War of the Colossal Beast (1958) [31 Days of American Horror Review]

Looking for more classic horror reviews from Jules?

Check out our “31 Days of Hammer”, “31 Days of British Horror”, and “31 Days of American Horror”, to hear his thoughts on some of the best (and worst) that the genre has to offer.

Director: Bert I. Gordon
Starring: Sally Fraser, Dean Parkin, Roger Pace

Rushed out after the success of The Amazing Colossal Man the year before, War Of The Colossal Beast suffers from that often-seen cash-in sequel issue in that it’s extending a story that came to a natural end.

There’s never a feeling that there’s unfinished business here, just more money to be made at the box-office, ropey effects and a knocked-out script that reeks of “that’ll do”. The mark of Bert I. Gordon in other words.

Saying that, it doesn’t hang about, delivering a punchy, short sharp shock of a tale that hits the ground running and features an iconic giant man/monster that is basic, but no less effective for it. It’s no classic, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun and sometimes, that’s all you need.

After a series of food trucks are robbed in Mexico, Joyce Manning (Fraser) becomes convinced that her brother Lt. Colonel Glenn Manning (Dean Parkin) is still alive after his ordeal that saw him grow to 60 feet before falling from the Boulder Dam.

Accompanied by Major Mark Baird (Pace) and scientist Dr. Carmichael (Bender), Joyce travels south of the border and finds that her brother is indeed alive, but is badly disfigured and has been so traumatised by what has happened to him that he is barely sentinent.

Bringing him back to America under sedation, it’s not long before a deranged Manning escapes again and goes on another rampage, only this time his mind is seemingly-completely gone and a bus-load of schoolchildren are trapped in his path…

If that sounds like there’s not much to War Of The Colossal Beast, that would be because there isn’t. It’s 69-minute run-time doesn’t really see any time given over to any strong concepts or nice character moments. It knows what it’s audience is there for and it doesn’t waste any time giving them anything else. Manning smash.

When we last saw the unfortunate Lieutenant, he was a normal man, if a giant one in what appeared to be an equally giant nappy. Now though, he’s a true monster and that first reveal of his ruined face is a real shocker. It’s not the most expensive of visual effects, in fact its not even that imaginative. But it’s brutally effective at what it’s meant to achieve, making you recoil in horror and establishing this new behemoth is a beast, not a man.

Manning this time around is much more bestial, growling and grunting as he fulfils basic needs or expresses his rage. He was nearly saveable last time round, but right from the off here, we know he’s too far gone.

There’s plenty of opportunities to be reminded of what he’s lost too, as Gordon throws in a *lot* of flashback last to the original which is clearly a budget-saving bit of filler, but there’s some great scenes in there. Yes, we’ve seen them already, but seeing Manning’s tragic story replayed again in front of us, knowing just how tragic it will get definitely gives the whole thing more gravitas, however unearned it is.

Oh and it also gives us a clue as to why Manning is so badly disfigured this time around, as being reminded of what Glenn Langan looks like only to cut back to a clearly different Parkin makes it very clear. Again though, that’s fine as he looks magnificent.

His rampage this time isn’t as playful and surreal as the weirdness of Las Vegas. There’s the obligatory King Kong reference where he looks through a window at a woman in the control tower, but unlike the first time round, there’s no implied sexuality undercutting it. He’s a full-on monster and it’s not played in any other way.

It’s the reveal of the school-bus in his path that really hits hard though. Previously, you never felt he was really that much of a danger as however slowly going mad he might have been, he was still Lt Manning underneath it all.

Here though, there’s a real danger that he will just annihilate anything in his path, even if it is a bus full of children. Between that and the giant electric pylon that screams “this isn’t going to end well”, it all comes to a suitably tense climax that for a brief moment feels like it could go in at least a couple of directions. Not bad for a cheap cash-in.

War Of The Colossal Beast is short, both in terms of time and inspiration, but it’s also an enjoyable hour-and-a-bit of trashy Atomic Age entertainment and a damn sight better than a lot of its peers.

Rating: 3/5.


The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy

Comment On This Article

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: