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Eegah! Classic movie with Richard Kiel and Marilyn Manning

Updated on January 17, 2017
Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy writes about family, home life, parenting, money-saving tips, and many other topics, as well as essays and occasional humor pieces

Remember the neighborhood drive-in theater?

Drive-in movies were a mainstay of mid-century entertainment in the 1900s.
Drive-in movies were a mainstay of mid-century entertainment in the 1900s.

Eegah! A grade-B movie that has become a cult classic

I was a lucky kid - I went to the drive-in movie almost weekly! My dad worked full-time at a regular job, but also worked as a projectionist at local movie venues during the summer. He usually worked at drive-in movies, because they were seasonal and he didn't want to keep those hours all year long.

A small benefit we got from his job, though, was that we could get into the movie anytime we wanted to for free. He would often take one of us with him for the evening - frequently it was me, since I was the oldest and could go to the snack bar by myself and stay up the late hours it took to run the last double-feature film before we could go home.

As a result of this cultural exposure during the 50s and 60s, I saw almost every B-grade movie that ever came out during those years. Once in a while, the drive-in showed something worthwhile, such as the umpteenth release of Gone With the Wind, but usually these were movies you wouldn't see in first-run houses.

Here's a little review of the absolute worst movie I remember seeing. And the night I actually met the star, in person!

Richard Kiel played the main character in Eegah!

Lettering from original Eegah! movie
Lettering from original Eegah! movie
Richard Kiel as Eegah!
Richard Kiel as Eegah!

Eegah! So bad it's almost good. Almost, but not quite

Eegah! was released in 1962, and was billed as a horror movie. The only real horror about it was that anyone who ever read the script had the nerve to fund and produce it. The premise of the movie is that a giant caveman has appeared in a nearby desert (close to Hollywood, of course, to allow ample excuses for bleached blonds in skimpy bathing suits to be worked into improbable scenes, all of which were created to provide settings for the swimwear shots).

Roxy Miller (played by Marilyn Manning), first spots the main character, Eegah, while driving on a remote highway. She tells her boyfriend, Tom Nelson (Arch Hall, Jr.) as well as her father, Robert Miller (Arch Hall, Sr.) about spotting the gigantic man. Since her father is a writer, he takes an interest in seeing the giant in person. During the next several scenes, Dad goes into the desert and his helicopter return-trip doesn't show, so Roxy and Tom go to retrieve him.

The character Roxy is typical of the overly made-up, teased-hair female leads of the grade-B movie era. As such, Marilyn Manning is suitable for that role, which should be all you need to know about her acting ability and looks. The casting of Arch Hall Jr. as Tom, however, appears to be based more on nepotism than on talent (not, mind you, that talent was a factor in any part of this production). There is little to recommend him for the part, neither in acting ability, nor in looks. Dad Miller (Arch's father) is a somewhat better actor and a bit easier on the eyes, but of course he wasn't cast as the romantic lead.

Which gets us back to Eegah, played by the truly gigantic Richard Kiel. As you've probably guessed, Eegah develops a huge crush on Roxy. How can this be? Where does he get a chance to court her? Don't ask silly questions; I already told you this film was from the waning years of the Golden Era of Hokey Sci-Fi Films.

Love Scene Between Richard Kiel and Marilyn Manning

Roxy and Eegah getting cozy in the cave.
Roxy and Eegah getting cozy in the cave.

Richard Kiel's classic role in Eegah!

Back to the desert. As Tom, Roxy and her dad continue to discuss how and where to locate the hapless creature, Roxy at one point indignantly tells the two men, "He's MY giant!" You can see where this is going.

Perhaps the best known line in the film (although I am fond of Roxy's line, above) is uttered by Arch Hall, Sr., who shouts, "Watch out for snakes!" during the desert scene, although there is no visual support or plot element requiring his cautionary remark.

