Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Cardboard Science: Weird West


Directed by Jim O'Connolly
Written by Willis O'Brien, William Bast, and Julian More


Directed by Ismael Rodriguez and Edward Nassour
Written by Willis O'Brien, Robert Hill, and Jack DeWitt

Spoilers: moderate

I do not believe I have ever actually laid down what the "rules" are for Cardboard Science as a recurring feature; and as this is a one-man dictatorship, there aren't any real rules, but the basic idea was "cinematic science fiction before 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes made it respectable," which is to say, prior to 1968, and if you wanted to be a stickler, prior to April 3rd, 1968, the day both films were released, a rather astonishing fact I either didn't previously know, or only re-learned immediately before writing this opening paragraph.  But sometimes you've got to bend the rules, so while the exigence for today's ramblings, The Valley of Gwangireleased in 1969would clearly be on the other side our boundary, God damn it, just look at it, of course it isn't, except chronologically.  It's a Ray Harryhausen stop-motion kiddie matinee about cowboys doing battle with dinosaursnot exactly what you'd call the quintessence of the Laser Age.  So I would have no compunction about sweeping it in, on vibes alone, even if I didn't have a better reason to do so.

Yet the thing about The Valley of Gwangi's ultimate release in the late summer of 1969 is that it was but the flowering of a gnarled and twisted tree whose roots already reached back a generation.  The first Gwangi was a notion worked up by famed stop-motion animator Willis O'Brien all the way back in the late 30s, and thereafter the project (or projects, because O'Brien had several ideas for Gwangi) were brought to various degrees of completion, and in various degrees of faithfulness to O'Brien's vision, several times over the intervening quarter century.  O'Brien's most elaborate rendition of the ideaand the most fundamental idea here, "dinosaurs in the Old West," never changedwas given the title El Toro Estrella, and it concerned a Mexican lad who, to save his beloved bull from being sold into the toreador ring, takes on the impossible mission of retrieving a fabled tyrannosaur from a secluded valley.  It sounds cute and they should've made it in 1994.  The kid's adventure element was mostly dropped, as O'Brien tried to sell it and the project continued to mutate; in the meantime, it was interrupted by Mighty Joe Young in 1949, whereupon O'Brien acquired a certain protege by the name of Harryhausen.  By 1950, the project had become The Valley of the Mists, but hadn't become any hotter of a property, especially given the perception of Mighty Joe Young as a costly boondoggle.  Nonetheless, while RKO, Merian Cooper, and Jesse Lasky each rejected O'Brien in turn, William and Edward Nassour, producers somewhere in the direction of Poverty Row, welcomed him; the latter had been a fan of O'Brien, as well as something of an attempted imitator (he'd supervised the dinosaur stuff in 1951's The Lost Continent for Robert Lippert).  And thus did the Nassours make Valley of the Mists, now receiving its final title of The Beast of Hollow Mountain, and this is, unfortunately, where the production history gets scuzzy and sad: as it happened, the Nassours liked the idea of an O'Brien/Harryhausen stop-motion animated movie about cowboys and dinosaurs a whole lot more than they did the reality of making it, and, balking at O'Brien's budget and his production schedule, they decided to just up and steal his movie out from under him, giving it to other animators to do the work in his stead.  The Beast of Hollow Mountain was released in 1956, written by (amongst others) "El Toro Estrella."  Need it even be said that this is fucked?

Such is but one of the many unfortunate episodes that marked the inordinately long twilight of O'Brien's career, which, with few exceptions like Mighty Joe Young, essentially saw him languish for about two decades, with projects always seeming to fall through, so that the "famed" animator remains famous mostly just for The Lost World (1925) and King Kong (1933), a long time ago by the mid-50s, though the latter, at least, would be legend enough for any man.  Maybe even too much: an annoying fraction of Willis's late career is, in fact, "long go-nowhere discussions about a remake of King Kong," i.e., a waste of his time on Earth.  Fortunately, he got to go out on some reasonably strong notes, or at least some actual output: The Black Scorpion and The Giant Behemoth in 1957 and 1958, respectively, are both solid movies, and I personally rather love The Black Scorpion, which even ties into our subjects today, as it's fairly clearly something of a riposte to the Nassours and their cut-rate O'Briens, in how it salvages the Mexican setting from Valley of the Mists and says, "well, fuck you, then, this one's about a giant scorpion, which is arguably even cooler."  If The Black Scorpion had had all the budget O'Brien actually needed, though, the insult probably would've been more devastating.

