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When you think about a giant reptilian creature rising from the sea to wreak havoc upon the local population you immediately will think of Japanese horror flicks. Collectively these movies fall into a culturally specific type of cinematic form called Kaiju films but in the parlance of fans particularly among English speaking devotees, Godzilla movies. These movies were the staple offerings for the Saturday afternoon matinees that were standard fare for us as kids, the ever popular fan favorite creature feature. Not to be out done enterprising studios in the United States and England soon had plans of their own giant lizard movie. The result was achieved in 1961, ‘Gorgo’. Distributed in Britain and closer to home here by MGM, the movie managed to become something of a cult favorite and standard midnight movie but failed to approach anything remotely close to recognition or revenues generated over the decades by Godzilla and his cohorts. In a somewhat ironic note the movie poster boldly stated "Like nothing you’re ever seen before" when the only arguably new facet of the movie is the crowd running in panic are screaming in English rather than Japanese. Still there is a special nostalgic place this film holds for many of us, one that brought a terrifying monster a bit closer to home with the military and scientific teams working to save the world representative of the West.

Captain Joe Ryan (Bill Travers) and his crew were exploring the waters in hope of finding something worth salvaging. They are off the coast of Ireland in waters where reports of sunken Spanish ships went down loaded to gold and other treasures. Their work is disrupted when suddenly a volcano erupts tossing the ship seriously damaging it. Ryan and his first mate, Sam Slade (William Sylvester), manager to get the vessel to Nara Island for the much needed repair. If you are in possession of any cartographic acumen you might find several rather glaring flaws here but for now just ignore common sense and go with it. As they enter the harbor the notice it is littered with the bodies of numerous marine animals taking that as something was disturbed by the volcano. Not bothering to stop to acknowledge their ‘stating the obvious’ award they continue on. When they met with the harbor master, who conveniently is an amateur archeologist his own efforts to explore the harbor have met with disaster.

Several of his men have mysteriously disappeared and one outright died of fright. Later in the dark of the night a monster rises out of the harbor and attacks the fishermen. The reptilian creature almost seven stories in height walk out of the water onto the island smashing everything in sight until returning to the water. Ryan and his crew succeed in capturing the creature securing it to the ship. Scientists from around the globe descend on the island community eager to begin scholarly examination of this incredible discovery but the Captain has other plans; selling the creature to a circus. Giving the monster the name ‘Gorgo’ Ryan is commissioned to transport the creature to London to be placed on exhibition. One there everyone realizes a monumental mistake has been made. Gorgo is an infant. His mother, dubbed, Ogra, comes in at a towering 200 feet tall and is angry at the puny things that stole her baby. Maternal instinct runs amok as mommy tears through everything between her and her child. Finally after we toss everything we have to no effect the film closes on one of the most iconic images in the genre; mother and child walking out to sea together.

As kids it was an oddity to watch a Kaiju style flick without subtitles or the common place out of sync English dubbing. This was sufficiently novel to get our attention but is the subtle changes that Anglicized an original Japanese cinematic form. British science fiction provided notable examples of creatures, radiation and other standards of this type of moviemaking. About this time the leaders of this field was Hammer Studios that gave us dozens of the best fantasy, Sci-Fi and horror films sustaining careers of such greats as Christopher Lee. ‘Gorgo’ infused that classic look and feel blending it with another exceptionally popular form of Kaiju. The film was directed by one of the most famous filmmakers of this genre, Eugène Lourié. He attacked London and the English coastline with such monsters as ‘The Giant Behemoth’ and over Stateside with another cult classic ‘The Colossus of New York’. Several of this man’s movies have recently been released several remastered in high definition for Blu-ray editions. For movies that were made fairly long ago and not particularly regarded as cinematic masterpieces. Now there is a movement that is including titles like this as a vital part of our cinematic heritage. In their own right they are beloved treasures not only for the nostalgic value they hold but for the undeniable influence they exerted on a generation of filmmakers and their fans.

The Blu-ray edition was well done. The upgrade to 1080p was skillfully performed albeit with a smaller budget that many other restorations. This is the cleanest version of the film I have ever seen and I have experienced watching it in neighborhood theaters, VHS tape, DVD and late night cable networks. The colors are crisp, the shadows remarkably sharp. Even the audio remix provides a robust sound field that reveals nuances I’ve ever realized before. This is one that belongs in you collection, preferable in a section containing other high definition editions of similar classics.

Posted 05/14/2013

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