This Ray Harryhausen produced fantasy is just the right blend of action yarn and dinosaur fighting that makes memories of Saturday matinees so much fun. A Mexican town holds a secret. It is the access way to the Valley of Gwangi. Some say it is cursed. To enter it, is to curse the town and its people forever. When Tuck Kirby comes to town looking for new attractions for a rodeo, the local players could have something from the Valley to excite him. His former girlfriend T.J. Breckenridge, is the owner and isn’t best pleased to see him. When the mythical place, legend tells is filled with miniature horses and gargantuan Tyrannosaurus Rex’s is about to be disturbed, they must bury their differences and work together to stop it. Before its too late.
Of course, I am a fan of the works of the one and only Ray Harryhausen. Powerhouse have released a bunch of his films. All with great remasters and with a bundle of extras. From Greek myths and the Sinbad films. All are fairy tale adventure yarns that are crammed with fantastically realised animated battles. Taking on the Skeletons in ancient Greece or Sinbad’s battle with a tiger. This were dynamite stuff. Lovingly giving the full works and so with a whole lot of hope, when the news came about the collected release of three of his films from Warner, we were excited.
Well first up is Valley of Gwangi. A mix of western gun slinging and fantasy adventure.This all comes together around a central conceit that is serviceable and manageable for anyone wanting a fun watch, without baggage. It might sound like a very silly blend indeed but it is one that benefits from certain very simple touches. One is an under played romance that revolves around a series of tit for tats. This is between two old lovers and underscores there passion and our hopes. The second is the great amount of fun we have with the battles scenes. All high quality stop frame. All equally absurd and brilliant. Some are between cowboys and dinosaurs. Others are between cowboys and a wrestling 3-foot-high horse. Thirdly and most importantly it is all played with an eye for fun and high adventure. Without this the film would fall on its hard saddle. Instead it makes for a great evenings viewing.
The HD transfer is ok on the Blu Ray but the DVD version has some lighting issue throughout. This is from the layering of the film and the lack of respect in the transfer. The single extra is excellent and a must watch. If not only to see the work taken in making the films wonderful battle scenes come to life.
Return to the Valley recounts the making of the film with Associate Producer/Creator of special effects Ray Harryhausen.