Tuesday, October 23, 2018
It's hard to overstate the impact this movie had on me as a kid.
I was six years old when I saw it at the Waverly Theater in Drexel Hill, PA. My oldest sister and her boyfriend Rudy took me as a surprise for my upcoming birthday. The ads for Gorgo were all over TV and I just HAD to see it. I think Rudy tagged along because footage from the Cassius Clay/LaMar Clark fight was also on the bill.
In any case the movie enthralled me like nothing I'd ever seen before. Gorgo consumed my imagination for months after. I vividly remember going Christmas shopping the following December with my parents and fantasizing that I could see Gorgo looming over the Gimbel's building and throngs of panicked shoppers stampeding down Chestnut Street.
I drew crayon pictures of Gorgo and his mom. I imagined their further adventures, deep beneath the North Atlantic, stalking the barren shores of the Hebrides or Iceland. Holing up in fjords and feeding on pods of killer whales.
When a comic book series came out I was thrilled. When it was drawn by my comic book idol, Steve Ditko, I was floored. When it aired on TV (rarely) I never missed it. A pretty lousy plastic figure of Gorgo came out bagged collection of monsters but I had to have one. I got one in green and he stood on my bedroom shelf through high school.
Thanks to a pretty decent Blu-Ray restoration, I got to see it again today in as close as an experience as I'll ever get to that evening at the Waverly.
And I can see what fascinated me about it. First, its running time of under eighty minutes. Perfect for a six-year-old, right? Then it included so many elements within my area of interest at the time. It had scuba diving which I was infatuated with then but the idea terrifies me now. There were references to Vikings when I was going through a heavy phase of Norse mythology. And the all-male manly cast meant there'd be no yucky girls in the story or icky kissing scenes.
But mostly, it's a tight little story with a clever twist at the end. See, the monster rampaging through the city actually has a compelling reason to do so in the story. And you sympathize with her, yeah her, as she crushed countless Londoners under rubble. Unlike other big monster movies monsters, this critter goes to London instead of Tokyo.
And the rampage climax is a lulu. The editing is frantically paced and loaded with the best crowds of panicked victims ever put on film. There's mobs of folks fleeing, packed curb to curb and really looking terrified. The most motivated extras I've ever seen. They claw over each other and trample anyone unlucky enough to stumble and fall. In fact, the freaked out masses are easily the scariest aspect of the movie.I realized then and now that the most dangerous thing about a monster attack would be the risk of getting crushed by your fellow citizens. It really is harrowing the way the movie portrays that nightmarish reality.
For the time, the effects are pretty effective and varied. The panoramic shots of the monster raging over the skyline of Piccadilly look great. Scenes of Tower Bridge and Big Ben falling are shocking. To every kids' delight, the British army and RAF show up to lots of bang and boom but little effect on the monster.
All in all, not a great movie. But I can sure see why I had so much affection for it. It was literally everything I wanted in a monster movie at that age and nothing I didn't want. Maybe the best birthday present I ever got.