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The Valley of Gwangi is a film that, through cult enjoyment of its
has managed to overcome the problems that made it "forgotten" in motion
pictures to enjoy its present status as a fantasy classic.
Originally written by King Kong's Willis O'Brien, Gwangi's script was never filmed, but a copy owned by Ray Harryhausen stored in his garage was resurrected in 1966. With additional work by writer William Bast, The Valley Of Gwangi was approved by Kenneth Hyman of Seven Arts Inc, which had financed Harryhausen's film with Raquel Welsh, One Million Years B.C. and who had purchased into the Warner Brothers studio.
Filming took place in Spain and lasted two years, mostly due to the time needed by Harryhausen to animate the dinosaurs. Given that the film employed over 300 animation shots (the most of any Harryhausen film), it was expected that release would not come until two years after principal photography had been completed.
The extra time paid off in Harryhausen's best animation. Adding enormously were the superior sound FX employed by Warner Brothers, giving dinosaur voices far more menacing and believeable than those used by Columbia or Hammer; attention to peripheral sound FX is also striking, notably in the finale within the enormous cathedral, where the echo of Gwangi's breathing and footsteps adds greatly to the drama.
The human cast also works well, notably star James Franciscus. The story involves the efforts of a struggling wild west show in circa-1900 Mexico. To boost attendance, owner T.J. Breckenridge (Gila Golan, cast in the film as a favor to Ken Hyman) has found a tiny horse - which turns out to be a prehistoric Eohippus, and which comes from a Forbidden Valley filled with dinosaurs. One is known as Gwangi, a belligerent allosaur that, after an extremely long chase that sidetracks to a bloody battle with a styracosaur, is captured and put on display in T.J.'s show, only to be set free and rampage through the nearby town.
Harryhausen's animation is the film's highlight, but the performances, Erwin Hillier's cinematography, and Jerome Moross' superb score all add up to an immensely enjoyable film. It suffered, though, as Kenneth Hyman was let go during filming and new Warners management released the film without publicity and as part of a double-bill with a biker film, thus missing the youthful audience that was the film's target. The film was largely forgotten until cult attention in the 1980s and '90s elevated general interest and has made it a favorite of fantasy film buffs.
What's not to like here-James Franciscus, Gila Golan, Naismeth, the
excellent Harryhausen Allosaurus F/X, the dino-elephant battle, the cowboys
roping the dino scene, etc. Very nicely done. No great acting, of course,
and nothing you haven't seen already in Kong or 100 other places, but its
what they do with it here that makes it worth yer while.
Personally I always enjoy it when I see it; I think it's one of the better dino flix you can find pre-Jurassic Park.
*** outta ****, esp if you like Harryhousen's stuff.
This is a damn good movie for a 1969 release! Of course the special effects are what makes it so good. Once again, I represent the one percent of the critics who liked it. I also have an artistic eye though. I see Harryhausen's Allosaurus(not Tyrannosaurus) as a living breathing beast. The only other movies that this happens is, One Million YeARS b.c. and Jurassic Park who's computer animation stands alone compared to the hundreds of other horrible excuses for c.g.i. that exist. With Harryhausen's effects we are talking about one artist who creates all the monsters and scenes, not about a team of people with different ideas who work on computers to make a flat representation of life. If you like movies like Anaconda and Tristar's Godzilla, then this movie is definitely not for you.
Okay, so it's the only dinosaur and cowboy movie (that I know of). The
acting isn't much, but seeing three cowboys rope a T Rex -- and then
the T Rex fight an elephant -- that is cool.
And "El Diablo," the little eohippus, is just too cute.
Harryhausen's stop-motion animation is wonderful. Get the DVD with an interview in which he talks about how he did the cowboy-roping scene, and current animators/fx artists talk about he inspired them -- pretty fun. In a geeky kind of way.
I enjoy watching this movie, even though for some, it may be too thought provoking. Well maybe not, but it is original. I have it on VHS and pop it in every once in awhile just to enjoy the special effects. Ray Harryhausen was one of the best in this line of work. So watch the movie and relish in the escapism. Of course I am a sucker for dinosaur movies.
If you are a fan of dinosaur movie,this one won't upset you.I do like a way
the screenplay told the story to us.Good for all ages.Wonderfully
mixture of cowboy and dinosaur and love story!! ..Good acting and grand
western music scores help support the pics very much.Its theme song is as
good as a theme for "The Big Country"...I dare say.Also,as for special
effects,I can't say anything more to Ray's attempts.