Despite the vastness of the empty desert, and the vast inadequacies of the equally empty plot, they actually locate Eegah, who eventually kidnaps Roxy and, in true caveman style, hauls her off to his lair. Dad shows up, and seeing that Eegah is getting a little amorous, literally suggests to his own daughter that she lead Eegah along for a while to prevent the giant from killing them. Although nothing sexual happens (it's a movie designed for a family audience, apparently) Roxy shaves the man.

We aren't told how she convinced a creature who had never seen another human and therefore wouldn't have known about razors and shaving to allow a frightened young woman near his neck with a sharp object. We also aren't told why Roxy (or the screenwriters) thought a good shave was just the thing to address the presumably life-threatening situation and she and her father were in. As for why Loving Dad wanted to encourage a prehistoric liaison, I don't even want to go there.

Arch Hall and Marilyn Manning also starred in the movie

Actress Marilyn Manning as Roxy in Eegah!
Actress Marilyn Manning as Roxy in Eegah!
Actor Arch Hall, Jr. as Tom in Eegah!
Actor Arch Hall, Jr. as Tom in Eegah!

Unrequited love: Eegah dies, and a cult film is born

The rest of the movie is, predictably, a series of weakly scripted and plot-less scenes involving gratuitous shots of girls in bathing suits at a pool party and very pathetic singing by Arch Hall Jr. (possibly the only thing in the film bad enough to eclipses his dreadful acting) interspersed with Eegah! chasing the woman he loves.

Richard Kiel's acting, primarily consisting of grunts, lunges and other caveman sound effects is no worse or better than that of Marilyn Manning or either of the Arch Halls in the film. He was obviously typecast for his incredible size. Arch Hall Jr., however, was cast only through the efforts of his father, who backed the film in order to create a starring role for his son and aspired for him to rival Elvis in his music career. Not.

In an effort, I guess, to put the swimming pool scene to use at the end of the film, it creates the setting for Eegah's death. He is left floating in the pool's water, and the audience is left to go look for anti-acids at the snack bar.

The Halls (junior and senior) hoped to achieve fame for Eegah!, and they got their wish. It has a firm spot in various listings of the worst movies ever created. The line, "Watch out for snakes!" became an inside joke on Mystery Science Theater (a Comedy Central production), and fans adored the incredible awfulness of the film. It is still found on TV now and then (rarely, though) and you can get it on Roku through the Drive-in Movie channel.

From a technical standpoint, the film has all the quality of a home movie. The sound is poorly engineered, with either too much noise or the complete lack of ambient noise that signifies post-production dubbing to get rid of bad audio takes. Visually, it is grainy, with the overdone oranges and yellows that marked many low-budget films of the era. Arch Hall Jr's singing is dubbed in with slightly better sound quality (they undoubtedly used a real recording studio for that part, in anticipation of his imminent stardom), but he goes flat, both musically and as an entertainer.

In short, the films has everything bad you want to love about an awful movie.

Richard Kiel (1939-2014), in happier times, and in real clothes

Actor Richard Kiel was beloved by many people.
Actor Richard Kiel was beloved by many people.

How I met Richard Kiel, who played Eegah!

I danced The Twist with Eegah! Yes, really!

Back to the drive-in movie.

One night my dad asked if I'd like to meet a movie star; he was showing Eegah! that week, and Richard Kiel, poor guy, was making a publicity tour to help promote the film. The fact that the producers would spend money to send someone to a not-that-great drive-in theater in Columbus, Ohio to generate a fan base for the movie should be an indication of how desperate they were. Drive-ins could hold maybe a few hundred cars, and patrons usually spent intermission time(which was used for this sort of Star Appearance opportunity) standing in long lines at the restrooms or fighting the crowd in the snack bar to get some greasy popcorn and a watered-down soft drink before the next feature.

I don't know where RIchard Kiel was before the intermission break, but as soon as the cartoons and trailers came on, my dad announced an invitation over the PA system for everyone to come to the snack bar area and meet the real Eegah in person. The projection booth was right in front of the snack bar, so all I had to do was get out of the car and walk behind it a few feet. And there he was!

