Image: via Wikipedia
Image: via Wikipedia
Horror fans, it’s probably fair to say, love a cheesy movie monster. And even while filmmakers are pushing the boundaries of special effects and redefining what’s possible on screen, bizarre beasties are still appearing ready to terrorize folk in camp, low-budget horror flicks like Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! and Mega Shark Versus Kolossus – both out in 2015.
However, with their handmade, slightly ramshackle charm, there’s perhaps something even more endearing about the B-movie monsters from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. Moreover, they feature in films so imaginatively ridiculous that they’ve gone on to become cult hits, celebrated as some of the “best” worst movies ever made.
Here are 20 of the funniest vintage movie creatures ever seen on screen. Think everything from dogs posing as killer shrews to a giant primeval praying mantis that is unfrozen by a volcanic event.
Image: via Raiders of the Lost Tumblr
20. Unknown Island (1948)
Director Jack Bernhard’s 1948 adventure horror Unknown Island is set in a mysterious Pacific location – one, moreover, inhabited by a number of Tyrannosaurus rex and what was probably intended to be a giant sloth but is unmistakably just an actor in a poorly customized gorilla suit. Sadly, the dinosaurs are also outfitted actors with comical-looking arms and unnaturally elongated frames. Unknown Island furthermore evidently lacked the budget to realize its over-ambitious action scenes. The movie’s final battle, in particular, is inadvertently hilarious, as the sloth and one of the stretchy Tyrannosaurus rex square off; it’s basically just a couple of dudes bashing into each other repeatedly while the protagonists watch on in what seems like a mixture of fear and sheer confusion.
Image: via Not the Baseball Pitcher
19. The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1959)
Connoisseurs of retro low-budget horror may notice that Eddie, the strange-looking sea creature from 1959 Irvin Berwick-directed film The Monster of Piedras Blancas, bears something of a resemblance to several other B-movie monsters of old. This is probably because the fiend’s creator, Jack Kevan, had previously worked on the Gill-man suit for 1954 classic Creature from the Black Lagoon as well as the creepy costumes for 1950s B-movies The Mole People and This Island Earth. And so Eddie, played by Peter Dunn, was simply made from recycled movie monster parts – specifically, the body of Gill-man, the claws of a Mole Person and the tootsies of This Island Earth’s Mutant. Hysterically, the Eddie suit also made an unlikely reappearance in 1965 Flipper episode “Flipper’s Monster.”
Image: via Narcoleptic Nautilus
18. Destination Inner Space (1966)
The creature in director Francis D. Lyon’s 1966 guilty pleasure Destination Inner Space is a gilled, anthropomorphic reptilian that would definitely struggle to make a living scaring kids today, and the movie itself boasts a host of gaffes guaranteed to elicit a chuckle or two from modern-day viewers. For example, Ron Burke’s The Thing has webbed feet that look suspiciously like snorkeling-style flippers – except in one particularly absurd scene where it’s inexplicably sporting boots – and an all-too-obviously bulging oxygen tank on its back as it moves through water. Plus, The Thing’s ridiculously large eyes allow the audience to spot the diver behind them. The movie’s cheap sets and miniatures have furthermore been written off as ludicrously lame.
Image: via Exclamation Mark
17. From Hell It Came (1957)
Director Dan Milner’s shambolic 1957 monster movie From Hell It Came sees a wronged tribesman resurrected as, of all things, a radioactive killer tree called The Tabanga. Given that bizarre premise, it’s perhaps unsurprising that this low-budget horror flick has been referred to as among the worst movies ever to see the light of day – and with arguably the worst ever B-movie monster, to boot. The utterly ridiculous murderous sapling, played by Chester Hayes, sprang once again from the imagination of Paul Blaisdell, though Hollywood’s Don Post Studios ultimately constructed the much-derided suit. Reportedly, this was done without Blaisdell’s consent – and without remuneration for his work.
Image: via Tales from the Clearance Bin
16. Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961)
Influential director Roger Corman is well known for his schlocky “no budget quickies” – of which 1961 B-movie comedy-horror Creature from the Haunted Sea may just be the epitome. The movie was written in 72 hours and filmed in Puerto Rico over a week; and given this brief time frame, it’s perhaps understandable that the Creature itself appears a little ramshackle, and then some. In fact, the monster was fashioned for $150 by double-duty actor and soundman Beach Dickerson, who said that its comical look was achieved with helmets, tennis and ping-ping balls, “a wetsuit, some moss, lots of Brillo Pads… and pipe cleaners for the claws.” It’s easy to see why the other actors found it difficult not to burst into laughter at the “joke” creature, which was played by Robert Bean.
