The high age of sci-fi cinema is both a honorable tale that modern creators are happy to refer to and draw inspiration from, and a target for good-natured ridicule. Bringing the future to the big screen was difficult sixty or seventy years ago, especially without the budget or technological skills required to create a whole new world.
In 1933, before the enforcement of the dreaded Hayes Code the following year, RKO Radio Pictures released the groundbreaking horror masterpiece, King Kong. The effect of this giant ape extended far beyond the city he was trying to destroy. Giant monster movies became one of the most enduring subgenres of science fiction and horror cinema, but their heyday was in the ’50s and ’60s. These are some of the best monster designs from that era.
Even though King Kong was the catalyst for the monster movie boom of that era, this towering turtle owes its existence to the other king of monsters. In 1965, Daiei Film, now known as Kadokawa Daiei Studios, needed an answer to Ishiro Honda’s groundbreaking 1954 Kaiju film Gojira. Her first attempt failed due to on-set safety issues, but her second attempt succeeded Gamera, the giant monster.
There have been 12 Gamera films, but the first is the only one to hit the big screen in the United States. The beauty of Gamera’s design is more complex than its initial appearance. He’s a giant two-legged turtle with tusks and clawed hands. He breathes fire similar to how Godzilla emits radioactive lasers, but his abilities go beyond that. Gamera can retract his body into his shell and emit his fire breath to fly and spin through the sky like a Beyblade at fighter jet speed. Gamera is a unique and interesting design with some great screen moments, and it deserves more than just being considered an off-brand Godzilla.
Largely overshadowed by his 1988 remake, Irvin Yeaworth’s 1958 work was one of the most influential science fiction horror films of its time. The blob of the same name is a limbless mass of nonspecific sticky matter that eats any living thing it comes in contact with. It first appears a dull shade of red, but becomes a brighter crimson as it consumes humans. This little aspect is a clever, slightly subversive embrace of blood, which was then forbidden by the Hayes Code.
the blob is influential both as a monster and as a film; There are countless iterations of the all-consuming goo that have sprung from this work. From the countercultural recording The stuff to more comedic takes like Yahtzee Croshaws jam, the blob was a seminal moment for the genre.
Ymir – 20 million miles to earth
No list of movie monsters would be complete without the work of Ray Harryhausen. This 1957 sci-fi horror epic was created with the express purpose of showing off the master’s stop-motion animation work. Although the beast does not have an official name in the film, it was referred to as The Giant Ymir in the original pitch.
Ymir is a type of towering gillman with a long serpentine tail and protruding fangs. Its unique sound was created by accelerating elephant sounds. While the movie built around the monster isn’t particularly special, the monster itself moves with an otherworldly gait that has made it iconic. Ymir isn’t the most well-known movie monster, but it is one of the best-crafted beasts of its time.
The Molluscs – The monster that challenged the world
This era was dominated by animals made massive; Every other entry in this genre has been a big version of an animal that people see every day. Despite its absolutely outstanding title The monster that challenged the world is such a movie. Its key threats are referred to as molluscs, but the central one is a 10-foot long millipede animal.
While not exactly creative, this life-size animal comes to life in motion. Unlike many films of the era, this creature was not brought to the screen with a miniature. Instead, this towering insect is a model that thrashes and bites with awkward force thanks to solid practical effects. It’s not a new idea, but it’s executed so well that this mollusc stands out from many other giant insects of the era.
The creeping eye – The Trollenberg Terror
This 1958 science fiction horror film was first released under the name The creeping eye, after its central fright. The plot is about a dense, unexplained fog that hides a nightmarish creature. The creature in question is a disgusting mass of flesh marked with a single eye and moving through a swarm of writhing tentacles.
For 1958 it’s really off-putting. The film didn’t have the budget to hog too much time on the beast, but when it does appear it’s a deeply uncomfortable sight to behold. This film, like other prominent figures of the era, is better known for the episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 made of it, but fans of ’50s monster movies should seek both.
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