He was indeed a giant. I was told he was 7'2" tall, but sources say he was a half-inch shorter than that. He was dressed in his caveman outfit (can you imagine touring the country and greeting the public in a loincloth? Wait - don't answer that).

For some odd reason, it was decided Eegah needed to do The Twist (I can't recall if there was a handler with him, or what), and since I was one of the first people to get to him, he paired up with me and started dancing to the music. Well, I'd seen The Twist on TV, and there wasn't much to it, so even though I was just a kid, I went along with it and began dancing. Then he 'got into character' and acted as though he wanted to haul me off to his cave, at which point I ran off in fear.

Of course, there was nothing to fear. By all accounts, Richard Kiel was considered a nice guy. Born in 1939, his career managed to escape the abyss that Eegah! may have sent it to, and became known as "Jaws" in 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me (a James Bond film), as well as several other more credible movies and TV productions. He passed away from a heart attack, in September of 2014.

To me, he will always be remembered as Eegah!

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  • Kristen Howe profile image

    Kristen Howe 23 months ago from Northeast Ohio

    Oh wow. I had never heard of him. I bet my mom did, before she passed away last year. When like they say, it's an oldie but a goodie, even if it boomed in the box office. Anytime, Marcy.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 23 months ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, Kristen - it's a fun memory from my childhood. The movie was indeed a flop, but it's one of those failures that creates a following simply because it's so bad! I remember my dad pointing out continuity issues in various scenes, and of course the plot was absurd. Richard Kiel was a dear man, I believe - and he passed away only recently.

  • Kristen Howe profile image

    Kristen Howe 23 months ago from Northeast Ohio

    Marcy, I'm not a horror movie fan. It sounded like it was flop with that god-awful movie title. Talk about originality. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Voted up for interesting!

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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Lol!

  • bethperry profile image

    bethperry 4 years ago from Tennesee

    Marcy, yeah it would :) And I sure will!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, Beth - wouldn't it be fun to have a retro jingle event of some sort, with the "Let's All Go to the Lobby" tune, and things like "Brusha-Brusha-Brusha," (Ipana Toothpaste) and other songs we remember? Let me know if you get a chance to see Eegah! and what you think of it!

  • bethperry profile image

    bethperry 4 years ago from Tennesee

    Marcy, so intriguing! Not long back I compiled a list of the worst movies I've sat through but I haven't seen this one so now I'll definitely have to, lol!

    Oh, and that "Let's go to the lobby" jingle, I remember that at drive-ins! Wow. We used to substitute the word "doobie" for "lobby" but cough, cough, we were young then. ;)

    Good Hub, voting up!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Lisa - Oh, I remember that awful movie! I had expected so much more from Jack Lemmon, and I think I just never 'clicked' with Sandy Dennis in any movie. It was overly stupid, and tried too hard to be funny.

    Thanks for reading and commenting - all I can say about Eegah! is that it was a bit worse than "The Out of Towners," but I totally agree that one was truly bad.

  • Lisa HW profile image

    Lisa HW 4 years ago from Massachusetts

    I loved the drive-in movies (although haven't heard of this movie before). One of the worst movies I've ever seen was at the drive-in, when I saw "Out of Towners" (Jack Lemon, Sandy Dennis. My friends and I sat there in stunned boredom, very much regretting having put our money together in order to see this "gem". Fun Hub.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Oh, yes - the ripped speaker cord! Not that the sound quality was that great on them. It usually did more damage to the car, I think, than the speaker. Then, of course, people had to drive around looking for a spot where there was still a speaker, and check it to see if the reception was good. My dad had a stack of scratchy 45rpm records he played before the movie started and during intermission (a nearly forgotten tradition in American entertainment and junk food history).

    After the movie, he would sometimes drive around and wake up the people who had fallen asleep in their cars, partly so they wouldn't get disoriented and drive off with the speaker still attached when the sun came up.

