Directed by Eugene Lourie
Distributed by VCI Entertainment
London Bridge is falling down. So is Big Ben and most of downtown London when Gorgo comes to town.
Despite the tagline “LIKE NOTHING YOU’VE EVER SEEN BEFORE”, odds are you have seen Gorgo before even if you haven’t actually seen it. King Kong inspired The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms inspired Godzilla. Godzilla inspired Gorgo. Gorgo inspired both Son of Godzilla and Gappa, The Triphibian Monster AKA Monster from a Prehistoric Planet. Such is the giant monster circle of life.
Fishermen capture a giant sea monster off the Irish coast and sell it to a London circus owner who immediately puts it on display as “Gorgo – The Ninth Wonder of the World”. The creature is poised to be a smash until they discover Gorgo is actually a baby and its much larger and quite unhappy momma smashes London to bits in search of her offspring. You could say Gorgo is a little like Taken if Liam Neeson was a 200-foot reptile with glowing red eyes and wiggling ears that destroys every building and crushed nearly every person on his way to saving his offspring.
Mankind’s folly is once again its downfall in Gorgo only this time instead of an allegory about the dangers of atomic radiation the lesson here is the most naturalistic of any creature feature: Never get between a boy and his mother. Countless people are crushed and untold havoc is wreaked as momma Gorgo cuts a path of destruction; a path of destruction that ultimately seems oddly acceptable to the audience once we understand what its motivations are: love.
At barely 76-minutes and barely a second of it wasted, Gorgo doesn’t make the mistake so many monster movies of its time made by getting too bogged down in the human drama, needless romance, scientific mumbo jumbo, or endless exposition. Even when it does, cockney accents lend an extra layer of credibility missing from the stiffness of many American actors appearing in similar films or the hokey English-language dub jobs that have rendered many a Godzilla movie an instant source for mockery. Simple, straightforward, and quite effective, especially during the climactic final half-hour comprised of the greatest giant monster rampage put to film save for the first time Godzilla stomped Tokyo.
By this point in his career French art director turned filmmaker Eugene Lourie had been typecast as maker of monster movies. Not the worst reputation to have when the only four theatrical films on your resume are the classic The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, the criminally underrated The Colossus of New York, the so-so The Giant Behemoth (Not much of a fan of this one), and the great Gorgo. This was Lourie’s final film in the director’s chair before devoting the remainder of his career to art direction and production design. A shame, although no one can argue Lourie didn’t go out on a high note. Except for the unfortunate need to rely on the occasional military stock footage – day footage of actual fighter jets launching missiles at nighttime Gorgo being the biggest continuity error, this has got to be the classiest giant monster movie ever made.
Gorgo stomps onto Blu-ray for the first time ever and the folks at VCI have gone the extra mile to give this British Godzilla its due. You don’t need me to tell you that this is the most vibrant print of the film you’ve probably ever seen since the Blu-ray includes an extra spotlight a side-by-side comparison between older washed-out prints and this newly restored print to prove that very point. There is some graininess still to be found, some stock footage shots that simply cannot be improved upon by the magic of HD; we are talking about a 50 year old Technicolor creature feature, after all. The vividness of the nighttime scenes are when VCI’s restoration truly standout. The title credits practically pop off the screen and the first time Gorgo head emerges from the water it is truly a sight to behold.
VCI reportedly spent a year restoring Gorgo and went the extra mile assembling an array of extras to load the disc with.
The previously mentioned restoration comparison video runs nearly three minutes. The original theatrical trailer must have also been restored because I’ve personally never seen a finer copy of it.
Then we get into some extras that came to be thanks to donations sought out by the project’s supervisor beginning with five different video slide presentations showcasing lobby cards and posters, pages from the original pressbook, the movie’s production notes, a gallery of production photos, and series of Gorgo action figures and model kits from then and now. All together these five videos run close to 15 minutes.
Two really cool bonuses give fans a chance to enjoy Gorgo in comic book format on their Blu-ray. You can read cover-to-cover issue #1 of Charleston Comics’ Gorgo that was brought to life by a guy whose name would go on to become a legend in the industry: Steve Ditko. The protracted retelling of the film, plus two non-Gorgo mini-stories and what I guess was meant to be the educational portion of the comic, a two-page write-up about that mysterious place (to kids in 1960, I presume) we call Iceland, are presented in a pan-and-scan format that first shows you the full page before moving close-up as it slowly pans down to the bottom of each page. This video comic runs about 34-minutes; the last four of which are devoted to covers of other issues of the comic series that ran for about two years.
Presented in the same format is Star Cine Cosmos’ “Fumetto” comic adaptation of the movie. These comic books were different in that instead of artwork they used actual photo frames from the film. Given this was an Italian release there isn’t much in the dialogue bubbles for you to read unless you speak the language. Still makes for an intriguing curiosity, albeit one I suspect you’ll quickly fast forward like I did rather than watch it in its 40-minute entirety.
The crème-de-la-crème of the extras is Daniel Griffith’s “Ninth Wonder of the World” documentary that crams nearly everything you ever wanted to know into thirty-one rather rushed minutes. Or should I say, everything you didn’t know about Gorgo? Not much had been written about the film’s history and making-of up until now. You’ll learn about everything from Eugene Lourie’s career to the film’s inception, production, and reception, and in between you’ll also learn, amongst other things, about how Gorgo was originally going to be set in Japan and then Paris, the two-year delay in its release due to a labor dispute, how the notoriously cheap and shall we say disreputable producers known as the “King Bros” had to cancel production on 30 other films they intended to make due to Gorgo going so far over-budget. Griffith’s doc touches on a whole lot of bases without spending too much time dwelling on any particular aspects – it doesn’t have time to. Heck, the narrator often sounds like he’s racing to get his words out as quickly as possible.
VCI’s Gorgo Blu-ray is a labor of love the likes of which we can only hope the Godzilla movies will receive when they begin making their way more and more to Blu-ray. If you’re a fan of the film, this is a must own. If you’ve never seen it, this is the definitive release.
4 out of 5
4 out of 5