Retro Review: Gorgo
Continuing our dinosaur movie theme this month, I am pleased to present to you Gorgo, a childhood favorite of mine. It holds up as well as can be expected for Kaiju films of the 50’s and 60’s, but Pacific Rim this is not.
A couple of fishermen discover a giant monster off the Irish coast and take it to London to make a quick buck selling it to the circus. However, much to their chagrin, the monster is just a child, and its pissed off mother lays waste to London in order to find her baby boy.
Back in the day, having an Iconic monsters was the thing. The Americans had King Kong, The Japanese had the king of all monster – Godzilla. So the Brits made Gorgo. To be clear Gorgo is hardly ground breaking in terms of its visual design, but the movie does have some style going for it…
Gorgo is directed by Eugene Lourie (who had done some reputable movie monster work with The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, The Colossus of New York, and The Giant Behemoth.) Lourie beautifully manipulates the model work during Gorgo’s mother’s rampage through London. The scene with Mama Gorgo towering over Big Ben back-lit by orange smoke, demolishing the clock as the military fires largely ineffective missiles at her, makes you forget that theses are miniatures for a moment. This is not only the highlight of the film, but what separates it from the many “monster movie” knock off that were prevalent at the time. Gorgo actually makes all the mayhem worthwhile by having fun with the destruction.
A Spot of Bother
In every giant monster movie you expect to suffer through poor dialogue about how X monster is destroying the city and can’t be stopped. Blah.. Blah.. Blah.. and wait for the city smashing awesomeness, Well, in Gorgo, the acting is particularly insufferable. Perhaps it was the stereotypically stuffy nature of our British protagonists that made the beginning such a slog, but their complete lack of urgency was really off-putting. You guys do know that giant monsters don’t stop for tea, right?
The stars, Bill Travers and William Sylvester, try to manage being both likeable and money hungry opportunists to mild success. Much like Gamara, there’s an insufferable token kid who tries to befriend the monster, played by Vincent Winter. Although he’s not horrible, he doesn’t serve much of a function other than to evoke some sympathy for Gorgo and then of course be put in danger when London is trashed.
Gorgo certainly cribs quite a few notes from Japanese Kaiju movies, but the monster here has more story to it than just a big baddie destroying a city because he is mad. Much like the first King Kong, you get to root for the monster, because all of the chaos is the fault of the two shlubs who sold her offspring. Momma Gorgo is just doing her best as a single parent, you know?
Gorgo may fall into many of the same pitfalls as all Kaiju films of its time – sub-par acting, poor editing (some stock footage clearly being daytime when the scene was set at night.) but unlike other monster movies of the era, the story had some heart…all while delivering the goods when it came time to run amok through a model of London.
See the full movie here:
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