Saturday, February 2, 2008

Top 10 Weird Giant Movie Monsters

While enormous apes and mutant dinosaurs are usually the first things that come to mind when one thinks of city-destroying behemoths, there have been a few concepts over the years that have inspired more chuckles and bewilderment than spectacle. This isn’t to say that I would consider the creations on this list as unwelcome in the annals of giant monster movies (well, maybe except for the killer bunny rabbits); if anything, their strangeness adds a kind of eccentric flavor to the genre as a whole.

In order to qualify for the list, as well as to round the entrants down to a reasonable number, two criteria had to be met:

1) The creature had to come from a movie specifically about a giant monster, not from one wherein a giant monster happens to be in it.

2) The monster’s context in the film had to be at least relatively serious (thus adding to the unintentional weirdness). The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, for example, doesn’t count because his appearance in Ghostbusters is meant to be a joke.

10. Mothra

Let’s face it, an insect as benign as a moth is a rather strange choice to enlarge into a giant, intimidating monster. They’re not aggressive by any stretch and don’t even possess the ability to bite or sting; they simply fly around and repeatedly slam into light fixtures. Making said monster fuzzy and imbuing it with a color scheme that suggests candy would tumble out of its body if it were struck hard enough isn’t exactly helping things either. As her cinematic appearances wore on, Mothra began to sport increasingly fanciful powers that would make an entomologist weep, including (but not limited to) plasma beams, generating a poisonous powder that could reflect energy, and shooting quill-like stingers from her abdomen. This concept was taken even further when she starred in her own trilogy of films during the 90’s and displayed a Pok√©mon-like ability to evolve into different, specialized forms (like an armored body or one that could swim underwater). The crazy superpowers can be somewhat excused in that Mothra is supposed to be a mystical being, but it doesn’t make them any less bizarre.

Also, she has a larval form that looks like a colossal dog turd. There, I said it.

9. Ebirah

Sharks. Octopi. Sea Snakes. Moray Eels. Even though the ocean is full of dangerous and fearsome creatures that could be used as potential giant monsters, the filmmakers of Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (a.k.a. Ebirah, Horror of the Deep) decided to settle on a species of marine life best known for being deep fried and dipped into cocktail sauce. Eibrah’s design does little to offset the problem, as he almost appears to have a long, pointy nose and moustache, evoking images of the gun-toting, bandito lobsters from an old Muppet Show sketch involving the Swedish Chef. The kicker though, is that Ebirah is really only a threat to puny humans and puny humans alone (and assuming said puny humans aren’t decently armed, as evidenced in Godzilla: Final Wars) as his two run-ins with Godzilla during the course of the movie simply result in embarrassing ass-kickings.

8. Guilala

When it comes to designing a monster, any creature that falls under the classification of “alien” is understandably allowed a certain amount of leeway in regards to sporting an offbeat appearance (since an alien, by the very definition of the word, is supposed to look unusual). However, this can occasionally open the door for unintentionally humorous-looking creations. Such was the case in the film The X from Outer Space featuring the space monster, Guilala. He’s definitely an extraterrestrial; one that looks like a cross between a chicken and a lizard with a body that’s been assembled from Japanese pork dumplings. But as an extra precaution to drive home the whole alien theme, the film’s designers gave the monster a pair of springy, cartoon-like antennae on the top of his head that bounce around with an almost hypnotic allure. Whenever Guilala appears in the movie- bam! Your eyes go right to 'em. It cannot be resisted. Unfortunately as such, the result is a goofy-looking menace from space that just can’t be taken seriously, no matter how much the film tries to convince the audience otherwise.

7. Guiron

Although Gamera has a Rogues Gallery that isn’t as recognizable as some of Godzilla’s more famous enemies, there is one creature in the bunch that outshines all others in terms of its general peculiarity. In Gamera vs. Guiron, the giant flying turtle heads to the plant Terra to rescue a pair of hapless Earth children from evil space women, but first has to contend with their watchdog beast, Guiron. Said monster can be best described as such: imagine if a shark, a frog and a machete participated in a disturbing three-way and then, through a combination of pixie dust and blasphemy, had a baby. That’s Guiron in a nutshell. Granted, much like aforementioned Guilala, Guiron can also play the “well, he is an alien so he can be weird-looking” card, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that he basically amounts to a malevolent cutlery/toad thing. And as if his appearance alone isn’t strange enough, he also possesses the ability to shoot ninja throwing stars out from a hole just above his eye socket. That trait combined with the whole “knife for a head” theme that not only raises suspicions about Guiron’s possible origins as an artificially-created, biomechanical monster, but also as to what the filmmakers were smoking when they came up with the idea for the character in the first place.

6.Megalon

Godzilla has more than his fair share of unusual opponents over the years, but arguably one of the most outlandish was the titular adversary from Godzilla vs. Megalon. Despite being based on an insect motif, Megalon sports a bipedal, human-like body more akin to a Power Rangers villain than the typical Toho tradition of a animal-like monster or enlarged bug (not terribly surprising considering that Ultraman and other similar Japanese superhero shows were enjoying popularity in Japan at the time). While his rather fantastical offensive capabilities (a horn on the top of his head can fire electricity and explosive napalm balls can be spit out from his mouth) certainly adds to his strangeness, the real showpiece of this particular monster is his hands- or rather, lack thereof. Instead of the expected claws or bug-like pincers, Megalon’s arms end in drills. Functional drills. I need not say more.

