1974), a horror-comedy-musical in which he plays Merlin the Magician. He was The Pope in Ken Russell's Lisztomania (1975). Before going on location in Mexico for Caveman, he was featured as an ex-husband of the star of Sextette (1978), screen legend Mae West's largely unseen final film.
    During the making of Caveman, a real-life romance — alunda in the film's own cave-speak — bloomed. Starr and his co-star Barbara Bach were married last week [April 27, 1981].

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1981. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: The marriage of glamorous Bond girl Barbara Bach to funny-looking Beatle Ringo Starr made news at the time of Caveman's release. Some cynics wrote it off as a publicity stunt designed to generate awareness of the film. Bach, the Catholic school girl from New York's Jackson Heights, had followed a very different career path from the Liverpudlian rocker. An exotic beauty, she had been a successful model from the age of 16. In 1968, the 21-year-old Bach married an Italian businessman that she'd met two years earlier on a flight to Rome. Relocating to the Eternal City, she made her acting debut in the 1968 Italian TV mini-series L'Odissea (The Adventures of Ulysses), playing the Princess Nausicaa. She then appeared in eight Italian-language feature films before making her Hollywood debut, co-starring with Roger Moore in the attention-grabbing role of KGB Major Anya Amasova, the title character in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). Though it earned her pictorial coverage in Playboy, being a Bond girl did not result in serious stardom. She made eight more indifferent feature film appearances before Caveman and her marriage to Ringo. At first, the two shared the party-hard lifestyle of minor celebrities. Then, in late 1988, they shared treatment sessions in a detox clinic, after which Bach went back to school. In 1993, she graduated with a master's degree in psychology and has been active in addiction-rehabilitation causes ever since. Earlier this year, the couple celebrated his 75th birthday with a "Peace and Love" ceremony at the Capitol Records Tower in Hollywood. Today (August 27), Barbara Bach celebrates her own 68th birthday.

See also: Offering another serio-comic look at the dawn of man is director Jean-Jacques Annoud's 1981 feature Quest for Fire