The Beast of Hollow Mountain


PreCommentary:RKO had planned a film of cowboys and dinosaurs in 1942, but lacked sufficient funding. Willis O’Brien’s original title, his story, and his sketches were used by Ray Harryhausen and Charles Schneer were used in The Valley of Gwangi, but this film is a precursor to the age-old pitting of cowpoke against saurian.

Notes: United Artists. 81 minutes.
Jimmy Ryan: Guy Madison
Sarita: Patricia Medina
Felipe Sanchez: Carlos Rivas
Enrique Rios: Eduardo Noriega
Panchito: Mario Navarro
Pancho: Pascual García Peña
Don Pedro: Julio Villarreal
Margarita: Lupe Carriles
Martinez: Manuel Arvide
Manuel: José Chávez
Carlos: Roberto Contreras
Employee: Armando Gutiérrez
Jose: Margarito Luna
Jorge: Lobo Negro
Shopkeeper: Jorge Treviño

Directed: Edward Nassour, Ismael Rodríguez
Writers: Willis H. O’Brien (story), Robert Hill, Jack DeWitt (additional dialogue)
Produced: Edward Nassour, William Nassour
Music: Raúl Lavista
Cinematography: Jorge Stahl
Special Effects: Louis DeWitt, Jack Rabin, Henry Sharp.


Dramatic music clashes with pointless dull rocky landscape during the credits. A disembodied narrator with a topographical obsession reports that the “hollow mountain” is located in the “back country of Mexico” — oh, and there’s a swamp at its base. Folklore has decided that the place is evil because of pillaging that takes place during times of drought. But then, maybe these are just “tales told by simple people.”

Señor Jimmy, his sidekick Filipe, and another Mexican track signs of missing cattle. They split up and hear noise. Filipe sinks in quicksand (in Mexico!), tries to lasso a rock, slips, and is saved by the others. So that was pretty pointless. We see the occasional cow piece.

Pancho is a drunken spectacle in front of his kid, Panchito, which is like “little Pancho,” you see. Because of a bevy of seven-year-old street punks with firecrackers, a horse drags Pancho until Jimmy expresses a modicum of concern. Sarita, daughter of Don Pedro who is Pancho’s employer, scolds the drunkard: “It’s always tequila” (an attractive motto). She mentions to “Señor Cheemy” (Jimmy) that since Pancho’s wife died, he’s been drinking. Fascinating. Cheemy has to see her father about three recent bouts of missing cattle. Hey, in other news, the drought is shrinking the swamp.

Rival cattleman Enrique Rios, to whom Sarita is engaged, wants Cheemy gone. Cheemy alludes to his obedience to government prices vs. black market dealings. So, again, it’s all about meat.

On another day, all Cheemy’s workers are gone. A laconic note refers to the “curse of the hollow mountain”: “We quit.” But Pancho and the kid are there laboring already in their place. Pancho swears off drink and the kid will babysit his father for assurance. Felipe snorts at the ranch being operated by a “kid and a tequila hound.” Sarita rides up and pitches a snit about Cheemy stealing Pancho. After Pancho explains his volunteerism and the news that someone bought off the other workers and planted the excuse of the superstition, Sarita apologizes to Cheemy. There’s some conversational awkwardness about Sarita marrying Enrique, during which time her horse beats it outta there, so Cheemy has to drive her back to town on his own horse. Enrique isn’t too keen on the proximity of their enhorsed groins, so he beats the crap out of Cheemy. Cheemy returns the favor and is the one who can walk away and return to his cattle deal document in the mail.

Local authorities warn Cheemy about fighting right in the middle of municiple dirt. Enrique wants to buy Cheemy’s ranch before the “shipment” — the death march of the cattle. On a pointless ride about, an abandoned house is discovered near the swamp. Pancho wants to go in.

Sarita hails Cheemy in town, and Enrique is perpetually overlooking such scenes. The town puts a squeeze on Cheemy’s finances. He finds two workers, but they seem to be plants by Enrique. As Pancho ventures into the swamp, Cheemy is summoned by note to the cemetery. Sarita is there, sitting on her Aunt Maria’s tomb. Several minutes of conversation prove pointless.

Pancho screams at a roar and shoots but we assume he’s eaten. So there’s the moral: you will be punished for giving up drinking. Cheemy tells Felipe he’s giving up ranching, but Felipe swears he’ll fight Enrique to the death without the glory of Cheemy’s business. The kid shrieks about “papa” and keeps trying to run away to the swamp, so Cheemy dumps him on Don Pedro.

Yee-haw, it’s festivale time, and the wedding is in two hours. While the Enrique lackeys blab loudly about the plan to stampede Cheemy’s cattle, the kid takes off to the swamp. We see dinosaur feet. A T-Rex actually starts the cattle stampede and eats a cow. Sarita takes off after the kid while Don Pedro discovers that Enrique planned the stampede. (The film is sped up so that meandering steer seem to be stampeding, but actually the footage just ends up looking like the Keystone Kows.)

The kid encounters the dinosaur and dives into the swamp. The T-Rex backs off because of the mud. Sarita meets up with the kid and they haul their keesters to the abandoned house with the dino in pursuit. They all play hide and seek for a while and the dinosaur rips the roof off the house while Sarita pokes at his face with a stick. Señor Cheemy shows up with his gun and there’s lots of running around. Enrique is about to shoot Cheemy but the dinosaur roars. More running around until Cheemy rescues Enrique. The horse stumbles and the two enter a shallow cave. The dinosaur flicks its absurdly long tongue, reaches for the men, and finally grabs Enrique. Felipe and a posse partially rescue Cheemy but Cheemy runs into the swamp, ropes a branch overhead, throws a knife at the dinosaur’s snoot, and swings about, using himself as bait. The dinosaur, reaching for Cheemy, falls into the quicksand and sinks. Everyone left alive enjoys a group hug and has absolutely no final comment.

Commentary: All commentaries on this film mention the misery of never seeing the “beast” until after the first two thirds of the movie, and the idiotic tongue action of the thing. They therefore neglect to pinpoint the countless other fetid aspects of this woebegotten horse-opera.

Sarita and Monsieur Cheems exude all the chemistry of dishwater and a rock. Why was she going to marry the Enrickster? Why isn’t Don Winky concerned that his daughter is marrying a cheesy local black-market thug? Why is Cheemy so ambivalently committed to ranching in a third-world toilet? How does the ecosystem work exactly inside that “hollow mountain”? Why is drinking tequila objected to, but Pancho is killed after a few days of his new sobriety? Why does anyone try to stop that shrieking kid from getting sucked up by the swamp? Why did it take me all these years to get a copy of this movie finally? (It’s December 31, 2003.)

At least, thanks to third-rate color photography from the mid-’50s, we come away from the movie never having seen clearly any of the characters’ faces.