The Valley of Gwangi (1969)

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The Valley of Gwangi (1969)

Post  BoG on Sun Mar 18, 2012 7:57 pm

stars JAMES FRANCISCUS  Like a Star @ heaven  GILA GOLAN  Like a Star @ heaven  and RICHARD CARLSON
co-starring LAWRENCE NAISMITH as the troublesome Professor

More dinosaurs from Harryhausen, following ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966), only this doesn't take place in some prehistoric past; it's the present - or early 20th century at least - and features a lost valley somewhere in the middle of Mexico. Modern cowboys stumble onto the valley and end up capturing a stunned Allosaurus, bringing it back to civilization as a circus attraction. This does not go well - either for the circus, or an elephant.. or the dinosaur.  
This was an unusual effort to mix standard cowboys with dinosaurs, something of a natural combo in view of the lassoing that such horseriders tend to do (a less successful mash up was THE BEAST FROM HOLLOW MOUNTAIN way back in '56). The central sequence of the picture, of the cowboy group discovering and checking out the "Forbidden Valley," is what remains the more thrilling aspect to the film. The first third is somewhat of a slog and the final act, featuring a now-famous dinosaur vs. elephant sequence, has Harryhausen copying his own Ymir vs. elephant battle from 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH. Even the scenes in the valley are a somewhat tepid redo of Kong Island in KING KONG. Though the overall concept seems original, something Harryhausen really wanted to do after Willis O'Brien was unable to, it also seems derivative of several key earlier films, such as those mentioned.

It doesn't help that the cast is a little on the dull side, notably Franciscus as the heel-hero.  But, the Harryhausen FX - the stop motion animation - is top notch; Harryhausen had by this time honed his creative skills on numerous Sinbad, Greek myth and sci-fi pictures, so this was in some ways his crowning achievement up to this point. The highlight is an Allosaurus-Styracosaurus battle, in which one of the cowboys inexplicably helps the meat-eating Allosaurus. Harryhausen returned to Sinbad adventures after this one. BoG's Score: 7 out of 10
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