The streets of Monster Island are littered with the broken dreams of wannabe giant movie monsters who gave it a hefty shot, but crashed and burned as only a movie monster can…
Thanks to fleeting B-movie fame, these towering, tottering creatures were, for the most part, consigned to one glorious moment in the radioactive sun and then cast away to an ignoble and unintentionally comical end.
Oh sure, it looked glamorous enough, what with the easy money and all the humans they could eat. But show biz is brutal. Even if you’re 500 feet tall, Hollywood can crush dreams like, well, a movie monster can crush an army tank…
So what became of these great cinematic beasts? Where are they today? Much like the movies they starred in, the answers ain’t always pretty…
MONSTER: The Crawling Eye
MOVIE: The Crawling Eye (1958; aka The Trollenberg Terror)
QUICK BACKGROUND: A big slimy eye the size of a Buick, it hails from outer space, slithers through the Swiss mountains in a radioactive cloud, scares the cheese right out of the locals, and looks fairly disgusting as these things go.
WHERE IS HE TODAY? Now blind, thanks to diabetes, the Crawling Eye has lived for decades in a rundown, inner-city apartment in Oklahoma, and spends its days fighting off its own seeing-eye dog. “It’s always trying to walk me into oncoming traffic or lunging after me so it can tear off my retina,” the Eye laments. “At least I think it’s my retina, I dunno, I can’t see a thing. My life sucks.”
MONSTER: The Ymir
MOVIE: Twenty Million Miles To Earth (1957)
QUICK BACKGROUND: A creature from Venus is brought to Earth by a group of astronauts led by leading man William Hopper. The Ymir begins life at less than a foot in height, but the Earth’s atmosphere causes him to grow to outlandish proportions. Peaceful unless roused, the creature visits Rome, where he goes on a rampage, and is finally shot off the Coliseum. Clearly, it had been roused.
WHERE IS HE TODAY? Living in a retirement home for movie monsters. Though suffering from osteoporosis, the Ymir is surprisingly spry and upbeat. The only sore spot in his show biz background is his brief but busy sex fling with co-star William Hopper’s mother, the rampageous gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, who terrorized Hollywood with her muckraking column, took bloodthirsty delight in naming suspected communists, and demanded that America’s movie monsters conduct themselves in a “decent, respectable” fashion or she’d ruin their careers.
“She was a way more aggressive monster than I ever was,” the Ymir says while flicking his tail and sipping on a glass of pink champagne. “And a total hypocrite. There were rules for everyone but her. She was a pothead. Pill-happy, too, and she slept with every movie monster in Hollywood and Japan. She and I were pretty hot and heavy for a while, and then, blam! She tossed me aside and wrote a column saying I was a flaming homo and a commie. Bitch. Suffice it to say there was no Twenty Million Miles to Earth sequel.”
MOVIE: Reptilicus (1961)
QUICK BACKGROUND: A gigantic flying serpent who starred in a (cheap) Danish film (no lie, a cheap Danish film). Copenhagen is the target city of destruction as Reptilicus does his giant reptile terror shtick.
WHERE IS HE TODAY? After the movie’s release, Reptilicus wrote a soft-core paperback novelization of the film that sold briskly. A sample: “She stood still momentarily, letting him look at her perfect breasts…in a matter of seconds his clothes were strewn all over the room…” From there he moved into writing, directing, and starring in his own self-produced pornographic films. “I never looked back,” he boasts proudly. “Unless, of course, I had to in one of my movies. Ha, ha!”
MOVIE: Konga (1961)
QUICK BACKGROUND: A deranged scientist uses an evolutionary serum from a rare African plant to transform a little monkey into a King Kong knockoff, which then proceeds to terrorize London , scaring the bangers and mash right out of the locals. After dying in a hail of bullets in front of Big Ben, Konga reverts back to chimp form.
WHERE IS HE TODAY? Still in chimp form to this very day, Konga is currently a mild-mannered primate living in a small flat in suburbanLondon. Always wearing a bowler hat and carrying a snazzy black umbrella, the chimp is polite but guarded about his movie past. When bribed with a bunch of bananas, he tells the usual movie monster litany of woe: poor wages, draconian working conditions, and abusive producers who took sadistic pleasure in making him cry. He now just wants to be left alone, to carry on using his opposable thumb, and to blend in as a regular Englishman. No easy feat, considering that success at this demands that he shave himself 15 times a day.
MONSTER: The Rhedosaurus
MOVIE: The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
QUICK BACKGROUND: The Rhedosaurus is a prehistoric monster that is awakened by an atomic blast and makes its way from the arctic wastelands to the Brooklyn wastelands of Coney Island. The excitement concludes when the beast is shot in the throat by Lee Van Cleef with a radioactive needle.
WHERE IS HE TODAY? Wizened, raspy-voiced, cantankerous, smelly, rambling, possibly senile, and living with his put-upon kids, the Rhedosaurus is but a pale shadow of his former glory.
