Move Over Godzilla, Here Comes Gorgo!

Two Godzilla movies had been made before the Brits got monster fever and unleashed the Beast Gorgo!

Gorgo is a 1961 science fiction giant monster film directed by Eugène Lourié, an international co-production of the United Kingdom, the United States, and Ireland. The story is about a ship’s captain and his pearl diving crew who, with other fishermen on an island and an orphaned boy, discover and capture a gigantic amphibious sea creature and take it to London for public exhibition. This results in the creature’s much larger mother invading London in search of her offspring, causing catastrophic destruction across the city.

The film was originally intended to be set in Japan as an homage to Godzilla; the setting was then changed to France, and then finally to the British Isles. According to Bill Warren’s film book Keep Watching the Skies, southern Australia was also considered for a locale, but the producers supposedly decided that audiences “wouldn’t care” if a monster attacked Australia; its alleged lack of worldwide recognisable landmarks for Gorgo to destroy was also cited as a consideration.

The location where Gorgo first appears, the fictional Nara Island, is an anagram of the Aran Islands, off Ireland’s west coast. The exterior scenes set in Ireland were filmed at Bulloch Harbour and Coliemore Harbour, both near the County Dublin town of Dalkey. Other scenes were filmed at the MGM-British Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.

Scenes where Gorgo is driven through the streets of London were shot on a Sunday morning, when there was little other traffic. The film studio wanted Gorgo to fight the military, despite director Eugène Lourié’s objections.

Gorgo’s special effects were achieved by suitmation and miniaturisation, a technique pioneered in the Godzilla films. The younger Gorgo was smaller than most giant monsters, so the sets around him were built to a larger scale, leading to an enhanced sense of realism. The creatures were also shot with then-pricey slow-motion cameras to create a sense of scale. The effects were complex and are well respected by special effects artists and fans. The film is also sometimes praised for its innovative ending, in which, unusually for such films, the monsters survive and prevail.

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