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I remember seeing this dinosaur movie when I was a kid - as a dino fan,
anything dinosaur is movies was intriguing for me.
A dinosaur was captured by cowboy James Franciscus and brought to the Mexican circus. Of course, it's all mayhem while the T-rex escapes and wrecks havoc upon the town and threatening its citizens.
It was neat seeing the T-Rex roaming around and serving up some neat dino action and mayhem. The stop motion special effects weren't bad for its time, but the overall plot was little boring if I recalled and the acting was pretty mediocre.
But, not a bad special effects film - definitely better than some of the black and white B-movies.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you have ever dreamed of seeing the original "King Kong" done in
color but accomplished with traditional special effects, "The Valley of
Gwangi" is probably the closest you'll get to that. It's not a classic
like "King Kong" is. The lead character (played by James Franciscus) is
kind of obnoxious for quite some time, though eventually you'll warm up
to him. It also takes some time for the story to really get going. But
I'll admit that even when the movie takes its sweet time, I was never
really bored at any moment. There are some colorful background scenery
and sets (some serious money was spent on this movie), some action, but
best of all the special effects by Ray Harryhausen. They are still
pretty fun to observe and are still well accomplished after all of
One quibble that I feel I have to add: Whose idea was it to make the dinosaurs pink and purple? True, we don't know what colors real dinosaurs had. But the sight of these movie dinosaurs in non traditional colors does look somewhat silly at times.
It only takes creativity and imagination to make a film like this work.
The Valley Of Gwangi takes two childhood favorites and mix them together into one. Every child loves Dinosaurs and many love westerns so having a mix of the two actually works out.
For a film in the 1960s it had some very good stop motion work with the Dinosaurs in the film every frame has been timed to make it work where the actors are actually in the same frame.
The setting for the film does feel like a old time western but with Dinosaurs added to the mix how could you go wrong?
The cast and crew does a good job with helping with the story along with some very good music in the film to help express the emotion during the film.
It is a shame that this film is not given much respect for being creative at the time of it release
The Valley of Gwangi is one of the few films that truly original in terms of story mixing dinosaurs with Cowboys.
While it may not get much attention today as it did back in the day it is still a film that worth watching if you love Dinosaurs.
I give The Valley of Gwangi an 7 out of 10
James Franciscus stars as an ambitious cowboy who discovers a valley containing a T-Rex(called Gwangi) that he(along with others) captures and sells to a circus, where it becomes a star attraction. Of course, it doesn't appreciate its captivity, eventually escaping and causing havoc before it meets its fiery fate... Ray Harryhausen's model F/X are quite good, but once again, the story is predictable and routine, with little character involvement. Nice to see veteran actor Richard Carlson turn up, but despite a good pair of performances from him and Franciscus, the film falls short, though is remembered for mixing the cowboy and monster genres.
Ray Harryhausen has a unique place in the history of film and it's not
the quality of his work. A lot of players are box office names, a few
director/producers like Cecil B. DeMille, Alfred Hitchcock, Frank
Capra, and Walt Disney most of all bring people in with having their
names on a film. But Ray Harryhausen is the only one in his profession
as a special effects man who brings folks to the theater. That's the
best tribute of all for him.
Late in the 19th century Gita Golan owner of a small wild west show is playing Mexico and she's got a unique attraction as she has found a small horse, an ancient eohippus which has come out of a valley said to be cursed and inhabited by fierce creatures called the Gwangi. An old flame who works for Buffalo Bill, James Franciscus and some of his wild west show cowboys show up to track down the little horse after some local gypsies under the direction of Freda Jackson set it free.
But what they run into is an ancient tyrannosaurus which is called a Gwangi by the locals. It's like when Carl Dedham spotted King Kong, got to get this guy back to civilization and make a bundle off him.
The plot is outrageous with some great overacting by Freda Jackson as the old gypsy crone and Laurence Naismith as a palaeontologist all in the spirit of fun. I love it when Franciscus and the cowboys discover that the reason their bullets are having no affect on the big guy is they're using blanks from the show. Does it deter them, it does not they set about to lariat T-Rex and play an interesting an deadly game of tag.
