Movies – Movie Monsters

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Machine-Made Men and Vice-Versa—the Story of the Creation of Metal Monsters in Books, Science and Movies by Jim Harmon

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The image of the man-made man, the slave creature of some unfleshy substance, has strode across the imagination of a restless world for centuries. A particular type of robot, the android, was the first creature to be called a “robot”. This was in a Czech stage play of 1920, R.U.R. (“Rossum’s Universal Robots”) by Karel Capek. Artificial men are mass-produced, sold as workers and soldiers, and eventually revolt to wipe out their creators, the standard performance of mechanical men in fic-tion. Of course, these flesh robots are not the first synthetic men in history, only the first to earn the word “robot” (from the Czech robota meaning “servitude”).

There was the tale of Tabs, a “brazen man” built by ingenious Daidalos for the Crete King, Minos. During the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, many a European alchemist constructed a head of metal which was supposed to speak great truths. (None are reliably reported to have actually worked.) Down through the years other mechanical men have included the “Steam Man” built by Dime Novel boy inventor, Frank Steade; Dorothy’s Tin Woodman companion in L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz; and a comic strip of World War One about Fritz von Blitz, an iron-headed German mechanical man.

Of course, robots got into feature-length movies early, and have stayed in focus. Fritz Lang’s classic silent Metropolis featured a metal maid of haunting beauty. The whole world was haunted by a robot from space, Gort, and his plea to mankind’s con-science for peace in one of the very best SF films, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

A few full-fledged robots have been built — from marvelously eerie 16th Century lifesize dolls to the 1939 New York World’s Fair electronic man, but a robot is only an imitation of a man.

Rod Serling, author-host of the CBS teleseries, The Twilight Zone, has presented many fascinating and intriguing flights into fantasy during the several sea-sons he has amazed millions of America’s viewing public.

One of his most widely-heralded and often discussed single plays is the terrifying little tale called Eye of the Beholder. In a wink, we see a future where a young woman, her head wrapped in bandages, is pleading with her doctors to perform plastic surgery to remold her face to normal. White-masked faces and skilled hands be-gin the incisions; and when the fateful day arrives, the bandages are unwrapped to re-veal the face of a hauntingly beautiful girl. But, in this world of the Future, everyone wears the same, hideous, grotesque face. The girl who departed from the norm was a freak too hopeless for surgery to help.

Agnes Moorehead starred in one of the most unforgettable television episodes when she appeared on Twilight Zone in the Story “The Invaders,” scripted by Richard Matheson. Miss Moorehead spoke not one single word throughout the entire tale! The character she portrayed was a woman whose lonely existence is one night shattered when she is attacked by two strange robot-like creatures from another planet. As the sole occupant of the crude farmhouse, her only problem previous to this frightening encounter had been acquiring enough food to eat. But suddenly, unexpectedly, she is forced to repel the attack of a spaceship which crashes through her roof and settles to rest up in her attic. The switch-ending—that of the spaceship and its occupants coming from Earth and not to Earth—coupled with Miss Moorehead’s accomplished dramatics caused this particular Twilight Zone episode to be one of the most talked-about in the show’s history.

 

Strange Creatures…

Look out Horror Fans! The crypt has been opened again and out of it has emerged one of the most terrifying pieces of psychological warfare ever launched against the human race, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? This is a George J. Morgan-Ray Dennis Steckler production under the able (twisted) direction of Steckler himself. Steckler has been planning this mass assault on humanity for the last few years. Gathering Gene Polock and Robert Silliphant, he had them adapt a screenplay from an original story by M. Keyke, then commissioned monster craftsman Tom Scherman to design and construct a set of special monster makeups for the film. This accomplished, Steckler set about evolving his insidious plan. Dregging the backpaths of cemeterys, he finally located a leading man, Cash Flagg who shortly showed up for shooting with his first victim, Carolyn Brandt. And soon, other faces were seen haunting the set. The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? revolves around the demented antics of a fortune teller named Estrella (Brett O’Hara). Estrella, who has more complexes than Marquis De Sade, and a face that could only lead to a foundling home, derives her kicks from pouring acid in the faces of her reluctant boyfriends.

Marge (Carolyn Brandt), a dancer at a local club, stumbles into Estrella’s tent at a sideshow for a quick peek into the future. She gets a long look at Estrella’s experiments, though. Paniced, Marge flees leaving her purse behind. Not one to miss an opportunity for playing a practical joke, Estrella devises a plan to kill Marge. With the aid of her sister Carmelite (Erina Enyo) as bait, she lures a passing stranger, Jerry (Cash Flagg) off the midway. She uses Jerry’s weak mind, and hynotism, and winds him up like a clock and sends him after Marge.

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Arriving at the nightclub. Jerry cuts into Marge’s act and also into her. He wakes the next morning with a headache and a convenient loss of memory, and later that afternoon visits his girlfriend Angie (Sharon Walsh) who he tries to strangle for an encore. But he falls miserably, and leaves. Driving in his car, he is made disturbingly aware of last night’s events through a news broadcast. He returns to Carmelita’s place to initiate his own form of the game Twenty Questions. While he is enroute another problem develops. Stella (Toni Camel), who works in the girlie show with Carmelite, pays a visit to Estrella. The seer, thinking Stella is getting wise, takes out her copy of “Medieval Tortures”.

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Into the alreadv boiling cauldron jumps our blissful young hero and bprepares to stage the last act of the Sabre Dance on Stella. Finishing his knifing practice, Jerry returns to Estrella, who throws acid in his face and puts him in with the rest of her experiments. These “experiments” can be totally qualified as “monsters”. They escape from their cage and conjure up a few sadistic pranks of their own—such as strangling Estrella. Carmerta. and a demented hunchback (Dan Russe). Ha-ing completed this, they devise a new game which they call “The Zombie Stomp”. But after a few more killings, the pollee arrive on the scene and dis-patch the monsters as well as a few paying customers. Jerry. who now has become one of the acid clan, decides his presence is no longer needed, and slips out. There is a chase sequence that comes to a finish in an hilariously happy way and our hero gets nailed.

