Modern monster movies and creature features – unless we’re talking certain SyFy/Sci-Fi ventures – are for the most part, a denial of everything that is right with the genre. In our post-post-post modern/post-post-post ironic age, most monster movies are excessively over-the-top and self-aware, or boring as one of M. Night Shamalangadingdong’s later day travesties. At the risk of sounding like a stodgy old-timer, they did it better back in the day.
With that in mind, listed below are 4 black and white monster movies/creature features well worth your time, snark and the alcohol expenditure that is necessary when consuming such a pop culture bonbon. Come for the camp, stay for the cheese:
Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) – The titular “gill man” falls in love with a prissy woman (grossly overdressed and under-useful for an expedition into the jungle) and attempts to snatch her from the arms of her equally prissy scientist fiance (of dubious sexual orientation) on repeated occasions as said fiance gives half-hearted chase. Highlight: Imagine a paper-mached Esther Williams doing somersaults, barrel rolls and Frankenstein arms in a murky pool on a Hollywood soundstage for roughly 70 minutes and you’ll get the idea.
Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) – Bold feminist statement or misogyny cranked all the way to 11, this wacky tale follows the destructive path of a wealthy, booze-soaked woman who feels the radioactive touch of an otherworldly stranger in the desert and sets about tracking down the traitorous philanderer who broke her heart and left her for dead. Hell hath no fury like a mutant woman scorned. Highlight: That giant, lumpy hand–complete with manicure–as it reaches unsteadily into the windows of its victims. Did studios have a run on paper-mache supplies in the ’50s, or what?
Manster (1959) – Oh, eccentric Japanese scientists, laboring away in your hidden mountainside labs experimenting in ways to cure all of humankind’s ails by splicing their genetic codes with those of apes and bats – when will you learn? An entire lair filled with caged and sad-eyed malevolent genetic mutants and you still act surprised when your latest experiment tries to hump your leg off and then beat you to death with it. Highlight: The target of the scientist’s greatest folly is an American newspaper man whose employer routinely sends him around the world to cover interesting events while footing the bill for the finest rooms, food, booze and ass money can buy, all while covering for him with the wife/fiance/incapable-female-whatever back home. When it becomes clear the journo protagonist has gone off the deep-end and has fallen off the radar, rather than chalk it up to one less pink slip to fill out this year, his editor flies halfway around the world to come to his rescue.
Zontar: The Thing from Venus (1966) – Affable space invader propaganda stressing the dangers of having a big imagination, a sense of curiosity and a lack of respect for authority (as demonstrated by spitting in the eye of nature by having an improbably hot wife when you are clearly a “brain”). A socially retarded scientist engages in clandestine satellite signal convos with Zontar, inadvertently inviting the Venusian warlord to decimate the planet, one yokel at a time. Highlight: All the intergalactic flirting unleashes a swarm–OK, swarm is a bit generous; a handful–of tiny robotic flying creatures to do Zontar’s bidding, namely rendering the dullard townsfolk into slightly more animated zombies with a mind-controlling micro-chip implanting bite to the neck. Members of the little army fly and attack actors in captivating 180 degree arcs, almost as if attached to an off-camera stick by fishing line.