Special Edition, DVD Video
Greedy sailors capture a giant lizard off the coast of Ireland and sell it to a London circus. Then its mother shows up. The special effects in GORGO, provided by two time Academy Award winner Tom Howard, are truly admirable. 76 minutes, Color, Released in theaters by MGM in 1961. DVD is digitally remastered and presented in widescreen.
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A volcanic eruption in the North Atlantic brings to the surface a 65-foot prehistoric monster. Two treasure divers capture the creature and take him to London making the made the star attraction at a circus. A scientist is thoughtful enough to point out that the sailors' bonanza is only an infant, and that a full-grown specimen would be over 200 feet in height. Sure enough, GORGO's gargantuan mama comes thundering ashore, reclaims her offspring and heading back to sea, but not before she trashes a generous portion of London.
Cast: Bill Travers, William Sylvester, Vincent Winter, Christopher Rhodes, Joseph O'Conor, Bruce Seton, Martin Benson, Maurice Kaufmann, Basil Dignam, Barry Keegan, Tommy Duggan, Howard Lang, Dervis Ward. John Breslin (uncredited), Nigel Green (uncredited), Harvey Hall (uncredited), Brian Jackson (uncredited), Jim O'Brady (uncredited), Fred Wood (uncredited) and Mick Dillon (GORGO) (uncredited)
Director: Eugène Lourié
Producers: Frank King, Maurice King and Wilfred Eades
Screenplay: Daniel James and Robert L. Richards
Composer: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino
Cinematography: Frederick A. Young, OBE, B.S.C. (Director of Photography)
Image Resolution: 1080i [Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English: 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio, French: 1.0 LPCM Stereo Audio and Optional Music and Effects Track: 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio
Running Time: 76 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / British Lion Films / VCI Entertainment
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: After many years as one of cinema's foremost art directors and production designers, including several collaborations with Jean Renoir, Eugène Lourié got his first opportunity to direct a feature film with the dinosaur-on-the-loose classic 'The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms' , which a Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen collaboration. The film was a huge hit-except with Eugène Lourie's young daughter, who cried because the monster died at the end. As he dried the girl's tears, an idea formed in the director's mind for a monster film in which the creature would be permitted to live happily ever after. Several years and one dinosaur film later 'The Giant Behemoth' , Eugène Lourie's idea reached the screen as 'GORGO' , an extremely satisfying monster spectacular that has remained a fan favourite for more than 40 years. VCI Entertainment, which released the film a few years ago on an inferior DVD, has now been reissued with a new transfer on this awesome Blu-ray disc.
Ever since 'King Kong,' audiences have responded favourably to outlandish fantasies about giant monsters. This curious subgenre came into its own in the early 1950s, with again 'The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,' which updated the theme with the dubious notion of a prehistoric monster revived by atomic radiation. The director of this clever Warner Bros. hit film was a former designer of famous French films, Eugène Lourié. Design skills perfected on masterpieces like the film 'Children of Paradise' found curious expression making an epic story on a very low budget.
The cost of spectacular special effects and scenes of urban panic discouraged films of this kind in the United States. The subgenre was effectively adopted by Japanese producers just a year later, with the big-budgeted, influential Godzilla. Ironically, the only real competition for Toho's 'Titan of Terror' were subsequent films from director Eugène Lourié. 'The Giant Behemoth' ['Behemoth, Sea Monster']  began as an amorphous blob monster, but its cautious producers instead asked the director for another aquatic dinosaur. Eugène Lourié rewrote his 'The Beast' for an English locale, giving his new monster the ability to project intense waves of radiation. King Kong's Willis O'Brien produced the special effects. A couple of years later the prolific King Brothers, former makers of westerns and films noir, moved to England with the idea of producing a Godzilla-style monster epic on a truly lavish scale. Frank King and Maurice King had made a bundle by importing Toho's Rodan, a thriller about a supersonic flying reptile. They hired Eugène Lourié, who found himself making essentially the same film for the third time. 'GORGO' was filmed for Technicolor release by Freddie A. Young, the cinematographer of 'Lawrence of Arabia.' An enormous miniature set of London's River Thames filled an entire soundstage, and film units were dispatched to Ireland for key sequences. Given a symphonic music score by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, 'GORGO' received a wide release with saturation advertising that promised it to be, "Like Nothing You've Ever Seen Before." Its wondrous sense of spectacle and its original theme won over audiences and critics alike.
