Monday, July 29, 2013

Gorgo or the Attack of Mamma Bunyip!

Poster for Gorgo
 One of the things that really irks me is people claiming things about a fictional critter that proves they either have poor reading comprehension or never saw the movie. Gorgo is a prime example of this.

Gorgo is a 1961 giant monster movie directed by Eugène Lourié from a screenplay by John Loring and Daniel Hyatt. It stars Bill Travers and William Sylvester. It forms a trilogy with 'The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms' and 'The Giant Behemoth'.

In the film two treasure hunters see a 60 foot sea serpent off the coast of Ireland. They capture the creature and take it to London where the animal is made an attraction at a circus/zoo who bill their attraction as Gorgo.

Gorgo as a Sea Serpent, from comic book issue 2
Meanwhile scientist study the creature and speculate on it's origins (possibly prehistoric) and discover that Gorgo is only a baby. If the baby is 60 feet long just how big would the adult be?

Sure enough, Gorgo’s 200 foot long mother comes pounding ashore looking for her offspring and makes a bee line to where her baby is imprisoned. Nothing stands in her way be it the Army, power lines, or Big Ben. Momma rescues her baby and together they walk back into the sea leaving a destroyed London and a chastised mankind in their wake.

Original Gorgo Lobby Card

Gorgo is thus famed for being the only classic Kaju movie where the monster wins. It is also famous for two misconceptions film historians who have copied down what others said without doing any research (or actually watching the film) to see it it is true.

This is the rumor I despise the most simply because just watching the movie dispels it. Book after book written on movie monsters repeats this bit of silliness over and over. Sigh, anyone with eyes can tell Gorgo is not a Gorgosaurus. The movie never calls or even compares Gorgo to a Gorgosaurus. The movie in fact makes a big deal of having a character claim that Gorgo is so terrifying the sight of it would turn one to stone like in the Greek legend of the Gorgon. The Greek Gorgon was Medusa so Gorgo has nothing to do with the Alberta Tyrannosaur once known as Gorgosaurus.
Albertosaurus AKA Gorgosaurus

 P.S. I saw a similar bit of silliness the other day on TV Tropes involving the book Kronos by Jeremy Robinson. The writter comments that the creature in the book is supposed to be a Kronosaurus but blows like a whale and undulates vertically, something kronosaurus could not do. Fine and dandy except that Kronos is not supposed to be a Kronosaurus and the main character (who is a marine biologist) even says "That is not a Kronosaurus". Kronos is supposed to be the New England sea serpent and anyone who bothered to check the literature would have found that this cryptid does indeed spout like a whale and undulates vertically.  


I have no idea where this one started and have only seen this claim on internet sites and Wikipedia. I suppose it is because Japan did a lot of man-in-a-suit giant monster movies (such as Godzilla) during the 1960s.In addition the island that Gorgo is originally found offshore of is called Nara. There is a Nara period in Japan's history but considering the location WAS ireland it is more likely that it is an anagram for the Aran Islands, off Ireland's west coast.

 Acctually the fact that Gorgo was originally set in Australia was a fact pointed out as early as 1980 in Glut's Dinosaur Scrapbook. This was also published in the 1993 Magazine "Dinosaur: The Collectible Edition 1-A" published by Starlog. No older sourcebook ever mentions Japan. Both websites claim that the Australia story started in Bill Warren’s book 'Keep Watching the Skies' but this book was not published until 2009, decades after the fact.

As a final nail in the coffin for the Japanese theory there is the fact that the plot of Gorgo is based on the following Australian Aboriginal myth with the supernatural bits removed for modern audiences...

Long, long ago,  some men decided to go fishing to provide food for their tribe. Most of the men used worms, but one, who had put a piece of raw meat for dinner into his skin wallet, cut off a little bit and baited his line with it, unseen by his companions.

For a long time they cast patiently, without receiving a single bite; then the youth, who had baited his hook with raw meat, suddenly saw his line disappear under the water. Something, a very heavy fish he supposed, was pulling so hard that he could hardly keep his feet, and for a few minutes it seemed either as if he must let go or be dragged into the pool. He cried to his friends to help him, and at last, trembling with fright at what they were going to see, they managed between them to land on the bank a creature that was neither a calf nor a seal, but something of both, with a long, broad tail. They looked at each other with horror, cold shivers running down their spines; for though they had never beheld it, there was not a man amongst them who did not know what it was—the cub of the awful Bunyip!
Bunyip, as drawn by an Aboriginal after a supposed sighting

All of a sudden the silence was broken by a low wail, answered by another from the other side of the pool, as the mother rose up from her den and came towards them, rage flashing from her horrible yellow eyes. 'Let it go! let it go!' whispered the young men to each other; but the captor declared that he had caught it, and was going to keep it. 'He had promised his sweetheart,' he said, 'that he would bring back enough meat for her father's house to feast on for three days, and though they could not eat the little Bunyip, her brothers and sisters should have it to play with.' So, flinging his spear at the mother to keep her back, he threw the little Bunyip on to his shoulders, and set out for the camp, never heeding the poor mother's cries of distress.
Illustration of the abduction of the bunyip from the Brown Fairy Book
By this time it was getting near sunset, and the plain was in shadow, though the tops of the mountains were still quite bright. The youths had all ceased to be afraid, when they were startled by a low rushing sound behind them, and, looking round, saw that the pool was slowly rising, and the spot where they had landed the Bunyip was now underwater.  For an instant they stood watching, frozen with shock, then they turned and ran with all their might, the man with the Bunyip running faster than all. They fled to the village but the flood and the perusing mother monster was right at their heels. The village begged the youth to let the baby bunyip go but the man refused. Just then the man's arms became wings, his body covered in black feathers, and his feet became webbed. He, and everyone in the village, had been turned into black swans for their treachery.
The little Bunyip was carried home by its mother, and after that the waters sank back to their own channels. The side of the pool where she lives is always shunned by everyone, as nobody knows when she may suddenly put out her head and draw him into her mighty jaws. But people say that underneath the black waters of the pool she has a house filled with beautiful things, such as mortals who dwell on the earth have no idea of. Though how they know I cannot tell you, as nobody has ever seen it.

Bunyip crushing a victim in her jaws

Unfortunately Australia was dropped from the movie because it did not have any distinguishing landmarks at the time. If Gorgo is ever remade it should destroy the Sydney opera House as a tribute to it's origins.
Until then Gorgo will live on in pop culture if only as the inspiration for Guilmon of Digimon Tamers.

By the way all of Charlton Comic's Gorgo Magazines are in the Public Domaign. You can find them here...

Gorgo as the whale eater, a sea serpent type found in Australian and north Atlantic myth


'The Dinosaur Scrapbook' by Donald F. Glut

'The Great New England Sea Serpent: An Account of Unknown Creatures Sighted by Many Respectable Persons Between 1638 and the Present Day' by J. P. O'Neil

'Dinosaur: The Collectible Edition 1-A' Magazine by Starlog, Jan 1993

The Brown Fairy Book, by Andrew Lang, 1904

'Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties' by Bill Warren.

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