A Double feature this week featuring two of my favorite things in movies together. the two have a connection I’ll get to in a bit.
THE BEAST OF HOLLOW MOUNTAIN(1956) was based on a story idea by Willis O’Brien who wrote the script under the name of El Toro Estrella. He was supposed to do the special effects for the film, but that never happened and no one knows why. O’Brien is of course notable for his effects work on THE LOST WORLD(1925), KING KONG(1933), and THE MIGHTY JOE YUNG(1949).
Guy Madison stars as Jimmy Ryan and Carlos Rivas as Felipe Sanchez, co-owners of a cattle ranch in Mexico. Cattle start disappearing and they are investigating. The “superstitious” natives claim it’s the beast of Hollow Mountain taking the cattle. The large mountain is surrounded by heavy swamp land and has never been explored. The legend is that in dry spells, which the area is encountering at that moment, the creature emerges to hunt for food.
Jmy and Felipe laugh at the notion, believing a rival is responsible in an attempt to drive them out. Enrique Rios(Edward Noriega) has indeed threatened them both. When Jimmy gives a young woman, Sarita(Patricia Medina), a lift back into town after her horse spooks, Enrique attacks him and we get a fist fight over the lady’s honor. It sets up a love triangle between the three.
The beast of the title is an Allosaur that Jimmy and his partner have to deal with and we get some nice stop motion effects work in the creature sequences. The only false note in this rewatch was a few scenes supposedly of the Allosaur’s legs stomping through mud. In the full shots, the dinosaur is black, but in the close ups, it’s obviously a man wearing light colored dino legs and the gait is all wrong for the large Allosaur.
Still fun. That little goof didn’t bother me at all.
THE VALLEY OF GWANGI(1969) was a film Willis O’Brien had tried for years to get off the ground. THe beast film I covered first was based on his unproduced script THE VALLEY OF THE MIST, which became the Gwangi film, taken over by Ray Harryhausen six years after O’Brien’s death. Harryhausen’s last dinosaur work, that type of film was on the wane and the production company that financed it did little promotion work and it was released on a double bill with a motorcycle picture.
James Franciscus is the cowboy in this one, Tuck, a former stunt man working for Buffalo Bill. He wants to buy the struggling circus of former girl friend, T. J. Breckinridge(Gila Golan). She wants to hang on, finally getting the attraction she thinks might keep her dreams alive: a tiny horse named El Diablo, found near an area known as Forbidden valley. A British paleontologist, Professor Bromley(Laurence Naismith) they meet declares it an Eohippus, an extinct creature.
Only it’s not extinct.
An old gypsy woman declares the taking of the creature a curse. In collaboration with Bromley, they steal the horse, releasing it to head for it’s home. Bromley has the idead to follow it, hoping to find other prehistoric beasts.
Tuck spots them first and follows, other men from the circus shortly behind them. They discover a narrow slit into a mountain, barely big enough to get their horses through. There they run into an Allosaur, among other beasts, and in the battle that follows when the creature tries to follow them through the crack, is knocked unconscious. The team clears a passage through, and have a really nice attraction for T. J.’s circus.
The finale of the film seems to be a nod to KING KONG as the Alloasaur is released by one of the gypsies just as the curtain is rising and we suddenly have a graging beast on the loose, crowds screaming, and the final battle in a cathedral between Tuck and the creature ends as one expects.
My favorite of the two.
For more overlooked movies and related matters, drop in on Todd Mason at SWEET FREEDOM on Tuesdays.