Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gorgo (1961) - MST3K Review


Captain Joe Ryan (Bill Travers) and Sam Slade (William Sylvester) find themselves in the middle of a terrible storm. They barely make it to the shore of a remote Irish village. Here they encounter a huge reptilian beast. They capture the creature and take it to London, where they sell it to Dorkin’s Circus for a large amount of money. The creature is dubbed Gorgo and brings in the crowds. Little to they know the horror they’ve unleashed on the city. Because when the wrath of Gorgo strikes – there is no escape.


I love Godzilla flicks. They are so goofy, over the top and silly fun, that the little kid in me just goes nuts when one comes on. I know they’re dumb, but that’s the point. Big guys in rubber suits throwing each other into detailed miniature sets – that’s what movies are all about. OK, maybe that’s what 60’s and 70’s Godzilla films are all about (with the exception of the first Godzilla film, which was actually pretty serious).

Well take that basic idea and give it to British cast and crew and you’ve got “Gorgo”. Well, don’t forget to add all the British sensibilities that seemed to rule in the early sixties. You know like making a movie that was paced about as slow as a snail and managing to sap all the fun out of the concept by making it dower and stodgy. But I kid the Brits… a little. Honestly, they didn’t know how to make a fun monster movie fun – and this flick is the proof.

The first big problem is that the monster doesn’t get a reveal till nearly halfway into the film. The rest of the movie is spent with our dull heroes, neither one really provided with much character to work with. The people who inhabit the Irish village aren’t too interesting. You’ve got the stereotypical moppet in the form of Sean (Vincent Winter). I guess he’s a bit like the Japanese equivalent of the little kid caught in the action, but he lacks the verve and the bad dubbing to make it fun.

Finally the monster smashing action kicks in with about 20 minutes of movie left. The creators give it a good try, and some of the models are pretty good (watching The Tower Bridge and Big Ben getting taken out by a rubber monster is pretty fun). But once again, the pacing is just off. There is carnage and terror and running crowds, but it all seems stodgy and too proper. By the time the movie ends, you’re left wishing that this had been more like Gorgo vs. The Moon Men, or something more silly – because this movie just doesn’t scratch the Godzilla itch.

MST3K Review

Leonard Maltin gave “Gorgo” three stars.

That is all the team at Mystery Science Theater needed to know, and they decided to have some fun with the episode. I mean if Maltin recommends it, the movie can’t be that bad right?

Mike and the bots are back with the Brit bashing in this movie. Much like “The Deadly Bees” and “The Projected Man” before them, this flick provides all kinds of avenues for jokes at the expense of the United Kingdom. But since some of the best had been used in the previous episodes things seem to wear a little thin in that department.

So the team goes for other targets. Gorgo himself is ripe for mocking, mostly because he’s the cutest darn monster in England. You just want to reach out and hug him. So when there is destruction and chaos, it just doesn’t seem to fit. Our guys make the most of it. They also have fun with actor William Sylvester who’s appeared in two previous films (“Devil Doll” and “Riding with Death") not to mention appearing in “2001: A Space Odyssey” as Heywood Floyd.

But the richest mine for comedy is the name Dorkin. Mike and Bots seize the name of the circus owner and just go to town. It’s the running joke that keeps on giving, popping up when you least expect it and when it is most obvious. Yes, they kind of beat it to the ground, but they guy’s name is Dorkin – it kind of begs to be mocked.

The host segments are a bit mixed. But when they hit they are hilarious. Things start off with Crow being the perfect place for a rare bird to nest. Then the crew decides to put on a play of “Waiting for Gorgot” – because on actor looks like Samuel Beckett if you squint hard enough. Mike becomes obsessed with William Sylvester and buys a Trivial Pursuit game based on the actor. Then the nanites (the little robots who live on the Satellite from the previous season) create a circus and Mike ruins it. Then Tom and Crow try to make a calendar of the Guys and Gals of Gorgo – turns out there weren’t too many women to pick from.

All are mildly entertaining but the real treat are the bookend sequences with Pearl and Leonard Maltin. These are hilarious segments where Maltin admits that he did give “Gorgo” three stars but that several of interns were rendered brain dead by the film. Pearl accepts the recommendation and inflicts the film on Mike. In the closing segment, Maltin is baffled that the film didn’t destroy Mike and the bots and vows to help Pearl find an even worse film; “Something with Mickey Rourke perhaps?” Maltin really gets into the whole evil movie reviewer performance and seems to be having a blast. Great stuff. Click here for a link to the Episode Guide with a picture of Pearl and Mr. Maltin.

When the riffing is on, it is pretty funny, but the movie once again ends up being too much of a slog. I have to say that once Dorkin shows up, the laughs were pretty steady, but it takes a while to get there (and if you have a low tolerance for running jokes this episode may rub you the wrong way). The Maltin host segments were classic and that helps, but I have to say that this one misses an average rating by a little bit.

I give it two and half Dorkins out of five.

This episode is available on DAP

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