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Saturday, December 27, 2008

War of the Colossal Beast

This sequel to Bert I. Gordon's popular movie The Amazing Colossal Man is actually the third in a giant-bald-man series. In some ways, War of the Colossal Beast (WoCB) is partially a remake of that first movie, The Cyclops ('57). WoCB picks up the story after the inconclusive ending of The Amazing Colossal Man, repeats some plot elements from both prior movies and then finishes the tale.

Quick Plot Synopsis
Something is hijacking trucks of food in Mexico. This attracts the attention of Joyce Manning, sister of Col. Glen Manning (The Amazing Colossal Man) who was presumed lost when he fell off of Hoover Dam. A search reveals large footprints. Manning did survive and is raiding trucks for food. They spike a bunch of bread loaves with sedative. They drive the spiked bread truck in his territory to attract The Beast. It works. He eats and he's asleep. He's flown back to Los Angeles and kept sedated in an airplane hangar. The doctors run tests to see if The Beast is a man needing therapy or just a brain-damaged beast. Even though The Beast has flashback dreams of his former life. He breaks loose, but is gassed and recaptured. He doesn't respond to the doctors' tests. They plan to drop him on a remote island. That night, he breaks his chains and escapes into the hills. Surprisingly, he can't be found. He is eventually found at the Griffith Park observatory. A bus load of junior high school students are trapped there. The Beast picks up the bus to throw at the army search lights, but Joyce drives up and convinces him to put the bus down. He does. "Joyce..." he says in a raspy voice. He walks away despondent, turns and intentionally grabs a high-tension power line, electrocuting himself. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
It's fun to compare the similarities between The Cyclops and The Amazing Colossal Man.

Cold War Angle
The the late 50s, it was becoming almost cliche to assert that radiation can do terrible things. The Beast is yet another personification of radiation ruining lives and posing a destructive hazard to minding-their-own-business citizens.

Dual Sequel -- WoCB follows the usual route of most monster sequels. The monster is revived and put into a new, but similar, situation. Some original movie footage is replayed. Usually, the end is about the same too. WoCB is true to form. Yet, WoCB also reworks Gordon's The Cyclops plot too. A woman searching for her lost loved one in the wilds of Mexico. Dean Parkin plays the giant in both, both times sporting some mutant face make-up and grunting like a cave man.

Another Kong -- As with the first two bald giant movies, WoCB recycles the King Kong theme of the tragic monster. Gordon tries to ensure that the viewer will feel sympathy for The Beast. The dream sequence, particularly, leaves no doubt that the man, Glen Manning, lives within the mutant Beast. As with Kong, this makes his final destruction a relief, but a tragic one.

Colorful Ending -- A surprise at the end of the movie, when The Beast grabs the power lines, the film shifts from black and white to color. This might be an attempt at some artistic meaning (Manning expressed his "full" humanity by sacrificing himself?), or it could simply be a producers putting in a bit of wow for the sake of wow.

Poster Driven? -- The poster for WoCB has a powerful image, rather like the 50 Foot Woman did. The actual scene is less horrific -- no one falls out of the bus. Perhaps the poster art came first and some sort of bus hefting scene had to be worked in. As a concession to a growing segment of movie watchers, the bus was full of junior high school students.

Bottom line? War of the Colossal Beast is like many other sequels in being a retread. If you liked the original(s), WoCB is another serving.


Mike Scott said...

It's been suggested that they filmed the ending in color so they could put "SEE: A Sixty Foot Giant Destroyed IN COLOR!" on the posters and make people think (before buying their tickets, of course) that the whole movie was in color. LOL

Nightowl said...

That could be, and that occurred to me to. Just enough color footage to claim to have some. Still, it would have been a pretty bold gamble in the already dicey B-movie market. I could imagine whole theaters of viewers getting riotous when the movie started out in black and white and stayed that way.