Monday, October 31, 2011

Outsiders In A Green Hell

Beware of THE MIGHTY GORGA, one of the worst monster movies ever made. Special effects, dialogue, and pacing are the pits. Several L.A. parks, including the ubiquitous Bronson Canyon, unconvincingly plays Africa. Poor Anthony Eisley, a one-time television star (HAWAIIAN EYE), starred in this, DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN, and THE MUMMY AND THE CURSE OF THE JACKYLS the same year.

Mark Remington (Eisley), owner of a small, financially insecure circus who refuses to sell out to a greedy bigger circus. However, unless he can come up with $86,000 in six months, he’ll lose the circus anyway. What he needs is a big feature attraction, something so amazing that people will flock to see it. Hearing rumors of a giant gorilla in the African Congo, Remington leaps on a plane for the continent (without taking any luggage or equipment) to meet a great white hunter named Tonga Jack.

Instead, he finds lovely April (Megan Timothy), Tonga Jack’s daughter, who stands to lose her compound unless she divvies up a debt to evil hunter Dan Morgan (Scott Brady). Mark and April hike through the African jungle, where they meet “Indians” (played by white actors, of course), a stupid puppet dinosaur, and, finally, the Mighty Gorga itself.

Using words to describe the special effects is a big waste of time, since no printed description could possibly convey the stunning ineptness of director David L. Hewitt’s work. Gorga, whose perspective is always off—is it ten feet tall or a hundred?—is played by an actor in the rattiest gorilla suit imaginable, complete with mussed hair and crossed eyes. The dinosaur is literally a plastic children’s toy, and the scene in which it battles Gorga is no less than a highpoint (lowpoint?) in B-movie history. Not only do the creatures look completely silly, but Hewitt (THE WIZARD OF MARS) attempts to put his live actors in the same shot, not by using blue screen effects, but by standing the men-in-monster-suits in front of a screen showing Eisley and company out of focus and facing the wrong direction.

Not that the acting and sets are much better. Timothy is terrible. Brady and Kent Taylor grunt like pros. Eisley is okay, I guess, considering what the working conditions must have been like. Hewitt, who also co-wrote the screenplay, is certainly no help, incompetent enough to recycle the same footage of villagers fleeing the attacking Gorga in two separate scenes.

There’s much more talk than action anyway, and the dialogue is laughable at best and headscratchingly obtuse at worst (I love the scene in which Eisley and his guide try to figure out if the other speaks English). The lines are sometimes drowned out by the incongruous music and sound effects laid in to cover the sound of the whirring camera!

No question about it—THE MIGHTY GORGA is some kind of classic. But what kind is something only the bravest or most tolerant movie lovers will ever learn.

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