Friday, 24 July 2015

The Gamma People (1956)


A mix of adventure, comic opera, '50s cold war paranoia and science fiction



Directed by John Gilling
Produced by John Gossage
Screenplay by John Gilling, John Gossage
Story by Robert Aldrich, Louis Pollock
Music by George Melachrino
Cinematography Ted Moore
Edited by Jack Slade
Production company: Warwick Films
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Running time: 76 or 78 minutes
Country: United Kingdom, United States


Cast



Paul Douglas as Mike Wilson
Eva Bartok as Paula Wendt
Leslie Phillips as Howard Meade
Walter Rilla as Boronski
Philip Leaver as Koerner
Martin Miller as Lochner
Michael Caridia as Hugo Wendt
Pauline Drewett as Hedda Lochner
Jocelyn Lane as Anna
Olaf Pooley as Bikstein
Rosalie Crutchley as Frau Bikstein
Leonard Sachs as Telegraph Clerk
Paul Hardtmuth as Hans
Cyril Chamberlain as Graf


The Gamma People is set in the mythical European “Iron Curtain” region of Gudavia. The scientist dictators of this Gudavia have been using gamma rays in an effort to create a race of genius super humans. However, they have merely managed to produce emotionless and mindless brutes.



Mike Wilson (Paul Douglas) & Howard Meade (Leslie Phillips)



video

Trailer 


The American newsman, Mike Wilson now takes up the story in his special feature article in which he describes how he and British photographer, Howard Meade stumbled into this nightmare……. 






(Spoilers Follow)


Little Land’s Leap To Liberty

Mike Wilson

A few weeks ago I found myself aboard a train travelling through the snow-covered European countryside, playing a game of chess with my colleague and friend, photographic journalist, Howard Meade. Not my idea of a thrilling time I thought to myself as Howard kept rambling on about something or other he did back in Bulgaria.





Unknown to us, an opening move in the larger chess game of life was about to begin as the carriage we were traveling in became uncoupled from the rest of the train with the result that the engine had forged ahead, while our detached carriage and its two unsuspecting occupants blithely continued roll on, Apart from a slight juddering sensation, there was little to indicate that our carriage had accidently smashed through a customs check point for the little and until now largely anonymous region of Gudavia. Yes, I said Gudavia!. Now try finding that on a map! It turned out that a couple of the local lads had caused our carriage to be diverted onto a siding when they threw a rail switch.

Well, this little twist of fate would not only set in “train” a host of surprises for us, it would also cause a measure of confusion and wonder for the inhabitants of Gudavia. You see, there had been no trains in Gudavia for five years due to government decrees! It turned out that it was not only trains that were in short supply….







Anyway, our carriage eventually rolled to a halt, and Howard and I found ourselves confronted by a delegation of government troops. I attempted to explain that we were on our way to a music festival in Salzburg. This explanation didn’t seem to wash with our welcoming committee and matters were made worse when we realised that try as we might, we just couldn’t locate Gudavia on a map.





Not only were Howard and I in a country that to all intents and purposes was cut off from the outside world and apparently did not exist, we were provided with accommodation in the local jail at the insistence of a pompous fool of an official by the name of Commander Koerner. So there we were: presumed spies, our fate not known to the outside world and without any kind of diplomatic or consulate protection.

It wasn’t long before events seemed to turn in our favour when that Koerner fellow came to release us from jail and proceeded to faun and fuss over us. The commander took us to the local hotel where we were to receive the best service and were offered the bridal suite no less!






An event involving Howard gives an insight into the type of unchecked bureaucratic and official mindset that seemed to reign supreme in little Gudavia. Off Howard went to the telegraph office with a spring in his step and high hopes of sending a telegram to the newspaper. The clerk accepted his message like a good fellow but then went on to explain that the telegraph office was not actually open (except on special occasions as that day was!) and that the message would not be sent. As Howard was wondering if he had wound up in some kind of a bizzaro-world, the clerk proceeded to rip up his message. Some of us can relate to this when we deal with government agencies and utility companies where the underlying message to us often seems to be: “whatever it is you are wanting, we are not giving….”






