Thursday, March 29, 2012

Movie Monsters! An A to Z Appreciation

The Andromeda Strain - Yes, they're the littlest "monsters" on this list, but let's not forget they wiped out a whole town. It could have been the world if not for the Project Wildfire team.

The Brainiac sticks out its tongue.
The Brainiac - Baron Vitelius can suck brains out of his victims with a long forked tongue. Yuck! A Mexican horror cult classic.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon - The Gill Man was popular enough to earn two sequels, Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us. Yeah, I felt a little sympathy for him, but he brought on his own problems with his infatuation with Julia Adams.

Dracula - Sorry, Twilight and True Blood fans, Drac is still the most famous vampire. Lugosi has his fans, but I think Christopher Lee--complete with dripping fangs and bloodshoot eyes--was the definitive Count.

Eegah! - I know what you're thinking...he was just a good-natured caveman with a crush. But he did scare a lot of people and, let's be frank, the movie was kinda know, the fact that it was made.

Frogs - Honestly, I can't remember if the frogs actually killed anyone in this Ray Milland pic about nature taking revenge on a group of humans for destroying the local ecology. At a minimum, though, the frogs were the masterminds behind the whole attack.

Godzilla - The big guy was certainly the most influential monster of the 1950s. Through the decades, he evolved from a destructive bad guy to Earth-saving superhero (Monster Zero) to caring father (Son of Godzilla). Honorable mention: The Graboids in Tremors.

The H-Man - The obvious choice for the letter "H," but it's too hard to resist listing this unique Japanese film noir/horror film.

The Invisible Man - With his bandage-wrapped head and sunglasses, the Invisible Man was (ironically) one of the most visually disturbing Universal monsters of the 1930s. The sequels were pretty good, too, and that includes the very funny Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man.

Jabberwocky - Terry Gilliam's medieval black comedy was an all-around flop when initially released. After Brazil and 12 Monkeys, it became a cult classic--but not because of the title creature.

King Kong - Despite all the technological advances in special effects, watching Willis O'Brien's stop-motion giant ape is still a treat. Why? Because he infused Kong with such a remarkable personality (ditto for Little Kong in the rarely-shown sequel).

Big bunnies!
Lepus - Little bunnies aren't scary at all. Not until they grow into rampaging giants that terrorize Janet Leigh in Night of the Lepus.

Mothra - I know...she was a good monster! But she was a giant caterpillar that destroyed cities and their she still fits the definition of a monster. Plus, her popularity has spanned over five decades.

Naschy, Paul - Have you watched too many European dubbed horror films from the 1970s? If so, you know Spanish actor Naschy, who may have starred in more horror films than any other performer. He was most famous for playing a werewolf in a long-running series.

Octopus - Sure, giant squids were all the rage for years with memorable supporting performances in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Reap the Wild Wind. All that changed with this 1977 Italian film. It was pretty bad, but it starred Henry Fonda, Shelley Winters, John Huston, and--in a starring role--a giant octopus.

Pterodactyl - They have appeared in numerous sci fi films, but I most admire the one that carried off Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C.

Q - The Winged Serpent - If your name was Quetzalcoatl, your friends would probably call you Q, too. Larry Cohen's 1982 low-budget, tongue-in-cheek horror tale featured an Aztec god--in the form of a dragon-like creature--terrorizing the residents of New York City.

Reptilicus - Quick, name a Danish film about a giant winged reptile that's totally unrelated to Q? Oh, you already knew about Reptilicus? You are so smart!

Shrews (of The Killer Shrews variety) - It was produced by and co-starred Festus (aka Ken Curtis) from Gunsmoke. That's enough to make this list...but it was creative, too. Killer shrews? Who would've thunk?

Tarantula - Leo G. Carroll as a mad scientist plus a giant, hairy spider and--if that's not enough--John Agar as the hero! 

The Uninvited - Hey, what's that smell? It's the scent of mimosa in my favorite ghost movie--which features good and bad spirits from beyond.

The Valley of Gwangi - Ray Harryhausen's Gwangi wasn't the first pairing of cowboys and dinosaurs (that dubious honor belongs to The Beast of Hollow Mountain). Still, the dinos looked James Franciscus as a rodeo star. Honorable mention: Vermithrax, my all-time favorite dragon who made a splash in Dragonslayer.

Winged Monkeys from The Wizard of Oz - Not monsters, you say? I thought they were incredibly creepy little creatures.

