This isn’t W. Lee Wilder’s first film in this year’s Horrorshow, but I am getting sick of him in a way I never did with Bert I. Gordon during last year’s Horrorshow. Wilder’s films are no less tedious than Gordon’s, but unlike Gordon, Wilder showed no progress as a filmmaker. His films, in fact, seemed to grow more resistant to artistic growth with every one he made, and he still had eight more feature films to go before he called it quits.
The Snow Creature is an abominable snowman flick from 1954. Paul Langton plays botanist Dr. Frank Parrish, and Leslie Denison plays photographer and adventurer Peter Wells. The two of them lead a small expedition to the Himalayas to gather and study unknown plant species. With them are a Sherpa guide, Subra (Teru Shimada), and a group of porters.
One may notice that ‘Teru Shimada’ is not a Nepalese or Chinese name. It’s Japanese. In fact, all the Sherpas in this film were played by Japanese actors. They even speak their lines in Japanese. I wouldn’t categorize this as shitty filmmaking, but it’s definitely cheap, and perhaps lazy. I don’t imagine there were a whole lot of Sherpas available for a Hollywood casting call in the 1950s, but there has to be a better solution than just subbing one group of Asians for another and not caring if anyone notices. Continue reading “It Came from the ’50s: The Snow Creature”
This one is a classic. From 1954 comes Creature from the Black Lagoon. It’s the story of a newly-discovered species of humanoid fish and man’s efforts to hunt it down and kill it.
Directed by Jack Arnold from a screenplay by Harry Essex and Arthur A. Ross, Creature follows a small scientific expedition that sets off up the Amazon River in search of fossils.
The exhibition began at the behest of Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno), a geologist who discovered the fossilized remains of a hybrid fish/humanlike appendage. It’s a revolutionary scientific discovery. Maia needs support, however, to search for any further remains. He finds that support in Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning) and Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson), a pair of ichthyologists. Joining them on the expedition are another scientist, Dr. Edwin Thompson (Whit Bissell); Reeds’ assistant/fiancé Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams); boat skipper Captain Lucas (Nestor Paiva); and a gaggle of fodder for the monster. Continue reading “It Came from the ’50s: Creature from the Black Lagoon”
There’s something that must be gotten out of the way before getting to the review proper. This film features an early scene with an Air Force jet flying around. Its call sign is “Tar Baby 2.” Yep. Tar baby is one of those terms that the people who use it insist is not racist. But, come on. It’s a very evocative term. I bet it was evocative in 1954, when this film was released, as well. Whatever the context and whatever the time, hearing it will make a modern viewer’s head turn, and is yet another surprise look into grandpa’s casual bigotry that these old flicks provide. Anyway…
Killers from Space is producer/director W. Lee Wilder’s follow-up to the terrible Phantom from Space. At least this flick doesn’t have the FCC driving around trying to save humanity. In this flick, that responsibility falls to Peter Graves, as Dr. Douglas Martin. He’s on the aforementioned racism jet as it circles a nuclear test in Nevada. All of a sudden, the plane crashes. Martin is given up for dead, but later he comes stumbling into town in a tattered flight suit. Continue reading “It Came from the ’50s: Killers from Space”
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms may have established the formula by which 1950s American giant monster flicks operated (nuclear test + ordinary creature = giant monster), but it was 1954’s Them! that first did it well.
Gojira is a very serious film. To watch it is to glimpse how grievously Japan was traumatized by World War II. Released only nine years after the end of the war, the film is heavy on imagery meant to invoke memories of the destruction that swept Japan’s cities. The origins of the monster Gojira are a pricking of the wounds left over from the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the firebomings that destroyed almost all large Japanese cities. What we see in this film is a generation of people still trying to cope with events from a decade past. At times, in scenes that take place in overflowing hospital wards or on streets where characters are surveying the devastation, I was struck by the realization that these people on screen were drawing from their own memories in their portrayals. Continue reading “The Empty Balcony: Gojira & Godzilla, King of the Monsters!”