Sunday, August 17, 2008

Baron's Bestiary - Chapter 1

My last post’s thumbs up for monsters set my brainbox ta’jigglin’. In my day I’ve rubbed elbows with a monster or two. Times ten to the sixth. Which monsters have made my timbers the shiveriest?

Culling this down to a mere, shopworn Top 10 would be a transgression against popular culture on par with greenlighting Flavor Of Love. My knowledge on this subject is entirely too encyclopedic for that sort of brevity. I will, however, commit to ten at a time and in no particular order. This will give those of you viewing at home the chance to chime in and play along. Fun! Here are the rules:

1) The monster may come from any medium: urban legend, movies, litter-at-chore, comicbooks, anything.
2) I will accept a “villain” or “bad guy” as a monster as long as he, she or it has an unnatural element. This element may be supernatural, paranormal, extraterrestrial, cryptozoological, downright bizarre or generally freakish.
3) The monster needs to have panache, preferably in its actions as well as its attributes. The kind of monsters that lesser monsters were spun off from.
4) The first person to say Darth Vader gets rabbit-punched in the Adam’s apple.

Ready? Ding ding! Round 1!


WHY? The Big Five. The Classics. Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Mummy and this guy. Universal’s stable of monsters is arguably the most iconic in American culture and the Gill-Man stands out not only for being the only one that was not based on myth or classic literature, but for looking so damn good doing it. THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON came out over half a century ago and the character design (attributed to make-up artist Bud Westmore but actually created by Disney animator Millicent Patrick) is still superior to 90% of the monster work produced today.
TRIVIA: A CFTBL remake has been in the works since 2001, in the aftermath of the catastrophic and unexplainable success of Universal’s blockbuster turdapalooza, THE MUMMY, and may or may not be released in 2009. In this version, the Gill-Man is no longer an evolutionary throwback but the result of pharmaceutical companies tampering with nature – so there’s cliché strike one right there. The film is being directed by the son of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, Breck Eisner, whose film credits include being the son of Michael Eisner.


WHY? Because Fred Dekker’s cult classic THE MONSTER SQUAD is one of the only monster movies out there that lives up to the oxymoron of being “fun for all ages” and the magnificent detail of the Gill-Man suit, created at Stan Winston Studios by my favorite monster maker ever, Steve Wang, achieves the unenviable task of being a worthy second act to the original Gill-Man.
TRIVIA: Since THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is the only one of the aforementioned Big Five that is a strictly Universal Studios property, Dekker avoided being sued back into the Bronze Age by referring to the monster only as “the Gill-Man” throughout THE MONSTER SQUAD.


WHY? As the first zombie released from its military canister in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, Tar-Man’s glassy stare, melting flesh, spastic movements and warbling hiss cemented him in position as The Best Zombie In The History Of Ever. Tar-Man’s sequence in ROTLD should be required viewing for any filmmaker that sees CGI as a default.
TRIVIA: The Tar-Man was played to gangly perfection by professional mime and Jim Henson Company puppeteer, Allan Trautman. That means Tar-Man has had his hand up a Fraggle’s ass.


WHY? Dubbed “Lizzie” by her creator and director, horror fx legend and execrable actor Tom Savini, this cuddly bundle of snuggles helped wedge the first season of TALES FROM THE DARK SIDE into the aorta of horror fans everywhere. Shrunken, slimy and with a taste for co-eds, I can personally vouch for the nightmare-inducing qualities of that particular episode.
TRIVIA: For years I thought that Lizzie was one of the most original creature designs I had ever seen. Then I saw a copy of STRANGE TALES from October 1932.

Let this be a lesson to you all. Never throw away your old comic books. You never know when a 50 year old illustration will make you seem clever.


WHY? Creepiest. Made-for-TV movie. Ever. Kim Darby plays a young wife struggling with a schizophrenic disorder, so why would anyone believe her when a clan of tiny, furry demons that look like Edward Horton try to pull her into the fireplace? They wouldn’t. Too bad, so sad, buhbye Kim Darby.
TRIVIA: Tick tock goes the remake clock. Miramax is already helming a redux of DBAOTD that will be directed by Canadian comic book artist, Troy Nixey. Sounds iffy, huh? What if I told you Guillermo Del Toro was producing it? See that? See how it seems so awesome now? Hu-hoh yeah.