O'Brien's death in 1962 didn't stop Harryhausen from nurturing a redeemed version of Valley of the Mists into existencenow called The Valley of Gwangi, perhaps because Harryhausen noticed that in the film he'd made, there weren't any mistsand I expect his hope was to wipe The Beast of Hollow Mountain from history altogether.  So for our creature double feature today, it is well to consider first what the hell the deal is with the Nassours' stolen movie, as it's a film all-but-forgotten except as an eleventh season (and hence correctly disfavored) MST3K episode, or as a footnote to Harryhausen's 1969 movie, which is itselfand I'll stake right now, this is unfairalso not the first or second or fifth movie one thinks of when somebody says "Ray Harryhausen," either.  The good news here is that Hollow Mountain doesn't suck nearly as much as its production history practically demands that it would have to suck.  What it is, then, isn't as bad as "bad-bad," but that it's such a weirdly pointless feeling thing, even by the different, arguably-reduced level upon which one would be advised to meet your B-movies about cowboys fighting dinosaurs.  Of course, there's the rub: is it "about" a cowboy fighting a dinosaur?  We'll see that it damned well isn't, so take that, William and Edward Nassour, the latter of whom also arrogates to himself a co-directorial credit alongside the film's obvious actual director, Ismael Rodriguez.

What we have in Hollow Mountain, then, is an itinerant rancher named Jimmy Ryan (Guy Madison), who at the turn of the 20th century has emigrated down Mexico way to Morelosor at least that's where the film, a Mexican co-production with Churubusco Azteca Studios, was substantially photographedwhere he and his partner Felipe Sanchez (Carlos Rivas) have established a successful but precarious cattle business on the edge of a swamp.  Though well-liked by most of his new neighbors, Jimmy has made an enemy out of one of them, Enrique Rios (Eduardo Noriega), two times over.  Enrique would hate Jimmy anyway just because he's a rival rancher, and indeed Enrique is clearly behind the recent loss of some of Jimmy and Felipe's cattle, their rustling staged to look like "they drowned in the swamp"; but Jimmy has also unintentionally made it personal for Enrique, having caught the eye of the lovely Sarita (Patricia Medina) thanks to his quick-witted heroism in saving the town drunk Pancho (Pascaul García Peña) from an equine accident, and while Sarita has long-since been betrothed to Enrique, it's obvious from the outset she's never really wanted to be.  And so this triangle becomes pointier, and the two cattlemen fight and hatch plans, and Pancho and his pitiable son Panchito (Mario Navarro) come to work for Jimmy and Felipe, and ultimately Enrique infiltrates a couple of saboteurs into Jimmy and Felipe's cattle operation, with orders to instigate a destructive stampede that'll wipe out his rivals' whole investment.

And, oh yeah, at some point, a fucking dinosaur shows up.

One has to make allowances for low-budget sci-fi, though that's something I'm not convinced this was, at least not meaningfully, as Hollow Mountain consistently belies such a status during its rather robust "Mexican location shooting" phase (including that cattle stampede, which couldn't have been that cheap; and, to let you know, Churubusco Azteca wasn't some pissant operation like the Nassours' company, but a full-on Mexican major).  Yet let's grant that the American contribution, that is, the special effects, was low-budget, either because Nassour couldn't afford the necessary research and development, or because of exchange rates, or whatever.  This would still be an incredibly aggravating movie, and frankly it's, well, I can't think of a better word than unwholesome, in the way that O'Brien's (heavily-rewritten) scenario deploys this meat-and-potatoes Western only as the unique flavoring for what it's supposed to be, i.e., crazy dinosaur science fiction, and then goes on to spend nearly its entire runtime being nothing but that meat-and-potatoes Western, rather than using crazy dinosaur science fiction to inflect its story in any way.  It's not just that it's 50 minutes into this 72 minute film before the dinosaur actually attacks anyone, either (or that it's more like 55 before it properly "shows up").  That could be accommodated.

