THE VALLEY OF GWANGI
(director: James O’Connolly; screenwriters: Julian More/William Bast; cinematographer: Erwin Hillier; editor: Henry Richardson; music: Jerome Moross; cast: James Franciscus (Tuck Kirby), Gila Golan (T.J.), Richard Carlson (Champ), Laurence Naismith (Professor Bromley), Freda Jackson (Tia Zorina), Gustavo Rojo (Carlos), Dennis Kilbane (Rowdy), Mario de Barros (Bean), Curtis Arden (Lope), Jose Burgos (Dwarf); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Charles H. Schneer; Warner Bros.; 1969)
“An implausible B film fantasy sci-fi venture. But it should delight the fans of special effects maven Ray Harryhausen more than others.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An implausible B film fantasy sci-fi venture. But it should delight the fans of special effects maven Ray Harryhausen more than others. The film was a commercial flop upon its release. It’s directed by the Brit James O’Connolly(“Crooks and Coronets”/”Sophie’s Place”/ “Horror on Snape Island”), and is written by Julian More and William Bast. The filmmaker reworks the King Kong legend into a strange hybrid Western and dinosaur film. Harryhausen’s complex stop-motion effects keeps you dazzled even if you dismiss the routine narrative as drivel.
At the turn-of-the-20th century, the world-weary showbiz promoter Tuck Kirby (James Franciscus) visits in rural Mexico his ex-partner and girlfriend, T. J. Breckenridge (Gila Golan), who operates a struggling touring Wild West show. He wants her to sell the show and marry him, and live with him a quiet life on a Wyoming ranch. But her cowboy worker, Carlos (Gustavo Rojo), a gypsy, brings her a prehistoric miniature horse for the show his brother Miguel gives him before dying, and she decides to make it an exhibit. But when the local gypsies find out about it, they steal it to return it to the forbidden valley. The elderly blind gypsy seer (Freda Jackson) warns the area will be cursed if the prehistoric horse is not returned. But the glory seeking blustery Brit paleontologist (Laurence Naismith), doing research in the area, follows the gypsies to the forbidden valley to steal the creature for science. He wants to research the animal and for him to be honored by his country for making the greatest discovery of the century–the discovery of a creature extinct for over 50 million years. Also following the gypsies are the orphan child guide Lope (Curtis Arden), T.J., Tuck, and the cowboys from TJ’s show.
Inside the hidden forbidden valley, the Wild West show pursuers discover the 14-foot reptile, an Allosaurus dinosaur,they call Gwangi, and try capturing him for their exhibit. He kills one of the cowboys, but gets trapped and dragged back to town. When T.J. puts him on exhibit in the town’s arena, the blind seer has her dwarf (Jose Burgos) free Gwangi so he can return to the forbidden valley. Instead, when free, Gwangi goes on a killing rampage and finally goes up in flames when trapped in the town’s cathedral.
It was shot in Almeria, Spain.
REVIEWED ON 12/29/2015 GRADE: B-