WHY? Millions love him while millions more have never heard of him. H.P. Lovecraft is at once the most influential and under-appreciated horror author I can think of. His most enduring work are the “Cthulhu Mythos,” an entire ecosystem of cross-dimensional monstrosities, complete with its own pantheon of bubbling, tentacled Elder Gods of which Cthulhu was boss. Octopus headed, toad bodied, enshrouded with rotting, leathern wings, Cthulhu was supposedly so malignant and antithetical to human existence that just dreaming of it would drive a man utterly bonkers. Lovecraft’s ability to describe the indescribable in his writing blazed a trail for dozens of writers including Robert Bloch, Ramsey Campbell and August Derleth – even Stephen King dipped his toe in Mythos with THE MIST – but ironically, this talent of Lovecraft’s may be exactly why so few of his works have been successfully translated to film. The cosmic terror of a Cthulhu is just too massive and indefinable to be captured by anything except the imagination. The most faithful film adaptation of a Lovecraft story is probably Dan O’Bannon’s THE RESURRECTED, a faithful retelling of Lovecraft’s short story THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD. And if one imagines the monster from Dean Koontz’ PHANTOMS to be Shub Niggurath (translation: Cthulhu’s slutty sister), that movie instantly gets better. We just need to keep hoping that Guillermo Del Toro still wants to do THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS after he’s done cashing all his HOBBIT checks.
TRIVIA: Despite being the most powerful of all the Elder Gods who ruled the earth millennia before the Dawn of Man, Cthulhu is perhaps best known today for playing Davy Jones in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies.


WHY? Important safety tip. If one is frequenting a gentlemen’s establishment for, say, le boobies, one should expect to hear the DJ announcing succulent moisties going by names like “Cinnamon” or “Dakota.” Safe, established stripper aliases. But if a hot toddy is telling you her name is “Santanico Pandemonium” up front, that’s a clue. Grab your sack and run.

I’ll own up to my bias. Santanico as one of the coolest monsters ever? Oh sure, reptilian snake vampiresses are way up there, but for pure monstrosity I think that both Amanda Donohoe in LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM and Jacqueline Pearce in Hammer’s THE REPTILE are far more engaging. But this one goes out to the little baron. Salma Hayek could not be hotter if she was made out of wasabi and napalm. I have never had a conversation about FROM DUSK TILL DAWN with a straight man that did not revolve around Santanico’s table dance. And I have never had a conversation about FROM DUSK TILL DAWN with a gay man.
TRIVIA: Besides this legendary appearance in FDTD, Salma also appears in Robert Rodriguez’ often overlooked bodysnatcher flick, THE FACULTY, a movie that ranks high on my roster of guilty pleasures. When you consider her willingness to work with (high profile but still) counter culture directors like Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith, while still having the chops to pull off a tour de force like FRIDA, she might well be one of Hollywood’s coolest actresses in addition to being the hottest.


“HEY! You got your bondage sex in my horror! “
“HEY! You got your horror in my bondage sex!”
“HEY!!! That’s terrific!!!”

Clive Barker and his leather-clad demon daddies did as much to open up the horizon of horror as Giger’s design for the xenomorph in ALIEN did for sci-fi. As if the burning lake wasn’t bad enough, HELLRAISER opened up our minds to the notion that eternal torment could just as easily involve fishhooks and our poop chutes. Stay in school, kids.
TRIVIA: Pinhead is considered a sex symbol in Japan. Which is why you should never have sex in Japan.


WHY? Played to megalomaniacal perfection by the irreplaceable Hans Conreid, the title character from the 1953 musical fantasy, THE 5000 FINGERS OF DR. T., is an ivory key despot imprisoning 500 young children in his impossibly fantastic piano camp gulag, where every non-piano playing musician in the world is being kept in the dungeon. Think Lex Luthor meets Liberace. Among his henchmen are a pair of rollerskating Siamese twins connected by their ZZ Topp beards. I guarantee you that Tim Burton has worn out his DVD of this film about eight times.
TRIVIA: The 5000 FINGERS OF DR.T is the only full length motion picture to be written by Dr. Seuss. You can only rhyme ‘hop’ and ‘pop’ so many times before you snap like a Kit Kat and write something entirely misanthropic.


