Saturday, February 23, 2019

War of the Colossal Beast (1958)

... aka: Gigant des Grauens (Giant of Horror)
... aka: La bestia colosal (The Colossal Beast)
... aka: La guerra de la bestia gigante (War of the Giant Beast)
... aka: Le retour de l'homme colosse (Return of the Colossal Man)
... aka: Revenge of the Colossal Man
... aka: Terror Strikes, The

Directed by:
Bert I. Gordon

The last time we saw THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN he was falling off Hoover Dam to his (presumed) watery doom. Well, it turns out he didn't actually die. He's just moved on to greener pastures. Now in Guavos, Mexico, what used to be a former army colonel named Glenn Manning is now a giant with a face that's a lot worse for wear. American "Gun Club" president John Swanson (George Becwar), who's in town for some kind of meeting, shows up at a police station to report a stolen truck to Sgt. Luis Murillo (Rico Alaniz). He's pinned 15-year-old Miguel (Robert Hernandez) as the thief but, problem is, the boy is actually in the hospital and something scared him so badly he's in a state of shock and unable to speak. Luis and Swanson follow the tire tracks of the missing vehicle, which suddenly come to an abrupt stop... almost as if the truck was lifted up and carried out as opposed to driven.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, a news broadcast airs about Swanson's missing vehicle and his inability to collect on his insurance. (Do news stations in L.A. really not have anything better to report on than a personal insurance claim and a missing vehicle... in Mexico?!) That catches the attention of Joyce Manning (Sally Fraser), ad agency copywriter and sister of Glenn Manning, who immediately gets in contact with Major Mark Baird (Roger Pace). While the army has Glenn officially listed as dead, Joyce is seemingly the only one who believes that he actually survived both the gunfire / bazooka hits and the fall off the dam, and that he was carried by the Colorado River down to the Gulf of California. That's quite a theory and one that Mark, who was in charge of searching for the body, deems impossible. Still not convinced, in part due to Mr. Swanson's story, Joyce travels to Guavos to look into matters.

After meeting up with Sgt. Murillo, Joyce tries to get a word out of the still unresponsive Miguel. Finally, he sits up in bed screaming "Ogro!" over and over again. And while ogro may mean an ogre like in the fairy tales, it's also slang for "big fellow" or "giant man." Hmmm. Joyce immediately calls Mark and asks him to fly down. He brings along Dr. Carmichael (Russ Bender), head of a radiation exposure unit, to assist. The team go to a lake where they find a gigantic footprint 10 times the size of a regular human. From that they're able to gauge the person who made it is about 60 feet tall. Double hmmm. They then figure the only place a giant could possibly be hiding out in somewhere in the mountains.

While Mark wants to locate the colossal man and use the military to exterminate him, Joyce wants to try to reason with him first because, well, he's still her brother. The two go up the mountain and find a junkyard full of vehicle part from where Glenn's been snatching up food trucks to survive. A plot is devised to capture him and keep him alive by tricking him into eating chloral hydrate-laced bread loaves (!) It works and they're able to transport him back the U.S. by plane, where he's stored in an airplane hangar. He manages to escape and cause a little damage but is subdued again. This time he loses a lot of blood, forcing his sister to make an urgent phone call to the stingy Red Cross, who are reluctant to keep handing over gallons of plasma to keep Glenn alive.

After being hooked up to a machine to determine whether or not he has reversible amnesia or a brain injury, the military decides they'd be best off dumping Glenn on a small island and parachuting him some food every once in awhile. However, he escapes (again) before that can happen and makes his way toward Los Angeles. There, he goes to the Griffith Observatory, messes up some electric cables and then threatens to chuck a school bus full of shrieking children.

Despite taking place in two different countries and using a wider variety of locations, this somehow manages to have even less plot than the first film. The main difference is in the presentation of the giant. For starters, you may notice that the role has been taken over by the less doughy Duncan (credited as "Dean") Parkin, who'd previously played the title character in The Cyclops (1957). Not sure why Glenn Langan didn't return but seeing how the character doesn't have any real dialogue (outside of just one word) and instead makes odd, echoing grunts, I guess it didn't matter who played the part. The appearance of the giant has also been changed. Here he has a half-mangled face with part of the skull exposed, which is fairly well done by make-up artist Jack H. Young.

For the colossal man's death scene at the very end, they decided to shoot it in color (about 30 seconds worth) for some reason. There's also a flashback utilizing over five minutes of recycled footage from the original to push the running time up to a paltry 69 minutes. It was theatrically released as part of a double bill with Gordon's ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE (1958).

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