Certainly,this movie isn't the best.But it can entertain you much more than you expect.
The Valley of Gwangi is a lot better than the earlier dinosaur/cowboy
The Beast of Hollow Mountain. It contains a lot more dinosaurs and better
special effects. These were created by the great Ray Harryhausen.
The film itself is very enjoyable with good performances from the cast including Richard Carlson (It Came From Outer Space, The Creature From the Black Lagoon). The music score is excellent. The ending was rather sad though.
This is a must if you like dinosaur films like me.
Rating: 4 and a half stars out of 5.
Special effects master Ray Harryhausen is at the top of his game. What
sounds corny turns out to be a very interesting cult classic. Jim O'Connolly
directs this western meets science fiction thriller about cowboys
discovering a lost valley of prehistoric monsters/creatures. These
historical finds are then suppose to be the show saving performers in a
This turns out to be one the best dino movies you will ever see. The stop-motion animation is blended so well, it should take top billing. So many other movies are so fake in appearance...this project sticks out like a masterpiece.
The cast includes James Franciscus, Richard Carlson, Laurence Naismith and the alluring Miss Gila Golan.
Shot in Technicolor by Erwin Hillier and in Dynamation, The Valley Of
Gwangi sees Tuck Kirby (James Franciscus) and a team of cowboys get
more than they bargained for when they enter a hidden valley in Mexico.
For here, prehistoric creatures reside and the cowboys come up with the
idea of capturing a Tyrannosaurus Rex to become the chief attraction in
the circus they work at.
The makers of Gwangi never hid their motivations or homages, from the off they wanted to nod towards King Kong whilst pairing the Western and Fantasy genres in the process. The result of which is an enjoyable if unfulfilled movie that again sees Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion creations save the day. Directed by Jim O'Connolly with a screenplay by William Bast, The Valley Of Gwangi suffers not because of its bonkers plot (this is after all why we watch this type of genre offering), but more because of the slow first half that threatens to put the viewer into torpor. Thankfully the film is saved by the afore mentioned Harryhausen who unleashes prehistoric joys on the B movie cast (tho Laurence Naismith is considerably better than the material given him). While the ending raises the adrenaline sufficiently enough to have made the wait worth while. Jerome Moross lifts from his brilliant score for The Big Country with mixed results; it just feels out of place here, even if it's stirring and pleasing to the ears. And the Almería, Andalucía location work in Spain is at one with the material to hand.
Saturday afternoon monster fun to be enjoyed with either popcorn or something stronger from the drinks cupboard. 6/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Like many of my generation, I was introduced to `the Valley of Gwangi' on
television, having been born just a tad late to see it in the theater, and
much too early to see it on video. To me as a kid, it was the very best
dinosaur film ever made. Effects may have improved since then, but for my
money, there is still nothing to compare to the loving hand-wrought artistry
of Ray Harryhausen.
Most video guides and many of the imdb's commentators note that this was originally based upon a Willis O'Brien story. What few seem to notice is that O'Brien himself made a similar film called `The Beast of Hollow Mountain' in 1956. The film is inferior in terms of story and (surprisingly) effects, but it does hold the title of `the first cowboy western.'
As far as Gwangi is concerned, however, it follows the familiar psychotronic-era theme of a monster as catalyst for resolving a romance on the rocks. Tuck Kirby requires the help of the big lizard to prove himself to TJ Breckinridge and rekindle their love. This is a fairly familiar dramatic tension: the problem to be overcome is that of the hero's impotence, and he does so by invoking the dread demons of femininity. The location of the `forbidden valley' accessible only via a tight cave (which must be blasted with dynamite to enter) only takes the Freudian theme to extreme excesses. What is interesting, in this context, is the centrality of `Lope' the Mexican orphan child. For Lope, the tension appears to be whom to accept in the father-role: the heroic (but impotent) Tuck, the knowledgeable (if foolish and at times seemingly pedophilic) Professor or, as all us young boys truly craved , Gwangi himself. The resolution of James/Gila's romance appears to imply a resolution to Lope's situation as well: he is to be adopted into a newly formed family-unit, returned to normalcy and rescued from the streets. The fact that the movie closes with the image of Lope crying at the monster's death, tells what a tragedy this `happy ending' really is.
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