15. Killers from Space (1954)
Surely the most jaw-dropping aspect of W. Lee Wilder’s 1954 sci-fi horror Killers from Space are the bizarre aliens’ ridiculous bulging eyes. They were “a hurry-up thing” from makeup specialist Harry Thomas, who explained, “I made the eyes out of plastic and colored them, gave them a light film for the sclera and put a hole in the middle so the actor could see.” The leading alien, Deneb – played by John Merrick – even had moving eyes, with the effect achieved by putting “another pair of eyes over the first pair and [pulling] them back and forth with strings.” Such technological wizardry.
Image: via Alien Species Wiki
14. Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957)
Featuring a group of top-heavy, veiny-headed aliens portrayed by dwarves, director Edward L. Cahn’s 1957 film Invasion of the Saucer Men is perhaps one of the best-loved low-budget alien movies of all time. Paul Blaisdell conceived the amusing aliens on the cheap, using painted Styrofoam for the eyes, stiffened rubber for the veins and fiberglass for their giant heads. It’s possibly testament to Blaisdell’s ingenuity that the aliens have since become a celebrated image within popular culture, immortalized on T-shirts and as action figures. They’ve also appeared in the intro to a 2013 episode of The Simpsons and, indeed, reportedly inspired Futurama news anchor Morbo and the aliens in 1996 comedy Mars Attacks!.
13. Robot Monster (1953)
Part gorilla suit, part diving helmet, Robot Monster’s Ro-Man is among the most ridiculous-looking aliens that ever took on Earth. But that figures. With a meager budget on the film of approximately $16,000, director Phil Tucker decided to ask his buddy George Barrows to portray Ro-Man because he possessed a gorilla costume and was willing to “work for nothing.” Robot Monster is now considered one of those movies that is so poor it’s enjoyable, yet following the release in 1953 Tucker reportedly tried to end it all after the film received – perhaps deserved – appalling reviews.
Image: via Wrong Side of the Art!
12. The She-Creature (1956)
Edward L. Cahn’s hypnotism-heavy 1956 feature The She-Creature was made with around $100,000 and boasts a monster that is a sight to behold. The She-Creature’s costume took around a month to create and is another distinctive low-budget invention from Paul Blaisdell – along with a bit of help from his wife Jackie. Blaisdell – who also played the chuckle-inducing creature on screen – cut his creation’s hands from pinewood, crafted a foam rubber body over long johns and used rhinestones for its eyes. The classic costume cropped up again in Cahn’s 1957 horror Voodoo Woman, albeit with a reworked mask and some revisions to the body.
Image: via Horror DVDs
11. The Beach Girls and the Monster (1965)
The killer sea creature’s costume in Jon Hall’s low-budget 1965 horror The Beach Girls and the Monster is about as innovative as the film’s title. Hysterically, the Gill-man-like monster is billed as a mutated, anthropomorphic fish hell-bent on killing surfers, all the while backed by a swinging soundtrack featuring Frank Sinatra Jr. However, just when it seems that the creature’s reign of terror will never end, the fiend is unmasked, à la Scooby Doo, as nothing more than a grumpy parent.
Image: via Horror Fan Zine
10. The Horror of Party Beach (1964)
Director Del Tenney’s low-budget 1964 movie The Horror of Party Beach was billed as “the first horror monster musical” featuring “weird atomic beasts who live off human blood.” Unfortunately, the film’s $60,000 budget meant that the mutants – created by Robert Verberkmoes – looked more like goofy Muppets or Fraggle Rock cast-offs than anything truly terrifying. Still, that didn’t stop theaters making moviegoers put their signatures on “fright release” waivers before entering. Amusingly, one of the suits shrank after its creation, meaning Charles Freedman, the 16-year-old son of a member of the crew, played the part of a monster.
Image: via Parlor of Horror
9. The Alligator People (1959)
Schlocky 1959 horror sci-fi The Alligator People boasts a villain who looks so ridiculous that Barney the Dinosaur would’ve been more terrifying in the role. Makeup artists Ben Nye and Dick Smith were responsible for the alligator person’s ultimately camp costume, with the funniest aspects of the ludicrously bad suit being its immovable paper mâché-looking head and tremendously dated high-waisted pants. Brazenly, the climax of the Roy Del Ruth-directed film reveals the alligator man – played in turn by both stuntman Boyd Stockman and actor Richard Crane – in all his well lit, and well-seamed, glory.
Image: via Bizarre Los Angeles
8. The Deadly Mantis (1957)
Director Nathan Juran’s 1957 Cold War allegory The Deadly Mantis has a B-movie beast that looks straight-up ridiculous. Indeed, when the mantis first awakens from its “icy bondage,” it appears more like an unthreatening puppet at a children’s party than a creature likely to inspire actual fear. The mantis’ flying scenes also need to be seen to be, well, disbelieved. Amazingly, the monster-related effects for the film were handled by the seasoned Fred Knoth, who had picked up an Oscar in 1955 and is well respected for his work on 1957 classic The Incredible Shrinking Man.
