The Shape of Horror

The Creature Walks Among Us is the unceremonious end of the classic Universal monster movies. A three decade long rollercoaster that ranges from top-notch horror to slap dash B movies. The Creature Walks Among Us falls comfortably in the latter category. The Creature from the Black Lagoon trilogy was completed in 3 years, but only Revenge of the Creature retained the quality of the original. Director Jack Arnold moved on to better films and Universal-International wasn’t concerned with quality. The Gill-Man is once again alive and pursued by another team of scientists.

I’m pretty sure underwater scenes with the Creature are reused since he only directly interacts with other characters once. Don Megowan replaces the previous land actor, but Ricou Browning consistently swam throughout the entire trilogy. New characters are even more shallow in comparison to the original. Jeff Morrow plays paranoid scientist Dr. William Barton who has the crazy idea to bridge the gap between human and fish. Rex Reason is the more reasonable scientist Dr. Thomas Morgan. 

Leigh Snowden is the latest beautiful blonde Marcia. She’s Barton’s carefree wife with an infidelity subplot given more attention than the monster. Gregg Palmer continually makes passes at Marcia as guide Jed Grant. The Creature is forever ruined by a procedure that makes him more human. A lazy decision that replaces his intricate scales with clothes and a cheap rubber mask. It’s so ridiculous that I couldn’t take him attempting to fit into society seriously. The air breathing Gill-Man is last seen heading for the water, never to be seen again. The Creature Walks Among Us was dead in the water.

36. The Creature Walks Among Us

The Creature walking among us

Preceded by: Revenge of the Creature

All Wrapped Up

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy is just not as funny as the comedy duo’s previous monster encounters. Not including Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello have met all other Universal-International owned monsters including, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man, and the Invisible Man. They even managed to meet the Creature from the Black Lagoon in some capacity.

Since the Mummy is the weakest franchise, it only made sense for Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy to follow in its slow moving footsteps. The production feels bigger than the many low budget sequels, but it’s mostly a bunch of Egyptian jokes and barely any mummy. Abbott and Costello don’t even bother changing their names. They play bumbling archeologists who get wrapped up in a mummy’s curse. Kharis is replaced by Eddie Parker as Klaris, though attention is given to a medallion that can find the treasure of Princess Ara.

Costello finding the monster before Abbott has gotten as tired as some of their other gags, but they still made me laugh. The exotic Marie Windsor plays another woman who seduces Costello. Madame Rontru searches for the treasure along with Klaris’ follower Semu and several other unfortunate characters. The plot goes in several directions and is a little over complicated for a comedy involving the Mummy. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy lays to rest an iconic comedy double act.

35. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy

Costello awakens the Mummy

Preceded by: Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man

Back from the Depths

Revenge of the Creature gave the Gill-Man a second chance at love. Creature from the Black Lagoon proved to be another hit monster franchise in the making for Universal-International. Since Revenge of the Creature was released a year later, the quality is just as good with Jack Arnold returning as director and continuing to shoot in 3D. Revenge of the Creature does feel more like a B movie, but the underwater action is still impressive. Luckily the Gill-Man suit was also kept intact.

Tom Hennesy replaces the original land actor, but Ricou Browning continues to swim through many forms of water. Revenge of the Creature is even more like King Kong with the Creature being taken into captivity after a more capable expedition finds him alive in the Amazon. Nestor Paiva plays the only returning character Captain Lucas. Replacement actors are practically the same as who came before. Except for a quick cameo from Clint Eastwood in his very first film role.

John Agar plays hunky animal psychologist Professor Clete Ferguson, John Bromfield plays his bitter love rival Joe Hayes, and the beautiful blonde Lori Nelson plays ichthyology major Helen Dobson. She’s probably the smartest heroine in any Universal monster movie, but she’s still the object of the Creature’s undying affection. A change in venue at least keeps the sequel from fully repeating itself. The Ocean Harbor Oceanarium studies the Gill-Man and puts him on display until he goes on a harmless rampage. He tries to flee with Helen, but his fate is the same as it was before. Revenge of the Creature kept a steady current.

34. Revenge of the Creature

The Creature attacks Clete Ferguson

Preceded by: Creature from the Black Lagoon & Followed by: The Creature Walks Among Us

Gill-Man

Creature from the Black Lagoon explores the terror of the deep. Although Universal-International was slowly phasing out their monster movies, there was still time for one more. Even in 1954 when color was slowly starting to take over. Creature from the Black Lagoon is another original idea based on myth. A half-man, half-fish sea monster was too unique to ignore. My brother and I knew we needed to watch Creature from the Black Lagoon, but most of our viewings were on TV. Science fiction director Jack Arnold shot the film in widescreen with early 3D effects. Black & white is put to effective use with otherworldly underwater cinematography. Everything shot underwater is impressive for the 1950’s.

