Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper  Mersey Beat

Ringo Starr 'Caveman'

This 'prehistoric comedy' starred Ringo Starr and was his largest film role. Producer Lawrence Turman first thought of the idea for the film in 1977. He and his partner David Foster approached United Artists who gave the project the thumbs up. Screenwriter Carl Gottlieb collaborated on the script with Rudy De Luca and was then appointed director of the film. An international cast was assembled starring Ringo and Barbara Bach.

Ringo commented, “It’s right that people forget that, since the break-up ten years ago, I have had a very good career on my own, and not only as a recording artist. As an actor, people only really think about ‘Help!’ and ‘A Hard Day’s Night'. I’ve never really starred in a movie before. I’ve just done parts…and as for lessons in acting, I think I have had the best lessons by working with the best craftsmen, like Peter Sellers and Richard Burton – people like that. Practical experience is a thousand times better than any class. They all taught me a hell of a lot.”

Filming began in February 1980 and the film was released in 1981. The basic story concerns Atouk (Ringo) who, because of his lust for the tribal chief’s woman, Lana (Barbara Bach), goes out into the world, learns to stand upright, tames dinosaurs, becomes leader of his own tribe, discovers fire, returns to fight and defeat the gigantic tribal chief Tonda (John Matuszak) and finally wins his heart’s desire. What does he do next? Holding the tanned body of his potential mate, her skin covered only by the briefest of animal skins, he suddenly tosses her over a boulder into a gigantic heap of dinosaur dung!

‘Caveman’ is played for laughs, tosses any attempt at historical accuracy out of the window, pokes gentle fun at ‘One Million Years BC’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and is set one zillion years ago! As Lana, Barbara Bach looks rather like Raquel Welch in ‘One Million Years BC’. Ringo, however, is nothing like John Richardson’s macho Tumak of that film. Initially, we see him scrabbling for berries and being tossed out of the way each time he spots any by the other burly tribesmen. Since the cave people are shown walking with a stoop, Ringo at times reminds the viewer of Groucho Marx. Fortunately – in a spoof on ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ – Ringo and his best friend Lar (Dennis Quaid) discover how to straighten each other’s backs. Now, with the confidence befitting homo erectus, they spend time conveying the information to everyone else and, eventually, with much snapping and cracking of bones, the cast are able to walk upright.

There is little dialogue, apart from that of a Chinese caveman who creates English words. A special 15-word language was created for the film – and the following words are repeated throughout, with many gestures and some help from the soundtrack. The characters seem to relish the opportunity of indulging in belches, grunts and groans and other rather more indiscreet anatomical noises! The 15-word language consists of:

Aieee: Help! Save Me! Mayday!
Aloonda: Love, To Love, Affection, Desire, Goodness
Bo-bo: Man, Friend, Human, one-of-us
Ca-ca: Excrement, Dung
Fech: Bad, No Good, Ugly
Gwee: To Go, Go On, Go
Haraka: Fire, Burning Thing
Kuda: Come Here, Where We Are Now, To Come, This Way, Right Here
Ma: Me, I, Myself
Macha: Wild Animal, Beast, Non-Human Creature
Nya: No, None, Not Happening, Negative
Ool: Food, Edible Stuff
Pooka: Hurt, Injured, Messed Up, No Good
Whup: Stop, Whoa, Hold It
Zug-zug: Sexual Intercourse, Doing It, Lustful expression

The role proved ideal for Ringo, who commented, “I’m a very visual person so, for me, ‘Caveman’ is a great piece. It’s more than dialogue and it’s far more creative to me to transmit all those feelings” And transmit them he does, with rolling eyes and a cheeky grin, Ringo gives full rein to the Chaplinesque qualities many observers spotted in his performance in ‘A Hard Day’s Night'.

‘Caveman’ was filmed in Mexico and its locations are spectacular, with huge, exotically-shaped boulders and ‘prehistoric-looking’ mountains. The dinosaurs are the cutest you’ve ever seen, with a tyrannosaurus rex looking so comical, even when pursuing humans in search of his dinner. The most fearsome-looking creature is an abominable snowman who attacks the tribe when they stray into a nearby ice-age, but even he is reduced to tears by the frustration of trying to get the better of Ringo.

The secret of the film, of course, is that the underdog triumphs. From the moment we see our pale and weedy hero being pushed around by brawny musclemen, the audience is on his side, and he continues to overcome every obstacle, more by luck than judgement. The film’s one false note is Ringo’s inexplicable obsession with the stunning Lana, at the expense of the little blonde in the cave next door, Tala (Shelley Long) who stands by our intrepid caveman through thick and thin. Lana is just concerned with backing whoever is chief in order to get first pick of the dinosaur meat! However, he must have realised in the end what a scheming bitch Lana is, because he throws her into that steaming heap of dung!           Movie on You Tube

Ringo Starr 'Caveman'

Mersey Beat Magazine Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

Article Text Bill Harry               Original Graphics SixtiesCity     Other individual owner copyrights may apply to Photographic Images

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