VOL. 1, No. 18
MASTER SCHOLAR OF ALL CREATURE FEATURES
MY PICKS FOR THE FIVE WORST HORROR/SCI-FI MOVIES Sadly, they still make 'em like these bombs of the past
As if a giant bird from outer space wasn't bad enough, this one also looked like the King Kong
of turkey buzzards.
By JOHN STANLEY
Before you settle down for a nice evening of shudders and shivers, make sure the movie you've picked to watch on Halloween isn't one of these suckers:
1. PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1956)
The all-time classic of superior ineptitude and remarkable bungling, featuring Bela Lugosi in outdoor footage in which he stands around doing nothing in front of the drab, low-budget home he lived in shortly before his death. "Plan 9" is the cherished, nonperishable masterpiece mess of writer-director Ed Wood, Jr., who gave new meaning to the word "incompetent," and who revolutionized the meaning of "insipid." Words such as amateurish, crude, tedious and aaaarrrggghhh can't begin to describe this cinematic boondoggle, which includes shots of a non-lookalike doubling for Lugosi, who had died before he could shoot his real scenes for the film. The unplotted plot has San Fernando Valley residents troubled by UFOs of the worst encounter. Humanoid aliens Dudley Manlove (a one-time radio announcer during the golden age) and Joanna Lee land a cardboard ship with a ninth plan to conquer the world (the first eight failed, this pair is so lacking in intelligence). Corpses they resurrect for conquest purposes include Vampira, a one-time TV horror hostess, and Tor Johnson, a wrestler who should never have given up his day job. A self-appointed psychic named Criswell introduces the film with typical Wood narrative nonsense, and the film heads steadily downhill from there, much to the chagrin of Lyle Talbot, Tom Keene, Mona McKinnon and others who found themselves hopelessly trapped in the directionless clutches of Ed, their talking director. The whole thing is Wood-en, as in petrified.
2. THE CREEPING TERROR (1964)
This is the one about an alien monster that looks like an elongated shag carpet and swallows entire humans through its gaping maw, even though it takes forever to move 10 feet. The soundtrack, according to one urban legend, was lost in Lake Tahoe and the entire movie had to be post-dubbed. That might account for why the entire film is narrated--not a word of dialogue. You'll be speechless too as you watch artless director Art Nelson steer his cast toward oblivion, and proves once and for all he knows nothing about how to provide motivation to a moving rug. Call it a half-Nelson.
3. THE GIANT CLAW (1957)
A giant bird from space, resembling an overweight turkey buzzard and looking rather plucked, can only be stopped by a device called a "mu-meson projector." With long neck and bulging eyeballs, and the titular talon obviously controlled by almost-invisible wires, the thing will have all you bird-watchers rolling in your viewing nests. Director Fred F. Sears, described as a part-time bird watcher, is said to have "winged it" during this strictly-for-the-bird production. It looks it. Hard to believe one of the major studios, Columbia, actually unleashed this winged entity on the viewing public. Producer Sam Katzman must think we're pigeons for anything, when it's Katzman who's a fallen sparrow. It's sad to watch good talent like Jeff Morrow, Mara Corday, Morris Ankrum, Edgar Barrier and Robert Shayne trying to fight off the asinine avian avenger.
"Quiet, I hear the strains of Borodin. There must be fire maidens close by!"
...one of many absurd scenes from "Fire Maidens of Outer Space."
Newspaper ad circa 1956
4. FIRE MAIDENS FROM OUTER SPACE (1956)
Sexy lady dancers swing to the music of Borodin on a moon of Jupiter where they want to sacrifice astronaut Anthony Dexter to their black gods. Director-writer Cy Roth came up with the ludicrous plot and picked Dexter, an actor of limited range, to carry this botched sci-fi "adventure."
5. ROBOT MONSTER (1953)
Leading man George Nader (only one of six humans left on a zapped Earth) looks almost as mechanical as the extra in a gorilla suit who's supposed to be an invading alien. On the top of the suit is a fishbowl made up to resemble a space helmet. And the E.T. guy has a Bubble Machine (loaned to producer-director Phil Tucker for the weekend by Lawrence Welk?) for a communications device. Ro-Man (or the guy in the suit) chases Claudia Barrett and Selena Royle all over Bronson Canyon. An urban legend persists to this day that Tucker filmed the whole thing in less than a week and alleged screenwriter Wyatt Ordung spent all of 30 minutes writing the script. Marvelously incompetent in the style of "Plan 9 From Outer Space."
© 2000 by John Stanley. John Stanley caricature © 2000 by Jim Hummel. "The Giant Claw" display is from the GoodTimes Video.
John Stanley is the former host of TV's "Creature Features" and the author of "Creature Features," the acclaimed guide to horror, sci-fi and psychotronic motion pictures. For information on how to get a copy of the 2000 edition of Stanley's guide, click on SHOPPING MALL below.
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