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10 Great Creature Features
From giant tarantulas and gorillas to mysterious creatures from the ocean's depths and outer space, monster movies always give us a good scare. Here's ten of the greats, from 1933's King Kong, to 1975's Jaws, all the way to the newest Large-Scale Aggressor, 2008's Cloverfield. Check these big bad beasties out!
King Kong (1933)
A Monster of Creation's Dawn Breaks Loose in Our World Today!
Synopsis: When attempting to film a movie on a mysterious island located in the Indian Ocean, star Ann Darrow is kidnapped by the natives and prepared as a sacrifice to King Kong, a huge gorilla-like creature that lives on the island. While rescuing Ann, the crew manages to subdue and capture King Kong, bringing him back to New York City. But while on display, all hell breaks loose when the beast breaks free of his chains and recaptures Ann.
Cast: Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, and Bruce Cabot
About the Creature: There were four King Kong were built for filming; two 18" aluminum jointed models, one 24" aluminum model, and a smaller model made of led and fur. The lips, brows and nose were fashioned of rubber, with glass eyes, and the models were covered in rabbit fur to simulate gorilla fur.
A bust consisting of the head, neck, and upper chest was constructed of wood, cloth, rubber and bearskin, with 10" fangs and 12" eyeballs. If the bust had been made into a full model, it would have stood over 30-40 feet tall. Two versions of King Kong's hand were created, one for when King Kong grabs at Driscoll in the cave and the other, which had articulated fingers, was used in several scenes in which King Kong grasps Ann.
King Kong (1933)
Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)
Centuries of passion pent up in his savage heart!
Synopsis: During a scientific expedition along the Amazon, a research team is mysteriously killed. While looking to find the cause, the creature is discovered when it falls for Kay Lawrence. After escaping capture, the Gill-man abducts Kay and takes her to his lair...
Cast: Richard Carlson, Julia Adams, Richard Denning, and Antonio Moreno
About the Creature: For more than 50 years makeup artist Bud Westmore would receive credit for creating the creature, but in truth it was Disney animator Millicent Patrick whose design had received final approval. Jack Kevan created the bodysuit and Chris Mueller, Jr. sculpted the head.
Actor Ben Chapman played the creature during the land scenes, forcing him to spend most of his time cooling off in the back lot lake, as the he wore the suit for 14 hours a day and it easily overheated. The headpiece constricted his vision, causing him to scrape Julie Adam's head on the wall while he carried her during the grotto scenes.
The underwater scenes of the creature were filmed in Wakulla Springs, FL, with Ricou Browning in the creature suite.
Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)
Incredible, unstoppable titan of terror!
Synopsis: After several ships are destroyed, the Japanese authorities try to discover the cause. A nighttime attack on Odo Island leads to an expedition that reveals the cause to be a 164 foot tall monster the natives call Gojira. Soon Gojira is attacking Tokyo. Will he be stopped or will he go on a world-wide rampage?
Cast: Akira Takarada, Momoko Kōchi, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura, Haruo Nakajima, and Katsumi Tezuka
About the Creature: Gojira is better known as Godzilla in the United States. The mutated dinosaur was originally supposed to be a stop-motion animated model but the method proved too time consuming and costly to be used. So a stuntman in a suit was used. This prove difficult as well, as the suit was made to move in and overheated easily, requiring the suit to have a valve to drain the sweat from it. The stuntman suffered frequent bouts of exhaustion and dehydration during filming.
There are roughly 30 feature films that involve Godzilla, either fighting against another monster opponent or helping another monster battle yet another monster.
Science's Deadliest Accident
Synopsis: Working on a project to create a special nutrient to was a predicted food shortage, professor Gerald Deemer has had moderate success. When an unauthorized trial of his nutrient results in a researcher being driven mad, the lab is half destroyed and a Mexican red rumpled tarantula is injected, causing it to grow uncontrollably. Now ravaging the countryside, what can stop this eight-legged terror?
Cast: John Agar, Mara Corday, and Leo G. Carroll
About the Creature: Real tarantulas were used to create the title creature, except for shots involving close-ups which used a model, which resulted in a more convincing monster.
Air jets were used to make the tarantulas move over a miniature landscape.
The Blob (1958)
The indestructible creature! Bloated with the blood of its victims!
Synopsis: When a meteorite descends from the sky it brings along a creature from another planet. The landing witnessed by a teenage couple, they try to warn the residents, but the jelly-like Blob goes on a rampage, engulfing victims and growing rapidly in mass. What can possibly stop the seemingly unstoppable creature?
Cast: Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Earl Rowe, and Olin Howland
About the Creature: Originally the creature was titled "the Glob" but the film makers believed they couldn't use the name as it was already in use, so they changed it to "the Blob".
The actual Blob was made from modified weather balloons in early shots, and later out of silicone gel. Every time it "consumed" another person, red vegetable dye was added to it. Movie collector Wes Shank purchased it in 1965, and keeps it in the original five-gallon pail it was shipped to the production company in back in 1958.