What can't is that "a dinosaur" simply doesn't have anything whatsoever to do with this movie until that point: there's a dino track that nobody sees but which is shown to the audience in the first couple of minutes, and a bland narrator who has made some opening remarks about "local superstitions," and there are a handful of references here and there to those superstitions which intermittently foreshadow the peril, and that's it, as far as "building horror movie suspense" goes.  (If the dinosaur's appetite is supposed to be the secret cause of Jimmy's lost cattle, it feels like this ought to impact his drama with Enrique, but it doesn't.)  And so I ask you to consider a version of Jaws that's actually about fishermen, which expends time or energy solely on fishermen, and then a couple of the fishermen get eaten by a shark that's barely even been previously mentioned, whereupon the movie ends.  That's Hollow Mountain, more or less, and it even does damage to the meat-and-potatoes Western we've been watching, which isn't all that badit's ossified, in that it would've been considered old-fashioned even if O'Brien had made it in the late 30s, and the acting in literally every role could stand improvement (the curious exception might be child actor Navarro, who's the only one essaying his archetypical role without any thick layer of rusted-over stiffness), but it's not actually badyet it feels like it's exploiting you in an ugly, careless sort of way, because if the movie doesn't think a freaking dinosaur matters, then how could anything else?

The film does have its strengths, already alluded to in the form of Rodriguez's direction and Churubusco's support of the location shooting.  The movieor the movie qua movie, anywaylooks pretty good, and between his dolly shots and crane shots, Rodriguez is directing it very actively (almost busily, but I prefer "busy" to "static").  The location itself would be impressive even under a default treatment, and Rodriguez is happily exceeding "default," using the CinemaScope frame to capture these landscapes' enormity, and the distinctiveness of Morelos's geology and ecology is used to awfully good advantage, too, presenting itself as a place that feels like it's supposed to be verdant, but isn't now (the screenplay posits the reason for the dinosaur's rampage as "a drought," so the landscape sets the scene quite well), while mesas tower up threateningly all over the place throughout.  There's a sequence in a graveyard that nicely combines the architecture and landscape and a certain low-key horror, and it's good, even if it's also more of a dry joke about Western genre expectations than anything else; and while I think you could make a case that this Western isn't fully meeting Western genre expectations, it does have a bad-ass extended brawl between Sarita's two suitors that wrecks up the whole town square, and I rather enjoy the visual abstraction of how it actually ends off-camera behind a sea of bystanders' white hats.  Likewise, Raúl Lavista's score might be all cliches, but it's good at them.

As for what anybody is actually watching the damned thing for seventy years later, however, that's a lot more poorly-manufactured than the B-Western part.  The stop-motion, the work of Jack Rabin, Henry Sharp, and Louis de Witt, is some ratty stuff, far below O'Brien's standard, and the design of the... let's just say "theropod," because who would bother trying to identify it beyond that, is bizarre and childish.  (Though nothing is more off-putting than the live-action "dinosaur boots marching through mud" that they use in the "tense" lead-up to the monster's reveal.)  The theropod, anyway, has been given a freakishly huge tongue, which would possibly be cooler if it weren't so blatantly inconsistent between the models, the smaller one for long shots fitted with this enormous pennant-like flailing tongue, while the bigger one for closer-in shots enjoys merely an unusually large tongue.

I never know what to do with my hands either.

It's middling-to-lousy just on the level of animation, juddery and with a tendency to change complexion between frames, and that's long before we consider the compositing, which can be laughably terrible, with a startling percentage of the live-action footage being so out-of-focus that it looks like they were dunking the lens in slime before every take.  It's incredible that it could've ended up in a motion picture deemed fit for release, and so bad that I feel like I'd have to be Ray Harryhausen, or at least have read his out-of-print textbooks, to confidently tell you exactly what went wrong.  I suspect, anyway, that it's down to CinemaScope, a format that O'Brien would never work in prior to his death, and which Harryhausen himself only took on once in 1964 with First Men In the Moon, having recognized that 'Scope demanded a recalibration of all his tried-and-true techniques and he still wasn't entirely prepared for its challenges.  Thus, if I were forced to offer a hypothesis here, it would be that Rabin et al didn't recognize this, and just used good ol' front projection and matting like they normally would, and it came out all warped and evil and ready to be described by the shameless Nassours as "Regiscope," forwarded as an all-new frontier in stop-motion animation, albeit in a way similar to someone planting a flag in the Sargasso Sea and claiming they'd discovered a new continent while both they and their flag rapidly sink into the bed of seaweed beneath.  (For all I know, the grandiosity of the name is one of the things that inspired Harryhausen's producer, Charles Schneer, to coin the term "Dynamation" for Harryhausen's work for The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.)  Meanwhile, one of the live-action elements of the climax that didn't get obscured still poses its own morbid mysterynamely whether a stuntman, whom the editor allows us to spend a surprisingly long time looking at while he lies motionless at the bottom of a steep hill, was okay after a half-ton of horse fell on him.

