Thursday, October 03, 2013


In a small Mexican village, Jimmy, an American cowboy, is co-owner of a cattle ranch with native Felipe. This doesn't sit well with Enrique who is upset that Jimmy and Felipe are undercutting his cattle prices. Hollow Mountain, at the base of which sits Jimmy and Felipe's property, is surrounded by a dangerous quicksand swamp, has never been explored, and is supposedly home to a prehistoric creature. Enrique plays on the fears of the local workers by spreading more stories about the monster after strange animal tracks are seen and odd growling noises are heard. When the workers all leave, Jimmy and Felipe hire an old drunkard, Pancho, to tend the farm; he brings with him his young son Panchito. Soon after, Enrique’s fiancée Sarita, concerned about the two, arrives to keep an eye on them, and soon after that, she and Jimmy are in one of those relationships in which they fall in love even as they bug each other. Between flirtations and arguments, and threats from Enrique, Pancho comes upon a gigantic creature in the swamp—we only see its shadow—and is never seen again. Jimmy decides it's best for all if he leaves and gives the ranch to Felipe, but Sarita's obvious feelings for Jimmy bother Enrique. Finally, an hour into this 80-minute movie, the title beast appears, a huge stop-motion dinosaur that eats a cow, then wrecks havoc in the village, leaving Jimmy to use his cowboy skills to try and vanquish the monster.

In its widescreen format, this movie looks fine—the Mexican landscape is shown to good advantage, and a scene of Jimmy and Sarita meeting in a remarkably colorful graveyard is memorable.  But if you're watching this as a monster movie, you have a lot of bland Western melodrama to sit through first. The beast is fairly effective as stop-motion monsters go, but the tedious clichéd Western-style clash between cowboy and good-for-nothing is disappointing, as is the high-pitched whining of Panchito. Guy Madison looks the part as the cowboy, though Patricia Medina is a zero as Sarita. This was based on an idea by Willis O’Brien, who worked on the original KING KONG, and the same material was re-worked a few years later (with the participation of Ray Harryhausen) in THE VALLEY OF GWANGI. [TCM]

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