Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays: The Valley of Gwangi (1969)

"The Valley of Gwangi" (1969) is a fantasy western movie produced by Charles H. Schneer with special effects by the legendary Ray Harryhausen.  The duo collaborated on a number of movies featuring stop-motion special effects amazing for their time.  This film was one of these, and the only western.  Set in the late 1800s, the movie features a cowgirl owner of a struggling rodeo named T.J. Breckenridge (Gila Golan).  Tuck Kirby (James Franciscus), a former stuntman and T.J.'s ex-fiancé, wants to buy her out, but T.J. has a secret asset that she hopes will save her show.  She shows Tuck a tiny horse that came from a place known as the Forbidden Valley.  Tuck meets British paleontoloist Horace Bromley (Laurence Naismith) and sneaks him in to see the creature, which Bromley identifies as a prehistoric Eohippus.  Later Bromley and a group of local gypsies steal the Eohippus, planning to release it back into the Forbidden Valley, since the gypsies believe it to be cursed.  One of T.J.'s employees, Carlos (Gustavo Rojo), witnesses the theft but is knocked out.  Tuck arrives and takes off after the fleeing thieves.  Carlos revives and tells T.J. that Tuck has stolen the tiny horse.  The rodeo owner leads a group of cowboys on a mission to retrieve their stolen property.

Once in the Forbidden Valley, everyone meets up and discovers that the valley is home to dinosaurs as well the Eohippus.  Eventually they encounter Gwangi, a vicious Allosaurus.  The dinosaur kills Carlos, but the rest of the group members are able to rope and subdue Gwangi.  The hope is to use the gigantic beast as an attraction for the rodeo, but inevitably this idea does not work out as planned, with unfortunate consequences.  While this may not be one of Ray Harryhausen's best films, the scene where the cowboys attempt to rope Gwangi is impressive and certainly not something you see every day!

Interesting Facts:  The voices of both Gila Golan and Gustavo Rojo are dubbed.  The actor who portrayed Horace Bromley, Laurence Naismith, was featured in another Schneer/Harryhausen film, "Jason and the Argonauts", in which Naismith played shipbuilder Argos.  In July of this year another fantasy western will debut -- "Cowboys & Aliens", starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford.

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 0

"Valley of Gwangi" Eohippus
(from L'Encyclopédie du Cinéma Fantastique)


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