The Movie Waffler Jurassic July - The Valley of Gwangi (1969) | The Movie Waffler

Jurassic July - The Valley of Gwangi (1969)

Directed by: Jim O'Connolly
Starring: James Franciscus, Gila Golan, Richard Carlson,  Laurence Naismith

Franciscus travels to Mexico to attempt to purchase a performing circus horse from ex-girlfriend Golan but discovers far more interesting creatures in a nearby valley.
If this movie were released today, the unimaginative promoters would simply title it "Cowboys Versus Dinosaurs". It's amazing it took until 1969 for the western to meet the monster movie. The creator of "King Kong", Willis O'Brien, originally came up with this concept in the forties but couldn't get it made (why the hell not? It's cowboys vs dinosaurs!) His apprentice, Ray Harryhausen, hung onto the concept and thanks to the success of "One Million Years BC" saw his mentors vision realised in spectacular form with this Sunday afternoon staple.
The story is really just "King Kong" transplanted to turn of the century Mexico with a giant Allosaurus replacing the great ape. You don't come to a Harryhausen movie for the story though, you come for his creatures and this has some of his best, from a miniature horse to the giant dinos. As far as the movements of the creatures go, this would be his best work prior to "Clash of the Titans". What keeps it in the shadow of "Jason and the Argonauts" and "One Million Years BC" is the interaction between miniatures and real-life actors. Frankly it's quite poor here compared to those earlier movies but the creatures are such fun to watch you probably won't be thinking about that.
Franciscus was an unfairly derided performer, always thought of as the poor man's Charlton Heston thanks to his lead role in "Beneath the Planet of the Apes". I once watched that movie with a girl who assumed he was Heston until Mister NRA turned up himself at the end. Here he gives a good performance playing a frankly unlikable character. Golan is certainly easy on the eye (a former Miss Israel) but due to her poor English her dialogue is dubbed terribly. Naismith plays an elderly British paleontologist and was surely an influence on Richard Attenborough's character in "Jurassic Park".
One of the movie's best scenes involves the Allosaurus, nicknamed Gwangi by locals, being taken down by lassos and I'm sure George Lucas was paying attention as it's clearly echoed in the At-At sequence from "Empire Strikes Back", probably the pinnacle of stop-motion work.
This is a must see for fans of Harryhausen and monster movies, best viewed on a rainy Sunday afternoon with a bowl of popcorn and a raging hangover.