Eugene Lourie is probably best known for his 1953 monster-on-the-loose epic “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,” and epic of not only the genre, but 1950 movies as well. Eugene was brought back to the genre with Gorgo, an outstanding Technicolor epic that stands as one of the best giant monster movies ever made. Sadly, every DVD version is pitiful in quality, but if you’re going to get in on the format, this VCI version is the way to go.
A volcanic explosion releases a 60+ foot beast that captures the eye of a few circus owners who immediately put it on display. It’s a huge success of course and its owners couldn’t be much happier. Sadly for them, mom also broke out from that explosion and would prefer to take back custody on her kin. This begins a rampage of epic proportions as mom tramples London searching desperately for her property.
Gorgo is an undeniable classic. The old “guy in a suit” may draw laughs from those accustomed to the even more obvious CGI, but no one can discount the superb miniature work here. Numerous landmarks are toppled in the final rampage, all crumbling realistically under mamma Gorgo’s huge hands. The movie does have a few odd subplots that go absolutely nowhere and the child actor is beyond annoying, but you’re going to watch this movie for one reason. In that, it’s largely successful. (**** out of *****)
Gorgo is presented in widescreen for the first time ever on home video. This is the most abysmal non-public domain disc I’ve ever seen. The print is so dark that actors are completely obscured by the lack of light, large chunks of compression artifacts never seem to disappear, scratches can’t be counted, and the film grain is the worst I’ve ever encountered in a color film. This movie should look a lot better than it does and it’s about time it gets restored. (* )
Likewise, the sound is equally horrific. Gorgo’s memorable roar is lost in a muffled mess of screams and buildings crumbling. There is a layer of static over the entire presentation that sounds like your listening to the movie on a 45 year old radio broadcast. This is hardly how Dolby Digital Mono should be used, and I’d be surprised if it was. This has VHS quality written all over it. (*)
Surprisingly, VCI did include an interesting look at Gorgo through a 10-minute documentary. It’s entirely narrated, but covers Lourie’s career and goes over his start with the “The Beast.” There is more information here in a measly 10 minutes on the production than has ever been available before. There is a nice picture gallery with various posters and still shots and of course the usual trailer. The menus get special mention with a CG Gorgo towering over a buildings with the various segments featured on them. Getting anywhere takes about 15 seconds thanks to the included animation when switching menus, but these can be fast-forwarded. (***)
Be warned that there are countless other discs on the market featuring Gorgo. Most have it double billed with another movie that has been in public domain for years. As far as I know, Gorgo is not public domain and should not be on these bargain basement discs. Avoid those and get this release. It may not be much better, but the few extras put it a step above.
Originally posted at Breaking Windows.