Captain Joe Ryan is salvaging for treasure off the coast of Ireland, when a volcano erupts, nearly sinking his ship. Ryan and his first officer, Sam Slade, take the ship to Nara Island for repairs. As they enter harbour, they discover the floating carcasses of marine animals, the first hint that something dangerous was awoken by the volcano eruption.
Ryan and Slade consult the harbour master, who also has archaeological pretensions: he has been salvaging in the harbour. Some of his men have disappeared mysteriously; it turns out that one has died of fear. After dark, a monstrous creature surfaces, attacks a group of fishermen, then comes ashore to wreak havoc on the island. This dinosaur-like creature is supposedly 65 feet tall. The people of the island finally drive it off.
Ryan and his crew manage to capture the monster and haul it aboard their ship, tying it to the deck. Soon, university scientists arrive on Nara, hoping to collect the monster for study, but Ryan has been offered a better deal by the owner of a circus in London. When the ship arrives in London, the circus owner names it "Gorgo", after the iconic snake-haired woman, Medusa. It is exhibited to the public in Battersea Park.
The scientists examine Ogra, and conclude that he is not yet an adult, and that his father must be at least 200 feet tall. On that note of foreboding, we cut to Nara Island as Gorgo, the mother of Ogra, attacks. Gorgo trashes the island, sinks a Royal Navy vessel, and resists attack from other warships. Later, Gorgo comes ashore in London, still looking for his son, and goes on a rampage, despite being bombarded by tanks and infantry. Jets attack Ogra, but with no effect. Having demolished much of London, Gorgo rescues Ogra, and both father and son return to the sea.Bill Travers as Captain Joe Ryan
William Sylvester as Sam Slade
Vincent Winter as Sean
Christopher Rhodes as McCartin
Joseph O'Conor as Professor Hendricks
Bruce Seton as Professor Flaherty
Martin Benson as Dorkin
Basil Dignam as Admiral Brooks
Mick Dillon as Gorgo / Ogra
The film was originally intended to be set in Japan as a homage to Godzilla; the setting was then changed to France, and then finally changed to the British Isles. According to Bill Warren's film book Keep Watching the Skies, southern Australia was also considered for a locale, but the producers supposedly decided that audiences "wouldn't care" if a monster attacked Australia; its alleged lack of worldwide recognisable landmarks for Gorgo to destroy was also cited as a consideration.
The location where Gorgo first appears, Nara Island, is probably a tribute to the Godzilla series; Nara being a historical period of Japan: alternatively, it may be an anagram for the Aran Islands, off Ireland's west coast. The exterior scenes set in Ireland were filmed at Bulloch Harbour and Coliemore Harbour, both near the County Dublin town of Dalkey. Other scenes were filmed at the MGM-British Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.
Scenes where Gorgo is driven through the streets of London were shot on a Sunday morning when there was no traffic. The film studio wanted Gorgo to fight the military despite director Eugène Lourié's objections. Later, Lourié acquired a print of the film and removed the footage.
Gorgo's special effects were achieved by suitmation and miniaturisation, a technique pioneered in the Godzilla films. The younger Gorgo was smaller than usual giant monsters so the sets around him were built to a larger scale leading to a greater sense of realism and believability. The creatures were also shot with then-pricey slow-motion cameras to create a sense of scale. The effects were complex and are well respected by special effects artists and fans. The film is also sometimes praised for its innovative ending, which seems to have an environmentalist moral. Unusually for such films, the monsters, which are presented as innocent victims of human interference, survive and prevail.
A novelisation of the film was released in paperback at the time of its original release (Gorgo by Carson Bingham, Monarch, 1960).
From 1961 to 1965 Charlton Comics published 23 issues of the comic book Gorgo. It included work by Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko. The series was renamed Fantastic Giants with issue #24,which turned out to be the last issue of the series.
Gorgo also appeared in a three-issue mini-series that started off as Gorgo's Revenge, before it was renamed The Return of Gorgo with issue #2. The series ran from 1962–1964.
In 1990, Steve Ditko illustrated a back-up story in Web of Spider-Man Annual #6 titled "Child Star". In this story Captain Universe creates huge versions of toys based on Gorgo and Konga to battle giant monsters that are attacking the neighbourhood. For copyright reasons Gorgo's name was altered to "Gorga".
In 1991, A-Plus Comics reprinted issues #1 and #3 in the one-shot comic Attack of the Mutant Monsters. Due to copyright issues Gorgo's name was changed to Kegor. Some of these issues were reprinted (in black and white) in a trade paperback in 2011 called Angry Apes n' Leapin Lizards. In March 2013, IDW Publishing reprinted all the issues that artist Steve Ditko worked on (Gorgo #1–3, #11 and #13–16 and The Return of Gorgo #2–3) as a deluxe hardcover collection called Steve Ditko's Monsters: Gorgo.Blu-ray A America - VCI Also includes "Ninth Wonder Of The World: The Making Of Gorgo" a new documentary by Daniel Griffith.
Shout! Factory's (Collectable Tin) of Mystery Science Theater 3000 25th Anniversary Edition contains the film as well as "Ninth Wonder Of The World: The Making Of Gorgo" Longer Version.
In 1998, a remake of sorts titled Gargantua was produced to capitalize on the Jurassic Park films, Mighty Joe Young, The American Godzilla and The Upcoming Yonggary Remake.
Also in 1998, the film was featured on the television series Mystery Science Theater 3000, but the rights quickly expired and the episode only had two airings, both on the same day.
Gorgo was used by rock band Ash for the promo video for Ichiban on YouTube. It was the seventh release of their A to Z singles series, a year-long twenty six single subscription. Using a copy of the DVD and free movie editing software allegedly the video only cost eight dollars to produce.
In 2009, a short comedy film, Waiting for Gorgo, was produced by Cinemagine. The film was directed by Benjamin Craig and written by M. J. Simpson. The plot focusses on the D.M.O.A, a fictional British government agency charged with preventing the return of the monster, Gorgo.
Former Maine governor Angus King used a clip from Gorgo in an advertisement for his 2012 run for the United States Senate.
In the Disney remake Flubber, Flubber was seen flicking through television channels when it had separated into several versions of itself. Scenes of Gorgo rampaging through London could be seen flashing on the screen as Flubber is switching channels.