There’s a good rea­son that Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen were the kings of stop-motion effects in 20th cen­tu­ry gen­re film­mak­ing: it’s both chal­leng­ing and time-con­sum­ing to do this type of effect cor­rect­ly and few film­mak­ers have the sta­mi­na or the bud­get to build an entire film around such effects.  That said, the ‘50s were an era when film­mak­ers would throw their hat in the O’Brien/Harryhausen ring, even if they cut cor­ners in a way the­se men nev­er would.  One of the more enter­tain­ing entries was The Beast Of Hollow Mountain, an off­beat blend of west­ern and mon­ster movie.

BeastOHM-posIn fact, The Beast Of Hollow Mountain is actu­al­ly based on a Willis O’Brien sto­ry idea, even though he didn’t cre­ate any of its spe­cial effects. It starts off like a straight­for­ward west­ern.  Jimmy Ryan (Guy Madison) is the square-jawed hero, an inde­pen­dent rancher try­ing to get a cat­tle ranch going in Mexico. Unfortunately, this puts him into con­flict with well-to-do local Enrique (Eduardo Noriega), who is also a cat­tle rancher and doesn’t want com­pe­ti­tion.  The sit­u­a­tion is exac­er­bat­ed by the fact that Jimmy has a flir­ta­tion going with Sarita (Patricia Medina), whom Enrique intends to mar­ry.

Enrique wants to buy Jimmy’s ranch but Jimmy is deter­mined to suc­cess­ful­ly make a cat­tle sale.  Enrique begins to resort to sab­o­tage, start­ing small and grow­ing big­ger as Jimmy digs in his heels.  However, the two find them­selves deal­ing with a prob­lem that is lit­er­al­ly big­ger than the both of them: the locals are super­sti­tious about a demon that sup­pos­ed­ly lives in near­by Hollow Mountain and the events of the finale con­spire to force this leg­end out into the open.  It turns out the demon is actu­al­ly more pre­his­toric in nature and the third act throws out all the spe­cial effects stops as the town is forced to con­front this giant-sized men­ace.

The Beast Of Hollow Mountain is often crit­i­cized by gen­re fans for delay­ing all its stop-motion effects until the finale.  However, the west­ern tale that dom­i­nates the film’s first two acts is pret­ty enter­tain­ing.  The cast is solid, with Western vet Madison mak­ing for a solid old-fash­ioned hero.  The sto­ry might be full of famil­iar cow­boy-flick ele­ments but direc­tors Edward Nassour and Ismael Rodriguez han­dle the sto­ry­line with style and ener­gy: the pac­ing is trim, Jorge Stahl Jr.‘s CinemaScope lens­ing beefs up the film’s pro­duc­tion val­ues and the moun­tain­ous Mexican locales make a visu­al­ly arrest­ing set­ting.

The one reaBeast-Nean-blul mis­step in The Beast Of Hollow Mountain pops up dur­ing the finale: the stop-motion effects look pret­ty rough, par­tic­u­lar­ly when com­pared to a Harryhausen project.  The ani­ma­tion of the title crea­ture has jerky, “stut­ter­ing” qual­i­ty to its move­ment and there are some blur­ry, ragged-look­ing rear pro­jec­tion shots.  However, the finale is still fun if you can for­give the sub­par spe­cial effects: the ambi­tious cli­max com­bi­nes a wed­ding, a cat­tle stam­pede and a final bat­tle in the val­ley swamp.

Simply put, The Beast Of Hollow Mountain is fun despite its prob­lems.  The quirky blend of gen­res actu­al­ly works pret­ty well and the action is fun even when the stop-motion qual­i­ty falls short.  If the effects were bet­ter, this would prob­a­bly be con­sid­ered a minor clas­sic of the form.  As it is, it’s still plen­ty of fun for mon­ster movie fans, espe­cial­ly if they also enjoy old-school west­erns.

Blu-Ray Notes: This film was revived as half of a dou­ble-bill disc with The Neanderthal Man by Scream Factory, pre­sent­ed in a blu-ray/DVD com­bo pack. The blu-ray was viewed for this review. The source mate­ri­al shows some scratch­es around reel changes but looks pret­ty good over­all, pre­serv­ing the Cinemascope fram­ing in style and  offer­ing nice lev­els of col­or and detail. The mono sound­track is pre­sent­ed in loss­less form and sounds nice for a vin­tage mix.  There are no extras but there is a sec­ond film to enjoy and the view­er gets the choice of blu-ray or DVD for­mats.