X the Unknown - Maybe it did look like a big glowing glob (not technically a Blob) when finally revealed....but X the Unknown somehow got Dean Jagger, Leo McKern (Rumpole of the Bailey), and Anthony Newley in the same film!

The Ymir...after he grew up.
Ymir - Ray Harryhausen's Venusian creature from 20 Million Years to Earth started little, got big, and wound up with a showcase in the Rome Colosseum. What a show-off!

Zontar: The Thing from Venus - Sure, he had a cool name, but Zontar was not the Earth-friendly alien he initially seemed to be. Yes, you guessed it...his goal was to conquer the world!


  1. Love the monsters, Rick! You've got some good ones in there -- my favorite has to be the Ymir. He really creeped me out as a kid. But I felt sorry for him too. Invisible Man -- great film tricks. Night of the Lepus -- too funny. They may be big and have fangs, but bunnies are just too cute. Creature from the Black Lagoon also a real favorite -- very creepy when he swims upside down underneath Julie Adam! A couple of my favorites are Talos from Jason and the Argonauts, those dumb worms from Squirm (what can a bunch of worms actually do to you?), and of course, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (see worms from Squirm). Fun post, Rick.

  2. Interesting choices. I disagree with "N" though: Nosferatu!

  3. Ridiculously fun list, Rick. First of all, I totally agree that Christopher Lee was the best Dracula ever and is more memorable than Bela, even sans a Hungarian accent. Nosferatu, as Kim said, is a great choice for "N," but I appreciate your mention of the underrated but always fun Paul Naschy. Other faves in your list are Q (Larry Cohen made some of the best films!), Godzilla (who doesn't love this guy, even when he's destroying cities?), X THE UNKNOWN (three cheers for Hammer Films!), and the dogs... I'm sorry, I mean the shrews in THE KILLER SHREWS. Rick, your A-to-Z lists are always fun, but this may be your best one yet!

  4. You've given me a whole list of movies to check out now :) I LOVE horror films, especially old and campy ones.

  5. Becky, the SQUIRM worms and the KILLER TOMATOES (two sequels and a cartoon series!) are excellent additions. My wife suggested Talos, but I didn't want to focus too much on Harryhausen. Kim, my wife suggested NOSFERATU as well! I omitted it because I already listed DRACULA and Murnau's film is considered an authorized variation on Stoker's novel. Speaking of silent films, can't believe I didn't include THE GOLEM! Sark, Paul Naschy (aka Jacinto Molina Alvarez) deserved some recognition for his prolific horror film career. Your comment on the killer shrews made me laugh. Emmy, I'm with you--I love all horror pictures, even the campy ones!

  6. Just returned from a little trip to this delightful post on movie monsters! I was thinking how Toho really dominates in the G category with Godzilla, Gammera, and Ghidora. The Winged Monkeys were indeed quite frightening from "The Wizard of Oz" because they lifted up the Tin Man and dropped him hard and caused the Scarecrow to fall apart all over the place, not to mention carting off Dorothy and Toto to the Wicked Witch's Castle. I was delighted to see you include them!

  7. Fun post! I saw Frogs as a kid, on the late, late, show-we kids had fun viewing it. I would have to put Frankenstein down for F though, if I was making a list. Tivoed The H-Man and X the Unknown recently as they were on TCM, now I plan on sitting down tonight and viewing them. Tentacles was a truly awful movie, and another example of filmmakers trying to make money off of the popularity of Jaws. Glad the Shrews made your list-another fun one to watch. :)

  8. Great A to Z list of classic movie monsters, Rick! We all love the classic monsters, especially Ray Harryhausen's creatures and Godzilla and Mothra here at Team Bartilucci H.Q., because in addition to being cool monsters, we always find ourselves sympathizing with the critters. I'm also a fan of the original INVISIBLE MAN. But I must admit thrillers like THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (though it's not on your list) creep me out the most, because they're killers from within; you can't just smack a microbe over the head to kill it! Excellent post, Rick, as always!

  9. Lepus is a montster movie ? Surely you jest. The film was a complete joke. You've covered some good film, but this one is a complete dud. There must be other worthy candidates for the letter "L". The only monster in that film is the person who had the idea for the film.

  10. I vote for "beast from the haunted cave". Stupidest premise and most cheaply done monster practically ever, but the combination of a slow buildup and the fact that it would feed on its victims while they were trapped struggling and screaming seriously creeped me out as a kid and gave me 3 weeks of nightmares.