A more sinister mind set began to reveal itself at the hotel when we came across a girl by the name of Hedda playing the piano whose performance at the key board absolutely transfixed us. Suddenly a boy called Hugo Wendt, who had been watching Hedda play, ordered her to stop playing. He then harshly instructed her that music is not an exercise of emotional expression, but is something that obeys strict recurring rules and patterns. The brutal reaction of this juvenile Hitler merely caused the girl to burst into tears.

As we were shown to our room, one of the staff called Anna slipped us a note with a message stating that the children must be saved and that the man in charge, a Dr Boronski must be destroyed. Naturally we dismissed it as being absurd. I then proceeded to contact my office in London by phone. No surprises that I was given the run around there!

Suddenly we were startled by a woman frantically screaming "murder, murder!" in the street below. We decided to go down and investigate but instead of finding a woman in distress, we bumped into that idiot, Koerner. He assured us that what we heard was merely the result of hysteria caused by an accident to a local child. Koerner then informed us that Dr Boronski would see us in the morning.






As Howard and I continued on our way, a strange incident occurred in which we both became separated after a bunch of locals dashed passed us. Howard managed to eventually tell me a bit later that at the time I was investigating a shop, a strange man appeared out of the shadows and darkness and he seemed to be unable to speak. This was then followed by the appearance of a group of similar men who all suddenly and mysteriously ran off. At the time I just thought that Howard was merely a bit tired.

Back at the hotel I decided to question Anna about the note and whatever else was going on. Anna did try to deny everything until she let slip that the man who gave her the note was now dead and that if anyone were to find out what she did she would be in trouble with Dr Macklin but then corrected herself by using the name, Boronski. At that moment I began to wonder where had I heard the name Macklin from…..

My thoughts were suddenly and rudely intruded upon by the ringing of the phone. It was that knuckle-head Koerner confirming the details of next day’s visit with Dr Boronski.

During our meeting with Boronski the next day, we finally got him to admit that he was indeed, Macklin, a famous biologist who left the West when he became depressed and frustrated over his work in longevity. He then went on to claim that he was now just the local school principal.

Dr Boronski soon introduced us to Paula Vendt who was the school’s senior tutor. who gave us a tour of the school and the preparations for the upcoming cultural festival.





During the tour, we met that obnoxious boy, Hugo, who it turned out was the school’s most gifted student. Figures! Hugo had been working on this large mask and as he showed it to us, Howard was stunned to see a resemblance between the mask and the facial appearance of the group of men he told me about from the previous evening when we became separated.






Later that day Howard and I witnessed a funeral and we figured it was for the man who wrote the note that Anna passed to us. We then decided to do a bit of sniffing around and eventually located the deceased man’s widow, Frau Bikstein. When we showed her the note she readily authenticated it, and proceeded to tell us about the experiments her husband was doing with Dr Boronski. Frau Bikstein wouldn’t give us any more information out of fear but she did give us access to a diary from Boronski that her husband apparently stole from the laboratory.






The diary gave us valuable insight into the kind of experiments Boronski was conducting. His experiments involved exposing young immature brains to gamma radiation enabling both geniuses and imbeciles to be created at will. The gamma rays were supposed to be able to accelerate the brain’s development and allow its full potential to be used.

We learnt later from young Hedda that our little bully boy Hugo was throwing his weight around by criticizing Hedda for playing what he saw as weak sentimental music and telling her father, Lockner that he had no rights because the state was raising Hedda and that he had better beware of the likely consequences of his actions. Little wonder that Hedda and her father were making plans to escape to Vienna. Thank goodness for the existence of countries that are prepared to take in those from elsewhere who face threats to their lives, liberty and well-being!






We also learned that Boronski had instructed horrible Hugo to retrieve a photo that Howard had taken of Hugo’s mask. In fact it was Howard who caught Hugo in the act of sneaking into the house to locate where the photos were being kept. Hugo acted all innocent in front of Howard and tried to deflect attention away from what he was up to by taking about chess. Clever move kid!

