In the well loved tradition of “King Kong”, T.J. and her friends, including Champ (Richard Carlson), get the bright idea to introduce the Allosaurus – who gets christened Gwangi – to their show. Havoc predictably ensues.
There may be viewers who will grow impatient with the pacing at first. “The Valley of Gwangi” runs longer than previous Ray Harryhausen – Charles H. Schneer productions at 96 minutes, and it’s not until the movies’ second half that we get to see any dinosaurs. But the little Eohippus is sure to charm people, not just children, and the story is very engaging.
It helps that the actors are so sincere. The handsome Franciscus is good in the starring role, with fine support from Ms. Golan and Mr. Carlson. Young Curtis Arden is appealing in the role of Lope the child, who had to fend for himself from an early age and who is clearly eager to make a buck. Freda Jackson is amusing in the somewhat annoying, clichéd role of the wise old doomsayer who rants about the consequences of individuals going into the valley and bringing back “evil” specimens.
As expected, Harryhausen’s special effects are excellent. They’re especially impressive in the movies’ major set piece, when Tuck, Champ and others work overtime to try to lasso Gwangi. And once the action kicks into gear in this thing, a real fever pitch is reached and then maintained until the absolute end, with an exciting rampage.
Mostly lighthearted entertainment, but G ratings weren’t always what they are now: a few people do fall victim to the jaws and teeth of Gwangi.