“I was the monster that started the Giant Beast Craze,” boasts Big Rhed while pounding his now pigeon-shaped chest. “Mine was the first film to take advantage of the country’s paranoia about bomb culture. Mine! But where did I end up in the scheme of things? A footnote, at best! Lee Van Cleef got to be a big star in Italy and all he had to do was show up and shoot me. While he was rolling in lira,I couldn’t get a walk-on in a puppet show. And that ain’t right. And movies today! Trash! Rancid goddam trash! All those probing devil tongues, naked bodies, and effeminate vapires! And another thing…”
MONSTER: The Deadly Mantis
MOVIE: The Deadly Mantis (1957)
QUICK BACKGROUND: A prehistoric preying mantis of massive dimensions, it was thawed out of the arctic ice, scares the blubber out of some perturbed Eskimos, and wends its way skyward toward New York. There the army gasses the big bastard back to extinction. Or did they?
WHERE IS IT TODAY? Yup, they did: Deadly Mantis. Born 1957. Died 1957.
MOVIE: Tarantula (1956)
QUICK BACKGROUND: A mad scientist creates a giant spider that roams the New Mexico desert in search of tasty ranch hands. It gets torched by napalm lobbed by pre-stardom fighter pilot Clint Eastwood.
WHERE IS HE TODAY? “Don’t talk to me about freaking Eastwood,” Tarantula says heatedly. “Oh, and did I mention that I won’t be talking about how I was barely in a movie that starred me? That was named after me! And I’ not going to comment on the ‘theory’ that big spiders have plenty of image but not much actual personality. Other than to say it’s bullshit! I was driven, ambitious, a real contender. I didn’t just play tall – I got tall, I made myself tall, I acted tall till I was tall! It was all my doing – a combination of Stanislavski, hypno-therapy, and super-vitamins. Jesus, I worked my thorax off in the theatre, and all it took was one lousy movie to destroy my entire acting career! Look at me now. My only cultural significance is that I’m mentioned in the opening song of that godawful Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
MOVIE: The Valley of Gwangi (1969)
QUICK BACKGROUND: A hybrid dinosaur – part T-Rex, part allosaurus – who reigns over a desert valley in 1915 Mexico, Gwangi is lassoed and captured by a wild west show, led by adventurer James Franciscus, and is taken to Mexico City to be put on display for the curious public. There he escapes, and, for reasons we may never understand, fights and kills an elephant who never caused him a moment of harm. Gwangi meets a fiery end inside a burning cathedral. (The only scene in film history where a dinosaur goes to church.)
WHERE IS HE TODAY? “Being a hybrid between a T-Rex and an allosaurus was probably the original reason for my identity crisis,” says Gwangi with a sigh. “But making that movie really brought out all my latent homosexuality. I mean, my God, so many cowboys – James Franciscus had the curliest eyelashes – and all that rope!” An advocate for gay movie monsters, Gwangi defends his frequent practice of outing of other monsters. “Look, a lot of movie monsters are queer, okay, and unless they admit it to themselves and the public, they’re not doing anyone any favors, are they?”
MOVIE: Gorgo (1961)
QUICK BACKGROUND: A 50-foot Gorgosaurus is found minding his own business in the Irish sea. Naturally, he is captured by some enterprising fishermen and brought to a London sideshow. (That’s just how these things work.) Enter mother Gorgo, who is 500 feet tall and suffers no nonsense as she searches for her infant. Mom destroys London , kills many a Brit, collects junior, and goes back to the sea. Bloody right!
WHERE ARE THEY TODAY? Mom died of alcohol poisoning, and Gorgo is homeless and living on the streets of Toronto, of all places. Despite his sad state he remains optimistic and cherishes his deluded memories of his time in the business.
“Movie monsters today are hopeless,” he says while begging for change. “Back in my day, we gave kids plenty of bang for their buck. On my movie we really destroyed Big Ben, Piccadilly Circus, the underground tube, and miles and miles of houses and stuff, and we actually killed the extras. It really added to the authenticity. At least I think we destroyed all that junk and killed all those slimy Limey wankers. I dunno, I get confused when I’m off my meds…”
MONSTER: The 50-Foot Woman
MOVIE: Attack of the 50-Foot Woman (1958)
QUICK BACKGROUND: Before: Nancy Archer (a hard-living, well-stacked heiress who is married to fortune-hunting Harry Archer and nags the crap out of him about his illicit doings with local tramp Honey Parker) is irradiated by a giant alien. After: Nancy grows big, goes on a rampage and tears up the town looking for Honey and Harry. Honey is reduced to floozy mulch. Nancy and Harry are electrocuted in the big finale.
WHERE IS SHE TODAY? Horror headliner Allison Hayes (aka: the 50-Foot Woman) was, in fact, an accomplished pianist and a dedicated culture vulture. Like all building-sized musicians, she sidelined as a movie monster to pay the rent. Now in her geriatric years, she has shrunk somewhat and clocks in at a mere 37 feet. She is also a recluse who refuses to be interviewed and, despite her height, is surprisingly hard to find! Never fond of the B-movie circuit, she reportedly disliked film work. Legend has it that during the making of the cheapie Western Giant-Sized Gunslinger (1956) she asked schlock maestro Roger Corman: “Who do I have to fuck to get off this picture?”