Wednesday, July 21, 2010

War of the Colossal Beast - Trailer (1958)

War of the Colossal Beast is a 1958 black-and-white science fiction film, directed by Bert I. Gordon and produced by Carmel Productions and distributed by American International Pictures. It continued the storyline of the 1957 movie The Amazing Colossal Man, although it was not marketed as a direct sequel, and featured a different cast

Upon hearing of several recent robberies of food delivery trucks in Mexico, Joyce Manning, the sister of Army officer Lt. Col. Glenn Manning (though in The Amazing Colossal Man, Glenn's fiance said Glenn had no surviving family), becomes convinced that her brother survived his fall from the Hoover Dam at the end of the first film. Along with Army officer Major Mark Baird and scientist Dr. Carmichael, she goes to Mexico to look for him.
It is discovered that Manning, now grown to 60 feet tall after being exposed to plutonium radiation, survived his fall from the Hoover Dam at the end of the previous movie, but he has gone insane and part of his face was left disfigured following his confrontation with the Army at the dam.
Not only has the plutonium radiation mutated him into a 60 foot disfigured freak, it also has conferred other benefits; drastically reducing his vocabulary and diet - he now appears capable only of uttering simple variations on "aarrrgh" (although he does manage a single strangled "Joyce!" at the movie's end) and only eating loaves of bread (by the truck-load).

Manning is captured and drugged by the Army and taken back to America, but he again escapes and goes on a rampage through Los Angeles and Hollywood. Eventually Joyce makes him snap to his senses and realizing what he has done, Manning kills himself by electrocution (somehow causing the movie to change from black and white to color for the final minute) on high-voltage power lines around the Griffith Park Observatory. The ending, involving electrocution, is almost exactly like the death of the 50-ft Woman.

Even if you haven't seen any of his films, you should really know who Bert I. Gordon is, especially if you're even slightly familiar with the antics of the Mystery Science Theater crew. Often joked about and parodied, Gordon made some of the most inept, yet lovably entertaining monster flicks ever made (Joan Collins and that Empire of the Ants anyone?). In their continuing effort to introduce these fine gems of yesteryear to to fans young and old Direct Video UK has taken quite a few selections from the Arkoff vaults (AIP Pictures) dusted them off and givin them the digital treatment. Next up is the Bert I. Gordon produced and directed sequel to The Amazing Colossal Man, say hello to War of the Colossal Beast.

Our story opens in Mexico as a young man driving a truck is spooked (by something) and crashes his truck. The truck ends up missing and our young hero ends up in the hospital. He's not harmed, just traumatized and left in a state of shock because of his encounter (with something). Moving along, the owner of the truck, a brutish gent named John Swanson wants to know exactly what happened to his truck. He tries to get to the bottom of things by yakking it up with the local police and repeating the phrase "Get the picture?" over and over again. Obviously the authorities don't get the picture because they're about as lost as lost can be. The missing truck somehow manages to make the local news in LA (get the picture?). Upon hearing the news of the missing truck on the news, Joyce Manning (Colossal's sister) takes it upon herself to make a person-to-person call and before you can say, "I don't get the picture" she hightails it to Mexico.

Joyce is sure that the cause of all of this commotion (yup, one missing truck and a traumatized Mexican boy) is the work of her too big for his britches brother. Yes folks, it's the return of the overgrown Col. Glenn Manning aka Mr. Colossal. Much doubt is cast upon the cause of the missing truck until a giant footprint is discovered a mere inches away from where the truck was last scene. After some calculations about the size of the foot and how big the person who belongs to said foot would have to be, our fearless investigators deduce that the footprint does indeed belong to Col. Glenn Manning and not just some other 60 foot tall man. After deciding to "drive slowly to see if they can find any other footprints" our Jr. Sleuth's decide to head home because's getting dark. With a slick plan in place to capture the giant with a truck full of bread laced with sedatives, the good guys manage to somehow fly the beast to LA. After spending some time tied up in an airplane hanger and the use of a lot of reused footage from the first film (I believe the technical term here is flashback) the oversized Glenn Manning escapes and wreaks more havoc in LA than Corey Feldman on a drinking binge. A busload of school children (this late at night?) suffer the worst of it (which isn't really much mind you) while all of this leads to an unexpectedly satisfying conclusion that bursts onto the screen in a gimmicky color segment. Good times.

Well what the heck were you expecting? Despite all of the idiocy and inane developments, War of the Colossal Beast still remains a solid example of late night movie fare. It's beyond ridiculous, but of course this is where most of the appeal actually stems from. Mr. Colossal doesn't speak this go round, just grunts and groans a lot and half of his face is covered with an actually half decent appliance which gives the impression that one of his eyes has gone missing and part of his skull is exposed. I'm a huge fan of Bert I. Gordon (with or without the MST3K commentaries) and while War of the Colossal Beast isn't one of my favorites (that crown would have to go to Beginning of the End and its grasshoppers walking on postcards of buildings) it still makes for great overgrown monster on the lose madness. I guess it's just a matter of picking yer poison here and if you're looking for a little I. Gordon on DVD, War of the Colossal Beast will certainly fill that void.

Presented full frame War of the Colossal beast looks pretty decent. How much information we're actually missing is debatable, but I'm fairly certain it's minor at best. Blacks are fairly solid with decent definition. Print damage is minimal some specs and what not and while the transfer is at times a bit dark, it's still overall quite pleasing. Audio is presented in an equally effective mono track with little to no distortion or background noise.

Extras include the same features that the other titles in the line contain, including a host of trailers for other Arkoff films to be presented (or already presented)on DVD along with that fabulous Arkoff audio interview set to a repeating still gallery. Also included are the postcard sized poster replicas. It's crazy monster madness and it's reasonably priced, available on DVD. Get yer growl on own a piece of Bert I. Gordon history. Get the picture? - by Lawrence P. Raffel



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