In the meantime, I came across Paula Vendt riding a horse and began questioning her about what was going on at Boronski’s laboratory. It turned out that her father was a friend of Boronski, and had come to Gudavia to work for him. When I expressed doubts about her support for Boronski’s research, she became defensive and galloped off. Paula was sure one gal I’d like to ride off into the sunset with!






The next part of our adventure I’m a little bit embarrassed to tell you about. You see, ladies’s man Howard spotted Hugo and sprinted after him in order to retrieve the photo that was taken. Our super-fit hero managed to catch Hugo at a playground. He then admitted to Hugo that he had the negative and confidently refused to give it to the young hoodlum. At this point Hugo called on the services of a gang of ……..school boys……yes, you read it correctly…..school boys who then proceeded to make mincemeat out of Howard and take the negative from him. Well, Howard old boy, that is one story that won’t impress your lady friends!

Late at night I spotted Paula and followed her to the spot where Lockner had been killed by being thrown off a cliff. It soon became apparent that Boronski and his goons were behind this incident after Boronski learned about Lockner’s intentions to leave with his daughter. I tried to question Paula but she felt that I was merely there to write a story rather than being interested in helping.

I was soon able however, to catch up with Boronski and show him Lockner’s lifeless and mangled body at the bottom of the cliff, He acted as if he didn’t know anything about it so I told him that if anything was to happen to Hedda, I would come after him. After issuing this threat to Boronski, he signalled for his goons to chase after me. I barely managed to escape until my pursuers were called off by Boronski.

Next morning it transpired that Boronski ordered his lap dog, Koerner to prohibit all public gatherings and to cancel the festival. I managed to confront Koerner in the street and demanded to know where Hedda was. As a crowd gathered around us, I informed them all that it was Boronski who was behind the murders and that it was Koerner’s function to conceal the truth.

That night, a new mood of civil disobedience bubbled to the surface with the population ignoring the official proclamations not to gather in the street. They were determined to have their festival. Meanwhile, I tried looking for Howard at the hotel and couldn’t find him, so I went back out into streets and met up with Frau Bikstein who then led me to a hiding place where I saw Paula. Paula was now determined to help me bring Bronski down. What a gal!

I learnt from Paula that Hedda was being held in the castle, but before we could decide on a further course of action, we were discovered by the authorities. After a brief melee, we managed to escape by mingling in with the festival goers on the streets.

Suddenly good old Howard popped up driving a car which we used to drive to the castle, well almost to the castle seeing as a puncture forced us to abandon the car along the way. As we proceeded to walk with alacrity, the car exploded! No coincidence there! Realizing the lengths that Boronski and his boys were prepared to go to be rid of us, I decided to send my athletic pal Howard back to town for help, while Paula and I continued on to the secret labs. I realized then just how funny Howard looks when he runs. Arms and legs going every which way!!

It wasn’t long before Paula located Hedda but Boronski soon returned to conduct an experiment while I had to hide in a dark corner. Thankfully Paula made her way to me with Hedda.

As we were close to leaving the castle, we were confronted by…you guessed it….Hugo. Paula tried to talk Hugo out of setting off the alarm by informing him that she was his sister and that it was Boronski who had killed their father. That heartless little so and so wouldn’t listen and he set the alarms off.




The three of us found ourselves now trapped inside a control room and we were given an ultimatum by Boronski: Our lives in exchange for Hedda’s.




To assist with our decision, Boronski explained the Gamma ray process to us and then proceeded to turn the instrument on us. He thoughtfully informed us that we would suffer extremely before our brains were shrivelled. Our agony increased as Boronski continued to intensify the ray leaving us only with seconds left to live.

I learned a bit later that Hugo was unable to deal with what was taking place and was ordered by Boronski to go to his room. It turned out that when Hugo spotted Howard with his reinforcements entering the castle, he warned Boronski and as Boronski climbed the stairs for a better look, Hugo pushed him, causing the doctor to fall.

