Kind of a British hybrid consisting of elements from the original Godzilla (or, if you will, Gojira) with a little bit of King Kong thrown into the mix for good measure, 1961's Gorgo was directed by Eugene Lourie who had previously helmed The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms in 1953 and The Giant Behemoth in 1959. Produced by the UK's King Brothers, the film was distributed theatrically by MGM and while it lacks the 'classic' status of some of the better made monster movies that came before it and so obviously inspired it in the first place, it's still a really entertaining way to kill a brisk seventy minutes with some fun, family friendly entertainment.
A mysterious undersea explosion off the coast of Ireland finds two fisherman, Joe Ryan (William Travers) and Sam Slade (William Sylvester) rocks the me's boat and finds them stranded in a small village on the coast. While the locals aren't too excited about their arrival, they soon find that they need their help when a prehistoric monster stomps his way out of the ocean and across their town. The two fishermen are able to use nets to capture the great beast and it is then sold off to a circus run by a wealthy businessman who has the creature shipped off to London where it will be put on display.
What the crew doesn't bargain for is that the monster they have captured is actually a baby version of the mother monster which is over two hundred feet tall and more than a little pissed off that it's having to come to London to get its baby back. And what does a giant monster do when it finds itself wandering around a major metropolitan city? Why go on a spree of massive destruction stomping and smashing anything that gets in its way, that's what, which is exactly what happens for the last twenty five minutes or so of this fun, old fashioned, monster romp. Yet, there exists a simple child, a young boy, who may just know the secret to the truth behind Gorgo and the ensuing rampage...
While the performances are nothing to really write home about (they're wooden and generally not particularly convincing), the effects work and the miniature work in Gorgo are actually both really good for their time. Sure, by modern standards it's easy to tell that these aren't real city sets being demolished but instead models made of balsa wood, paint and model glue but that doesn't ever really hurt the movie at all. The 'guy in a rubber suit' monster looks as cool as can be with some fierce glowing red eyes and massive looking claws to give Gorgo plenty of smashing power. The monster in turns uses this smashing power on all manner of instantly recognizable British landmarks from the London Bridge to the finale in Piccadilly Circus. That being said, getting to this point is a bit of a chore. The opening scene is strong enough but it gets a little slow for a while after that as Joe and Sam try to figure out what's up in the town. There are also some really obvious blue screen effects that, although they are not without their old school charm, suck you out of the moment a little bit much like the stock footage inserts used in the movie do.
Even with those flaws, however, Gorgo is fun. Turn off your brain and sit back with a bowl of popcorn and a lemonade and enjoy the nostalgia factor and the epic destruction that only a giant monster movie can deliver and have a good time with it. There isn't much of a social message or a deeper meaning to any of it, it's simply a really entertaining movie and on that level it works quite well.
Gorgo arrives on Blu-ray framed at 1.78.1 (not the original 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio - though there aren't any obvious framing problems to note) in an MPEG-2 encoded 1080p high definition transfer. By and large, the movie looks okay here, though far from perfect. There is some noticeable discoloration on the right side of the frame for the first five minutes of the movie but this goes away and doesn't really ever come back. Colors look fairly nice here, especially in that opening scene as the sun sets over the ocean. Detail is much improved over the DVD release, though this also means that the obvious miniature and rubber suit effects work are even more obvious - all part of the movie's charm, really. Most fans won't be annoyed by this at all. There are some vertical scratches here and there but these are occasional issues, not constant ones - otherwise the movie is fairly clean. Grain is prevalent throughout the movie but this just serves to make the transfer look more film like. There are no issues with overzealous noise reduction or edge enhancement to complain about but some sharpening has resulted in a bit of ringing and a bit of noise. You can't fault the Blu-ray for flaws inherent in the film - such as the green screen work or the insertion of stock footage, but do be aware that because of these two tactics some shots will look noticeably worse than others.
The main audio option on the disc is the film's original English language track, presented here in LPCM 2.0 with optional subtitles provided in English only. An optional French language track is also included in LPCM 2.0. Dialogue is audible enough and easy to follow and the monster noises sound a bit more powerful and strong here than they did on the DVD. The score also sounds a little richer and more robust than it has in the past. There is still a flatness to much of the audio that probably won't ever be eliminated but if this isn't an amazing track by any stretch it certainly gets the job done without any serious issues.
VCI have included a brand new featurettes on this Blu-ray entitled Ninth Wonder Of The World: The Making Of Gorgo, directed by Daniel Griffith and running just over thirty one minutes in length. It's a fun look back at the making of the movie and its history with interviews and commentary from screenwriter and film historian C. Courtney Joyner, historian Ted Newsom and writer Bob Burns. There are loads of images and clips here that help to illustrate the various points being made and stories being told and this helps to make for a presentation as interesting to look at as it is informative. A very well done piece, this is the best extra on the disc... but far from the only one.
Also found on the disc is Gorgo - The Monster From The Sea!, a thirty-four minute motion comic that plays out as a slightly animated piece wherein the frame will zoom in on certain panels and what not. It can be tough to read as it can move fairly quickly but other than that it's well done - if you're used to motion comics, you'll have no problem here. There's a second motion comic included on the disc too, the Stars Cine Cosmo "Fumetto" Comic which plays out over forty minutes and is entirely in French. It's nice to see but as it's not subtitled, your mileage may vary. From there check out the different still galleries included on the disc: a six minute Lobby Card And Poster Gallery, a three minute Toys And Collectibles Gallery, a two minute Pressbook Gallery, and a two minute Photo Gallery - some interesting stuff in each one of these collections. There are also two minutes of Production Notes found on the disc. Rounding out the extras is the film's original theatrical trailer, an interesting three minute before and after Restoration Demo and an alternate Optional Music And Effects Track. Some very cool animated menus and chapter selection are also included.
Gorgo absolutely gets a decent upgrade on Blu-ray from VCI Entertainment with this release. Is this a disc that's going to appeal to the hardcore high definition videophiles out there? No, it's not, but it is definitely a lot better than previous DVD offerings in terms of audio and video and it also includes some excellent extras as well. If you're a fan of the film and you're familiar with it, warts and all, then this is an upgrade worth making and a disc that comes recommended. Those unfamiliar with Gorgo's charms may want to rent it first, but the film remains a whole lot of good, goofy fun.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.