Creature from the Black Lagoon is different from other monster movies since it begins at creation. The Gill-Man is a million year old Devonian amphibious humanoid lost to time. His iconic appearance consists of armored scales, webbed hands, and sharp claws. The Creature also possesses superhuman strength and can survive on land for a short period of time. The amphibian makeup is especially impressive when worn underwater. Ben Chapman creates a menacing monster on land, while stuntman Ricou Browning makes him a majestic swimmer. A small but memorable cast elevates the movie further. A team of scientists are assembled for an expedition in the Amazon. The hispanic Antonio Moreno plays Dr. Carl Maia, the leader of the expedition who found a fossil belonging to the Creature’s race.

Richard Carlson plays hunky ichthyologist Dr. David Reed. Richard Denning plays David’s slightly unhinged love rival Dr. Mark Williams, the hispanic Nestor Paiva plays the hardened Rita boat Captain Lucas, and Whit Bissell plays the unfortunate Dr. Edwin Thompson. They all provoke the Gill-Man into picking them off one by one, but the real star of the movie is the beautiful Julie Adams as fellow scientist Kay Lawrence. Much like Beauty and the Beast or King Kong, the Creature is immediately drawn to her. The most iconic shot is Kay and the Creature swimming in tandem. Kay fears the monster, but it’s easy to sympathize with him. Marilyn Monroe, Guillermo del Toro, and I all agree that the Creature deserved to be loved. Rather than shot dead in its own territory. Creature from the Black Lagoon pulled another classic creation out of the water.

33. Creature from the Black Lagoon

The Creature carries Kay

Followed by: Revenge of the Creature

What Am I Laughing At?

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man brings the laughs without showing a thing. Turns out the Invisible Man’s cameo at the end of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was more than just a quick gag. It led to a whole slew of crossovers between Universal-International monsters and the comedic duo. Although I didn’t see Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man initially. Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are now bumbling detectives named Bud Alexander and Lou Francis. The story is more small scale with only one monster, but the jokes are just as good before he shows up. The Invisible Man is now a boxer named Tommy Nelson played by Arthur Franz.

The original Invisible Man, Jack Griffin is directly referenced with a portrait of Claude Rains. The invisible transformation is played straight with the expected fear of insanity. Nancy Guild plays Tommy’s sweetheart Helen and Gavin Muir plays her scientist father who holds the formula. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man is mostly a more comedic version of The Invisible Man Returns. It follows a murder mystery that the framed Tommy tries to investigate while invisible. The special effects are up to the usual standard. The jokes come out of Lou reacting to nothing and Bud remaining unconvinced.

There’s even a running gag where several people go to a shrink after witnessing the Invisible Man. Bud and Lou go undercover in a boxing ring to help clear Tommy’s name. Lou reluctantly pretends to be a boxer with Tommy secretly throwing his punches. Boots Marsden played by the lovely Adele Jergens seduces Lou as an accomplice to the real murderers. They catch the crook, but a botched blood transfusion turns Lou invisible in the silliest way possible. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man gave invisibility one last shot in the limelight.

32. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man

The Invisible Man joins Bud and Lou

Preceded by: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein & Followed by: Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy

Imaginary Rabbit

Harvey has to be seen to be appreciated. I’ve seen many James Stewart classics, but nothing is as unique as Harvey. Based on the 1944 play, Harvey tells the peculiar tale of a man who sees an invisible over 6ft. tall white rabbit. My only knowledge of the imaginary rabbit was from references in either Who Framed Roger Rabbit or The Simpsons. I wondered how an entire movie could be centered on an unseen character, but Harvey was far more delightful than I was expecting.

Stewart is effortlessly likeable as the charming Elwood P. Dowd. Aside from frequent drinking, his only problem is how crazy he seems walking and talking with Harvey. Harvey remains unseen throughout, but we do get a quick glimpse in a portrait. Stewart was nominated for his performance, although it’s Josephine Hull who most deserved her Oscar win for playing Dowd’s sister Veta. She’s high-strung and humorous, but Veta is first to suggest committing her brother to a sanitarium. Even though she claims to have seen Harvey as well.

Much like the play it’s based on, each character plays an important role no matter how small. There’s Veta’s neutral daughter Myrtle Mae, a judge caught in the middle, a rough around the edges orderly, will they or won’t they sanitarium workers, and their boss Dr. Chumley who begins to see Harvey himself. Although Harvey is described as a somewhat sinister sounding pooka, you can’t help but root for Dowd’s friendship as he spreads kindness wherever he goes. Harvey is a classic with an invisible friend we all could use.

Harvey

Elwood P. Dowd with a portrait of Harvey

On the Fly

Return of the Fly is the cheap follow up to the 1958 classic The Fly. Despite being released only a year after the original, Return of the Fly is in black & white. It’s a little more atmospheric that way, but the B movie feel hasn’t gone away. Return of the Fly is essentially a copy and paste of the first movie with a more unknown cast. Horror legend Vincent Price is the only actor who gives the sequel any credibility.

