Film: The Valley of Gwangi

Cowboys versus dinosaurs!

The Valley of Gwangi is a 1969 American film about cowboys fighting an Allosaur (not a Tyrannosaur, though it is often mistaken for one). The film is known for its Stop Motion Animation creature effects provided by Ray Harryhausen.

The idea had already been done years earlier in the movie "The Beast of Hollow Mountain" but "Gwangi" is the better known of the two. 'Gwangi' was originally conceived by Willis O'Brien, the man who did the special effects for the original King Kong movie.

Sometime near the turn of the century, a cowgirl named T.J. hosts a traveling rodeo show, currently parked near a desert town. Her former fiancé, cowboy "Tuck" Kirby, wants to buy her out, but T.J. has hopes that her latest discovery -a tiny horse- will boost attendance to the show. A British paleontologist named Bromley declares the creature to be an Eohippus, a prehistoric horse.

The horse came from an area known as "The Forbidden Valley". A gypsy woman claims that it should be returned or they will all suffer the wrath of a being she calls "Gwangi". Later Bromley helps a group of gypsies steal the horse, (he hopes to follow it to its home). Tuck, T. J. and several of their cowboy helpers set out to recover it, and follow them into the valley.

It turns out the valley is a Lost World that has a variety of prehistoric creatures including a Pteranodon that attacks them, but the cowboys kill it. They are then attacked by the titular Allosaur. Gwangi battles a styracosaur and wins. The cowboys try to capture the monster by lassoing it around the neck and pulling it down with several horses. However they only succeed when Gwangi knocks itself out while pursuing them.

The cowboys take it back to the town where it is to be put on display in T.J.'s show. However on the opening night one of the Gypsies sneaks in and begins to unlock Gwangi's cage in an effort to free it. He gets killed for his troubles, and Gwangi escapes, killing Bromley and a circus elephant in the process.

Eventually Gwangi, Tuck, T.J and a Mexican boy named Lope end up in a cathedral which catches on fire. They (the humans, that is) manage to escape and lock the door behind them, trapping Gwangi in the burning building which then crumbles around it. The movie ends as everyone watches Gwangi die.

Tropes in this film:

  • Absent-Minded Professor: Paleontologist Doctor Bromley.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: Even Harryhausen himself seemed confused as to exactly what kind of dinosaur Gwangi was supposed to be.
  • Bring It Back Alive
  • California Doubling: The movie was shot in Cuenca, Spain.
  • Children Are Innocent: Lope, by virtue of being the most honest character among the entire cast. Sure he conned Tuck, but he really needed the money.
  • Covers Always Lie: See that poster up there? The one with the green dinosaur? Yeah, Gwangi is bright purple and T.J. has red hair, not black.
  • Domesticated Dinosaurs: Attempted twice, succeeds with the Eohippus. But fails with Gwangi himself.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Though, Gwangi's victims might think otherwise.
  • Greed: Both Tuck and Bromley catch a bad case of this when they see the Eohippus. T.J. isn't immune either, once Gwangi is caught she planned on using him to make a fortune in her show. Needless to say, in the end nobody got what they wanted.
  • Infant Immortality: The little boy Lope survives both the Pteranodon attack in the middle of the movie, and Gwangi's rampage near the end. Pretty much anyone else who crosses the Dinosaurs' path aren't so lucky.
  • Jerkass: Tuck and Carlos.
  • Kill It with Fire
  • The Load: T.J.
  • Lost World: The "Forbidden Valley" where Gwangi comes from.
  • Romani: As typical of the times, presented as superstitious, sinister, and Too Dumb to Live.
  • Rule of Cool: The whole point of the movie.
    • Allosaur versus Styracosaur!
    • Allosaur versus Elephant!
    • Ray Harryhausen himself has expressed that the idea of cowboys lassoing a prehistoric monster several magnitudes larger, stronger and heavier than what those ropes should be able to hold is more than a little silly, but also provided visuals that were simply too entertaining to pass up.
  • Redubbing: The actress playing T.J. had such a thick Israeli accent, she had to be redubbed.
  • Shout-Out: Later on, Gwangi appears not on the warpath and he scratches the side of his head, just as the Tyrannosaurus in King Kong did.
  • Spexico: The movie was shot in Cuenca, Spain.
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Allosaurus (or possibly Tyrannosaurus rex), Ornithomimus, Styracosaurus and Pteranodon are all stock.
  • The Unreveal: The movie never explains how prehistoric creatures (from various eras separated by millions of years to boot) had survived in the valley. Does anyone really care about finding that out?
  • Starring Special Effects
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Gwangi kills other dinosaurs and an elephant but leaves them to go after humans. Maybe it really was evil... Or this was based on something that happens with real-world predators, Gwangi saw the movement of prey animals constantly, all around him, so he kept attacking out of confusion and fear. "Didn't I kill you already?"
  • Tyrannosaurus rex: Though billed as an Allosaurus, Gwangi doesn't really look like one.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Gwangi, twice humans risk themselves to help or protect him, and twice he shows his gratitude by eating them.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The gypsies, especially the old woman who claims the little horse should be returned to the "The Forbidden Valley" or everybody will suffer a curse, to the one Gypsy who sneaks around and tries to free Gwangi from his cage. Heck let's face it, almost all the gypsies.

Alternative Title(s):

The Valley Of Gwangi