me. As I have said before I have a devotion to vintage horror and science fiction movies, or the so-called ‘B’ movies (or “low budget” for a more accurate description) and I always have them playing in the background as I work. If a film features a rubber monster, chances are I have painted along to it. That in mind I was recently asked to name my favourite mutant movie, I was unable to pick just one, instead I reeled off a list.
So, allow me (if you will) to stray from directly discussing my work instead focusing on influences and run through a random list of 10 favourite mutant movies from my own dvd collection. I have tried to steer away from the obvious titles and will not give too much away ‘plot’ wise in the hope that if this article doesn’t present an insight into my work it should at the very least provide you with some great movies to seek out and enjoy! So, in no particular order…
Them (1954) The finest of all the ‘giant bug’ movies and an absolute classic of the Atomic age- I saw it first in my early teens I loved it then and I love it now! Dr. Medford from the Department of Agriculture assisted by his daughter Pat is called in to advice on a situation involving a nest of ants that have increased in size due to atomic testing and in turn save the world from the invading giant ants! A film with wonderful writing and characters you actually care about with amazing effects (for its time) and a striking music score that much like the fantastic sound the ants make builds suspense! No mutant collection is complete without this gem, At Christmas Edmund Gwenn is Santa Claus in our house but for the rest of the year he is Dr. Medford!
Humanoids from the Deep (1980) following a tried and tested format the story tells of a cannery that experiments with growth hormones and Salmon. The experiment goes awry when their specimens escape into the ocean and mutate into a new form of life that terrorise the local fishing community in a rampage of murder and rape! Amongst all this depravity and gore we have Doug McClure trying to make sense of it all and protecting the villagers preparing for the Salmon Festival! If that doesn’t reel you in (pun intended) I don’t know what will! I thoroughly enjoyed this film, so much so I saluted it in a painting. Admittedly the mutant’s need for buxom beach goers will put some people off watching this film… it didn’t for me I thought the story was rather good and the creatures looked great!
Piranha (1978) directed by Joe Dante this story has (to date!) been remade on two separate occasions confirming what a great premise it is. An insurance investigator, investigating the disappearance of two teenagers finds a fish hatchery owned by Doctor Robert Hoak (played by Kevin McCarthy) she releases the hatchery’s contents, only to discover that it was a school of bioengineered piranha designed for the cold waters of the North Vietnam! The story follows Heather Menzies and Bradford Dillman’s valiant attempts to reach down river to warn the local summer camp and water park as they avoid the government who funded ‘Operation: Razorteeth’. Sometimes compared to Jaws, I feel that Piranha holds it own with great pace and good acting with a sense of fun that comes through at the right time but to be honest you had me with ‘mutant piranhas’…
Hammerhead (2005) A fairly modern film considering the other titles on the list but lets face its Jeffrey Combs and a mutant shark-man need I say more? This Sci-fi channel movie tells the tale of one Dr. Preston King who tries to save his dying son by adding shark stem cells to his DNA. The result, a mutant shark-man ruled entirely by instinct! The Dr takes time out from his unsuccessful attempts to mate his son with unsuspecting females to exact his revenge on his former employees that wronged him (along with his son’s ex-fiancée played by Hunter Tylo). With a generous balance of both shark suit and CGI we see the mutant pick off each victim as they try to get off the island with Jeffrey Combs doing what he does best playing a mad scientist observing his shark-spliced son with both scientific curiosity and glee.
The Horror of Party Beach (1964) Oh do I love this one! I have watched this one many times over and is a rare example of a movie that can be entertaining with or without the MST3K rifting!
The by-product of dumped radioactive waste combined with shipwrecked bodies and the plants on the ocean floor cause havoc, murder and mayhem as romance between Hank and his boss’s daughter Elaine blossoms! A beach party horror film that claimed to be the first ever horror musical features the musical talents The Del-Aires who perform songs such as "The Zombie Stomp" "Wigglin' Wobblin'" and “Elaine” as the mutant creatures come ashore to claim victims!
Alligator (1980) One of my absolute favourites, I watched it when I was younger and I have no doubts that it was responsible for fuelling my fascination for reptiles. Police Officer David Madison discovers that an alligator ended up in the city’s sewer system after being flushed down a toilet 12 years before. In that time the alligator survived by feeding on the remains of discarded dog carcasses left over from growth formula experiments, causing an increase in the alligator’s size and appetite! Madison along with love interest, reptile expert (not to mention former owner of the alligator) Marisa Kendall try to save the population from the giant alligator forced up to the surface to feed it ravenous hunger!
Clearly another by-product of the Jaws craze of the 1970’s Alligator retains interest throughout with a great mix of horror, drama and comedy.
Zaat - The Blood Waters of Dr. Z (1971) Talk about a movie that has everything! Dr. Kurt Leopold a Nazi mad scientist that vows revenge on his former colleagues by turning himself into a walking catfish! As the authorities and ‘experts’ try to catch this half man, half monstrosity he launches his attack, killing those who wronged him, poisons the local water supply and kidnaps women in an attempting to convert them for mating! Much like ‘The Horror of Party Beach’ this film is equally as entertaining without the MST3K commentary. Delivering all sorts of mad scientist/ rubber monster delight, an absolute must see!
The Killer Shrews (1959) A simple mission to deliver supplies to a group of scientists on a remote island goes horribly wrong when captain Thorne Sherman discovers that the island is inhabited by ‘giant’ killer shrews! He hides in the house and falls in love with the daughter of the scientist responsible for the mutations a by-product of an experiment into solving world hunger! Drinking, smoking and jealous rivalry as they try to keep out the shrews which are trying to chew their way inside! The film is notorious for its use of puppets and actual dogs ‘disguised’ as shrews, I have a real fondness for this one I have watched it several times over, as serving suggestion watch it back-to-back with ‘The Giant Gila Monster’ also by the same producers Ken Curtis and Gordon McLendon.
Octoman (1971) Yes! Another film that features an aquatic/fish mutant! A scientific expedition investigating an unhealthy amount of radiation in the river of a Mexican fishing village face the wrath of a seven-foot tall walking killer octopus! The expedition team comprising of scientists and side-show entertainers and local villager try to make sense of it all while the Octaman tries to protect (its?) young and make off with the leading lady! Rubber monsters a plenty in this film as the movie makes no attempt to follow the ‘less is more’ rule proudly showing off its title monster (in-famously created by Rick Baker) every few minutes! Not that I have a problem with that I rather liked the creature…
Night of the Lepus (1972) stuck for a film to watch over Easter? Not anymore! Science lets us all down by making a overpopulation of rabbits ten times worse by unleashing thousands of mutated- carnivorous giant, killer rabbits on a small Arizona town!! But in fairness it serves more as a lesson in keeping children out of laboratories than ‘tinkering’ in god’s domain! Adapted from the science fiction novel ‘The Year of the Angry Rabbit’ it’s a film that you will know for certain if you have seen it before or not. Great fun lots of “what have I seen him in before?” and of course giant ravenous rabbits!
Sting of Death (1965) seems only right that I end this with another fish mutant… This time our monster comes in the guise of a half man, half jellyfish creature! Not only that but, we also get pool parties and a musical number called "Do the Jellyfish" by Neil Sedaka! So even if watching a vengeful mutant jellyfish man chasing partygoers and stinging them to death isn’t exactly your cup of tea you will still have fun doing the jilla-jalla-jellyfish afterwards!
© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.