A cowboy captures a prehistoric beast and hits on the idea of putting it on show at a traveling circus. The beast, however, has other ideas.
The stop-motion magic of legendary special effects creator Ray Harryhausen is the highlight of this sporadically exciting fantasy-adventure, which pits cowboys against dinosaurs in the Mexican desert. James Franciscus and Richard Carlson star as members of a struggling Wild West show who discover their newest attraction in Mexico--a tiny prehistoric horse. Exploration into a nearby valley uncovers living dinosaurs, including the fearsome "Gwangi"-an allosaur that the circus folk capture for exhibition. But as every creature connoisseur knows, monsters in cages always break free, and soon enough, the beast is on a rampage. Originally developed by Harryhausen's mentor Willis O'Brien in 1942, The Valley of Gwangi
feels like a retread of his previous titles, especially 20 Million Miles to Earth
, but Harryhausen's effects are spectacular as always (especially the miniature horse), and will please monster fans. Warner Bros' widescreen anamorphic DVD includes a short featurette, "Return to the Valley," in which Industrial Light and Magic animators pay tribute to Harryhausen's influence. --Paul Gaita