Hugo then triggered a series of explosions causing the whole area to be engulfed by fire. Meanwhile, I managed to recover and help Hugo who was being attacked by one of Boronski’s goons. It turned out that Boronski had not been killed by his fall as testified by the fact that he set about attacking me. After a struggle, I finally managed to eliminate Boronski by pushing him into the flames of the raging fire.

We all managed to get out of the castle just in the nick of time as the entire edifice of Boronski’s abomination was consumed by flames and rendered asunder by a series of explosions.




Howard’s words in the best British tradition seem to best sum up the feeling at the time of the close of the whole Gudavian affair: “ I say it was a jolly grand street parade they gave us in our honour. Rather fitting I’d say on account we just helped save them, what! Even that boorish fat fellow, Koerner arrived with a brand new car for us-splendid! Yes, I shall never forget the adoring crowds…..”

And so good reader on a more serious note to end this piece, a little land languishing under the iron grip of dictatorial rule threw off its shackles and became a free society. It serves as a warning to us to beware of those powerful Boronskis who would seek to use any means at their disposal such as the manipulative and controlling power of technology, the use of fear and the tools and agencies of oppression in order to gain and maintain control over their societies’ populations. The question remains: Do we allow ourselves to become their compliant "zombies" or do we maintain our humanity and dignity by saying “NO!” and by resisting?



{Note: The photos in this article serve as reconstructions and recreations of actual events and characters involved)


Points Of Interest


It is very difficult to determine exactly what The Gamma People is aiming for: suspense and terror; sci-fi with socio-political commentary; comedy involving the interactions between the unlikely looking heroes, Mike Wilson and Howard Meade; or action with its frequent fight and chase scenes. It’s very hard therefore for the viewer to see this film as having any kind of real credibility and probably helps to explain its obscurity.

The standout character in the film is probably the despicable young genius, Hugo played by Michael Caridia. We get shivers just by witnessing his ability to inspire terror in those around him as in the piano scene when we are first introduced to him and later during the chess playing exchange between him and Howard.

Director John Gilling’s other films include: The Flesh and the Fiends (1960); The Pirates of Blood River (1962); The Brigand of Kandahar (1965); Blood Beast of outer Space (1965) and his last film, Cross of the Devil (1975).



Fact File: Gamma Radiation 


Gamma radiation is electromagnetic radiation of an extremely high frequency and consists of high-energy photons. They are produced by the decay of atomic nuclei as they transition from a high energy state to a lower state known as gamma decay. They can also be produced by other processes. Natural sources of gamma rays on Earth include gamma decay from naturally occurring radioisotopes, and secondary radiation from atmospheric interactions with cosmic ray particles.





Emission of a gamma ray (γ) from an atomic nucleus





Gamma rays are biologically hazardous and could even pose a threat to our entire planet!



Pioneers

French physicist, Henri Becquerel in 1896 discovered that uranium minerals could expose a photographic plate through a heavy opaque paper. He concluded that uranium emitted some invisible light similar to x-rays which he termed, "metallic phosphorescence.” What he indeed found was gamma radiation being emitted by radium-226 which is part of the uranium decay chain and commonly occurs with uranium.

Paul Villard, French chemist and physicist also discovered gamma radiation in 1900, while studying radiation emitted from radium. The term "gamma rays” was coined by Ernest Rutherford in 1903.

Gamma photons travel at the speed of light and can pass through many kinds of materials, including our own human tissue. Materials, such as lead which are very dense are used as shielding to slow or stop these gamma photons.





Gamma rays have the smallest wavelengths and the most energy of any wave in the electromagnetic spectrum.




Hot and energetic objects in the universe such as neutron stars and pulsars, supernova explosions, and regions around black holes produce gamma rays. Here on Earth, gamma waves can be generated by nuclear explosions, lightning, and radioactive decay.





Even the Incredible Hulk owes his existence and anger management issues to an accident involving gamma rays!










