Forgotten Films: GORGO (1961)
This is the 14th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
As I have said before, giant monsters are among my favorite things in movies. Like VOTAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA) last week’s Forgotten Film, GORGO is a product of 1961. Unlike VTTBOTS, I did not see GORGO when it was originally released. I did read the comic book (which had art by the amazing Steve Ditko, if I remember correctly) and see the previews. Until recently, I had never actually seen the film. A sad statement to have to make.
GORGO is the story of a giant lizard monster discovered by unscrupulous salvage men off the coast of Ireland. The monster nearly capsizes their boat but they decide to take the unconscious beastie to London for exhibition as “the eighth wonder of the world”! All this sounds somewhat familiar doesn’t it? Except there is no Fay Wray equivalent, but there is a young Irish boy with a thick Gaelic accident. Once in London, things go bad, then they go worse. About midway through the film, we have the big spoiler. The Gorgo monster (named after the Greek Gorgon for no specified reason other than he was ugly) is really just an infant monster, even though he is 65 feet tall and has a really bad attitude. Well, take a baby away from any mother and she will extract revenge. This is being written on Mother’s Day so the film is “holiday appropriate”. And Momma is a big 200 foot tall lizard with a really, really b ad disposition and a nasty swinging lizard tail and big honking claws and teeth.
So, it is not a stunning masterpiece, but it is a fun film. Special effects were provided by Tom Howard, who already had two Academy Awards for effects to his credit by the time this film began for Tom Thumb and Blithe Spirit. His later work would include such films as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Where Eagles Dare, and Young Winston. The lizard looks pretty good, though the film sidesteps any real scientific stuff with some hand waving mumbo-jumbo. My wife watching the film with me asked how this aquatic creature was breathing air and there really was no good answer to her for that one.
What this does seem like is that some British filmmaker decided to cash in on the success of Godzilla from Japan and combine it with elements of King Kong and move it to London. Not a bad thing to do, all in all. Steal from the best, I always say.
And, like the Japanese, this may be a way for British filmmakers to re-establish themselves. Hammer films was just really getting started with their horror around the same time. Seems like KONGA, another giant ape film that I love also came out at about the same time frame.
Eugène Lourié directed GORGO. It was the last of eight films he directed though he did art direction on many more films. His first directorial job was The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms in 1953, another giant lizard film with an Oscar winning special effect guy, Ray Harryhausen.
GORGO was a fun film and lacks the obvious dubbing problems of the Japanese monster films, though the kid is still largely incomprehensible. It is readily available on DVD for your viewing convenience.
Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.