Caveman (film)

Caveman is a 1981 American slapstick comedy film written and directed by Carl Gottlieb and starring Ringo Starr, Dennis Quaid, Shelley Long and Barbara Bach.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byCarl Gottlieb
Produced byDavid Foster
Lawrence Turman
Written byRudy De Luca
Carl Gottlieb
Music byLalo Schifrin
CinematographyAlan Hume
Edited byGene Fowler, Jr.
Turman-Foster Company
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • April 17, 1981 (1981-04-17)
Running time
91 min.
CountryUnited States
Box office$15,965,924[1]


Atouk (Ringo Starr) is a bullied and scrawny caveman living in "One Zillion BC October 9th".[2] He lusts after the beautiful but shallow Lana (Barbara Bach), who is the mate of Tonda (John Matuszak), their tribe's physically imposing bullying leader and brutish instigator. After being banished along with his friend Lar (Dennis Quaid), Atouk falls in with a band of assorted misfits, among them the comely Tala (Shelly Long) and the elderly blind man Gog (Jack Gilford). The group has ongoing encounters with hungry dinosaurs, and rescues Lar from a "nearby ice age", where they encounter an abominable snowman. In the course of these adventures they discover sedative drugs, fire, invent cooking, music, weapons, and learn how to walk fully upright. Atouk uses these advancements to lead an attack on Tonda, overthrowing him and becoming the tribe's new leader. He rejects Lana and takes Tala as his mate, and they live happily ever after.



Filming was mostly done in the Sierra de Órganos National Park in the town of Sombrerete in the state of Zacatecas, Mexico. The river and fishing lake scene was shot in the Mexican state of Durango, and some scenes were filmed at the Churubusco Studios in Mexico City. The film features stop motion animated dinosaurs constructed by Jim Danforth,[3] including a Tyrannosaurus Rex which in one scene becomes intoxicated by a cannabis-type drug, animated by Randall W. Cook.[4] Danforth was a major participant in the special effects sequences, but left the film "about two-thirds of the way" (his words) through the work because the Directors Guild of America prohibited his contracted on-screen credit, co-direction with Carl Gottlieb. Consequently, Danforth's name does not appear on the film.[5]

The film's dialog is almost entirely in "caveman" language, such as:

  • "alunda" love
  • "bobo" friend
  • "haraka" fire
  • "macha" monster
  • "aiyee" help
  • "ya" yes
  • "nya" no/not
  • "ool" food
  • "pooka" broken/pain
  • "ugh" like
  • "zug zug" sex/mate
  • "kuda" come
  • "caca" shit
  • "guwi" out to get
  • "gluglug" drowned

At some showings audiences were issued a translation pamphlet for 30 "caveman words."[6] The only English dialog present is used for comedic effect, when it is spoken by a caveman played by Evan Kim who speaks modern English but is understood by none of the other characters. Being a Korean caveman, by speaking English, he appears to be more advanced than the rest. At her audition, Long said she did not speak any English, but responded to everything with grunts.[6]

Barbara Bach and Ringo Starr first met on the set of Caveman, and they married just over a year later.[7]

Home media

The film was released on Region 1 DVD by MGM Home Entertainment on June 4, 2002. It was then released on February 17, 2015 on Blu-ray Disc by Olive Films.[8]


Critical reception was mostly negative. On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes the film has a rating of 22% based on reviews from 18 critics.[9]

Roger Ebert gave the film 1.5 stars out of a possible 4. The cast was "interesting," he wrote, but the main failing of Caveman was it being a spoof with "no popular original material for it to satirize. There has never been a really successful movie set in prehistoric times."[10]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that the film was "dopey, but it's also lots of fun", and that the real star was the special-effects dinosaur.[11]

Caveman was not a box-office success.


  1. Caveman at Box Office Mojo
  2. Done in memory of the birth of John Lennon who was killed 5 months before the film's release, was Ringo Starr's friend and bandmate with The Beatles, and whose birthday was October 9.
  3. Pettigrew, Neil (1999). The Stop-Motion Filmography. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 111. ISBN 0786404469.
  4. Pettigrew, p. 114.
  5. Pettigrew, p. 109.
  6. "Caveman (1981) - IMDb" via
  7. "Barbara Bach - Biography -".
  8. "Caveman Roars onto Blu-ray from Olive Films". Dread Central. December 19, 2014.
  9. "Caveman (1981)" via
  10. Ebert, Roger. "Caveman Movie Review & Film Summary (1981) | Roger Ebert".
  11. Maslin, Janet (April 17, 1981). "'Caveman' with Ringo Starr" via
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