BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK

By • Jul 28th, 2011 •

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It’s a definite thrill to finally have this title appear on DVD. A serious story, if not a great film, and unlike many sci-fi/horror ‘B’s of the 50s, there’s an abundance of ‘monster’ in it, accompanied by good ‘heavy walker’ sound effects to give the creature substance.

There’s a distanced quality about the direction. We’re watching rather than getting caught up with the narrative, except in the scenes featuring the beautifully designed eponymous being. I guess credit for the remoteness of the drama must be assigned to Eugene (THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, THE GIANT BEHEMOTH, GORGO) Lourie, although his better gifts as an Art Director can also be felt, and they are evocative here. There are shots/scenic designs where I can clearly feel his melancholic work on Chaplin’s LIMELIGHT.

Dr. Jeremy Spensser, a world-acknowledged, peace-prize-winning genius, is killed retrieving a toy plane for his son, Billy, and his father (Otto Kruger), also a scientist, who can’t accept his son’s meaningless death, designs a giant receptacle in which to place Jeremy’s still-living brain. At first begging to be destroyed, Jeremy rallies enough to do a few worthwhile things for mankind before turning malevolent without the aid of a soul, at which point the killings begin. His arc unfurls swiftly within the 70-minute running time, and the iconic FRANKENSTEIN trope of the monster and little Maria, which has reappeared in numerous films including THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT in 1955, just three years before this, is elongated by about a half hour here, as Billy befriends the giant, not knowing it’s his father, which worries us when he is in the monster’s grasp, but ultimately results in his steering the creature away from its destructive impulses by stirring his paternal instincts to the surface.

Beyond the oddly-distanced emotional feel of the film, there are many nice elements that deserve attention and credit. William (THIS ISLAND EARTH, the CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON series) Alland, formerly of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater group, produced. The rather unique, ‘killing-the-keys’ piano score is by (Nathan) Van Cleave. The creature (I’d like to call it a robot, but really it’s a cyborg, a term coined two years after this film was released) was designed by (uncredited) Charles (WAR OF THE WORLDS) Gemora and Ralph (SOLOMON AND SHEBA, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS) Jestor. You can feel the sweep of the Colossus’ robes in Jestor’s work on the DeMille and Vidor films, not to mention SAMSON AND DELILAH, on which he functioned as Unit Director. I’m not sure which of the two designers was responsible for the captivating work on the giant’s head, but Jestor had previously sculpted Caesar’s head for DeMille’s 1934 CLEOPATRA.

It may be a slight piece of work, but a lot of talented people endeavored to make it good, and you can feel that fidelity at play. I’m keeping it on my 50s SciFi/Horror shelf.

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