Not many monster films have as original or inventive a storyline as 'GORGO.' Under Eugène Lourié 's direction, the film's credited writers John Loring and Daniel Hyatt, who were actually the blacklisted Robert L. Richards and Daniel James, concocted a tale in which a defiant Mother Nature triumphs over human greed and folly. Eugène Lourié had noted that his young daughter loved the original Beast, and was unhappy to see it meet the traditional fate indicated for classic film monsters. Eugène Lourié decided that his new monster would not only live, but also prevail. This idea reportedly met with the King Brothers enthusiastic approval. When trying to get the British Censor to allow children to see the film, they claimed it to be a testimony to Mother Love. As finished, the show definitely communicates an emotional proto-ecological message.
The film's monster GORGO is a thirty-foot aquatic creature with enormous claws, glowing red eyes and oversized dragon-like ears. Shady salvage experts Bill Travers and William Sylvester capture the monster and rush it to London for exhibition in a circus in Battersea Park. Opposing the partners are some Irish scientists that object to the commercial exploitation of "the find of the century". Little Irish stowaway Sean [Vincent Winter] cares nothing about science or money. He believes GORGO to be the Irish Sea fairy OGRA, and wants him to be set free. But then the scientists determine that the monster is not "an adult specimen", but a relative new-born. While the arguments continue, a colossal Mother GORGO rises from the sea to free its offspring. When attempts to halt it fail, the monster wades up the River Thames, destroying half of London en route.
Advocates of Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen style stop-motion animation are the only detractors of 'GORGO,' which uses large miniature settings and stuntmen in complex rubber costumes to play the film's monsters. Clever design and a good mime performance mostly overcome the limitations of the technique, which allows for a greater variety of camera angles and more creative lighting than most stop-motion pictures can afford. With director Eugène Lourié's design sense and Freddie A. Young's spectacular lighting schemes, 'GORGO' looks appropriately huge as it rips down bridges and towers. A broad swath of central London is demolished, as impressive scenes of panicked crowds sell the idea of civilisation thrown into utter chaos. Naturally, all the ships, guns and jets thrown against the maternal colossus have no effect. Not even the original Godzilla generates as much excitement.
The film is unusually brief at 77 minutes for an epic, and it bears traces of a troubled production "saved" in the editing room. Unusually fast-paced editing rushes through the bare minimum of dialogue scenes to get to the action highlights, suggesting that some dramatic material was discarded, or never shot due to budget restraints. The twenty-minute London attack sequence is packed with impressive action and the monster destroys the Tower Bridge, Big Ben and invades Piccadilly Circus. But too much indifferent stock footage is used to depict the military retaliation, and the editor is so desperate for shots that he repeats some scenes by flopping them left to right. That said, the height of the human stampede before he onrushing Mother GORGO communicates a feeling of pure panic.
What really distinguishes this monster romp is its unexpected, nearly subversive theme which sides with the monsters against the decadent civilisation that fails to respect God's natural creatures. GORGO's rampage is documented by a roving reporter character, which was possibly added in post-production, that finishes the film by delivering a stirring defence for the victorious monsters, in saying, "And yet, as though disdaining the pygmies under her feet, she turns back, turns with her young, leaving the prostrate city, leaving the haunts of man. Leaving man himself to ponder the proud boast that he alone is Lord of all creation."
The film's sentimental touches won over audiences, big time. Surprised reviewers were moved as well and wrote enthusiastic notices, a rare occurrence indeed for a lowly monster film. Mother GORGO's enormous foot smashes through the exhibition pen at the circus, allowing her baby to follow her back to the river. Sean watches, wide-eyed and happy as the baby answers its mother's call with another elephant-like roar. 'GORGO' thus became a big favourite for a generation of young matinee-goers. So put the Blu-ray disc in, get the popcorn in, relax and enjoy a marvellous rollercoaster tour-de-force monster film.
In spite of some of its flaws, the Blu-ray disc is recommended because the film is that good, and it is unlikely that a better DVD edition of 'GORGO' will ever appear anytime soon, thank goodness. Since it was distributed theatrically in the USA by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the original film elements are probably with Warner Bros., who are the owners of the pre-1986 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer library, but the original distribution agreement may have expired, or may not have covered home video. Even if they have the rights to the film's apparent public domain status, may discourage the studio from giving it a proper release. An unfortunate fate for one of the best giant monster films ever made.