©Chris Christopoulos 2015

Sunday, 5 July 2015

The Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956)


Low budget, undemanding but entertaining film

Directed by Edward Nassour, Ismael Rodríguez
Writers: Robert Hill (screenplay), Jack DeWitt (additional dialogue) from an idea by Willis H. O'Brien
Produced by Edward Nassour, William Nassour
Music by Raúl Lavista
Cinematography by Jorge Stahl Jr. (director of photography);
Film editing: Holbrook N. Todd, Maury Wright, Fernando Martínez
Art Direction by Jack DeWitt,
Visual Effects by Louis DeWitt, Jack Rabin (photographic effects); Henry Lyon (model maker); Edward Nassour (stop-motion animation)
Distributed by United Artists
Running time: 81 minutes


Cast


Guy Madison: Jimmy Ryan
Patricia Medina: Sarita
Carlos Rivas: Felipe Sanchez
Mario Navarro: Panchito
Pascual García Peña: Pancho
Eduardo Noriega: Enrique Rios
Julio Villarreal: Don Pedro
Lupe Carriles: Margarita
Manuel Arvide: Martínez
José Chávez: Manuel
Roberto Contreras: Carlos
Armando Gutiérrez: Employee
Guillermo Hernández: Jorge
Margarito Luna: Jose
Jorge Treviño: Shopkeeper

The Beast of Hollow Mountain is a 1956 film about an American cowboy living in Mexico who discovers that his cattle is being eaten by a giant prehistoric dinosaur, possibly an Allosaurus.
 




video
Movie trailer






 Spoilers follow below….

The scene and mood is immediately set for us, namely in southern Mexico at a place called "Hollow Mountain" about which tales have been told of a curse and where cattle and farmers have been mysteriously disappearing. The mountain has never been explored and there is a swamp at its base that claims the lives of anyone foolish enough to venture too close.

In almost direct defiance of such tales of curses, disappearances and certain death, an American cowboy (Jimmy Ryan) and three cowboys enter the area in search of lost cattle. We are then invited to start joining dots together by the placement of certain clues. First the men find mysterious tracks and then the carcass of a cow stuck in quicksand in a swamp. One of the men falls into a tar pit or quicksand at the base of the swamp and is nearly sucked down into oblivion, but he is fortunately rescued. Is this the curse at work or is the rival ranch owner Enrique Ríos responsible for what has happened to the cattle?

Later, when Jimmy rides into town, he manages to save a drunken ranch hand named Pancho by stopping his runaway horse that was spooked by a group of young pranksters throwing firecrackers at Pancho and his horse. Pancho and his seven-year-old son, Panchito (whose name you will hear again and again to an annoying degree!) are grateful to Jimmy thereby cementing a bond of friendship. The bond then extends and deepens to encompass someone else when Sarita, the daughter of Pancho's employer, Don Pedro, enters the scene wearing a fetching off the shoulder blouse.







The strengthening of this bond will serve to fuel the fires of future conflict when later, at Don Pedro’s ranch, as Jimmy is discussing the matter involving the missing cattle, Enrique angrily bursts in upon the scene, accuses Jimmy of underselling his cattle and warns him to return to Texas. The two almost launch into fisticuffs until Don Pedro intervenes.

Next morning, Jimmy wakes to discover that all his ranch hands have decamped due to fear of the Beast, a beast by the way that stubbornly lurks in the misty realm of superstitious tales and has yet to make an appearance! Have no fear, for Pancho and Panchito are here to replace the cowardly cowboys. Pancho promises not to drink anymore, while Panchito declares that he will be responsible for his father.

The beautiful Sarita angrily accuses Jimmy of luring Pancho away to work for him instead. However, when she learns that Pancho willingly came to help Jimmy, she apologizes to him.

Just as romance begins to reign supreme, Ryan learns that Sarita will be married to Enrique in two weeks and that Enrique can be cute and cuddly when you get to know him. There is a suggestion of obligation rather than love being involved in her engagement to marry Enrique as he has helped her father. Seeds of conflict are beginning to germinate! As Sarita leaves to go home, she finds that her horse is missing and has to ride back to town with Ryan using his horse. Guess you can see where all this is heading! 


So folks,.. 

Is this a Western? 
Is it a love (triangle) story? 
Is it a science fiction/horror genre film?




