Willis O’Brien, the f/x magician behind King Kong and The Lost World, had always wanted to do a cowboys and dinosaurs film. It is no surprise that his prodigy Ray Harryhausen would accomplish the task. Using some of O’Brien’s design ideas, Harryhausen credibly put these two film icons together with mixed results. The script is certainly not the best Harryhausen had to work with. More Bronco Billy than Jurassic Park, this is more an entertaining film than anything to be taken seriously. James Franciscus does a fine job of playing to the f/x.
The audio is a disappointing mono track. While the sound is faithful to the original it will sound rather flat on most modern systems. There is a tendency toward distortion in the higher ends. Low ranges are almost nonexistent. Dialogue is usually crisp.
Valley Of Gwangi is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The original print was not very well preserved. This disc is a step up from the Saturday matinee versions most of us are used to. There is significant grain and obvious print wear. Specks and artifacts are unfortunately abundant. Colors seem to hold up pretty well. The blue cast of the title dinosaur comes through quite well.
The only feature of value is the interview with wizard f/x legend Ray Harryhausen. Ray credits O’Brien with much of his inspiration, particularly for this film. A set of trailers rounds out this collection.
I look at this film more as Harryhausen’s tribute to the man he affectionately refers to as Obie (Willis O’Brien). The King Kong parallels are obvious, as is the animation style. Many considered this film a step back for Harryhausen’s technique. These critics don’t seem to appreciate the intended homage. Anyone familiar with either man’s work can’t help but reply: “I know what you mean, R. Kirby”.