Nonetheless, it does evolve into a satisfactory climactic sequence, adjusting for the giant deficiencies in technique: there's some interesting staging here (the theropod sprinting after Jimmy on a horseback is, at least, well-conceived dinosaur action), and it ends with a clever-enough stratagem that, honestly, has been effectively-enough set up.  But it's hard to give credit to any movie with a shape this completely unacceptable, and it says something that when I got interrupted watching it halfway through, I didn't feel much particular urgency in starting it back up again once I got free.

And so it was that O'Brien's dream was coopted by villains, but it outlived him anyway thanks to Harryhausen, who bided his time until Hollow Mountain was forgottenthough he obviously kept busy, as I don't think he'd have needed to wait a decade for Hollow Mountain to be forgottenand around 1967, only a year out from the great success of his return to the subject of prehistoric beasts in One Million Years B.C., he prevailed on Schneer to sell Warners on The Valley of Gwangi.  This unassuming scenario, still "cowboys versus dinosaurs," wound up taking on something of a valedictory cast for Harryhausen in addition to honoring his late friend and mentor: it set at least one record, with the most Dynamation shots in any Harryhausen film, around three hundred; Harryhausen would take over a year on the effects (this means, of course, that principal photography wrapped long before 2001 or PotA), which might also have set a record, as it almost certainly was at this stage of his career, where he'd rarely been allowed anywhere close to that much time to work and experiment; and, probably under Harryhausen's dictates, the story was nudged decisively into something approaching a remake of O'Brien's masterpiece, King Kong, though its personality is pretty distinctive, what with the cowboys and all.

So say what you will about the screenplay William Bast and Julian More whipped up for Gwangi, that it's just another sci-fi movie composed of filler to buff it up to a feature's length, but it's at least more conventional than Hollow Mountain in that the movie seems to understand what its filler is filling up time for.  Honestly, I'd call it an outright good screenplay, which isn't completely unheard of for Harryhausen's movies, but they might be a minority.  What Gwangi gives us, then, is something of a slow burn, but a competently-built slow burn, beginning in one of its several terrible day-for-night sequences ("terrible day-for-night" will turn out to be one of the film's few salient aesthetic weakness, though thankfully it's only three scenes that I recall), which again brings us back to turn-of-the-20th-century Mexico, where a Roma band has captured something alive, presently struggling inside a sack, and this is much to the displeasure of Zorina (Freda Jackson), their multifariously blind matriarch (mysteriously, she has a dead, clouded left eye, and the right must be even worse because she covers it with a patch).  It gets one of their number killed, but before whatever it is can be returned to the forbidden valley it came from and satisfy Zorina's doomy superstitions regarding it, Carlos (Gustavo Rojo) steals it and, we'll discover, sells it to the proprietress of the T.J. Breckenridge Wild West Show, the eponymous T.J. herself (Gila Golan).  Quickly enough, we'll learn what this thing is, but only alongside our hero, Tuck (James Franciscus), once T.J.'s employee and paramour, who'd struck out to make his own fortune, but has now returned.  He's hoping to get his girlfriend back though he's not even that eager to admit that to himself, so his new juvenile hanger-on, local urchin Lope (Curtis Argen), has to drag it out of him.

The mysterious new addition to T.J.'s show, anyway, is the tiniest little horsey.  Tuck knows something she doesn't, though, thanks to a chance encounter with the paleontologist who's been puttering around, Prof. Bromley (Laurence Naismith), who's spoken of the extinct "dawn horse," the eohippus.  Tuck recognizes the small horse as a living fossil, and therefore of vast scientific (and monetary) value, but Tuck makes the mistake of showing it to Bromley to confirm his observation, setting in motion a series of events that lead to the eohippus's theftZorina hasn't forgotten about it either, and is dead set on returning it to its proper place lest a curse befall them all, and Carlos spots a prime opportunity to destroy a romantic rival, because he'd rather T.J. get with him instead of Tuckand in the chase across the wasteland that ensues, most of them wind up in a valley hidden behind an imposing ring of mountains.  And as Bromley suspected, that valley wasn't just concealing tiny horses, but represents, shall we say, a real lost world.

