Movies That Should Be Re-made #1: The Valley Of Gwangi

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I recently heard they’ve re-made Ben-Hur, 1959 the epic starring Charlton Heston. Well, it’s actually described as a “re-adaptation” of the original novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, written by Lew Wallace in 1880.

Now I’m not against re-makes (or “re-adaptations”; whatever). Sometimes they work (Ocean’s Eleven worked well; Christopher Nolan’s Batman re-boots were genius). But I was unsure about Ben-Hur. Ben-Hur is just, well, Ben-Hur, isn’t it; like Jaws is Jaws. Do not touch. Anyway, it got me thinking about films that I’d could do with a re-make.

A few years back I reviewed The Valley Of Gwangi on a website. Now this dinosaur romp was a favourite of mine when I was growing up. and it’s definitely one I’d be interested in seeing re-made – not because the original is poor: it’s not; it’s brilliant. But because it would be fun, I think.

Anyway, here’s that review of The Valley Of Gwangi, and I suppose it’s also a case for re-making the movie:

ALTHOUGH directed by Englishman Jim O’Connelly, The Valley Of Gwangi will always be seen as a Ray Harryhausen film.

Made in 1969, this “cowboys vs. dinosaurs” fantasy features some of the finest examples of Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation – and it was also the last prehistoric-themed movie he worked on.

Harryhausen was the master of the monster movie, creating creatures for films such as The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad, It Came From Beneath The Sea, and in later years Clash Of The Titans (1981).

Interest in dinosaur films was declining at the time of Gwangi, and it wasn’t until Jurassic Park in 1993 that prehistoric monsters became fashionable again. They remain popular today, and that’s one reason why you should watch The Valley Of Gwangi, a true classic of the dinosaur genre.

It’s a wonderful, action-packed adventure story showcasing Harryhausen’s genius.
Gwangi’s about a bunch of cowboys, led by Tuck Kirby (James Franciscus), who head out to a place called the Forbidden Valley. In this lost canyon, they find dinosaurs by the dozen – including an allosaurus, the Gwangi of the title.

With the obligatory British – or more specifically, English – eccentric in tow (played by Laurence Naismith), the cowboys try to capture Gwangi.

In a scene that represents Harryhausen’s brilliance, the cowboys rope the allosaurus. Just watch and see if you can see the join. Actors toss ropes around the dinosaur’s neck, and although you know it’s animation, it is impossible to see where stop-motion and real-motion merge.

Gwangi gets loose and battles a styracosaurus, and after killing it chases the cowboys again. This time, they get the better of the allosaurus. Capturing it, the scene is set for a brilliant climax as they return Gwangi to civilization.

The dinosaur is put on display at a rodeo show but manages to break free. The crowd panics and stampedes. Gwangi goes on the rampage and gets involved in another Harryhausen stop-motion battle, this time with an elephant that was part of the show.

After killing the elephant, the allosaurus runs riot before finally being killed in a burning cathedral.

The Valley Of Gwangi is exciting and fun, and one of my favourite films from childhood. I remember being thrilled when I saw it first in the 1970s. I was probably about nine or ten, and the movie was relatively new at the time. But it still feels fresh to me today, despite how far more advanced special effects are by now.

Although it is Harryhausen’s special effects that take centre stage, there’s much more to The Valley Of Gwangi than stop-motion – great story, pacey direction, fabulous cast. It is a treat. Highly recommended.