It is hardly surprising that when Jimmy and Sarita arrive in town, Enrique spots them and begins foaming at the mouth. A testosterone-fuelled melee ensues between Jimmy and Enrique as they both engage in a no-holds barred no-disqualification match in the street. After systematically destroying the livelihood of half the town’s population, Gringo Ryan emerges as Bareknuckle Champion of Mexico. Jimmy then reads a telegram he has just received informing him that the U.S. government has agreed to the price he is asking for his cattle.

Now the pressure is on when Don Pedro in the middle of “his town” tells Ryan that Enrique wants to buy his ranch and cattle for a fair price. Ryan refuses the offer and continues to do so despite the prospect of further conflict if Ryan does not give up the ranch before a new shipment of cattle arrives.

Shortly before the wedding at Hollow Mountain, Ryan and his pal and partner (business sense!) Felipe lead Pancho and his son to their cottage, whose former owner seems to have mysteriously disappeared. A search soon reveals the body of yet another missing cow. Could this be the work of you know what? Ryan dissuades Pancho from trying to explore the swamp claiming it would be unsafe for him to do so.

Back in town, Jimmy attempts to buy supplies but the merchant will not extend his credit. It turns out that Enrique has pressured the banker into not lending him money against the cattle sale. Soon after, Enrique catches sight of Ryan and Sarita talking to each other and he decides to come up with a new plan in which he sends out two ranch hands to steal some cattle while Ryan and Crazy-hat Felipe (whose sombrero takes up half the road!) are away. Enrique’s two henchmen are soon taken on as ranch hands by Ryan and Felipe.





That afternoon, Jimmy receives a note from Sarita to meet with her at the graveyard. When they meet, she warns him to be careful of Enrique and despite her feelings for Jimmy, pleads with him to leave for his own sake. Ryan, however, reads something different into her attempt to convince him to leave and give up his ranch up to Enrique, thereby ending hostilities between himself and Enrique.

Meanwhile at the cottage, Pancho asks Panchito to wait for him while he goes to the swamp in search of the lost cattle. He tells his son that If he is not back by dusk, Panchito is to tell Ryan about what happened. Despite Panchito’s pleas for his dad to not leave, Pancho goes ahead with his plan to search the swamp.


Enter the Beast! 



As Pancho makes his way through the swamp, he hears a terrifying roar and discovers to his extreme consternation that the Beast of Hollow Mountain likes to dine out on Mexican cuisine. Our view is not one of the creature itself but is instead a point of view shot suggestive of the Beast descending upon the terrified, cowering and soon to be consumed Pancho.

When Pancho does not return, the frightened Panchito rides back to the ranch where Jimmy has been telling Felipe that he is planning to sell the ranch leaving Felipe in charge. Felipe is aghast at this news. Suddenly, Panchito bursts in crying out that his father has not returned and telling the two men about what has happened.

After riding out to the swamp, Ryan and Felipe find Pancho's hat and assume that he was swallowed up by the quicksand, but decide not to tell Panchito that his father is dead or show his hat to him. Later, a grief-stricken Panchito, tries several times to look for his father in the swamp, but is prevented by Ryan and Felipe each time. It seems that Panchito will not be friends with Ryan ever again.

While a festival is underway in town, Don Pedro has made arrangements for Panchito to be cared for in a foster home. Ryan also informs Sarita and Don Pedro that he will be moving himself and his cattle that very day, leaving the land for Enrique. As Jimmy says goodbye to Sarita, he tells her that he can never see her again or he would never be able let her go.

Although our villain, Enrique is cock-a-hoop to learn that Ryan is leaving, he puts another plan into action to stampede the cattle away from the station.

As Sarita dresses in her wedding clothes and prepares to wed Enrique, it is obvious that she is in love with Jimmy but she pretends to be happy in front of Done Pedro.

Later, after being told bluntly that his father is in fact dead, Panchito decides to go to the swamp to look for his father. Margarita, Sarita's maid, tries to stop him, but he gets away. Margarita then rushes to tell Sarita, who orders her horse to be saddled. 

Lo! Behold The Beast!







