Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


THE BEAST OF HOLLOW MOUNTAIN (1956). Directors: Edward Nassour; Ismael Rodriguez.

Jimmy Ryan (Guy Madison) runs a cattle ranch in Mexico with his friend Felipe (Carlos Rivas), but a creepy fellow named Enrique (Eduardo Noriega) wants to drive him out of town. Things between the two men worsen when it appears that Enrique's fiancee Sarita (Patricia Medina) is attracted to Jimmy. Meanwhile, some of Jimmy's cattle are disappearing ... Based on an idea of cowboys encountering dinosaurs by King Kong special effects man Willis O'Brien (who, reportedly, was supposed to do the effects for this film), Beast of Hollow Mountain was essentially remade as the vastly superior Valley of Gwangi (with effects by Ray Harryhausen) in 1969. The monster in this almost seems like an after-thought at times. It's 45 minutes until it makes its first (off-screen) appearance, and an hour until it bursts on the scene in full glory. However, the next twenty minutes until the film's end is full of lively Tyrannosaur Rex action. (No explanation is given for why it survived or why it's living inside a hollow mountain in Mexico.) The crude (but not necessarily dreadful) stop motion effects were done by Louis DeWitt, Jack Rabin and others, employing an inferior "replacement" animation [christened "regiscope" for this film] that uses several models instead of one fully articulated one. The monster looks better running in long-shot than in close-up. It's interesting to imagine how Harryhausen would have handled the final sequences, with the beast sliding down a sandy slope, reaching its claws into a crevice, galloping across the desert, and finally, falling into the swamp as Jerry swings temptingly before it on a rope. Some nice CinemaScope photography, although you rarely if ever see a close-up of any of the actors. Carlos Rivas, who has little to do, also appeared in The Black Scorpion (1957), as did Pascal Garcia Pena (as the "coffee break" scientist) and little Mario Navarro ( as Juanito), who in Beast respectively play Pancho and his son Panchito, who have a touching relationship that ends in tragedy.

Verdict: No world beater, but monster completists will want to see the final twenty minutes. **1/2.

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