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Prehistoric Humans in Film and Television
581 Dramas, Comedies and Documentaries, 1905-2004
Michael Klossner
McFarland, 330 pages

Prehistoric Humans in Film and Television
Michael Klossner
Michael Klossner is resident of Little Rock, Arkansas, Michael Klossner is a librarian at Arkansas State Library. He is a contributor to Anatomy of Wonder (1995) and Fantasy and Horror (2000) and the author of The Europe of 15001815 on Film and Television (McFarland, 2002).

Publisher's website
Author's online writings (also see links at bottom)
Extensive bibliography of written prehistoric fiction

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

When reviewing reference works, one can rarely hope to compete with the author in terms of knowledge of the field (my knowledge of prehistoric tales being largely limited to literature), so saying that there are no obvious omissions or errors, within the author's defined scope, isn't saying much. One must judge the work on its ease of use, readability, the quality of its indexes and bibliographies, how clearly the scope is defined and the completeness of the survey of said scope, along with the probity of the author's commentary and inclusion of other expert's views -- on these fronts, Michael Klossner's Prehistoric Humans in Film and Television delivers the goods.

The work is divided into three main parts:

  • Fictional Works in Prehistoric Settings
  • Documentaries
  • Fictional Works in Historical, Modern and Extraterrestrial Settings
along with four Appendices:
  • Misleading Titles, Unknown Contents, Aborted and Proposed Projects
  • Post-Apocalypse Primitives in Film and Television
  • Outstanding Performances as Prehistoric Characters
  • The Creationist Challenge: Productions That Question the Existence of Prehistoric Humans

Each entry (particularly for fictional works) includes full filmographic data, including year of release, running time, production personnel, cast information, and format. Klossner includes a wide chronological range of films, surveying no less completely silent films that later ones, though some information on the public availability/survival of the less important early films might have been included. A plot description of each film provides both the story line and a commentary on how anthropologically accurate the film's portrayal of early man is. For major films, a "commentary" section expands on the accuracy of the film, the making and intent of the film, the techniques used, anecdotes regarding the director and/or stars, and a listing of other reference works which mention the film. While Klossner excludes overtly pornographic films, he does treat the many cave man sexploitation films with the same methodical approach: while clearly making the distinction between them and 'quality' genre films, he provides an informed analysis which doesn't simply discount them as worthless drivel, but places them within the context of their sub-genre.

Similar information to that for fictional films is provided for television productions, including lists of relevant episodes. For documentaries, the filmographic details are given, a description of the scope of the work, as well as an assessment of its scientific accuracy. Klossner also devotes a small appendix to Creationist films which deny the existence of prehistoric man.

I was personally fascinated with the extent of silent films dedicated to the genre and the fact that no less than D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton produced important or at least entertaining genre films. Klossner has of course his personal favourites, like the opening scene of Kubrick's 2001. A Space Odyssey, and is somewhat more critical of Quest For Fire, perhaps given it having been publicized, at its release, as the most scientifically accurate non-documentary genre film.

Certainly for those interested in prehistory and the history of the particular film genre, Prehistoric Humans in Film and Television is both a useful, well documented, organized and annotated reference tool, as well as a treasure trove of films to discover.

Copyright © 2006 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.

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