Plot – A cowboy named Tuck Kirby seeks fame and fortune by capturing an Allosaurus living in the Forbidden Valley and putting it in a Mexican circus. His victim, called the Gwangi, turns out to have an aversion to being shown in public – The Valley of Gwangi.
Director – Jim O’Connolly
Released – 1969
If you liked: Cowboys & Aliens, The Great Behemoth, Gorgo
Despite not being as well-known as the excellent Jason and the Argonauts or the Sinbad films, 1969’s The Valley of Gwangi still marks another impressive outing for special effects master, Ray Harryhausen, this time helping director Jim O’Connolly to bring together cowboys with dinosaurs in a film that while sharing more than a passing resemblance to King Kong, is well worth revisiting over 50 years later.
In a similar fashion to most early creature feature films, such as Godzilla or The Beast From 20000 Fathoms, it takes a while for the creatures to appear on-screen, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it gives us plenty of time to get to know the main characters and the world in which we find ourselves, but just like his earlier films, once Harryhausen creations appear on-screen, they are the star, sure by today’s standards the SFX is pretty limited, but there’s something about stop motion creatures that’s timeless.
The human cast also manages to do a decent job, too often with stop motion films it’s painfully clear that the actors don’t know where to look and when to react, but here the two elements were more or less seamless, notably, star James Franciscus, who exudes the charismatic cowboy of the old west vibe throughout and Gila Golan as T.J giving the film its heart and bringing all the various groups together.
Sadly, this film wasn’t a success when first released, luckily however this rousing adventure has gone on to be recognised as the mini cult classic it is and more people can experience the simple pleasure of watching a stop motion fight between a dinosaur and an elephant.