Blu-ray Image Quality – VCI Entertainment's Blu-ray disc of 'GORGO' has been re-mastered from original elements stored in a Kansas salt mine storage facility used by Turner Entertainment and subsequently Warner Bros., for many of their holdings from the pre-1986 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film library. The 1080p HD transfer is somewhat uneven but approximates the look of original Technicolor prints, especially in the spectacular night-time attack sequences. The IB Tech printing process had a way of smoothing out grainy footage, and viewers may be surprised when some scenes look better than others. But the awesome sight of GORGO's green head and glowing crimson eyes rising from the ocean is undiminished. VCI Entertainment has spent a year collecting extras for their special edition. A documentary called 'Ninth Wonder of the World' makes do with the few behind-the-scenes materials that exist for 'GORGO,' and uses a scattershot editing style to tell the story of dinosaur films in general.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The main audio option on this Blu-ray disc is the film's original English language track, presented here in 2.0 LPCM Mono Audio with optional subtitles provided in English only. An optional French language track is also included in 2.0 LPCM Mono Audio. Dialogue is audible enough and easy to follow and the monster noises sound a bit more powerful and strong here than they did on the inferior DVD. The score also sounds a little richer and more robust than it has in the past. There is still flatness to much of the audio that probably won't ever be eliminated but if this isn't an amazing track by any stretch it certainly gets the job done without any serious issues.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Optional Music and Effects Track
THEATRICAL TRAILER  [1080i] [1.78:1] [2:29] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for 'GORGO.' This is a really dramatic and exciting trailer that really gives you a flavour of what to expect when you actually view the brilliant monster film.
Special Feature: GORGO: THE MONSTER FROM THE SEA! Comic Book and Comic Book Gallery  [1080p] [1.37:1] [34:02] This is very unusual slide show presentation, in that we get move through the comic book page images, where they scroll across the screen horizontally and with occasional close-ups of various pages, so have your pause button handy on your remote control if you actually want to read what is being viewed. At the start of this viewing experience, you get to hear the dramatic composed film music of the film ‘GORGO’ in the background, but after a while it all goes silent and with each page you view, which they do give you time to read the wording above the artists comic book drawings, which some are in black-and-white and colour. The publications we get to view are GORGO: GORGO: THE MONSTER FROM THE SEA! [First Edition]; WONDERS OF THE DEEP; CAPTAIN’S COREY’S CURIOSITY CORNER; FEAR! [Comic Book]; STRANGE PEOPLE WHO ARE REAL and several GORGO comic book covers.
Special Feature: LOBBY CARD and POSTER GALLERY  [1.78:1] [1080p] [5:41] Here we get to view a nice selection of rare Lobby Card and Posters from the film ‘GORGO’ via the very unusual slide show presentation, in that we get move through the comic book page images, where they scroll across the screen horizontally viewing the plethora of Lobby Card and Posters, so have your pause button handy on your remote control if you want to have a closer view of each item and again is very well presented. As the items are being shown, we again hear the dramatic and distinct composed film music for the film ‘GORGO’ played in the background and I found it a really nice presentation.
Special Feature: TOYS and COLLECTIBLES GALLERY  [1080p] [1.78:1] [2:57] Here we get to view a nice selection of rare Toys and Collectibles of GORGO via the very unusual slide show presentation, in that we get to move through the images of the rare Toys and Collectibles, where they scroll across the screen horizontally viewing the plethora of rare items on view and is again very well presented. The first items we get to view are the GORGO resin models that were sculpted by Joseph Laudati in the USA in 1993 and they look totally spectacular. Other resin models of GORGO we get to view, were made by the M1/Club Daikaiju Toy company that were manufactured in Japan/USA in 2002 and the Palmer Plastic Toys made in the USA in 1994. Once again as the items are shown, we again hear the distinct composed film music for the film ‘GORGO’ played in the background and again I found it a really nice presentation.
Special Feature: THE 9TH WONDER OF THE WORLD: The Making of 'GORGO'  [1080p] [1.78:1] [31:08] Here we get to view a brand new documentary by Daniel Griffith, that has been produced by the Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, who always do a really excellent and professional special documentaries, and to me personally I feel this is probably one of the best ever special feature supplement in this package, and is a very nice well thought out and fascinating documentary detailing the background to the film ‘GORGO’ and is filled with probably unintentionally humorous comments by a plethora of 'GORGO' experts. On top of all that, we get a great deal of plethora of film clips from ‘GORGO.’ Narrated by Randall Turnbull. Contributors include: C. Courtney Joyner [Screenwriter/Film Historian], Ted Newsom [Film Historian], Eugène Lourié [French film director] [Audio only], Bob Burns [Special Effects Historian], Douglas Adams [Second Unit Camera Operator] [Audio only], Daniel Griffith [Screenplay/Producer/Director], Randall Turnbull [Screenplay], Tom Weaver [Story/Screenplay], Paul Mandell [Additional Material] and Angelo Francesco Lavagnino [GORGO Musical Score].
Special Feature: PRESS BOOK GALLERY  [1080p] [1.78:1] [1:51] Once again we get to view a plethora of rare GORGO Metro-Goldwy-Mayer PRESS BOOK memorabilia promoting the film GORGO,’ and once again we get to view these items via the very unusual slide show presentation, in that we get to move through the images of the rare PRESS BOOK, where they scroll across the screen horizontally viewing the plethora of rare items on view and they give you time to read all of the written words informing us about the film ‘GORGO,’ and is again very well presented. Once again as the items are being shown, we again hear the dramatic composed film music for the film ‘GORGO’ played in the background and again I found it a really nice presentation.
