Why 17 days? Because 17 is my favorite number.
Unfortunately, a tribe of gypsies knows about the little horse, which they call El Diablo, and believes it will bring a curse on their people. Led by the one-eyed hag Tia Zorina (Freda Jackson), the gypsies steal El Diablo to return it to its home in the Forbidden Valley, and Tuck and company take up the chase to stop them.
When I saw The Valley of Gwangi in 1970, it was the B movie of a double feature with When Dinosaurs Rule the Earth as the headliner. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth was the movie I had come to see, so I was a bit disconcerted that I would have to sit through a stupid western first. To make matters worse, the first 40 minutes of Gwangi were stultifying to my seven-year-old eyes; I just wanted the movie to be over so we could get to the caveman flick I had been waiting for weeks to see. But once Tuck and company made their way into the Forbidden Valley and found themselves face-to-face with a ravenous Allosaurus called Gwangi (and a menagerie of other dinosaurs), I soon forgot about the caveman flick.
The Valley of Gwangi is rated G, so it's not strictly horror, but there are moments that made me jump as a child: Gwangi’s first appearance when the men are chasing a smaller dinosaur and the ravenous Allosaurus leaps out from behind a rock; Tuck’s horse panicking moments before Gwangi appears in the distance; the flying Pteranodon that almost carries away a small child in the party; the unexpected death of Carlos (Gustavo Rojo), a former member of the gypsy tribe and Tuck’s rival for T.J.’s affections (this disturbed me at the time because although the film sets up Carlos as a something of a villain, he struck me as the coolest bad-ass in the bunch).
More disturbing to me were two scenes of stop-motion animal cruelty near the end. After Gwangi is captured to be displayed in a circus, the dinosaur escapes its cage and kills an elephant (I loved elephants as a kid, so this was particularly traumatizing). And later, the hapless Gwangi meets its demise when Tuck traps the poor creature in a cathedral and sets the building ablaze--the dinosaur’s agonized death screams are heart-breaking.
In addition to the aforementioned scenes, we see a gypsy dwarf crunched in Gwangi’s jaws, wily Professor Bromley (Laurence Naismith) get crushed under the dinosaur’s weight (shocking because Bromley was one of the good guys), and gypsy matron Tia Zorina get trampled beneath the feet of a panicked mob. These scenes are bloodless and tastefully handled, but keep in mind some 30 years earlier, the Hays office censored similar scenes from King Kong.
Does this make The Valley of Gwangi a horror film? Well, it did horrify me back in the day, but I was seven years old, so take that for what it’s worth. I guess when it comes to a Halloween movies, horrors can come in all shapes and sizes.
Previous Days of Halloween:
Day 1 – Baby’s Breath
Day 2 – Phantom of the Paradise
Day 3 – The Shining (miniseries)
Day 4 – 28 Days Later
Day 5 – 28 Weeks Later
Day 6 – Dawn of the Dead (original)
Day 7 – Dawn of the Dead (remake)
Day 8 – The Howling
Day 9 – Saló or the 120 Days of Sodom
Day 10 – Romper Stomper