Sunday, February 1, 2009

Gwangi-gi Gwan-gi-gi, oh so soft and cuddle-lee

Gwangi is my new crush. I don’t think I ever even heard of it before stumbling across it on Netflix. I’m happy as a cotton candy sweater that I found it. I knew right away when I heard the early 70s movie musical score sounding way ahead of its time as a 1969 movie ;)

Before I knew it, the score turned into the feel of a Disney adventure film. Not knowing what to expect, I thought, “Okay, here comes the cheese,” but it was the bleuest of cheeses. The kind that goes well at a cocktail party. The kind of cheese that makes you feel better about yourself.
I was wondering early on what was with the over-acting, but then realized these must all be stage actors, and maybe actors from a real traveling cowboy show. The stunts were painfully convincing from the very first face-plant.
We open with a mysterious scene that has Miguel coming out of the Valley of Gwangi with a canvas bag of horse. Yes, horse. A toy sized, three-toed, long thought extinct horse. This horse is used in the traveling show that teeters on stereotyping, and falls over the edge with no remorse.

Gwangi is not a fan of the rodeo.

The movie itself playfully pokes at prejudices and stereotyping with the way our hero, Tuck speaks to Lope; but Lope puts him in his place, and takes it like a man… a gingerbread man. He is soooo sweet. He must have been the love child of a secret manage-a-trois among Robert Redford, Paul Newman and Charlton Heston. His name is James Franciscus. It's a wonder I never noticed him before considering how well known he is in the genre.

Lope, played by Curtis Arden. He has to be in his fifties now.

James Franciscus, the love child of Robert Redford, Paul Newman and Charlton Heston plays Tuck.

I have my suspicions that Stephen Speilberg was a fan of The Valley of Gwangi. There are many scenes and styles that were seemingly borrowed when Jurassic Park was made. Compare the unseen creature opening in a crate in Jurassic Park to the unseen creature opening in a bag in Valley of Gwangi. Also compare the boy-guide in Valley of Gwangi to the boy-guide in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. A few more things reminded me, but I forget what they were. Borrowing is flattery though. I was reminded of King Kong in watching Gwangi carted off to the show.

The effects integration was outstanding.

Go out and get this. Buy it, rent it, steal it. Get your eyes and ears on this flick. It’s a classic that never got the credit of classic it truly deserves. It’s Clash of the Titans meets Wild, Wild West.

Bonuses to not miss:
The Disney street parade in the beginning will make you chuckle.
The costumes look like they were straight out of an Old Navy commercial.
Gwangi gets credit as an actor (this makes me feel better about his death scene).
Strange voice-over for actress, Gila Golan who played TJ, Tuck’s love interest. Was her voice that bad?

An elephant gets mauled by Gwangi… but it’s a claymation elephant.


Anonymous said...

Great post - Gwangi is so underrrated and you really nailed the reasons why it's held up so well after all these years. "Clash of the Titans meets Wild, Wild West". Exactly! Well, maybe "Lost Continent".

As for the also underrated Mr. Franciscus - once he slipped off Hollywood's A-list for Sci-Fi's (and Europe's) B-list, he made a string of great action flicks like Gwangi - Beneath the Planet of the Apes (the best of that series), Marooned, Cat O' Nine Tails by the amazing Dario Argente, and some war movies as well I think.

Brian Blacknick said...

I enjoyed your post on the Valley Of Gwangi.That is one mean Allosaurus! I love his roar and the snapping sound of his jaws. Gwangi remains one of my favorite stop motion creatures by Ray Harryhausen.