Cowboy Jimmy Ryan (Guy Madison) and his friend Felipe Sanchez (Carlos Rivas) have established a cattle ranch somewhere in Mexico. Despite the obvious hatred the big man in town Enrique Rios (Eduardo Noriega) harbours for them, things have been going well so far. That is, until a few weeks ago. Now, cattle is disappearing in surprising numbers, and it looks as if someone is driving the animals into a nearby swamp surrounding the titular Hollow Mountain.
Or it might just be the swamp is cursed, for whenever a particularly heavy
summer heat wave strikes, as it does this year, and the swamp shrinks, something
attacks and eats men and cattle alike in the area.
What is clear is that Enrique is stepping up his attempts at sabotaging our
protagonists, not only because he doesn’t approve of an American undercutting
his cattle prices but also because his fiancée Sarita (Patricia Medina) has
taken quite an obvious shine to Jimmy. Of course, Jimmy’s a true white hat, so
he’d never do much more than pine for Sarita, but Enrique’s the kind of guy who
projects his own rather more aggressive approach to life on others, so more
trouble has to ensue.
If you think this sounds as if Edward Nassour’s and Ismael Rodríguez’
Beast of Hollow Mountain, the first of the tiny handful of cowboys
versus dinosaur films is rather more interested in its B-western elements than
it is in its stop motion dinosaur, you’re absolutely right. In fact, if you’d
leave the dinosaur out of the plot completely, there’d be little about the film
that would have to change.
That’s particularly disappointing since the fifteen minutes or so of cowboy
versus dinosaur action we get are rather good, with solid stop motion and a
handful of clever action set pieces. Still, if you’re going into this expecting
much dinosaur or monster action, you’re bound to be disappointed.
As a B-western in the non-psychological style, Beast is perfectly
alright fare that starts out with a bit of neat action but suffers from a middle
that’s too talky for the flat characterisations it offers. There’s not even a
decent shoot-out in there, even though there are at least two scenes that would
set the scene for one beautifully. The film also suffers from a wide sentimental
streak that mostly involves a sub-plot about the mandatory little boy and his
alcoholic father. The Western parts are certainly not horrible if you like this
side of the genre – which I do to a degree - but it’s not terribly exciting
At least the film looks good. Thanks to being a US/Mexican co-production
(there’s supposed to be a Spanish language version shot back to back), it was
actually shot in Mexico for the most part, providing the directors with ample
opportunity to show off the local landscape, which they do with decided
enthusiasm. It’s also quite pleasant to encounter a western whose Mexican
characters are played by actual Mexican actors instead of white guys from
Brooklyn in brownface.