Special Feature: ORIGINAL PRODUCTION NOTES  [1080p] [1.78:1] [2:05] With this very unusual slide show presentation, in that we get to move through the images of the rare original King Bros. Production Limited of the Proposed Unit For Ireland Locational schedule sheets for shooting the scenes for the film ‘GORGO,’ which also informs us of the actual day’s shooting schedule, and with this very unusual slide show presentation, in that we get to move through the images of the rare original production notes and so have your pause button handy on your remote control if you actually want to read what is being viewed, but unfortunately you get the peculiar situation, in that the overlapping way the pages are presented hides some of the reading content. Once again as the items are being shown, we again hear the dramatic composed film music for the film ‘GORGO’ played in the background and again I found it a really nice presentation.
Special Feature: STAR Ciné COSMOS: French-language "Fumetto" Comic Book  [1080p] [1.78:1] [40:41] This is a French comic book publication, which is presented in much the same way as the previous American comic book publication images, and of course all the wording is all in French, and if you cannot read French, you have a plethora of images from the film ‘GORGO’ to fathom out what the wording says. Once again we get to view these items via the very unusual slide show presentation, in that we get to move through the images of the rare STAR Ciné COSMOS "Fumetto" Comic Book pages. Once again as the items are being shown, we again hear the dramatic composed film music for the film ‘GORGO’ played in the background, as well right at the end of the viewing experience and again I found it a really nice presentation.
Special Feature: PHOTO GALLERY  [1080p] [1.78:1] [2:12] With this special horizontal slide show, again we get a plethora of wonderful rare black-and-white and colour promotional photographs, especially of behind-the-scene images and also dramatic images of scenes of GORGO on the rampages in the film. Once again as the items are being shown, we again hear the dramatic composed film music for the film ‘GORGO’ played in the background, as well right at the end of the viewing experience and again I found it a really nice presentation.
Special Feature: BEFORE & AFTER RESTORATON  [1080p] [1.78:1] [2:52] This shows us a split screen offering before and after versions of several scenes. There was substantial colour correction and contrast improvement done as well as some fairly vigorous clean-up of the images. Once again as we view the before and after versions of several scenes shown, we again hear the dramatic composed film music for the film ‘GORGO’ played in the background, as well right at the end of the viewing experience and again I found it a really nice presentation.
Finally, 'GORGO' absolutely gets a decent upgrade on this Blu-ray from VCI Entertainment with this release. Is this a Blu-ray disc that's going to appeal to the hard-core high definition fans out there? No, it's not, but it is definitely a lot better than previous inferior DVD offerings in terms of audio and video and it also includes some excellent extras as well. So if you are a fan of the film ‘GORGO’ like me and you are familiar with the scenario story line, warts and all, then this is an upgrade worthwhile ordering the Blu-ray disc and you will not be disappointed. Those unfamiliar with GORGO's charms may want to rent it first, but the film remains a great deal of good, uncontrollable rampant fun. When I first viewed this film in the cinema, I loved it and felt it was far superior to the Japanese 'Godzilla' films and when it was announced this was to be released, I could not hold back and had to have it added to my VCI Entertainment Blu-ray Collection and now I can have endless hours of enjoyment watching this brilliant Classic British Horror Film whenever the mood takes me. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso
It's captures are unaware that this creature is the offspring of a 200 ft adult creature that will prove itself unstoppable in it's search the young one.
Works in all directions for those who like their monster mayhem with a little heart in center. The blueray release definitely a step up from earlier dvd
(I'm not talking Spartacus restoration or anything but it is Brighter clearer and eliminates most the annoying browns and greens). My only complaint
Is I was disappointed that the film was released 1:78 instead of the print widescreen of 2;35 but still lot of great extras including a new documentary which covers everything you could ever want to know about the film production and is worth the price of the disc by itself!
Enjoyable classic, not on a par with some of the great American and Japanese monster classics of that period. Certainly not in the same league as the British Quatermass movies. But watchable, well made, well acted and decent special effects. Notable was the lack of talk about radiation. Evidently atomics were not at the heart of British nightmares the way they were in America and Japan. They seem to mainly be afraid of the Irish, with cause I suppose.
I suspect the underlying point here was to reassure the English citizenry that they would rise to meet the challenge of the Cold War, just like in WWII. Or, maybe this is about their fear of immigrants from their waning Empire? Who knows, these are deep waters full of monsters.
All kidding aside, the Amazon print, for which I cheerfully paid $3.99 to watch, was a nice, crisp version. All cleaned up for company. I highly recommend it. Why only three stars? Four for Godzilla. Five for Quatermass at the Pit.