Wednesday, April 10, 2013

GORGO (Blu-ray)

Very few motion picture directors have been quite as narrowly typecast as Eugène Lourié. An accomplished film Art Director/Designer, he made only four features as a director and three of them were giant monster movies. (One can argue that his fourth, THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK, fit into that genre as well, but it didn't have a rampaging prehistoric beast like the other three.) His final directorial effort was 1961's GORGO, now on Blu-ray disc from VCI Entertainment.

A pair of maritime salvage experts (Bill Travers & William Sylvester) discover a 30-foot tall prehistoric reptile off the Scottish coast. They capture the critter and bring it to London, where they exhibit it in a circus. Soon, however, scientists discover that the beastie - nicknamed Gorgo - is only an infant, and that its parent is ten times bigger.... and on her way to London to rescue her baby. Not even the British Navy can deter the gargantuan lizard from her mission, and soon she's wading up the Thames toward the heart of the city....

Famous for its "happy ending" (for the monsters, anyway), it's said that after making two dinosaur movies where the creatures had ultimately been killed by man (THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS and THE GIANT BEHEMOTH), Lourié wanted to make one where the monsters triumphed for a change. Produced by independent American producers, the King Brothers, and filmed at MGM's British Studios, GORGO is a terrific entertainment with solid performances, a smart script, and - for the time - state of the art special effects. Gorgo himself is realized through Godzilla-like "man-in-suit" techniques, but the costume is unique and marvelously convincing. Some of the bluescreen and optically generated "fog" effects don't hold up quite as well, but overall, the flick delivers plenty of spectacle and monstrous destruction.

VCI has previously released GORGO twice on DVD, with a quality upgrade between releases. This new, high definition edition offers even more improvement in picture and audio, with a brand new, digitally restored, 1080p HD, 1.78:1 widescreen transfer from a recently unearthed print. Compared to previous editions, there is a significant improvement in both color and detail. It looks really good, but it still doesn't - and can't - look like a modern film. The movie is full of Old School optical effects, which, due to the nature of how they were executed, inevitably degrade image quality. Thus, much of the movie still looks a bit soft, and the extensive stock footage sequences still look battered, with lots of damage & "dirt." A vintage special effects movie like this needs to be graded on a curve, and when judged fairly, this is a very fine presentation of a technically troublesome, 50 year-old motion picture.

Supplemental material on this HD edition includes THE NINTH WONDER OF THE WORLD, a new retrospective documentary; "video comic" presentations of the Charlton Comics comic book adaptation from 1961 and a European "photonovel" edition; several still galleries; an eye-opening restoration comparison; and an optional music/effects-only audio track.

Fans of classic giant monster movies should really appreciate this new HD release. While the image quality isn't perfect, it is the best that GORGO has ever looked on home video. Between that significant technical upgrade and the terrific new documentary, the GORGO Blu-ray should be considered an essential purchase.

Recommended.

BUYGorgo [Blu-ray]