At this point, it gets pretty squarely on its King Kong rails, but I really do admire this: the most important thing is probably just the good luck of getting B-movie aristocracy in Franciscus, leading an ensemble that's reasonably strong overall; Richard Carlson is also in the mix as T.J.'s protective older lieutenant, and even if this unaccountable Jorah Mormonting doesn't satisfy one's "hey, Richard Carlson in a sci-fi movie!" expectations whatsoever, he's of course still a pleasantly familiar face; meanwhile, the figure that reminds you the most of Carlson's sci-fi characters still isn't that close in Naismith, whose professor is awfully sincere about science but whose actor is playing up to the nastier edges of the role, so it's actually not a pure "blinded by scientific ambition" stereotype, so much as he's just a complete asshole, though a likeable one; and as for Golan, she's vindicating her numerous beauty pageant wins and wears revealing stage costumes well, and while she spoke English so badly she had to be dubbed, I wouldn't say that necessarily means she's acting poorly.

But, yes, it is mostly down to Franciscus, who's very well-cast as a slightly-sleazy rake with a heart of goldFranciscus often had a bit of an "off" quality to his screen persona, such that made grayer characters more his speedbut that doesn't diminish a screenplay that I'd probably call the single best a Harryhausen movie ever got (if I'd refrain from doing so, it's only because I haven't seen three of them yet), on the basis of keeping the waiting game of the dinosaur-free first forty minutes of the movie so agreeably plotty, and fleetly-directed by actual director Jim O'Connolly, thanks to fully four factions' worth of characters all operating at cross-purposes, or who think they're operating at cross-purposes, chasing that stupid tiny horse around all God's creation.

Plus, it's not really as much of a waiting game as all that, because while Harryhausen gets his absolute worst effect (of this film, but possibly of his professional career) out of the way first, with "T.J. and her horse Omar doing a diving act" represented by "dropping an actual store-bought, non-animated toy horse into a bucket," we quickly get to "El Diablo," the eohippus, and the eohippus's first scenes are old movie magic at their most wonderful, the care taken in the interactions between Franciscus et al in the projections and the eohippus on its miniature stage, and the animated horsey reacting to, for instance, almost being petted, all winds up being some of my favorite technical work in the whole film.  And, obviously, it's just plain cute, so cute one of the film's little problems is what pure instrumentality El Diablo is, when you'd think even by 1969 they'd have known that a matinee crowd-pleaser would've been all the more pleasing with our cast actually befriending its adorable tiny version of a regular animal, rather than merely making it a plot device that vanishes once the movie "properly" starts.

The film's big problem, though, is its particular vision of a lost world, this "valley of Gwangi" having preserved a number of genera of fauna from the Cretaceous and the Paleogene, and having preserved virtually no flora of any kind whatsoever, so that pretty much the entire movie, except for the beginning and the end, we'll be stuck in various forms of rocky desert (Gwangi was shot in Spain).  It's dramatic enough, but never convincing as an ecosystem, not even for a kiddie B-picture.  It's one place where it doesn't hold up to O'Brien and King Kong's precedent for its brand of adventuring, which had made its art direction as important as its stop-motion animation and arguably as important as its sympathetic creature.  Which is also something Gwangi doesn't have (well, not once El Diablo is gone), but sometimes one is in the mood for a monster rather than a character, and Gwangi certainly serves up the monsters, especially its titular (I guess?) allosaur, our principal antagonist, but also a styracosaur and a pterosaur and an ornithimimius, a list that probably seems lightand more would in fact be more, so I'm not saying that's an invalid complaint, eitherbut everything I've said up till now overlooks how just awesome the monster action we get is, and not at all in small portions.  Those three hundred Dynamation shots add up: once we get to the hidden valley, Gwangi is very close to about forty minutes of constant action, broken only by interstitial catch-your-breath-but-just-for-a-second scenes (and the false optimism contained within any King Kong knock-off), and it's closer to constant action than you would have any right to expect from any movie from 1969, Harryhausen or otherwise.

