ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Paul Blaisdell, 1950s Monster Maker
The 1950s were a great time to be a monster fan. No decade has ever produced as many monster films as were during this time. Just in monster movies alone there were almost 100. This does not include the science fiction and horror movies either. During this period, movie companies had to be very creative, especially with working on such low budgets. This decade also introduced us to one of the best monster makers as well in Paul Blaisdell.
Sketch artist, fine arts painter, sculptor and monster maker Paul Blaisdell was born July 21, 1927, in Newport, Rhode Island. He grew up in Quincy, Massachusetts where he sketched alien monsters and constructed model airplane kits in his childhood days. Following graduation from high school, Paul briefly worked as a typewriter repairman and served a hitch in the military. Using the G.I. Bill, he attended the New England School of Art and Design, where he met his future wife, Jacqueline “Jackie” Boyle. Paul and Jackie got married in 1952 after finishing college. They then moved to Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles, California. Blaisdell worked as a technical illustrator for Douglas Aircraft and submitted his illustrations to such publications as “Spaceways” and “Otherworlds.”
It was through Forest J. Ackerman that Blaisdell got his first film job designing the alien creature for Roger Corman’s low-budget sci-fi outing THE BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES (1955). Paul went on to handle the special effects for such low-budget American-International Pictures drive-in fare as NOT OF THIS EARTH (1957), INVASION OF THE SAUCER-MEN (1957) and THE SPIDER (1958).
Best known for his strikingly original and imaginative creature designs, Blaisdell’s most memorable monsters are the grotesquely malformed mutant in DAY THE WORLD ENDED (1955), the infamous cucumber creature in IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956), Tabanga the tree monster in FROM HELL IT CAME (1957) and the titular distaff beast in THE SHE-CREATURE (1956). In addition to designing these creatures, he also often played them as well.
Blaisdell became increasingly disenchanted with the film business, however, and quit making contributions to movies in the late 1950s. In the early 1960s he and fellow hardcore horror cinema fan Bob Burns launched the magazine “Fantastic Monsters of the Films.” This was sadly short-lived publication that featured a how-to section by Paul called “The Devil’s Workshop.” He also, in the early 1960s, did conceptual artwork on several movies which never got made. Eventually Paul left the business altogether and made a modest living as a carpenter.
Paul died of stomach cancer at the tragically young age of 55 on July 10, 1983, in Topanga Canyon, California. In his lifetime he was never able to experience the fan base that was developing for his work, so many years later. Many of today’s monster makers cite Paul Blaisdell as an influence, thanks to his imaginative designs, work ethic, and ability to work under pressure. Paul Blaisdell is no stranger to this blog site either. See my blogs FILM BOOK OF FEAR: Invasion Of The Saucer-Men (1957), THE BASEMENT BOOKSHELF: Fantastic Monsters of the Films (Gwandanaland Comics), and MONSTROUS MASK REVIEWS (SPECIAL EDITION): Invasion of the Saucer-Men Masks to read more.
The films that Paul were a part of were such a huge part of growing up for me. Whether it was the Saturday afternoon CREATURE DOUBLE FEATURE, or late-night showings on our UHF stations, there were never a shortage of fantastic monsters to see and enjoy. To this day, many of Paul’s creations are still among my favorites of all-time. I present to you now, Paul Blaisdell’s contributions to film.
THE BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES (1955) was Paul’s first foray into monster making. As was often the case in the 1950s, movies often started with just a poster, with the story being written around it. Though the poster art depicts a creature with a lot of eyes, Blaisdell’s actual creation only had two. The premise of “a million eyes” revolved around the creature seeing through the eyes of thousands of types of wildlife.
Also known as THE UNSEEN, THE BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES is an independently made American black-and-white science fiction film, produced and directed by David Kramarsky, that stars Paul Birch, Lorna Thayer, and Dona Cole. Some film sources have said that the film was co-directed by Lou Place. The film was co-produced by Roger Corman and Samuel Z. Arkoff and was released by American Releasing Corporation, which later became American International Pictures.
Allan Kelley and his family struggle to survive on their small date ranch, located in the bleak California desert landscape well away from civilization. His wife Carol hates living so far from civilization, often taking her frustration out on their daughter Sandra. The only bright spot in Sandra’s life is her boyfriend, Larry Brewster. After a mysterious object, initially thought to be a plane crashes nearby, both wild and domesticated animals begin attacking the family. Soon, the farm’s handyman (Leonard Tarver) turns on the family, attacking them. It is finally revealed that a space alien (the “beast” of the title) has taken total control of the area’s lesser animals and is working its way up to humans, all part of its master plan to conquer the Earth. In the end the family bond together, fighting against the alien menace. They must unite their minds in a show of love to have a chance of finally thwarting its plan of conquest. Unable to counter this attack, the alien flees into the mind of a rat, where it is promptly killed and carried off by a hawk.
