It Came from the ’50s: The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues

American International Pictures specialized in crap, but even for AIP, this is a bad one. The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues is among the most tedious, least interesting films I’ve ever seen. It’s a monster flick that has more dialogue than a Merchant Ivory costume drama, and all of it is inane. There’s even a spy angle that does little more than stretch out the running time and subject us to more talking. And the monster? It’s a rubber suit, but it could just as well have been a statue for all the trouble Norma Hanson, who was in the suit, had moving around. Phantom is a direct challenge to a viewer’s attention span. If there is a smartphone within reach, I defy any viewer to watch this flick without picking it up. Continue readingIt Came from the ’50s: The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues”

It Came from the ’50s: Revenge of the Creature

The folks at Universal Pictures must have been surprised when their 1954 schlock monster flick, Creature from the Black Lagoon, turned out to not only be good, but also a moneymaker. Turnaround was quicker back then, so just a year later producer William Alland and director Jack Arnold were able to premiere a sequel.

From a screenplay by Martin Berkeley, Revenge of the Creature follows another scientific expedition to the black lagoon. Nestor Paiva returns as Captain Lucas, the skipper of the boat the team takes. This sequence is brief. The creature is captured quickly and taken to the Ocean Harbor Oceanarium in Florida, to live out the rest of its days as the star attraction. Continue readingIt Came from the ’50s: Revenge of the Creature”

Giant Monstershow: King Dinosaur

One of the things we love here at Missile Test is a short running time. We praise filmmakers who are able to reign in their desire for epic grandiosity and who can tell their stories in a reasonable amount of time. Sure, we wouldn’t want Francis Ford Coppola to do any further trimming of The Godfather, but we’re still holding out hope that Paul Thomas Anderson will come to his senses and take a hacksaw to Magnolia. And then there’s shitty film auteur Bert I. Gordon’s first feature film, King Dinosaur. Continue readingGiant Monstershow: King Dinosaur”

Giant Monstershow: Tarantula

For a giant monster flick, there isn’t a whole lot of giant monster in 1955’s Tarantula, the film from director Jack Arnold and screenwriters Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley. An adaptation of a Fresco teleplay for Science Fiction Theatre, the main action in the original plot surrounded the efforts of scientists to develop a synthetic nutrient. Not happy with the progress of the experiments, the scientists tested the nutrient on themselves, with horrific results. I’m not sure of the process involved, but at some point in the mid-1950s, someone involved in the production thought, “Hey, what if we took that TV episode we made a couple of months back, and added a giant tarantula?” Continue readingGiant Monstershow: Tarantula”

Giant Monstershow: It Came from Beneath the Sea

Ray Harryhausen is a Hollywood legend. In a time of painstaking manual effects work, his skill as a stop-motion animator was in high demand for those films requiring the fantastical. But, what happened when such a talented worker was called on for a flick with only $150k in its budget?

It Came from Beneath the Sea exemplifies just about everything common in 1950’s b-monster fare. There’s a gigantic monster that was created by American nuclear testing (of course); a square-jawed hero in the form of Commander Pete Mathews of the United States Navy (Kenneth Tobey, making his second appearance in this year’s Horrorshow); a scientist-in-residence who provides useful exposition in Dr. John Carter (Donald Curtis); and a plucky love interest who challenges, but still resides in, 1950s Hollywood sexual mores in Professor Lesley Joyce (Faith Domergue). Add all these ingredients, stir in some scenes of wanton destruction and much fretting in a laboratory, and one has a monster flick. It’s as easy as that. Continue readingGiant Monstershow: It Came from Beneath the Sea”

October Hammershow: The Quatermass Xperiment, aka The Creeping Unknown

The Curse of Frankenstein may have been the first huge payoff for Hammer Film Productions after they made the transition to horror, but it was The Quatermass Xperiment (released in the United States as The Creeping Unknown) that started the company down the path to becoming a legend in the horror genre. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: The Quatermass Xperiment, aka The Creeping Unknown”