Pattern in Gold and Black

It's A Monstah!

One of the many things that I love about Joe is the fact that he is an absolute expert on monster movies, especially the BEMs* of the 1950s. Shortly after we started dating, he introduced me to a cinematic gem called The Killer Shrews and I knew right then and there that he was the man for me.

The Shrews is just a terrible movie -- true MST3K fodder. The giant shrews are clearly dogs covered in carpet. But there are plenty of other monster movies that have amazing special effects, especially those featuring the stop-action animation of the legendary Ray Harryhausen. We saw one of them tonight: It Came from Beneath the Sea, a true classic of the atomic monster movie genre.

The common thread running through these films is that the monster is a common creature that has been subjected to atomic radiation or unnatural experimentation. In this case, it's atomic radiation that causes runaway growth in an octopus. The octopus ends up attacking San Francisco, but the day is saved when the intrepid heroes fire a torpedo into the creature's eyeball.

Dec 3, 2015

Most of these flicks feature a woman scientitian who butts heads with the men scientitians and/or soldiers and/or whatever. She's always smart and beautiful and makes a damn good cup of coffee while putting up with "But you're a girl!" commentary. In a lot of them, she helps defeat the monster, falls in love with the male lead, and realizes that her real place is by his side, having babies and keeping him full of that damn good coffee.

This film is a little bit different! At first you think it's all going to go down as usual, but no! Two guys -- the lead scientitian and the Naval officer -- both fall in love with the plucky gal and she canoodles with both of them at different times. When all is said and done and the monster is defeated, we see the three of them in a restaurant hoisting celebratory drinks. The woman allows as how she's heading over to Europe to do some more important research and invites the guys to come visit. No coffee making for her!


But the real star is the octopus. Harryhausen's animation is, as usual, pretty amazing, especially when it crushes the Golden Gate Bridge. What you don't notice is that fact that this particular cephalopod only has six legs -- Harryhausen didn't have enough money to make one with eight!

So there you have it -- your monster movie history lesson for today.


* BEMs = Bug-Eyed Monsters