Roger Corman was attracted to the project because in the original draft of the script, the monster was invisible, which meant the film could be done cheaply. Executive producer Sam Arkoff insisted on a visible monster and spaceship, but there was very little in the budget to realize these effects. Corman’s original idea was an alien that was an ethereal force incapable of being seen.
In April 1955, it was announced in Variety the film would be the first for Pacemaker Productions, a new company formed by Roger Corman. By that stage, the film had been renamed THE BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES by Corman’s distributor James Nicholson. To circumvent union rules, it would be produced and directed by David Kamarsky, Corman’s former aide, while Corman would executive produce. Paul Birch’s casting was announced in April 1955.
THE BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES was the third of a three-picture deal Roger Corman had with the American Releasing Company following THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS (1955) and FIVE GUNS WEST (1955). Reportedly, cost over-runs on Five Guns West meant only about $29,000 remained to make the science fiction film for Pacemaker Productions. The title, THE BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES, reportedly came from American Releasing Company president James H. Nicholson. His lurid title and poster had film exhibitors signed on before seeing the finished film. The “million eyes” of the title refers to the alien’s ability to see through the eyes of the animals and people it controls by inhabiting their bodies.
THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED (1955) was Paul’s second film and featured his first full body monster. It was an independently made black-and-white post-apocalyptic science fiction film, produced and directed by Roger Corman, that stars Richard Denning, Lori Nelson, Adele Jergens, Paul Birch and Mike Connors. Chet Huntley of NBC, later of The Huntley-Brinkley Report, served as the film’s narrator. It was released by American Releasing Corporation (later American International Pictures) as a double feature with THE PHANTOM FROM 10,000 LEAGUES.
An atomic war has seemingly destroyed most of human civilization, leaving the Earth contaminated with radioactive fallout. One exception is an isolated box canyon, surrounded by lead-bearing cliffs, in which former U.S. Navy Commander Jim Maddison (Paul Birch) lives with his daughter Louise (Lori Nelson) in a home he has stockpiled with supplies in anticipation of such an apocalypse. Louise is engaged to be married, but her fiancé has been missing. She keeps his photo on her nightstand (which was actually a photo of Roger Corman).
Into this natural bomb shelter stumble several survivors, who by chance were inside the canyon when the atomic war occurred. After initially refusing to admit them, Jim relents when his daughter appeals to his humanity. Among the survivors are a geologist, Rick (Richard Denning), who happens to specialize in uranium mining; and a small-time hood, Tony (Mike Connors) and his “moll” Ruby (Adele Jergens), who were on their way to San Francisco.
There are two struggles for survival: The first is a simple question of whether the radioactive fallout will ever dissipate, and if so, if it will do so before the next rain comes which will wash out what is in the atmosphere to fall to Earth, contaminating their shelter. The second threat comes in the form of a hideous atomic mutated monster (Paul Blaisdell), which seems bent on killing anything it comes across, but only consuming those creatures whose flesh is contaminated by fallout. A less obvious but no less dangerous threat is the hidden menace of Tony. Although seemingly charming and helpful, his true character and intentions are that he wants the other men out of the way, so that he can have both of the women, especially Louise, for himself.
All three dangers coincide as the mutated monster kidnaps Louise. It then releases her, and she runs into a small freshwater lake, where the creature is obviously afraid to follow. Rick appears and attacks the creature, but it runs away as it begins to rain. Following the creature as it is being destroyed by the rain, Louise’s mental connection with it stops as it dies. Tony, having stabbed Ruby to death after she confronted him about wanting to be with the younger Louise, then steals Jim’s pistol. He quietly waits to ambush Rick when he returns with Louise. As Tony takes aim, Jim produces a second pistol and shoots Tony dead.
Jim has been slowly expiring from radiation poisoning. He reveals that the rain is radiation-free and will wash away all of the remaining contamination, making the world safe to venture out into again. As he dies, Jim also reveals that he has heard voices of other survivors on the radio. After the rain, Rick and Louise, the two survivors of the original group, walk hand-in-hand out of the canyon (as the end card saying “The Beginning” appears on screen).
