Synopsis – Greedy sailors capture a giant lizard off the coast of Ireland and sell it to a London circus. Then its mother shows up – Gorgo.
Director – Eugène Lourié
Starring – Bill Travers, William Sylvester, Vincent Winter
Released – 1961
For fans of – The Giant Behemoth, The Valley of Gwangi, One Million Years B.C
The first time I came across Gorgo was via an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, and much like the rest of the b-movies that were critiqued on that show, this British entry into the “giant monster” sub-genre has its faults and is more than a little cliched, I could help but be charmed by Eugène Lourié’s 1961 sci-fi horror.
Taking elements from both King Kong and Godzilla, Gorgo sees two profit-minded sailors Joe (Bill Travers) and Sam (William Sylvester) who following the capture of a giant, oceanic lizard dubbed “Gorgo” (the name is derived from “Gorgon”, those creatures of Greek mythology), sell it to a London circus only for them to discover this creature is only a child and its mother is on a warpath to get her child back.
Whatever Gorgo lacks in originality it more than compensates with particularly well-done special effects for the time and a brisk pace that stops the audience from becoming bored or asking too many questions, not only that, but the film boasts somewhat memorable monster designs and a genuinely exciting climax in which you” see landmarks such as London Bridge and Big Ben fall at the hands of a towering behemoth. More than holding its own compared to its more famous Japanese counterpart.
As with most giant-monster movies, the cast is little more than filler building up to when the monster attacks, however, the cast does well with their under-developed roles and do a good job of selling the fear of seeing a 200ft+ creature levelling a city in front of their eyes.
Much of the praise should also go to director Lourie for crafting a plot that didn’t need strong characterization to be an entertaining production. For one thing, they didn’t see the need to introduce any female roles, which although bad in terms of representation, did mean you don’t have to sit through a forced romantic subplot or a set piece where the ‘damsel-in-distress’ is in need of rescue, which tends to slow down the action, not only this but none of the characters come off as annoying, even the children, with most of them making smart decisions based of sound scientific advice, making this one of the more ‘realistic’ giant monster movies of the period.
MST3K might have made this out to be a cheesy Godzilla knock-off, however, I found Gorgo to be one of the more creature features of the time and a film I’m more than happy to rewatch when I fancy seeing some stop-motion monster chaos.