16: B.C. Rock 
Screenplay Tony Hendra
Studio Almi Distribution
Genre Animated alternative history
Running Time 84 minutes
Starring James Vallely
Co-Starring Jonathan Schmock, Joseph Plewa
Stewie Babcock [Vallely], one of the earliest homo sapiens, narrates a tale about the early days of the species. Stewie is rejected by his tribe at birth because of his red hair and is left to fend for himself. Rescued by a passing apatosaurus, who he names Bone [Plewa], the young human tries to find his way in a hostile world filled with danger and strangeness…
B.C. Rock [original French title Le Chaînon Manquant, meaning “The Missing Link”] is one heck of a strange film. Despite Stewie’s introductory narration, explaining that the film will explain his version of events as to the beginnings of man, the film struggles with direction as there’s no real sense of whether the film knows exactly where it’s heading or what message – if any – it wants to convey. Only in the final five minutes, when Stewie returns home to his tribe by flying inside an inflated shark, does it find any sort of purpose: Stewie discovered a large number of inventions on his travels, including the use of fire and the wheel. Rather than accepting him for his discoveries, his tribe steal them and vow to use them to wage war on all the Earth, propogating violence, prejudice and hatred for all time. This attempt at moral awareness simply sounds like preaching, given the near complete lack of supporting context in the rest of the film – it just comes across as something tacked on the end of the film in a hurry.
It’s difficult to tell how much of the blame for this should lie at the feet of the American translation – and accompanying music track. While most non-English language animation now enjoys a great deal of care in their translation, this was not the case in the early 1980s, so it’s hard to tell how much of the original creative intent remains. The constant references to modern inventions and cultural memes are irritating – such as when the wise-cracking pterodactyl Slick [Schmock] lambasts Stewie because he “ain’t got no clothes on”.
The film’s use of music is also incredibly jarring – like so many others from the same era, every scene must be accompanied by some sort of horrid country, soft rock, jazz or hideous 80s synth/electro. Not only does this date the film horribly, reducing its shelf-life, but the use of lyrical accompaniment distracts from what’s happening on-screen. There’s so much change, with many songs of different styles and from different artists used in each scene, and no unifying style at all. Thankfully, non-scored soundtracks are much more sophisticated these days.
Bill Murray appears in two scenes as a foul-mouthed dragon who cannot breathe fire; he can only fart it. Although I really shouldn’t be questioning the historical accuracy of a film where the main character co-exists with dinosuars, dodos – and also becomes the first human to discover the joys of casual sex with cats [yes, seriously] – I can’t help but wonder how dragons fit in with early human history history…?
[Copyright 1980 Almi Distribution]
NEXT UP: Hamlet