IT CONQUERED THE WORLD is an independently made 1956 American black-and-white science fiction film, produced and directed by Roger Corman, starring Peter Graves, Lee Van Cleef, Beverly Garland, and Sally Fraser. It was released theatrically by American International Pictures as a double feature with THE SHE-CREATURE.
Dr. Tom Anderson, an embittered scientist, has made contact with a Venusian creature, while using his radio transmitter. The alien’s secret motivation is to take complete control of the Earth by enslaving humanity using mind control devices; the alien claims that it merely desires to bring peace to the world by eliminating all emotions. Anderson agrees to help the creature and even intends to allow it to assimilate his wife, Claire and friend Dr. Paul Nelson.
The Venusian then disrupts all electric power on Earth, including motor vehicles, leaving Dr. Nelson to resort to riding a bicycle.
After avoiding a flying bat-like creature which carries the mind control device, Dr. Nelson returns home to find his wife, Joan newly assimilated. She then attempts to force his own assimilation using another bat-creature in her possession, and he is forced to kill her in self-defense. By then, the only people who are still free from the Venusian’s influence are Nelson, Anderson, Anderson’s wife and a group of army soldiers on station in the nearby woods.
Nelson finally persuades the paranoid Anderson that he has made a horrible mistake in blindly trusting the Venusian’s motives, allying himself with a creature bent on world domination. When they discover that Tom’s wife Claire has taken a rifle to the alien’s cave in order to kill it, they hurriedly follow her, but the creature kills her before they can rescue her. Finally, seeing the loss of everything he holds dear, Dr. Anderson viciously attacks the Venusian by holding a blowtorch to the creature’s face; Anderson dies at the alien’s hand as it expires. Arriving on the scene too late to save his friend, Nelson sadly reflects on how Anderson’s misguided ideals ultimately led to death and devastation, and muses that a solution to humanity’s problems must ultimately be achieved by humanity itself.
THE SHE-CREATURE is a 1956 American black-and-white science fiction horror film, released by American International Pictures from a script by Lou Rusoff (brother-in-law of AIP executive Samuel Z. Arkoff). It was produced by Alex Gordon, directed by Edward L. Cahn, and stars Chester Morris, Marla English and Tom Conway, and casting Frieda Inescort and El Brendel in smaller roles. The monster costume was created by master make-up artist Paul Blaisdell and is considered one of his best. Parts of the costume were re-used in three later AIP films. Blaisdell nicknamed the monster “Cuddles”. The costume was eventually destroyed in a flood that hit his Topanga Canyon home in 1979. The film was released by AIP as a double feature with IT CONQUERED THE WORLD.
Andrea Talbott (Marla English) becomes a pawn in the deadly intentions of Dr. Carlo Lombardi (Chester Morris), who uses his sinister powers to regress her to a past life … as a prehistoric humanoid monster from the ocean’s depths! Using Andrea to commit shocking and vengeful murders, Lombardi’s crimes go unchecked … until his assistant-turned-assassin slowly begins to take control of her hideous new form.
The story was inspired by the success of the best-selling Morey Bernstein book The Search for Bridey Murphy, which concerned hypnotism and reincarnation. Exhibitor Jerry Zigmond suggested this subject might make a good film, and AIP commissioned Lou Rusoff to write a script. AIP did not have enough money to entirely finance the film, so the company asked producer Alex Gordon if he could contribute the remainder. Israel Berman, a colleague of Gordon’s brother Richard, knew financier Jack Doppelt, who agreed to provide $40,000 of the film’s $104,000 budget.
Edward L. Cahn persuaded his old actor friend Edward Arnold to star for $3,000 for one week’s work, and also cast Peter Lorre as the hypnotist. Arnold died two days before production began, while Peter Lorre read the script after which he immediately pulled out of the film and fired his agent for committing him to the project without consulting him first. The producer had to find a substitute cast quickly, settling on Chester Morris and Tom Conway. This was Ron Randell’s first film in America in a number of years.
As usual, Blaisdell played the monster in every scene. Blaisdell nearly got injured when the director instructed him to smash his way through a wooden door in one of the film’s action sequences, without realizing the door had been reinforced with plywood. Also, in the beach scenes where the creature had to be seen emerging from the surf, Blaisdell was told to wade in up to his waist instead of his knees. The costume got so waterlogged, Blaisdell could hardly propel himself out of the water, especially with the tide working against him. Amazingly, most of this scene was later excised from the finished film due to poor quality image.
