Attack of the Giant Monsters in Movies from the Fifties (Part One: Insects)

[This was a preface to a book I never finished on Godzilla]

As far as giant monster movies go, if you were to ask what there was a lot of in the fifties, I would say, “That”. As far as poorly-constructed topic sentences go, I would say that I began this paragraph with one. Is this meta enough for you?

Not every animal makes an effective giant monster; fortunately, very few producers cared about that. There were more concerned with not duplicating monsters. And, why not? One movie about giant shrews pretty much answers all the questions a viewer might have about giant shrews. A sequel would be unnecessary. A prequel might be interesting; however, one could simply make the prequel first, then, pass on making the other two movies. Another tactic might be to film all three movies, overexpose the film, remove the sound and play the five-hour result at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art as an example of expressionism…

These monster movies can be divided into three categories; however, they’ll just reunite themselves back into a single category the minute your back is turned, so what is the point? The three categories that I have chosen are: Insect, Mammal and WTF.

Let us start with insects:

Insects give some people the creeps. Producers figured that, if the insects were made many times larger, they’d either give some people more creeps or a lot more people the same amount of creeps. Please note that not all these monsters are technically insects; and, I will note that you are not a petty nit-picking pill…

Them: A movie about giant ants. No one would’ve gone to see it if they called it Ants or Big Ol’ Ants or Attack of the Plus Sized Ants. The title Them adds a dash of mystery where the viewer is completely ignorant of what the monster will be until the exact time he first spots the movie poster outside the theater. It is a well-behaved movie, with both a scientist and a scientist’s daughter (who is also a scientist). Bonus: James Arness and Fess Parker are in this movie…although you may know them as Mat Dillon and Daniel Boone…

The Black Scorpion: If a thousand monkeys sat at a thousand typewriters for a thousand years, they might eventually become bored enough to prefer seeing this movie over their own wretched existence. It wouldn’t have been such a bad movie, except the special effects modeler, the man who created the giant insects, has probably never seen an insect in real life. A scorpion with a human face? A worm with arms? A spider with six legs? Eventually, the big scorpion kills all the other scorpion and that scorpion, in turn, killed with an electric harpoon…

Tarantula: Again, not an insect and not radioactive. This movie is so forgettable that simply having it on in the background will wipe out the memory of anything that happens to you during the movie. It has a scientist but no scientist’s daughter. Instead, there is a young woman so void of sexual impulse that she might just as well be the scientist’s daughter…or everyone’s daughter for that matter. Bonus: Mr. Drysdale from The Beverly Hillbillies is in this movie as well as Clint Eastwood…although you won’t remember anyway. The tarantula is ultimately killed with napalm…

The Deadly Mantis: Insect, but not radioactive. Accidentally thawed. Goes on rampage. Killed by guns and grenades…so…sleepy…

Attack of the Giant Leeches: Normal-sized leeches can only drink so much before they burst or ask for the check please. The only real threat is if a leech develops bulimia, then it can drink and purge until it drains you dry; happily, body-image isn’t that important to segmented worms. Ah, but GIANT leeches can gorge on a person until there is nothing left but hair, skin and good intentions. In this movie, victims are dragged to a cave to be drained. A few well-placed sticks of dynamite and the leeches are trapped until they become somebody else’s problem…

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