Turn-of-the-century rodeo cowboys discover a "lost" Mexican valley full of dinosaurs. When they capture a live T-Rex, take it back to civilization and put it on display, predictable monster mayhem ala "King Kong" ensues. This Western/Sci-Fi mashup is mostly kid stuff but the cool stop-motion dinosaur animation by the great Ray Harryhausen makes it worth a look.
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One day he will learn to obey the law of Gwangi...
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 02/12/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Valley of Gwangi, aka Gwangi, aka The Lost Valley, aka The Valley Time Forgot, aka The Valley Where Time Stood Still, (whew!) stars James Franciscus (Beneath the Planet of the Apes) and Richard Carlson (It Came From Outer Space) and while they were decent, the real star of this movie is special effects creator and legend Ray Harryhausen. Franciscus plays Tuck Kirby, a cowboy looking to make a quick buck by brokering a deal for the sale of a horse that's being used in his ex-girlfriend's Wild West circus show that is located 'just south of the Rio Grande'. Gila Golan plays T.J. Breckenridge, owner of the circus, with Carlson as Champ Connors, the protective fatherly figure/manager of the circus.
Anyway, a discovery is made of some sort of prehistoric animal, a wee little horse, and we soon find out the animal came from an area called the 'forbidden valley'...or at least that's what it is called by the gypsy-like tribe that seems to live near it, which, by the way, are inclined to believe that the rather wee horse needs to be returned to the valley whence it came of dire consequences involving a curse or some such hooey will follow. Now, getting off on a slight tangent, if I were these gypsies and I wanted to keep people out of the valley, I would have probably called it something else, like valley of the happy flowers, or valley of the nothing to see here, as the forbidden valley just sounds too tempting to strangers and such to not be explored. The gypsies also refer to it at times as the valley of the Gwangi, but they never really get specific as to the exact nature of the Gwangi. So these gypsies end up stealing the wee, small horse and returning it to the 'forbidden' valley, with members of the Wild West circus in hot pursuit. Also along for the ride is some elderly anthropologist who happens to be in the area studying fossils and various junk who seems to just get in the way more than anything else. This pursuit ultimately leads the group into the forbidden valley, where they encounter various prehistoric creatures, including a voracious and persistent tyrannosaurus rex. We are now about an hour into the movie, so if it's dinosaurs ye be looking for, keep this in mind, as you will probably be bored silly with the movie leading up to this point. Cowboys and dinosaurs? Sounds pretty cool...and it is. Harryhausen really outdid himself in this movie not only bringing these various creatures to life, but managing to instill personality into them, and adding all kinds of nuances to the stop motion animation. Keep in mind there were no high tech hoity toity computer gizmatronics back when this movie was made, so special effects creators had to be, well, creative. Harryhausen, shows in this film why he's considered one of the greatest effects artists in motion pictures. The man must have truly loved his work as it shows here. So what happens next? Well, the cowboys manage to capture one of the bigger, wily, creatures (hint, it's a real big one with sharp, pointy teeth) and bring it back to put in the Wild West show but things go badly as the creature escapes and wreaks havoc in a heavily populated area. Think of Godzilla attacking Tokyo except instead of Godzilla it's a prehistoric beast, instead of Tokyo it's Mexico City and instead of frightened Japanese people fleeing in terror, it's frightened Mexican people in sombreros fleeing in terror. Oh the carnage...who lives? Who dies? Who get horribly ate up? Well, you'll just have to see the movie.
The picture provided on this disc is wide screen anamorphic, and special features include an eight minute tribute to Ray Harryhausen entitled `Return to the Valley' where contemporary special effects artists gush over Harryhausen and tell how he influenced them and the various films they've worked on, most notably Jurassic Park. There is also like four or five trailers for other films Harryhausen worked on, including The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. I thoroughly enjoy The Valley of the Gwangi, even though I understand others have thought the movie to be bit slow, in the beginning, at least. I understand this, as the really cool dinosaurs don't appear until about halfway into this 95-minute feature. Fans of Ray Harryhausen will not be disappointed, but others may find themselves looking for the chapter stop where the dinosaurs are...all in all a nifty western adventure with a good helping of thrilling science fiction provided by a true pioneer of special effects. By the way, where did they find this actress who played the love interest to James Franciscus? She was somewhat attractive, but her wooden acting skills certainly made me root for a big, hungry, salivating primal beastie to gobble her up quickly.