    I love the old clips of the dancing food! I've never learned whether the one in Grease is a true vintage clip, or if they recreated it. It's a bit suggestive for the drive-in era, bur not out of the question. Sure has the right look and feel.

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

    Remember people driving off with that huge speaker still hanging from their driver's side window? Keerruunnnch, ripppp! Uh oh. We never did that.

    We also brought our own Windex to wash the windshield before the film for our viewing pleasure! I remember my Dad telling us not to look into people's cars when escorting us to the restroom at the snack bar. It was make out central.

    Let's all go to the lobby... and the dancing food. Aaahhhh. Good times.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Oh gosh, yes - the little playground area! I'd nearly forgotten that part! We only went up there now and then, since there was plenty of fun stuff to mess with in the projection booth. It sure was a lifesaver for parnts, though, to have a place where kids could blow off steam and then crash during the second feature.

    Remember sitting on the hood of the car and leaning back on the windshield? Or turning the station wagon backwards so the kids could lie down and watch from the back while the parents sat next to the car in lawn chairs (swatting mosquitoes)?

    I saw a documentary-sorta thing not long after I wrote this that listed the 50 worst movies ever. I'm proud to say I've seen #2 on the list - Eegah!

    Thanks for the great memories, Peg!

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

    Eegah, eegads! Boy this was funny. As I read, I kept thinking that Richard Kiel was Jaws and sure enough, he was.

    We also went to the drive in movies nearly every weekend when it was $1.00 per car night. We actually cooked our own hamburgers and wrapped them in tin foil (aluminum) and popped our own popcorn. The only thing we would purchase was one of those "snake" mosquito rings that fogged up the car. Probably the best part was lying on top of the station wagon on blankets to watch the movie or maybe it was the small amusement park up at the front were we could play before the film started. Good one, Marcy.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Ardie - I guess I was a bit lucky in some ways, with the drive-in movie fringe-benefit we had. We certainly couldn't have afforded frequent movies without having my dad's part-time position there. We did see some fairly decent movies - but oh, the bad ones were beyond bad! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Ardie profile image

    Sondra 5 years ago from Neverland

    Marcy how funny! Im jealous you got to spend so much time at the drive-in. We were sorta...you know...dirt poor when I was younger so a trip to the drive-in was a very special treat. However I am not jealous of the movie you got to see heheh

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thank for your fun comments, Sparklea! I'm glad there's no video of that little event, by the way. I've heard of The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes - I need to see if it's on the Drive-in Movie channel.

    Thanks, also, for the kind birthday wishes! Yes, it was a nice day!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Ah, yes - the mosquitoes. I remember them well -that annoying, high-pitched whine you could hear as they nose-dived for another bite. We had zillions of them in Ohio, but I tend to forget that part of it. We have very few in Austin, due to our bat colony. Love those bats!

    Thanks for commenting, Bigpayno - you brought back yet more drive-in memories!

  • Sparklea profile image

    Sparklea 5 years ago from Upstate New York

    Marcy, Happy Birthday! Hope it was wonderful to celebrate the day of your birth!

    I watched the trailer and I was in hysterics! THANK YOU for posting it! I wish you had a video of you doing the twist with the actor! THAT I would love to see!

    If you get a chance, there's a movie that one of my former supervisors told me was the all time worst movie ever made, and you may want to check it out: The Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes! Look it up. I rented it, and my husband and I invited another couple over to see it. They hated it so much and were so mad at me for putting them through it. I could not stop laughing! Talk about stupid! Had to share that with you. Never heard of Eegah, so I received an education today. THANK YOU for a tremendous, entertaining hub~ Voted up, interesting and ?useful? :) Blessings, Sparklea

  • Bigpayno profile image

    Bigpayno 5 years ago from Indianapolis, Indiana

    I loved drive in movies as a teenager...until the movie started. The atmosphere is great, but once the movie started, there were mosquitoes eating you alive and I rolled the windows up, the windows would steam up because I didn't have AC in my car. I still went all the time though :) The one in my hometown in MI is still open so we go every once in a while when I make it back up there. It's much better now with a new car with AC :)

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    That cartoon is so typical of the artwork in the originals. I don't know if it's one of the real ones used back then, but it sure has the look and feel.