The most obvious way to continue the story is to have André’s son Phillippe pick up where his scientist father left off. Philippe’s mother is dead, but his Uncle François is still around. Most of the movie is just Philippe rebuilding his father’s matter transporter and testing it out. Without the mystery angle, it takes about an hour to see the half-human half-fly again. So a criminal assistant trying to steal his work is added. There’s still a romance, but that’s not given much attention.

The only mildly disturbing addition is a police detective becoming a half-hamster hybrid. Other than that, Philippe becomes a fly exactly the same as the first movie. Except that his giant fly head looks just as goofy as the human head superimposed on a fly body. Another difference is having the human body run away, while the fly body is easy to capture. It’s also less clear whether the fly is a monster or not. Although there’s a much happier ending, Return of the Fly is too derivative to fly on its own.

2. Return of the Fly

Philippe strangles Alan

Preceded by: The Fly & Followed by: Curse of the Fly

Help Me!

The Fly is part monster movie, part tragic romance. Although initially written off as a cheesy B movie, the original 1958 The Fly is deeper than most. I was always curious about the movie, but I only ever saw the most iconic scene at the very end. The Fly refers to a scientist who turns himself into a half-human half-fly hybrid after inventing a way to transport matter. A particularly hilarious Simpsons parody was my only exposure to the concept. The idea came from a French short story, yet the movie takes place in Canada. Despite being released in the 50’s, The Fly is in color.

People may think Vincent Price is the fly, but he’s actually the brother. Even though I already knew the twist, The Fly is presented as an old fashioned murder mystery. Price is François, brother of scientist André who was killed in a hydraulic press. He investigates the case alongside an Inspector played by Robert Marshall. The true star of the picture is Patricia Owens as loving housewife Hélène. They think she’s mad, but her fly obsession is explained in an extended flashback.

Unknown actor David Hedison is the titular fly since his face is covered for most of the movie. The reveal is still pretty shocking with a convincing fly head and arm. Hélène, her housekeeper, and son Philippe desperately search for a fly with a white head that isn’t revealed until the very end. The most disturbing moment is the fly stuck in a spider’s web screaming “Help me!” Things end tragically for the fly, but it’s a happy ending for everyone else. The Fly is an inventive way to tell a monster story.

1. The Fly 1958

André caresses his wife Hélène

Followed by: Return of the Fly

Big Girls Don’t Cry

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman turned a beast into a beauty. Although The Amazing Colossal Man and its sequel War of the Colossal Beast have been mostly forgotten, the gender swapped Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is a well known cult classic. I dare call it my personal favorite 1950’s B movie. I’d been wanting to see it for years. The idea of a 50 foot scantily clad woman going on a rampage was much more appealing to me. Hence why Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is so bad that it’s good.

It’s far more silly compared to other size changing movies. Since most women in 50’s movies never had any serious problems to deal with. Nancy Archer is wealthy, but dealing with mental distress and a drinking problem. Made worse by her sleazy husband Harry cheating on her with a floozy named Honey. They plot to take Nancy out of the picture, but a giant alien in a UFO does that for them. More time is spent on either Harry’s scheme or the police investigating Nancy’s claim.

Nancy finally becoming a giantess doesn’t disappoint. She’s definitely one of the sexiest monsters of all time, thanks to busty model Allison Hayes playing the part. A laughable paper mache hand is used for close up shots and some truly terrible compositing effects are used when she walks around. The only convincing shots are in miniature sets. Nancy’s only goal is to take out her cheating husband “Harry!” He very noticeably becomes a doll when she finds him. Neither survive, but I wasn’t expecting them to. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman speaks for itself.

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

Nancy Archer disrupts a power line

This Man, this Monster

War of the Colossal Beast continues the tragic tale of “The Amazing Colossal Man.” It’s a fitting title since former Lt. Colonel Glenn Manning is now more beast than man. Manning grunts like a monster and has a freakish half skull disfigurement as a result of his fall from the Boulder Dam. Eternal growth is no longer an issue since the giant syringe kept him at 60 feet. The makeup is disturbing even for a 1950’s B movie, but it was likely done to hide the fact that he was a different actor.

None of the original cast returns for War of the Colossal Beast. You’d swear it wasn’t a sequel if they didn’t reuse a large chunk of the first movie in an extended flashback. Despite claiming to have no family, Manning’s sister Joyce replaces his fiancée Carol as the most personally concerned party. A mysterious accident in Mexico slowly reveals Manning’s monstrous presence. The military tries to reach the man within, but Manning has completely lost his mind at this point.

The Colossal Beast rampages through Los Angeles and very nearly destroys a bus full of kids. The miniature sets and special effects are just as iffy as before. His sister reaches his humanity, but Manning’s fate is sealed by a nearby power line. Although entirely black & white, color is briefly used for the electrocution. War of the Colossal Beast is more tragic fun that gave Mystery Science Theater 3000 even more to mock.

War of the Colossal Beast

Glenn Manning electrocutes himself

Preceded by: The Amazing Colossal Man