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Monday, June 11, 2012

Don't Open That Door!

The fine, fine folks over at have given the green light for a project that I’ve been pursuing for years, namely, an ongoing appreciation/skewering of 1950’s monster and sci-fi movies called Don’t Open That Door!. Originally I conceived this as a big, coffee-table type book—and who knows, we may get there yet—but for now it’s going to be a weekly column on the PopMatters web site, and it should get under way within the next week or two.

Basically, each week I’ll be unearthing a little nugget of 1950s monster kitsch, summarizing the plot and bringing to light some of its more worthwhile—or maybe just its giggle-inducing—elements. I love these movies, so I’m not out to just make fun of them, MST3K style. I want to talk about what they have going for them, what they do well, the ways in which they are surprisingly effective—and then make fun of them. I also want to try to inspire some people to see them, whether revisiting stuff they’ve caught on cable over the years, or else trying something new. In this age of Avatar-esque digital special effects, I find the simple guy-in-a-monster-suit approach to be oddly endearing and sincere. Ditto the stop-motion, Ray Harryhausen-inspired monsters on the rampage.

This is all very much in the planning stages, but some of the early entries in this series are likely to include:

The Brain From Planet Arous (1957) – John Agar is a scientist whose mind is taken over by a malevolent, transparent brain from a planet called – you guessed it – Arous. The aforementioned brain develops a not-entirely-wholesome interest in John Agar’s girlfriend. Maybe they should have spelled "Arous" with an e. Hilarity ensues.

Bride of the Gorilla (1951) – Raymond Burr, who would later go on to TV fame in Perry Mason and Ironside, stars as a guy named Barney who turns into a gorilla under the malevolent witchery of a Hungarian gypsy. This stuff writes itself! Best line of dialogue: “White people shouldn’t stay too long in the jungle.” This is certainly true for the people who made this movie.

The Manster (1959) – Part man – part monster! Get it? An American businessman runs afoul of a Japanese mad scientist, and this is what happens. Also, body parts begin sprouting out of unexpected places. I will leave your twisted imagination to fill in the gaps.

Prehistoric Women (1950) – In which we offered a compelling glimpse of life in the Jurassic. Nah, just kidding. Monsters include a flying chicken-dragon thing and an elephant who appears to have wandered in from the lot of a circus movie. Best line of narration: “Strangely enough, the swan dive was invented before the swan.” Don't laugh--life was tough! Even the hair care products were primitive back then. (See below)

And there is so very much more! Stay tuned for details – I will post here as the series goes online. Trust me, this is just the good time you’ve been looking for, without even realizing how much you were missing it.

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