And the action is good, invariably well-staged with a keen sense of horror, and at (almost) every turn, incredibly well-animated.  (Besides the toy horse, which was just a prefatory burp anyway, there's an unarticulated Gwangi model used for the scene where it gets knocked unconscious by falling rocks that Harryhausen readily admitted was beneath him.)  It's not all just the allosaur, either; the pterosaur involved some novel effects work, building on previous winged predators Harryhausen had done: this time it lifts not a model but the actual person, something that took some doing, and it's really quite astonishingly convincing, if not as "a pterosaur has stolen Lope into the sky!", then "a giant terrifying blue puppet has stolen Lope into the sky!", which maybe has even more kid's horror charm to it, and is thrilling regardless.  (There's some pretty decent cutting between the stop-motion and full-size models, too, and a pretty brutal denouement for our demivillain pterosaur.)  But that allosaur would justify the movie all by itself, with the cowboys' attempts to rope the theropod going on for full minutes as it adapts to their attacks, and at all times it's astoundingly well-integrated effects work, even getting the horses to look at their mark, and even getting them a little properly wrought-up because I don't think they enjoyed working around the circling jeep with a pole on it that was pretending to be Gwangi for the live-action footage.  It is, anyway, a magical feeling movie, even by the standards by which Harryhausen, cinema's most beloved wizard, must be judged.  The conclusion tops everything, and even my big complaint winds up working in Gwangi's favor, when after spending an entire movie in barren desolation, one is actually completely unprepared for how visually epic the finale in town winds up getting, a strangely morbid and desperate affair that, if the movie had "themes," as such, would feel like some sort of plea to an absent God; but the mood is there, and it's an amazing ending.

I would not commit to this hard, but there's every possibility this is Harryhausen's best film (accordingly, it is hideously underrated even amongst Harryhausen aficionados); but even if its success is more modest than that, it's still a triumph of his art form and a fitting tribute to his teacher.  Meanwhile, even if I'm sure it's actually not, it can wind up seeming something akin to Harryhausen's consideration of his own career in 1969, too, for even by the time it came out it was already as old-fashioned as it was ever going to get, so that in either of its configurations, Western or sci-fi, it was as quaint then as it is nowyet despite that, and because of that, it's a powerful effort from a man who was now a living fossil from a lost world himself, though of course that's one reason why we love him.

Score, The Beast of Hollow Mountain: 5/10
Score, The Valley of Gwangi: 8/10

That which is indistinguishable from magic:
  • When I think of marginalized groups frequently exoticized in the movies, who would be likely to have secret knowledge of the prehistory of the American Southwest, my mind does not go immediately to "the Roma."
  • Seriously, the fuck do they eat in the Valley of Gwangi?  I demand to know where the basis of your food chain is!
  • The Hollow Mountain theropod's Reality Distortion Field is pretty magical.
  • It's obviously an artistic choice on Harryhausen's part, but needless to say dinosaurs (probably) weren't usually blue or purple.  (The part that annoys me, then, is that the styracosaur's coloration falls into a distracting continuity error, blue in some shots, and green in others.  So great stop-motion animation, but I don't think I ever said "flawless.")
  • It's a likeable nod to reality that the Gwangi cowboys have accidentally loaded their rifles with Wild West show blanks, so while most movies, including Harryhausen movies, don't sweat the plausibility of concentrated rifle fire having no effect on a dinosaur, in this movie, they don't even have the option of firearms.
  • It's "eohippoi" not "eohippi," dammit.
  • So, they really didn't have a good sense of what the term "K-Pg boundary" meant in 1969, did they?
The morality of the past, in the future!:
  • Mexicans can be anti-immigration too?!  Whoa.
  • In seriousness, it's always worth pointing out that mid-century Hollywood liked Mexico and Mexicans so much more than they have the past fifty or sixty years, which just have such a limited vision of the country.
  • Businesswoman T.J. does kinda get domesticated here, it'd be fair to say, but it's not really stressed, and the whole premise of the movie is that she's an unsuccessful businesswoman who's on the verge of selling out before we even meet her.
  • Hollow Mountain, virtually nothing; Gwangi, tons, and the seams of the effects being minimized but still visible only multiplies the wonderment they convey.


  1. If there is a film fan out there who Does Not get a giddy thrill out of COWBOYS VS DINOSAURS, then truly theirs is a cold and unfeeling heart bereft of all youthful glees.

    Also, I keep having a happy daydream of an audio commentary for THE VALLEY OF GWANGI being put together - with Gwangi himself taking the lead, as voiced by Mr Sam Elliott (For after all, the only thing that could make this film even better would be depicting the Prehistoric Beasts as thespians in their own right, as wrangled by the Great Ray Harryhausen - bonus points if audiences get the impression that Mr Elliott’s character from THE GOOD DINOSAUR is the self same character with a little cinematic makeup).

    1. Elliott is probably the best part of The Good Dinosaur, or at least the magic hour shots of the tyrannosaurs is.

      It all reminds me I should give that non-Harryhausen dinos-and-cave-babes follow-up to One Million Years B.C. a shake.

      "Due to lack of time and money, and a violent altercation between Danforth and James Carreras,many scenes were canceled"

      Sounds auspicious!