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The Wolfman

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“Even a man who is pure in heart, And says his prayers by night, May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, And the moon is full and bright.” By day, he was a respectable young man; but by night, he prowled the land.

So goes the wooly legend of the werewolf who was in Universal Pic-tures’ classic shudder flicker, The Wolf Man. With a cast starry enough to deco-rate a Halloween sky (Evelyn Ankers, Bela Lugosi, Claude Rains, Warren Williams, Ralph Bellamy. Maria Ous-penskaya, and Lon Chancy Jr. as the canine primate) The Wolf Man went slinking about the Universal sound-stages, barking at cameramen, and whistling wolf-calls at the script girls. The Curse of the Wolf Man was upon Chaney, and the Curse of the Werewolf fell over the theatre audi-ences who yet recall the menace that prowled the cloudy mists of the moors. The hair-raiser starts tamely enough. Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) lopes home to his father’s castle after a long absence and is soon rubbing noses with his childhood sweetheart. the fair Gwen Coneliffe (Evelyn Ank-ers), now the manager of her father’s tourist snare, the local gift shop.

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Noticing a rack picketed with walk-ing sticks, young Talbot is attracted to a cane upon which is mounted a silver wolf’s head. He sniffs around after information about the unusual design of the stick, and Gwen tells him the five-pointed star represents the Sign of the Beast, and that the wolf’s head is that of a werewolf. “Old Wives’ tales,” growls Larry, purchasing the cursed cane. That night, a gypsy carnival arrives in town, and Larry, Gwen, and her girlfriend Jenny decide to take part in the frolic. While Gwen and Larry trot off by themselves, Jenny’s fortune is read by Bela (Lugosi) the Gypsy. In the girl’s trembling hand, Bela spies the Sign of Death! Suddenly, Gwen and Larry hear Jenny shriek! Young Talbot roars towards the for-tune teller’s tent and comes upon a beastly sight—a huge wolf attacking Jenny! Larry slams his silver-knobbed walking stick into the skull of the beast, finally beating the night crea-ture to death.

The next day Larry awakens to hastily explore a wolf’s head and the mark of the pentagram etched faintly on his bared chest. He recalls with a nagging, irresistible fear Gwen’s tale of the Curse of the Werewolf. That same morning, Police Inspec-tor Montford (Ralph Bellamy) whips together a search party to hunt the forest for clues to Jenny’s murderer. The villagers uncover Bela the Gyp-sy’s battered corpse—and Larry Tal-bot’s bloody cane alongside it.

Inspector Montford beats it for the Talbot mansion to question Larry. Montford, Dr. Lloyd (Warren Wil-liams), and Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains) listen attentively to Larry’s story of how he killed the canine giant that had attacked Jenny. But all insist that the wolf fangs on Larry’s chest must all be in his head; there have been no wolves in the re-gion since Larry left. The inspector believes Talbot killed Bela the Gypsy, mistaking him for a wolf during his beastial attack in the night. Larry retraces his trail to the gypsy camp the following night and talks to Bela’s mother, Maleva (played by Maria Ouspenskaya). She obligingly informs him that her son was a were-wolf, and now that Larry has been bit• ten by a wolf man, he will also feel the teeth of the curse. Talbot is disinclined to accept the fact he is a monster, but the fear grows until he Is running in circles with the thought that he may be trans-formed into a wolf in the full of the moon. His dread of the Curse reaches its summit when, by dawn, he learns of another brutal murder and finds the spoor of a wolf In his room! Larry decides that for the safety of the village people, he must leave the area. But while saying goodbye to Gwen, he reads the Mark of Death in the palm of her hand. Realizing there is not enough time to escape before the full moon rises gain, young Talbot confesses his ter-rifying tale to his father. Sir John stubbornly refuses to believe his son changes into furry beast. Sir John himself is about to join the villagers in a search for the crazed killer when Larry insists he be strapped to a chair in his room. The elder Talbot is docilely obliging, then leaves the castle for the hunt, taking his son’s wolf-headed walking stick with him. Soon the pale circle of moonlight rises full in the sky, and Larry Talbot slowly begins to change into the form of a ferocious Wolf Man in one of the most shocking scenes ever viewed on the screen! He bursts his bonds and crashes out of his room, growling his contempt at Gillette and the moon. Meanwhile, back at the branch, Gwen is searching the woods. She comes upon Maleva the Gypsy Woman sitting blandly in her wagon. Maleva tells Gwen that she should not attempt to locate Larry Talbot while the moon is full and a werewolf prowls the grounds. Paying no attention to Maleva’s irri-tating timidity, Gwen dashes further into the foggy forest. Lurking behind a tree. eyeing her every movement, is the shadowy form of the Wolf Man! Without warning, the beast lunges at Gwen! Gwen’s scream echoes through the woods, and Sir John, still with the search party, hears her cry and races wildly to her aid. He spots the Wolf Man and Gwen, and charges the creeping creature. Using his son’s cane, Sir John merci-lessly beats it upon the furry head of the werewolf, finally slaying his son. The villagers, close on Sir John’s heels, reach the scene of horror. They find the elder Talbot standing terror-stricken over the lifeless body of the Wolf Man. As they stare down at the form, the features slowly melt into the face of fun-loving Larry. The Wolf Man’s bones will be buried ‘neath the constant moon for-evermore. But … When the wolfbane blooms …

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