Top Ten Best Worst Movie Monsters
#10: Caltiki: The Immortal Monster (1959)
This is the only Italian film on the list, and arguably the Italian film industry should have been shut down altogether as punishment for allowing its development. Featuring perhaps the most far-fetched explanation ever for the disappearance of the Mayan civilisation – it was killed off by a radioactive alien blob monster powered by the energy from a convenient passing comet – it’s sort of a cross between the latest Indiana Jones film, any Godzilla flick you care to name and Flubber. Oh, and guess what the immortal, twenty-million-year old blob’s only weakness is? Fire. You know, the same weakness as humans and wood and stuff. Inspired.
#9: The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)
Everything about The Beast of Yucca Flats delights, but its particular highlight is the inimitable Tor Johnson, star of a thousand bloody awful monster movies and appearing here in his last big-screen role. 400lb Swedish behemoth Tor plays some sort of half-arsed secret agent who inadvisably potters onto a nuclear testing facility and is turned into the deeply unpleasant love child of Leatherface and a bear. Reanimated as ‘The Beast’, he drags himself around killing people too stupid to notice a massive bald zombie plodding towards them until someone shoots him. End. Also, at the beginning there’s an implied necrophilia scene (complete with gratuitous breasts) which has literally no connection to the rest of the film, and that’s the sort of detail which clinches a monster classic.
#8: The Deadly Mantis (1957)
More than fifty years before JJ Abrams tore the heart out of NYC with Cloverfield, audiences thrilled to The Deadly Mantis. Awaking from an icy slumber (not unlike Mega Shark, Walt Disney and Yvon of the Yukon), the Deadly Mantis does very little praying but a reasonable quota of slaughtering, raising the eternal question of why giant insects always seem to hate us so much. Possibly it’s all revenge for the fact that the Deadly Mantis was just a bit cranky, but we bombed it and then gassed it in a railway tunnel. Also, Best For Film wants to know how a mantis, which prefers a tropical to temperate habitat regardless of whether it’s four inches or two hundred feet long, came to end up in a glacier…
#7: KRONOS (1957)
KRONOS, “the metallic vampire!”, is of course nothing of the sort. Apparently modelled after the grain silo from those public service announcements about DROWNING IN WHEAT, it is a self-recharging battery which flies “from the farthest reaches of infinity” to Mexico (as one does) before bopping around sucking up electricity like a greedy kid that’s been left alone with someone else’s milkshake. Eventually, it’s made to explode or something, but not before we’ve all been taught an important lesson about energy overconsumption. And why you shouldn’t play in farmyards.
#6: Beginning of the End (1957)
Take a few seconds speculating as to what movie monster could be sufficiently terrifying as to justify the use of this absurdly hyperbolic title. Any ideas? Kraken, aliens, Antichrist? Close. It’s grasshoppers. Beginning of the End tracks the adventures of some hungry hungry grasshoppers who accidentally chow down on irradiated grasshopper food (or whatever) and get BIG. Big and hungry. Then they try to munch Chicago. Unfortunately, the grasshoppers were filmed live and then rear-screened instead of being animated with marionettes or stop-motion, which makes them unbearably cute and impossible to take seriously as monsters. BFF wants one for the office.
#5: Zaat or The Blood Waters of Dr. Z (1975)
Zaat is the most modern monster film featured on our list, by virtue of its sheer insanity. It stars Doctor Leopold, a mad Nazi scientist (natch) who demonstrates the power of his formula ZaAt by transforming himself into a “HORRIBLE REVENGEFUL (sic) KILLER FISH!”. He then goes about turning the rest of his backwater town into ‘walking catfish’, which seems a little lazy when you consider that the trailer claims his plan is to pollute the universe. It also flies in the face of one of the more high-profile Nazi policy commitments, viz: to defend the purity of the Aryan race by avoiding contamination with, eg, Jews/gypsies/walking catfish. Unless Hitler was planning to expand the Reich into Atlantis, obviously.
#4: Yongary (1967)
First there was Godzilla, the atomic dinosaur. Then there was Gamera, the tusky jet-powered turtle. Neither holds a candle to Yongary, the Korean film industry’s answer to the kaiju trend. Yongary, a great big lizard with a laser horn, rampages around eating oil (welcome to Allegoryville! Population, Yongary and the cast of Animal Farm) until he more or less arbitrarily passes out. Some kid or other then shoots him with a laser which makes him dance to some groovy surf rock – no kidding, we promise – and finally the kid’s dad works out how to poison him, treating us to a five minute scene featuring Yongary thrashing around in the remains of a bridge before dying alone and in agony. But that’s alright, because he ravaged Seoul which makes him a communist.
#3: THEM! (1954)
THEM! deserves some credit for being the first film to run with the ‘atomic energy makes nature go mental’ hypothesis. The trailer trumpets that humanity is faced with “things so horrible, so terrifying… there is no word to describe them”. There are three words, though. MASSIVE MOTHERLOVING ANTS. Mutated to the size of campervans or thereabouts by another reckless nuclear test, these bad boys roam around pumpin’ fools full of formic acid until some bastard hits on the idea of shooting their antennae so they’re as helpless as hymenopteran Helen Kellers. Nice. (This monster movie was monitored by PETA; none of the giant ants were harmed)
#2: Reptilicus (1961)
Reptilicus has the dubious distinction of being the only Danish monster movie ever made, which probably tells you all you need to know about it. The titular beast starts the film as a “frozen fossil” (a tatty bit of tail) which scientists believe may be able to regenerate ‘because that’s what starfish do’. Unfortunately for them, their shoddy logic is bang on and the tail expands overnight to become a massive ridiculous lizard thing, endearingly brought to life using a puppet. From then on, it follows a hectic schedule of popping out of the sea with all the gravitas of a Wack-a-Mole, spitting nondescript green acid stuff without the slightest provocation and generally wrecking Copenhagen. Plus, let’s not forget it’s called ‘Reptilicus’. Badass.
Right, here we go. D’you think you’re ready for this? If you’re not, it’s TOO LATE, because exploding onto the screen “like a battleship!” it’s our number best worst movie monster. Have you guessed? It’s…
#1: The Giant Claw (1957)
The Giant Claw is unimaginably funny. It is apparently a vulture thing “from some god-forsaken antimatter galaxy”, which pitches up with the malign intent to lay its god-forsaken eggs! And extinguish human life, that too. The word you need to hang onto with the Giant Claw is ‘battleship’ – comparisons between the metal boat and the GIANT BE-QUIFFED TOOTHY BUZZARD THING pop up no less than twelve times in the film, or about once every five and a half minutes. It’s preposterous, but not quite as preposterous as the fact that the Giant Claw projects an ‘anti-matter force field’ which protects it from all terrestrial weapons until Cro-Magnon Man Jeff Morrow (remember him?) conveniently whips up a Mesic Atom Gun (patent pending) from some odds and ends lying around the carpark. The big feathery bastard is nixed and falls into some lake or other, instantly creating a public health crisis which is happily not part of the ending. Still, where there’s one Giant Claw there must be more, and next time we may not have Jeff to save us. Our money’s on Michael Bay for the remake…