All hell breaks loose when at the ranch, the Beast appears before us for the first time in the film as it decides to snack on a steer. This then causes the cattle to stampede straight toward the town where the festival is in full swing. Mayhem and pandemonium ensue as the cattle stampede through the town, brushing aside the futile efforts of the cowboys trying to stop them.




So now we have Panchito in the swamp looking for his father, Sarita going after Panchito, Ryan on the trail of Sarita and Enrique and his men following Ryan: A veritable smorgasbord making its own way to the diner!



Now the pace ratchets up another notch as Panchito is chased by the Beast in the swamp. As he makes it across a river and to the small cottage, he is met there by Sarita and they both decide to hide in the cottage. The Beast arrives at the cottage, breaks through the roof and tries to attack the two humans. Enter our hero Ryan who manages to distract the Beast by shooting at it with his gun. Sarita and Panchito then exit the cottage and make their way to Panchito's horse while Ryan lures the Beast up a mountain.





Meanwhile the indefatigable man-with-a-purpose, Enrique pops up and attempts to kill Ryan, but the Beast’s presence causes his horse to panic and buck him off. Now the Beast, who is spoilt for choice, chases Enrique and both he and Ryan become unlikely brothers in arms – or, in adversity at least!




  
A wonderful pursuit down a steep slope and into a small cave is followed by a nail-biting scene at the cave entrance with the Beast reaching into the opening, after the two men. The only protection they have is Ryan's knife but it cannot stop the Beast from reaching Enrique, pulling him out of the cave and killing him. Ryan is saved from a similar fate when the other cowboys open fire on the Beast causing it to be distracted.




Wile the Beast chases the others, Ryan and Felipe make their way to the tar pit but are soon located by the Beast. In a death-defying scene, Ryan throws a lasso around a tree branch and uses the rope to swing back and forth, just out of reach of the Beast's snapping jaws. At a crucial point, the Beast moves forward a few steps too many and gets its feet stuck fast in the quicksand. We are then left with the sight of the Beast roaring helplessly as it begins to sink down and disappear into Nature’s clinging, cloying, enveloping embrace of extinction while Ryan and the others reunited look on sadly and then slowly make their way toward their horses.


Points Of Interest




The Beast of Hollow Mountain is the first film to feature both dinosaurs and cowboys and would be later followed by such films as Valley of Gwangi, (1968)

There’d be some people scratching their heads and wondering what genre of film The beast Of Hollow Mountain fits into. The film can be seen as being part of what is termed “Weird West” subgenre that combines elements of the Western with another genre, as in this film’s case, sci-fi and horror.






What is refreshing about this film (especially in this tap, click, swipe, instant gratification, CGI saturated, deconstructionist and contrived reality media age) is that one can simply sit back and enjoy a presentation that makes no demands on the spectator other than sheer enjoyment. What we have are the basic ingredients for good entertainment: a genuine western with elements of sci-fi, a villain, a punch-up, a cattle stampede, a heroine who’s nice on the eye, a love story and a mysterious, menacing creature that might or might not be the stuff of legend and tales.





Despite any budget constraints, full marks for effort must go to the effects involving the Beast itself whose movements were quite convincing. Loved the crazy tongue-action! As for the Beast itself, it was animated using two different stop-motion animation techniques. First, in a time-consuming and painstaking process, a two-foot-high armatured, rubber-covered model was moved, exposing one frame at a time. Replacement animation was also used and this involved several different models of the same creature made of plaster, each positioned in a slightly different way to represent a particular movement. An illusion of motion resulted when filmed in sequence for a few frames per second. The breathing effect of the creature was achieved by pumping air into a hollow space within the throat area of the two-foot-high model and then releasing it. Finally recalling scenes from Godzilla, two large rubber feet were worn by a technician in some shots to represent the monster walking.





Because these days we are so used to seeing one damn thing after another happening on our screens, some viewers may be chagrined at the fact that the beast doesn't appear until the last half-hour of the film. Some things however, are worth the wait, especially if the tension and mystery is allowed to build up to an exciting climax, which in the case of this film involves an action-packed running battle between cowboys and the dinosaur.






©Chris Christopoulos 2015