The Valley of Gwangi (1969)
A struggling Wild West show finds dinosaurs on the loose in Mexico, and decides to exploit the discovery. The real star of this movie is the stop-motion animation done by the grand 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. In addition, 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 too 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 fantasy films or steadfast fans of Ray Harryhausen will want this one for their collection, regardless. ;-)