Nothing says Monsters Day like a look back at the love between prehistoric mother and Jurassic spawn unleashed in London!
After film distributors The King Brothers achieved box office success with their dubbed release of Toho Studios’ RODAN, they decided to make their own kaiju flick.
Who better to helm it than director Eugenie Lourie who previously helmed The BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS and THE GIANT BEHEMOTH? Although both benefited greatly from the stop-motion artistry of animators Ray Harryhausen and Willis O’Brien, the producers felt the frame-by-frame realization of their creatures would be time consuming. In the tradition of GODZILLA. The titular juggernaut of GORGO would be achieved by a man in a suit combined with some ingenious puppetry by SFX whiz Tom Howard. Instead of New York or Tokyo, London would fall prey to the mother-spawn team. The film also boasted a magnificent score by Italian maestro Angelo Lavagnino.
When marine salvagers, Bill Travers and William Sylvester, are nearly sunk by an undersea volcano, they take to mysterious Nara Island to make repairs. Met by scowling locals, a harbor master lets slip there may be buried treasure – but all that glitters is not gold. A 65 foot tall creature rises from the ocean depths and comes ashore, wreaking havoc. The mariners decide to try and snare it in their net. Mission accomplished – stupid dinosaur (or so they think).
Safely ensnared board the ship, Our Heroes (now accompanied by a “Wee Geordie” lad) are confronted by scientists. The stereotypical eggheads want to study the aquatic terror but Travers & Sylvester want to strike it rich with their discovery. Sure enough, they lease Gorgo to a circus who’s displayed in Battersea Park in London.
But oh no – the scientists discover that the creature is only a child and that its mother is probably over 200 feet tall. Cue ominous music – smash cut to Nara Island which promptly gets trashed.
Mama Gorgo quickly makes waste of the Royal Navy, withstands a barrage of stock footage and makes her way undeterred toward London.
In a virtuoso display of effects mayhem, the skyscraper sized mommy monster rips London apart like it was made of papier-mâché. Every landmark building is flattened. Crowds pour into The Tube (subway for you non-Brits) only to be crushed by debris. Man ponders the imponderable.
Adding documentary-like flavor to the proceedings is a TV journalist who delivers the stunning slay-by-slay (à la Raymond Burr). Soon, London is in flames as the colossal creatures nears its objective – Baby.
Freed from captivity, mother and spawn wade into the Thames as London burns. Happy ending (for them, anyway.) Reportedly, director Lourie changed the finale at the behest of his daughter who cried when his beastly goliaths were slain.
Released on a double bill with THE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN in 1961 GORGO was a blockbuster in every sense of the word. TV ads and posters ballyhooed the film nonstop. And we all fell prey to its irresistible lure.
Even the sacrosanct New York Times gave it a glowing review, writing. “(Gorgo) is pretty darn good. For awesome technical wizardry and the boiling crescendo of its climax—the most hair-raising close-up of metropolitan panic we’ve ever seen on film, this is probably the best outright monster shocker since KING KONG….” Wait until you see the monster emerging from the Thames, stampeding the populace, shattering Waterloo Bridge, splintering a neon-spangled Piccadilly Circus and slicing apartment buildings like cake.
Unlike monster creature features that garnered a mere one-shot comic from Dell, GORGO became a popular Charlton series drawn by Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko in its own title. It lasted 24 issues. Its final issue featured a team-up with another movie monster KONGA (which Ditko also drew).
Truly, GORGO was “like nothing you’ve never seen before!”