"Teenage Cavemen" was obviously intended to be a cheapo "exploitation" film (in the manner of "I was A Teenage Werewolf" and "I Was A Teenage Frankenstein") and indeed, its origins as a Corman "3 Day Wonder" are obvious - it's so shabbily made and so obviously hacked out that it barely holds together as a movie at all. But still, there is just a bit of an edge to this one, a little more depth and interest.
I've always liked Robert ("Man From UNCLE") Vaughn. He's a fine,if limited, actor who manages to pack a certain sinister, vulpine energy and intelligence into even the silliest and most badly conceived parts. (I don't blame him for "Superman III", either - he did what he could with that one). His presence adds an extra point to the ratings, since he is obviously a 'real' actor, even in this early role.
However, the "teenage caveman" role is not a role that calls for these qualities, so this is a pretty tough part for him. With his narrow, refined features, skinny physique and elegant hairstyle, he looks less like a caveman - or a teenager, for that matter - than almost any male actor over 25 you can name. And the script makes him (and everyone else) talk in the affected, unconvincing, plodding Pidgin English speech that all "primitives" in movies seem to use, and these lines are incredibly unconvincing coming from this obviously civilized and educated person.
I'll give him this, though - in spite of the affected dialog and speech mannerisms he is forced to adopt, Vaughn does a decent job of portraying the restlessness, unhappiness and chafing of an original "thinker" trying to escape the confines of a closed traditional society.
And even though the special effects, scenery, costumes, dialog and acting are all badly underpowered, and the use of borrowed stock footage is really jarring and annoying, the movie does manage to incorporate a sense of youth vs. authority, tradition vs. innovation, and yes, a puzzle with a "surprise twist" at the end which actually sort of works. ***SPOILER FOLLOWS*** By this I mean that the post-apocalyptic denouement actually does play fair with the viewer within the limits of the film, and the ending does give me a little shudder, even now.
Like most Corman movies, this one is mostly of historical interest, but it does pack a bit more punch than most of his output, even if only by accident.
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