Valley of Gwangi, The (1969)

The Valley of Gwangi (1969), directed by Jim O'Connolly.

Cowboys and dinosaurs: why not?

Pursuing a supposedly extinct tiny horse specimen, rodeo showmen in Mexico discover a sealed-away valley to the prehistoric. When are folks going to listen to the blind Gypsy woman and learn to leave well enough alone? They won't like Gwangi when he's angry, and he's always angry.

It's for the kids, if they don't mind some bloody creature violence. It is not as much fun as other Ray Harryhausen projects; his dinosaur effects look much like those in One Million Years B.C. (1966). For some reason his stop-motion effects work to give us good fantasy dinosaurs, probably because we don't know what they actually looked like. We're more familiar with humans and other mammals and the effects work less well for those.

This was originally a Willis O'Brien project and the plot is much like King Kong (1933): impresario fetches giant creature for money-making exhibition. It breaks loose causing much mayhem and has to be killed, this time in a burning cathedral, actually pretty horrific.

Just as we don't like seeing Kong in chains, so roping and tying Gwangi just seems wrong.

Richard Carlson's second-to-last picture.

Available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive. Later generations of effects artists give their appreciation of Harryhausen in a short extra. They all thought the seamless integration of real cowboys throwing lassos around the stop-motion Gwangi was particularly impressive.