HARRYHAUSEN'S DINOSAURIAN TOUR DE FORCE
Roy P. Webber | Escanaba, Michigan | 12/19/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Resurrecting an aborted project that Willis ( KING KONG ) O'Brien wanted to make himself, Ray Harryhausen followed-up his successful Hammer film ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. with this movie, working once again with longtime partner Charles H. Schneer. Filmed in Spain, this 1969 offering has stunning stop-motion animated dinosaurs. Set around the turn of the century in Mexico, it is a very Kong-like tale of a mighty creature ( the titular Allosaurus with T-Rex attributes ) that is captured in "Forbidden Valley" and brought back to a local Wild West show / circus to make money. The monster flees its bonds and proceeds into a magnificent cathedral, which becomes consumed in a raging inferno and brings about its demise. Harryhausen, who worked a full year on the special effects, effectively populates a valley that is lost in time with a number of prehistoric animals, which include an equine Eohippus, a "plucked ostrich" called an Ornithomimus and a horned Styracosaurus who fights Gwangi to the death in a memorable sequence. The highlight is a well-staged roping sequence which consumed many months of Ray's time to realize; he had to carefully align the animated ropes on the Gwangi model with real ropes used in live action to snare a Jeep with a pole affixed. Other key points include the escape of Gwangi from its cage ( a split-screen process was used in the making of this effect ) and battle with an eleplant model, and its fiery finale in the great edifice ( utilizing the optical printer to superimpose flames around the allosaur's feet ). Ray Harryhausen outdid himself for this feature which includes literally hundreds of animation set-ups to concoct the visual effects. Unfortunately, the live-action sequences do not show as much panache. James Franciscus and Gila Golan do not create any sparks as the movie's leading couple. Curtis Arden is okay as Lope but no more, and Richard Carlson looks haggard as the impresario of the circus troupe. The only bright spot is the amiable performance of Laurence Naismith as the slightly eccentric Professor Bromley who recognizes the miniature horse for what it is. Even though it was a commercial failure in 1969 due to a number of unfortunate circumstances that took place ( lack of advertising, its pairing with an R-rated movie and changes in cultural tastes ), THE VALLEY OF GWANGI is a spectacular adventure teeming with fantastic creatures and exotic settings that should not be overlooked. The superficial storyline and other shortcomings pale when Ray works his legendary magic. A highly recommended picture that is only unsuitable for the the very youngest of children ( under 5 yrs. of age )."
Cowboys Vs. Dinosaurs
Dr. Freeman | Perry, Iowa United States | 11/03/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Pretty good sci-fi with some of the best Harryhausen effects i have seen. James Franciscus and Richard Carlson of "It Came From Outerspace" fame, team up to capture Gwangi, a T-Rex from a secret valley. Good to see this movie released to DVD. Great site and sound in wide screen format."
Minor film from Ray Harryhausen.
Robert S. Clay Jr. | St. Louis, MO., USA | 02/08/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"A struggling Wild West show discovers dinosaurs on the loose in Mexico, and decides to exploit the discovery. The true star of this movie is the stop-motion animation done by the master of non-computerized special effects, Ray Harryhausen. Crisp color photography adds to the pulse-pounding scenes of prehistoric predators. The production problems of this movie help explain its lack of commercial success. A weak script and wooden acting also detract from the enjoyment. The plot drags and takes too long to get to the "monsters of the lost valley" part. Once the special effects kick in, things get more lively. The scenes of riders roping Gwangi are thrilling. The show-ring battle, however, between Gwangi and the elephant is not up to RH's usual excellent standards. The elephant is obviously an animated model. The segment copies an earlier RH film, "20 Million Miles to Earth." Gwangi rampaging through the Mexican town recalls King Kong rampaging through the streets of New York, but the comparison ends there. The spectacular fire in the great cathedral is an exciting visual display. Dedicated collectors of classic sci-fi films or steadfast fans of Ray Harryhausen will want this one for their collection, regardless. ;-)"