  • FloraBreenRobison profile image

    FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

    Yes, I saw it in Grease. I've seen that movie several times.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Oh, yes - the Lobby Jingle! I remember that! Did you ever see the cartoon version of it in Grease? It's hilarious. Thanks for reading and commenting, Flora!

  • FloraBreenRobison profile image

    FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

    What a treat to meet Richard Kiel in person and dance with him! I know him from Bond films and other roles. He was a lot of fun to watch as Jaws in the Bond films.

    I wish I had a chance to watch a drive-in-movie -any drive in movie. But I'm the wrong age for drive-in theatres to be plentiful and and living in the wrong location for the few remaining drive-in theatres.

    There was an old phrase in ads during the hey-day of drive-in movies although I think it played in all theatres. I know it through Mom:

    "Let's all go to the lobby,

    Let's all go to the lobby.

    let's all go to the lobby.

    and have ourselves a treat.

    And have ourselves a treat

    and have ourselves a treat

    let's all go to the lobby

    Let's all go to the lobby

    Let's all go to the lobby

    And have ourselves a treat."

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, homesteadbound! It was a nice little adventure to meet Richard Kiel, and it's a fun kid memory. I've met one or two other celebs here and there, and you just gave me an idea for another hub - thank you!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Ha! I know what you mean, cclitgirl! I am always thrilled when I stumble on a movie that's memorable, well done and beautifully performed! Thanks for your comments!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, drbj - I'm glad you liked the hub! I'm also glad you remember Richard Kiel without the pain of having to remember this dreadful movie as well. Thanks for your comments!

  • homesteadbound profile image

    Cindy Murdoch 5 years ago from Texas

    I have never heard of this movie, but I did not go to too many movies as a child. The first real movie I remember seeing I was 13-14 years of age. I think it would have been neat to meet a "real" actor though, even if it was Eegah!

  • cclitgirl profile image

    Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

    Eegah? After reading this, I'm glad I haven't heard of it. Lol. Okay, the stupidest movies I've ever seen are things like "Dumb and Dumber" or those 80s ski movies with no plot or...actually, sadly, I've seen quite a few of them. Are they making more "dumb" movies, or do I frequently have serious lapses in judgement? :D Whatever the case may be, I might have to rent "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" or "Dances With Wolves" to restore my confidence in high-caliber movies. Hehe.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

    This was fun to read, Marcy, I remember well the days, I mean nights, of the drive-in movies. Never saw 'Eegah' but Richard Kiel is always terrific - whether as Jaws in the Bond movies, 'Moonraker' and 'The Spy Who Loved Me," or Adam Sandler's boss in 'Happy Gilmore,' or the dim-wittted convict in 'The Longest Yard,' with Burt Reynolds,' or the traitor in 'Force Ten from Navorone,' plus many others. Kiel also produced a film in which he starred: 'The Giant of Thunder Mountain.' Thanks for this funny review of a 'memorable' film.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks for the birthday wishes, Cogerson - I had a very busy and pleasant weekend! Please don't add any visuals if you share the idea of me as a kid doing the Twist with this guy! I've read that he isn't getting around that well now. Sad to hear - he was in dozens of movies and TV shows. I appreciate your comments!

  • Cogerson profile image

    Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

    First of all....I hope you had a wonderful birthday yesterday. Secondly...I loved reading this hub. Wow pictured you doing the twist with him is a classic moment. I actually watched the trailer....that looks like a pretty horrible movie. I was glad to see Kiel looking so young and moving so well....he does not work anymore because he has a very hard time moving around these days. Thanks for sharing this story...it was very interesting and funny....and I will be sharing this link as well.

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