When they do capture him and later destroy him, it's with a lot of luck and some natural forces in nature.
Dopey plot, but that's part of the fun. And the work of Ray Harryhausen is the reason to see the film and in that you won't be disappointed.
Filmed in Spain, the movie's sort of like Spaghetti Western meets King
Kong. In fact, the screenplay parallels much of Kong, with a
hard-driving promoter (Carlson), a public exhibition (an arena), a lost
world (the valley), and a landmark climax (a cathedral). Of course,
this one doesn't manage the peculiar pathos of Kong, but still manages
Key to monster movies are special effects, and expert Ray Harryhausen has had plenty of practice. I just wish the editing had condensed a climax that goes on too long and fails to ratchet up the showdown suspense. Note too, how the rushing crowd scenes don't edit in effectively, even though the people appear genuinely panicked. In my little book, the movie fails to sharpen its elements because of generally loose editing (contrast with parallel scenes in Kong).
Nonetheless, Franciscus is handsome, Golan is drop-dead beautiful, and the veteran Carlson picks up a payday. And if their acting fails to equal the force of the critters (again, contrast with Kong), they at least look great in Technicolor. There is one really poignant moment that unfortunately gets passed over too quickly. That's when Gwangi overpowers the circus elephant after a brief struggle. I'll bet not a single person was rooting for Gwangi as our modern beast takes on the Neanderthal in a battle to the death. There's nothing in Kong like it, and had this movie managed, the struggle could have injected real emotional impact. As things stand, however, the movie is mainly watchable for its Technicolor special effects.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ray Harryhausen finally got to work on Willis O'Brien's abandoned
Gwangi project in a movie which essentially takes the King Kong story,
substitutes a tyrannosaurus rex for King Kong, a hidden valley for
Skull Island, and lands the whole thing in the wild west.
James Franciscus plays a handsome but anodyne cowboy, and Gila Golan plays a beautiful but anodyne circus owner, none of which matters. Because The Valley Of Gwangi is all about the dinosaurs! The background plates, filmed in Spain doubling for a hidden valley in the US west, feature cowboys riding round a jeep with a pole tied to it, roping said pole. Thanks to the miraculous Mr Harryhausen we never see the jeep, seeing only the snarling Gwangi (as well as an eohippus, one of the -mimuses, and an ill-fated elephant). Harryhausen's other creations spread the load - Gwangi carries this movie on his own, and does so effortlessly.
The film itself is fairly predictable, especially if you've seen Kong, but it is bright, fast paced, exciting, with excellent music.
Oh, and with Gwangi, too!
Wild west showmen follow a prehistoric horse to a hidden valley where
they are attacked by dinosaurs. Eventually, the cowboys manage to
capture a live Allosaurus, which they turn into the star of their new
Valley of the Gwangi is a case of high-concept movie-making, old-school style: cowboys vs. dinosaurs (it doesn't get much more high-concept than that), all brought to life through the use of cutting-edge movie-magic circa 1969.
I was lucky enough to see this film as a child in the 70s, when stop-motion animation, rear projection, and matte work were still considered state-of-the-art, and I was naturally impressed; sadly, what was once the dog's dangly bits now looks seriously creaky in comparison to today's CGI effects. For this reason, Gwangi is unlikely to make much of an impression on today's youngsters, unless of course you can catch 'em early enough: force feed your kids Harryhausen flicks from day one (as I have done with mine) and you might just be able to convince them that old monster movies are still worth the time of day. I'm sure they'll thank you for it when they're older.
Even though Gwangi takes a while to get going and cannot hold a candle to the likes of Jurassic Park, the movie has an undeniable charm and one or two standout action scenes that still have the ability to excite despite the relative crudity of their execution. The jerky Allosaurus might spend more time snapping its jaws at fresh air and swishing its tail than actually chowing down on humans, but the the sight of several cowboys lassoing the beast is still exhilarating stuff (although in reality, that thing would've moved like the clappers and torn those cowboys a new one in minutes), and nothing opens a show quite like a dwarf being eaten alive by the main attraction.