WHY? Have you ever wondered why so many “aliens” from “different” worlds all have two legs, two arms, more often than not, a face, as well as an uncanny grasp of the English language? Buh-HOR-riiiiiiing. That’s why I love the Daleks so much. Not only are they singlemindedly genocidal, but they pull it off looking like giant pepper mills. Seriously, how menacing do you have to be to compensate for having a plunger hand. Lots menacing. And yet, the Daleks have been pulling it off in the various incarnations of DOCTOR WHO for the better part of half a century. Just last year, these villainous vibrators were voted the “scariest” of the Doctor’s villains by a poll of BBC viewers. (Now, if there was a Dentist Who, then those Brits would really be crapping their knickers.)
TRIVIA: The Daleks were created by veteran BBC production designer Raymond Cusick because a 25 year old set designer by the name of Ridley Scott turned the gig down. Too bad – that Scott kid probably could have made a name for himself if he hadn't been such a slacker.


And the Daleks make ten. A fine maiden outing, says I. I’ve already got the next ten lined up but please, try and complicate my life with your own observations.


Rose City Rudo said...

Well-ity well-ity well!

Monsters, eh? Let's see if'n de Rudo can't share some illuminating ha-has born from reading Baron's vested list of goo!

Number1- I believe the accepted term in refined company is now 'Creature from the Amazonian American Lagoon'. The Gill Man was a favorite of mine because of the biggie Universal everyone dies by strangulation monsters he was of the atomic age. Sure, a Clint Eastwood uncredited cameo in the first installment as a mouse pocketing lab assistant was nice but by the third film Uncle Gill was wearing clothes and breathing with lungs. His final demise was actually tear wrenching to my pre-teen eye.... He was changed by man's scientific hand to be more like us and to breath air,and when he finally broke free to swim back to the life he once cherished...HE DROWNED!!!
Monster Squad is great because it took its que from the AMAZING Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein: People can be funny/Monsters cannot.

Numbah2- The Tar-Man takes the average slumped, slack-jawed Zack and punched things up a few hundred spook notches doesn't he? Plus c'mon..ROTLD had Linnea Quigley's TRASH NAKED AND PALE! And those zombies were running way back in the 80s. A new Willenium british rage monkey can get bent. Send more paramedics INDEED!!!

3- Pasty Goblin....that image still makes me listen a bit harder in the dark under my covers.

Number 4- Ya know, I haven't seen DBAOTD so um, sue me OK?!! But not back to the Bronze Age.

Half-way @ Numero Cinco- Cthulu, ah the nerds just looooooove to cutsey him up these days to feel like they know something you don't. And as for H.P. himself... I heard he only LIKED crafts.HA! (I am so totally making that into a t-shirt)

Number 6- I DEFY any, ANY man or woman to display a more PERFECT female specimen of ANY genre or time period EVER captured to celluloid in this galaxy or any other! I mean seriously!!! Look at the definition in that pic from her hip to her meaty meaty thigh!!! What the le fuck?!!? Yumm. Wasabi and napalm indeed.

Lucky number 7- Ya know when Pin Head said "Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell." I friggen believed him. Man that just put everything else on its fucking side didn't it? And then to flesh out his all-star team? Shee-it.

8- Somehow I missed this one.

Number 9- wait...was the MS Gill Man seperate from the Creature from the Amazonian American Lagoon? DAMMIT!

Daleks? Yeah, I never had insomnia bad enough to watch PBS after 3am.

Chris said...

The Kraken!


without this monster you wouldn't have the gill-man or cthulhu.... or any city crushing Tokyo monster for that matter. any time you combine huge, deadly, and all powerful that can be just a few feet away from you without you knowing it you are going to have a great monster. add in the great intense taste of "out of my element" humans get while bobbing up and down the open ocean you have an epic monster.

the kraken is also a monstermakers dream. he is the rare breed of monster that has instant name recognition but whose design is only limited by the imagination.