Creepy Movie Creatures of the
While “War of the Worlds” is the movie scaring
the wits out of kids in the summer of 2005, fifty years ago
kids flocked to the air conditioned relief of movie theatres
to bask in terror at the ghastly sight of “The Tarantula”
only breathing a collective sigh of relief when the creature
was finally burned to death by a napalm bomb. (Two years
earlier, in 1953, theatres had shown the original “War of
the Worlds” film, based on the tale by H.G. Wells.)
Monster and creature movies were big in the 1950’s.
With their familiar “no-it-can’t-be” beginnings to the “now
everyone believes me” endings, these films culled their
material from the 50’s preoccupation with science, space,
and the communist threat.
In the 1953 film “It Came from Outer Space” (based on
a Ray Bradbury story and with a film score by the uncredited
Henry Mancini), a couple sees a fireball that turns out to
be an alien starship. Another foray into the
creatures-from-outer-space genre, “Earth vs. the Flying
Saucers (1956), ends with ultra high-frequency weapons
saving the earth. By 1957, the teen-age horror flick was
coming of age; “Invasion of the Saucermen” begins with a
young couple parked in the woods; they run over the hand of
what turns out to be a re-generated alien.
“Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956) terrified
audiences and also warned that our bodies could be taken
over by aliens (or perhaps by alien political systems, like,
Not all creatures in 1950’s movies came from space,
however. In the Japanese film, “Rodan, the Flying Monster”
(1957), a village is overtaken by enormous caterpillars,
and, when the villagers find the caterpillars’ underground
home, they also find a monstrous flying creature sort of
like a pterodactyl. When the creature’s twin appears, the
two of them begin to destroy Japan, which is saved only by
the eruption of a volcano.
Another in the “they-came-from-under-the-ground”
movies is the 1954 entry “Them!” In this film, the nuclear
weapons tests in the desert have produced incredibly large
mutant ants. Similarly, “Godzilla” the Japanese movie from
the same year attests to the same testing resulting in a
ferocious dinosaur-like creature.
Then, of course, there was the tremendously popular,
“The Fly” (1958) starring that veritable fixture of the
horror genre, Vincent Price. In the film a scientist, who
conducts experiments on transferring matter, accidentally
replaces one of his arms as well as his head with those of a
fly. His end comes only after he’s crushed in a hydraulic
press—and eaten by a spider!
1950’s film creatures popped up in a myriad of places:
Scientists doing research on the Amazon River find what
turns out to be “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954).
The ‘50’s also gave us “Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn
Gorilla,” “The Beast of Hollow Mountain (who succumbs to
quicksand),” “Monster from the Ocean Floor,” and beasts from
many other locations.
The popularity of these creature features from the
1950’s is evident in both the ease with which we can find
them today on videotape and DVD—and in the fact that so many
directors have chosen to reincarnate them into more modern
I’m waiting for the twenty-first century version of a
personal favorite from 1958; I can’t wait to see whom
they’ll cast in the lead role of the remake of “Attack of
the 50-foot Woman.”