Feel nostalgic for truly bad monster movies from the 1950’s?
Want a simpler time were “men were men” and women wore pearls and heels as they vacuumed the house?
Where everyone smoked and animals casually were exposed to random radiation?
If you’re an aficionado of the 1950’s creature features, you’re in luck, because I’ve got a few gems here you might not have seen, but should absolutely check out.
For those who aren’t familiar with this fantastically imperfect black and white film, you should be. Set in (what I call) Everyone Smokes, Arizona and directed by John Arnold, who also directed Revenge of the Creature (1955), it’s the story of a scientist, played by veteran actor Leo G. Carroll.
Dr. Scienticst’s created a growth serum to speed up the life-cycle of animals.
To increase the food supply for the world, therefore ending world hunger.
Seems admirable, but of course, the doctor isn’t revealing everything about his magic serum
No one suspects the doctor who lives outside of town isn’t on the up and up until the new lab assistant, played by the lovely Mara Corday, arrives.
Why does she arrive? Oh, didn’t I mention his previous assistant left suddenly to take care of a sick relative.
Working on her masters degree (a progressive statement in itself), Mara helps the good doctor with mixing the serum with big gloves and smart lab equipment, all while looking amazing wearing a pencil skirt, stockings, heels, and pearls, in the heat of the Arizona summer.
Enter the dashing hero, John Agar, who’s also a doctor of science of some sort and apparently is familiar with everything sciencey, including what a tub-sized amount of spider venom would look like.
One day, when Maya the assistant and the dashing Dr. Hero take a lovely drive into town, who arrives looking like he’s rolled in from a three night stay at a Tijuana prison after being arrested for public intoxication?
The last assistant and he looks positively ghastly. Not only do we realizes he’s escaped from the basement where he’s been locked for however long.
His old boss injected him with said growth serum!
Well, if he’d been my boss, I’d trash the lab and shoot him full of that juice, too.
In the chaos of all that, a tarantula jacked on the special sauce, escapes to ravage the countryside eating everything from livestock to a group of local dudes getting drunk by a campfire. The spider goes as far to toss a very nice pickup down a hill. The nerve!
Still, I don’t quite understand why no one suspects this spider’s coming as it sounds like that cicada who wants to keep everyone awake on those lazy summer nights when we can sleep with the windows open.
After everyone realizes what’s up and attempts to blow it up Mr. Tarantula with multiple sticks of TNT that are just laying around, the military is called in.
Now the dashing hero, who’s not sweat at all despite wearing a three piece suit in the 1000 degree Arizona sun, artfully keeps his wits about him, all while the heroine runs around in her robe and pajamas, looking disheveled and freaking out.
Finally, as it looks as all hope is lost, Clint Eastwood arrives. Despite being uncredited, he and his other pilot buddies Napalm the crap out of the spider, saving the town of Everybody Smokes to live another day.
30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1958)
After the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman had already hit movie houses (1958), someone thought it would be a great idea to have a comedy about a woman who didn’t grow quite as tall and had a boyfriend who liked her no matter what.
Nice change as the caustic relationship between Nancy and Harry Archer in 50 Foot Woman, was nothing short of something you’d see on Dynasty or more recently, Empire.
Back to Candy Rock.
Enter blonde bombshell Dorthy Provine, a lovely girl who lives in a town created by her junk collector and amateur inventor fiancé, Lou Costello.
They are totally into each other, even after she’s exposed to some sort of random radiation in a cave that she falls into.
Overnight, she grows to be 30 feet tall, but of course, totally lovely.
Rightfully freaking out about her new change, Lou finds her enough bedsheets to make a dress because, he is a gentleman, after all.
Then he talks to Dorthy’s uncle, who’s her surrogate dad.
As Lou explains that Dorthy had grown and gotten bigger, the uncle loses his nut because, apparently in the 1950’s, “getting bigger” and “growing” was code for getting knocked up.
The uncle demands they marry and wags his finger at them a lot, where Dorthy responds with her own version of finger wagging by dousing him with water from the local water tower and throwing the lid of said water tower over the countryside. Of course, the local branch of the US military sees it and is sure it’s a UFO.
Comedy ensues as Dorthy not only stands up to her uncle, but fights off other women who want to steal her man.
I mean, come on, if you’ve got a guy who still mad in love with you after you’ve been expose to massive radiation, I say fight to keep him around, sister.
Strong work, Dorthy!
Of course, as all comedies do, they end with a happily ever after and the fabulous fiancé who’s had minimal formal education, figures out a way to counter act the radiation and return his betrothed to her normal size.
True love wins!
Filmed in 19 days in December 1958, this was Lou Costello’s only film without his long-time comedy partner Bud Abbot.
The comedy duo parted ways in 1957.
It was released in August 1959, five months after Costello passed away from a heart attack.
Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)
I remember the first time I saw this movie. I was 9 years old and having horrible stomach pains.
After three hours of slumming it on the couch, consuming mass amounts of Saturday morning cartoons, which included Justice League, Scooby Doo, and Bugs Bunny/Road Runner, this gem of a disaster arrived on my screen.
Far before the time of remote controls, I laid in pain, watching and wondering how anyone could breathe through costumes that resembled a cross between the bottom of a track shoe and a faceless penguin.
Due to my discomfort, I thought I’d imagined this horribly bad story of giant leeches pulling people making out in cars down into caves under the swamps as the local sheriff’s department couldn’t understand why all these people were disappearing.
Turns out, I hadn’t imagined anything. I also ended up in the ER with appendicitis, but I digress.
Years later, this movie popped up one day and I rewatched it.
I’m happy to report, it’s as terrible as it was when my white count shifted.
The story goes as follows: After local wildlife is exposed to atomic radiation (of course) from local Cape Canaveral, the only animals that appear to have been affected are the leeches.
Apparently, they are really hungry for adulterers, as they grab a local woman and her lover during their sexy time, but these leeches don’t feast on the ill-fated lovers at once. Oh, no, they keep them in an underwater cave and tap them for meals until they are drained. (Man, what a creepy movie. I can’t believe my parents let me watch this…meh, it was the 1970’s.)
Now, as the people are reported missing, the handsome game warden (Gene Corman) and his girlfriend (Yvette Vickers), set out to uncover the disappearance, only to discover the underwater liars of the only local animals who’ve been altered due to this mysterious atomic radiation from the local space center.
Probably good that no others were affected as that would make for a really confusing movie.
Of course, our hero has a large quantity of dynamite laying around, because who didn’t back in the 50’s?
They blow up the caves and the leeches are gone…or are they?
Filmed in only nine days at the Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, Attack of the Giant Leeches is truly one of the worst bad monster movies.
Fun fact, Gene Corman ended up with pneumonia during filming and had to go to the hospital.
Yvette Vickers was Playboy Bunny centerfold in Playboy’s July 1959 edition.
The film was released within a year of the magazine’s publication.