5. Japanese Frankenstein

Leave it to Japan to come up with quite possibly the strangest take on the Frankenstein’s Monster; in Frankenstein Conquers the World, a homeless feral child finds and consumes the irradiated heart of the monster (which, as it turns out, had been transported to the Hiroshima Army Hospital in Japan during World War 2 just in time for the atomic bomb to be dropped on the city) which causes him to grow into a gangly-limbed humanoid resembling equal parts caveman and inbred hillbilly. As he is a much “smaller” (about 60 feet tall or so) giant monster than the standard Toho kaiju, the film’s director portrayed Frankenstein with a generous (almost unbefitting) amount of mobility and speed, allowing the creature to bound across the Japanese countryside like a hyperactive child and partake in an energetic wrestling match with the other monster in the film, Baragon. And while said fight is entertaining, the fact that the gangly Frankenstein manages to hold his own against (and eventually triumph over) his comparably larger and sturdier-looking adversary is just another layer of icing on this surreal little cake of a movie.

4. The Giant Claw

While Godzilla was an allegory about the horror of the atomic bomb, The Giant Claw serves as a cautionary tale about sending special effects work to Mexico in order to save money; in doing so, the film ended up with one of the most laughable movie monsters to ever hit the screen, giant-sized or otherwise. The beast in question is an alien buzzard/vulture from an anti-matter galaxy (!) as portrayed by a bug-eyed, rubbernecked marionette complete with a comical-looking tuft of hair protruding from its otherwise bald head. The bird is so totally ridiculous in appearance that it completely undermines the intended drama of every scene it appears in. Apparently the cast of the movie had no idea what the finished monster would look like until they attended the premiere and watched the embarrassing final product. Rumor has it that one of the lead actors left the screening and promptly headed to a nearby bar to get drunk- an understandable maneuver, really.

3. The 50-Foot Woman

The Amazing Colossal Man was one of the first films to explore the idea of a giant-sized human as a monster, which was soon followed by a take on the same idea with a feminine twist; but whereas the idea of gargantuan bald man wearing what looks like a diaper is truly horror incarnate, an attractive, scantily-clad, giant woman with a knockout figure is the kind of monster you’d probably run towards rather than away from. The “attack” in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman isn’t really much to speak of either, in both the original and the 1993 remake starring Daryl Hannah- the most significant collateral damage that the title character pulls off in both versions is wrecking a couple of rooftops. Most normal-sized women are capable of that with a bit of determination.

2. The Lepus

Rabbit: an animal whose name is synonymous with terror... that is, if you’re a carrot. Unfortunately for human audiences, Night of the Lepus features a variety of mutant wildlife that’s just too cute to be taken seriously. The fact that they’re also flesh-eaters simply makes the idea all the more ridiculous. It further didn’t help that the giant rabbits were realized in the film by way of having plump, fuzzy pet store bunnies move around on miniature sets in slow motion. At least the movie poster had the common sense to omit any images of giant rabbits and instead opted to play up the mystery of what the monsters in the film might possibly be, thus pulling off the cinematic equivalent of receiving a Christmas present in the shape of a motorcycle that is actually a creatively arranged collection of socks and underwear underneath the wrapping paper.

1. Gamera

A gigantic, tusked, fire-breathing turtle that flies by means of jet propulsion and protects the children of the world; the core concept in and of itself simply wins hands down for being the most oddball of the lot. Just read that opening description again out loud if you’re not convinced. Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that the original films were intended for a younger audience, which lead to a wealth of campy antics like (but not limited to) Gamera swinging around on a giant horizontal pole like an Olympic gymnast (Gamera verses Guiron), striking the armored plates on the back of an enemy monster like a xylophone in order to musically reproduce his signature theme song (Gamera verses Zigra) and even flying unaffected through the vacuum of outer space. Stranger still, the early nineties saw the character re-imagined in a trilogy of films that took the idea of a giant, jet-propelled turtle and actually made it awesome- no easy feat. With twelve films under his belt, Gamera has proven that sometimes even the strangest ideas can be every bit as enduring as their more grounded counterparts. We salute you, friend to all children.

5 comments:

Hobo Divine said...

Mothra is not a monster she protects our island!
Mothra is not a monster she protects our island!

~ the Fairy Twins of Infant Island

Christopher Mills said...

Ah, The X from Outer Space -- the holy grail of my giant monster obsession. I have never been able to track down a copy of this in twenty years...

Tim Tylor said...

I only know it from Wikipedia, but Biollante the giant Godzilla-fighting rose-thing looks a pretty cool and outre monster.

estro_pajo said...

Guiron!
Yeah baby!
I saw all the Gamera movies on the MST3k channel :P

And remember - Gamera is friend of the children!

Cyberschizoid said...

The X From Outer Space looks awesome!!!