6.5 out of 10, rounded up to 7 for nostalgia's sake.
My Take: Ray Harryhausen's special effects steal the show. A terrific
and highly underrated fantasy adventure.
Unable to decide what would make a better movie, cowboys or dinosaurs, they just decided to go both ways in this enjoyable old-fashioned adventure film that brings the thrill of the Old West in an adventure on a Lost World. While the cowboys part of the story is not up to the thrill, Ray Harryhausen's special effects dinosaurs are the real stars of the show, and when they finally take center stage, THE VALLEY OF GWANGI is a classic little gem.
The story is not very different from other movies like KING KONG, or later movies inspired from these films like THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK: Cowboy James Franciscus and ex-flame Gila Golan finds the perfect attraction for their wild west circus when they wind up in a valley cut of from the rest of the world... and in time. Dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes are still alive and these cowboys find a way to bring one of them, an Allosaur dubbed Gwangi by the gypsies, to the mainland. Obviously, these guys haven't seen KING KONG.
Harryhausen special effects are in fine form here. There are some truly impressive sequences here, clearly showing Harryhausen's perfection of his work. There's a great sequence where the cowboys try to lasso Gwangi, and the claymation creature fits seamless to the background; you really believe that these guys are lassoing a living prehistoric beast. And following the rule of any Harryhausen monster movie, Gwangi does battle with a Styracosaur AND a circus elephant. Ray Harryhausen at his best! Clichés that would later be overused in future films flow all over the screen, which were also inspired from earlier works as KING KONG or the silent version of THE LOST WORLD, but overall, this is terrific, if not nearly flawless, Saturday-afternoon fun. Pass the popcorn!
Rating: **** out of 5.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is the second of my reviews this month that I comment on a movie that has some connection with King Kong, the first being Dr. Cyclops which was helmed by Kong's co-director Ernest B. Schoedsack. In this case, The Valley of Gwangi was based on an original idea by Kong's visual effects artist Willis H. O'Brien who was supposed to make this after the ape epic was done but for some reason never got to it. Several years after his death in 1962, his protégé Ray Harryhausen finally helped get this made. Anyway, Tuck Kirby (James Franciscus) has arrived back in a Mexico town to the consternation of carnival head Champ Connors (Richard Carlson) and old flame T. J. Breckenridge (Gila Golan). Among his few allies is local orphaned boy laborer Lope (Curtis Arden). Somehow they, and a few others, end up in a rocky desert where they ignore warnings from gypsy woman Tia Zorina (Freda Jackson) when they manage to capture a rare dinosaur named Gwangi. I'll stop there and just say that while it takes some time before the exciting dinosaur sequences come and some of the romance between Kirby and Breckenridge might be a little icky for the young 'uns (and perhaps a little adult for their tastes), this was quite an enjoyable ride from beginning to end. Ms. Jackson as Zorina is especially delightful in her scenery chewing brief times she issues her warnings and when her associate The Dwarf (Jose Burgos) confronts the caged Gwangi, those are pretty tense scenes. And I was entertainingly amused by the way Harryhausen does all those stop motion animated scenes of Gwangi with the other creatures despite the fact he kills many of them! As with my review of Dr. Cyclops, if you try to make logic sense of it all you'll probably get a splitting headache though I did wonder why the professor character tried to get near the now-escaped dinosaur especially when he had that caged door fall on him! All in all, The Valley of Gwangi was quite an enjoyable yarn. P.S. I didn't recognize Richard Carlson here from his previous role as a scientist in Abbott & Costello's Hold That Ghost since he's much older than the character that appeared in that 1941 film. And this is the second time, after Dr. Cyclops, that an abnormally small horse is depicted on screen though the former was split screen while the latter was another of Harryhausen's animated models.
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