Image: via The Classic Horror Film Board
7. The Monster That Challenged the World (1957)
The beastie in 1957’s The Monster That Challenged the World is an enormous mollusk that wreaks havoc in California. Some movie fans actually hold this creature in high regard, but come on: the supposedly terrifying killer ultimately looks like a slightly irate caterpillar. The B-movie was filmed over 16 days on a shoestring budget of somewhere around $200,000, of which some $15,000 was used for the less-than-menacing monster. Augie Lohman created and oversaw operation of the 1,500-pound, ten-foot-tall fiberglass puppet that needed three people to manipulate it – which is perhaps why there are no full body shots of the monster in the film.
Image: via Monkey Pants
6. The Mole People (1956)
Set in the dimly-lit underground world of enslaved mole folk, director Virgil W. Vogel’s 1956 movie The Mole People was shot over 17 days on an estimated budget of $200,000. Jack Kevan fashioned the Mole People’s costumes using foam latex for the masks and hands, while the eyes were individually painted over curved lenses. The outfits’ humps were originally going to be made of rubber, but to cut costs the backs of the suits were simply stuffed with newspaper. Unfortunately, the paper also spilled out during the filming of the final revolt scene, forcing Vogel to shoot it again – proof, perhaps, that a movie featuring a subterranean race of mutants could, after all, get even more ridiculous.
Image: via DVD Beaver
5. The Giant Claw (1957)
Star Jeff Morrow was “never so embarrassed in [his] whole life” after seeing the bird-like marionette that passes for a monster in Fred F. Sears’ 1957 schlock-fest The Giant Claw. Funnily enough, Morrow – and, indeed, everyone else on the shoot – didn’t see the giant bird until the film’s premiere. Even the poster artists were left in the dark, meaning the creature they illustrated ended up looking nothing like the finished puppet. Supposedly, the cash-strapped producers contacted a cheap Mexican model-maker to create the creature and thus wound up with the weird Skeksis-like mutant dummy. The audience at the first showing understandably guffawed whenever the thing appeared on screen.
Image: via Dr. Macro’s High Quality Movie Scans
4. This Island Earth (1955)
Director Joseph M. Newman’s 1955 sci-fi flight of fancy This Island Earth features a bug-eyed mutant with a massive brain on the outside of its giant cabbage-shaped head. With $20,000 of the movie’s $800,000 budget allocated its way, this rubber-headed creature was designed by Milicent Patrick, built by Robert Hickman, Jack Kevan and Chris Mueller and portrayed by Regis Parton. Hilariously, the crew had such a tough time with its alien legs that they were ultimately forced to stick it in a pair of preposterous pants – adding considerably to the overall weirdness of the monster. Nevertheless, a contemporary review of the film in The New York Times praised its technical effects as “superlatively bizarre and beautiful.”
Image: via The Zoom
3. La Nave de los Monstruos/The Ship of Monsters (1960)
La Nave de los Monstruos (The Ship of Monsters) is a 1960 Mexican horror featuring a group of alien creatures that unfortunately look more like kids dressed up for Halloween. They are the homemade-seeming robo sidekick Tor, hideous-looking Martian Tagual, a Cyclops called Uk, oversized bug Utirr, and Zok, a bone creature who’s so badly designed that he’s actually carried by the rest of the costumed aliens. Interestingly, Tor’s getup had previously featured in 1958’s The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy, while Uk and Tagual’s suits reappeared in 1970’s Santo and Blue Demon Against The Monsters.
Image: via Listal
2. The Wasp Woman (1959)
Roger Corman’s 1959 cheese-fest The Wasp Woman centers around Susan Cabot’s Janice Starlin. With the movie more than a little inspired by 1958 classic The Fly, Cabot’s titular Wasp Woman amusingly has the hands and head of a wasp and the body of a normal woman – which is entirely contradictory to the image on the film’s poster. Such gaffes may have been down to the movie’s exceptionally quick and cheap production: it was shot in just 14 days on a paltry $50,000 budget. This goes some way to explaining why the ramshackle Wasp Woman costume didn’t even have a breathing hole for Cabot’s mouth and, indeed, why its antennae look like pipe cleaners.
Image: via BadMovies
1. The Killer Shrews (1959)
In director Ray Kellogg’s 1959 horror The Killer Shrews a pack of, yep, murderous shrews terrorize the stranded population of an island. The movie was actually filmed in Texas on an estimated $123,000 budget, and – rather amazingly considering the fact that Kellogg once headed up 20th Century Fox’s special effects department – close-up shots of the beasties made use of shoddy hand puppets to show the action. For the more zoomed-out takes, on the other hand, the killer shrews were actually dogs in costume. However, as unbelievable as all that sounds, perhaps the most implausible point about the film is that it somehow inspired a 2012 sequel, Return of the Killer Shrews.