Quest for Fire (1981)

quest for fire poster 1981 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Almost experimental film

Lack of dialogue can make watching the movie tough

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Quest for Fire

Studio:  20th Century Fox

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  December 16, 1981 (France)/February 12, 1982 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R


Hey, you know…we’re just a few early Homo sapiens just hanging out…looking for fire and all…

A tribe finds their precious fire lost in a raid.  The tribe’s only hope for survival is three members Naoh (Everett McGill), Gaw (Nameer El-Kadi), and Amoukar (Ron Perlman) who must set out on a journey to bring the light and warmth back to the tribe.  When they encounter a woman named Ika (Rae Dawn Chong), the group could learn the secret of the flame.

Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, Quest for Fire adapts the 1911 novel by Belgian author J.-H. Rosny which was the penname for brothers Joseph Henri Honoré Boex and Séraphin Justin François Boex.  The movie was released to positive reviews and had a strong showing at the box office.


What do you mean I don’t need any make-up?

Quest for Fire is a weird movie.  One would almost be tempted to label it a silent picture since there is no true dialogue (many of the tribes speak in grunts and tongues).  The movie over the years, since it is rather unusual, has gained a small cult following…I understand why, but it isn’t the easiest movie to watch.

The story for the movie is pretty basic and there was some work put into it to attempt to get some historic accuracy.  The movie actually should have probably been set further, back but that aspect is forgivable since it really can’t be seen as a historic text…it is a fantasy almost in the veins of Conan (minus the snake people).  There is some dialogue in the movie and it is developed from language created by Anthony Burgess.

The cast is quite strong and I admire them for taking on a challenging role.  The movie is the first film for Ron Perlman, but Everett McGill is rather good as the lead.  Rae Dawn Chong was picked because she wasn’t uncomfortable being naked for almost the entire shoot…that is commitment (especially considering both Perlman and McGill suffered frostbite on the shoot).


Say what you will about the movie, this is some of the coolest make-up

The movie looks rather good.  I really like how Rae Dawn Chong’s people look and the make-up design there, but also the early Homo sapiens and the Neathrthalls look good.  I think some of the attempts at the wooly mammoths (covered elephants) and sabre-tooth tigers (lions with big teeth affixed) were kind of weak, but at least the movie had a great setting with locations in Scotland, Canada, and Kenya.

Quest for Fire is almost an experimental movie.  It doesn’t have the cheesiness of One Million Years B.C. or 10,000 BC, but sometimes you wish it did.  The movie is a bit tough to watch in this sense in that I found myself drifting while watching it…you can only pay attention to grunts for so long.  That being said, I do commend the movie for trying something somewhat new…it just could have been better plotted.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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