The Blob (1958)
The Fly (1958)
Once it was human... even as you and I!
Synopsis: Set in Montreal, wealthy scientist and inventor Andre Delambre has created a successful matter transporter. After a few unusual results, he tests the transporter on himself. The consequences are tragic, as his atoms have been merged with that of a common housefly. Enlisting his wife Helene to help him, the two try to reverse the experiment but fail, resulting in Andre's death and Helene facing murder charges.
Cast: Vincent Price, David Hedison, Patricia Owens, Herbert Marshall, Kathleen Freeman, Betty Lou Gerson, and Charles Herbert
About the Creature: Actor David Hedison donned the makeup and prosthetics to portray the fly-creature his character became, not a stuntman. Actress Patricia Owens wasn't allowed to see the fly-creature until filming the "unmasking" scene, as she has a real fear of insects and director Kurt Neumann wanted to capitalize on this.
The Fly (1958)
You'll never go in the water again!
Synopsis: A great white shark some 30 feet in long begins to terrorize a tiny New England island town during the summer. After a female swimmer and a young boy are killed, the police chief, a shark expert, and a shark hunter go after the beast.
Cast: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Lorraine Gary, and Murray Hamilton
About the Creature: There were three mechanical sharks created for filming; all were named "Bruce", after Spielberg's lawyer, Bruce Raimer. One share was a full version for underwater filming. The other two were camera-left and camera-right, with opposite flanks uncovered exposing the internal mechanisms.
After being tested in a pool, the sharks were shipped to Martha's Vineyard, MA. The salt water of the Atlantic played havoc with the mechanical controls, causing them to frequently malfunction and corrode. This caused filming delays and ultimately forced Spielberg to rethink the use of the shark, creating a much "scarier" film, where the audience rarely sees the shark.
In 2010, a fourth model of Bruce was recovered from a Sun Valley junkyard, where it had been dumped after hanging at the entrance of the Universal Studios Theme Park until 1990.
In space no one can hear you scream.
Synopsis: After receiving distress call transmission while headed back to Earth, the crew of a mining ship discover the eggs of a parasitic alien creature, who subsequently returns with them to their ship. As crew members begin to die one by one, it is up to the survivors to stop the alien from returning with them to Earth.
Cast: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, and Yaphet Kotto
About the Creature: The design of the alien was created by Swiss surrealist artist H.R. Giger. Giger then sculpted the creature's body while Carlo Rambaldi sculpted the head. Nigerian design student Bolaji Badejo portrayed the alien while wearing a latex costume constructed to fit his 7' 2" body. Badejo studied mine and tai chi to create convincing movements for the alien. For some scenes, stuntmen Eddie Powell and Roy Scammell also portrayed the creature.
The original alien suit was sold at auction in 2007 and Rambaldi's original Alien jaw is housed in the Smithsonian Institution.
Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
Le Pacte des loups
Synopsis: Based on the legend of the Beast of Gévaudan, the story gained notoriety for having killed over 100 people in a stretch of three years. The province of Gévaudan receives an envoy from the king of France, sent to investigate and hopefully capture the beast. Along the way, Grégoire de Fronsac and his Iroquois companion Mani, discover there is more to the beast and uncover a secret society that created it.
Cast: Samuel Le Bihan, Vincent Cassel, Émilie Dequenne, Monica Bellucci, Jérémie Renier, and Mark Dacascos
About the Creature: The legend of the beast of Gévaudan states that the creature was anything from an over-sized wolf to a werewolf, and possibly sent as punishment from God. Attacks were first reported in 1764 all the way up until 1945. The film took liberties to create a different explanation for the wolf-like creature that was terrorizing Gévaudan, involving a different animal. (But telling you what animal would spoil the film.)
Le Pacte des loups (2001)
Something Has Found Us
Synopsis: The film is presented as footage recovered from a digital camcorder from an area "formerly known as Central Park", of a case designated by the United States Department of Defense as "Cloverfield". The footage reveals the incidents starting from the evening of May 22nd through early May 23rd, following Rob Hawkins, Beth McIntyre, Hud Platt, Jason Hawkins, Lily, and Marlena Diamond as an unknown creature attacks the island of Manhattan.
Cast: Michael Stahl-David, T. J. Miller, Jessica Lucas, Odette Yustman, Lizzy Caplan, and Mike Vogel
About the Creature: Producer J.J. Abrams initially created the idea of the "Cloverfield" monster during a trip to Japan. He was inspired by Godzilla and other Japanese "monster" movies. Working with artist Neville Page, they created a creature of unknown origin who was awakened and emerged from the sea suffering "separation anxiety", standing 25 stories tall and seemingly resilient to every weapon thrown at it.
The creature was rendered in CGI by Tippett Studio.
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