VOODOO WOMAN is a 1957 horror film directed by Edward L. Cahn and starring Marla English in her final film role, Tom Conway, and Mike Connors. It was released in March 1957 by American International Pictures as a double feature with THE UNDEAD.
Harry West (Norman Willis) discovers gold in the idol worshipped by a jungle voodoo tribe in Bantalaya, a French-owned jungle colony. Harry enlists a pair of treasure hunters from the United States, one of them being the beautiful but ruthless Marilyn Blanchard (Marla English). Hoping to take the treasure for themselves, Marilyn murders Harry and steals his map. They con the innocent Ted Bronson (Mike Connors) into acting as a jungle guide and leading them to the tribe that owns the idol.
Meanwhile, Dr. Roland Gerard (Tom Conway), a mad scientist who has exiled himself deep in the same jungle, is using a combination of native voodoo and his own biochemical discoveries in an attempt to create a superhuman being. He hopes that this being, possessing the best of man and beast, will be the mother of a new perfect and deathless race which he will control with a mixture of hypnosis and telepathy. He is accompanied by his wife, Susan (Mary Ellen Kay), who no longer loves Dr. Gerard but is prevented from leaving by her husband and the natives.
Dr. Gerard’s initial attempts to create a female superbeing are a failure because the transformation is only temporary and the native girl used as the subject of the experiment lacks the killer instinct, he deems necessary to carry out his instructions. However, when he meets the treasure hunters, he decides that Marilyn would be a perfect subject for his experiment. He successfully turns her into an invulnerable monster, but when she learns her quest for gold was in vain, he loses his mental control over her, and she destroys him. Ted and Susan are able to escape in the ensuing chaos. After becoming human again, Marilyn tries to salvage the idol which has almost fallen into a poisonous gas pit which the natives use for their sacrifices, and she accidentally loses her balance and falls into it herself.
The original make-up design for the Voodoo Woman was deemed unsuitable at the last minute and the title monster is actually the She Creature costume hurriedly stripped of its tail, fins and pincer-like-claws. What remained was the bulky Thing-style body, which was wrapped in a burlap sarong and topped with a modified skull mask and big blond wig. Cahn worked actively to conceal this fact, using quick cuts and keeping her mostly in shadows or behind foliage. The rumbling growl of a lion was also dubbed for added effect. Makeup man Harry Thomas supplied the skull mask and wig for the monster (purchased from a Halloween costume store), but it looked so phony, at the last minute, Blaisdell had to totally rework the head to make it look more acceptable.
NOT OF THIS EARTH is an independently made 1957 American black-and-white science fiction film produced and directed by Roger Corman (for his Los Altos Productions), that stars Paul Birch, Beverly Garland, Morgan Jones, William Roerick, and Anna Lee Carroll. The film was written by Charles B. Griffith and Mark Hanna and was distributed by Allied Artists Pictures Corporation as a double feature with ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS. Its theatrical release had a running time of 67 minutes, that was expanded to 70 minutes in 1962 for TV syndication.
A man who is “not of this Earth” (Paul Birch) has adopted the name “Mr. Johnson” for moving among the populace of Los Angeles. The alien has a sensitivity to high decibel sounds and is conspicuous only for his stilted and formal syntax and his sunglasses, which he wears even in the dark. The sunglasses hide his blank, white-eyed stare which kills his victims by burning through their eyes and into their brains. He removes the blood of his first victim (a teenage girl walking home at night from a date) using a system of tubes and canisters that he keeps in an aluminum attaché case.
Johnson is from the planet Davanna, where the inhabitants have developed an incurable blood disease as a side effect from a nuclear war, and he has been sent to Earth to examine the blood of humans for its possible usefulness in curing Davanna’s dying race (their blood is slowly turning to dust in their veins). Johnson is answerable to an authority on Davanna with whom he can communicate through a device hidden behind a sliding panel in the living room of his Griffith Park mansion. His bodyguard, Jeremy (Jonathan Haze), who also acts as his chauffeur and houseboy, provides him support and protection, but is unaware of his being a murderous alien.
Johnson hires nurse Nadine (Beverly Garland) to look after him in his house. Her boss, town physician Dr. Rochelle (William Roerick), is under Johnson’s hypnotic control after finding out about his patient’s peculiar blood cell structure. With a limit on the number of transfusions he can be given, Johnson takes to murdering locals and simply draining their blood. Adding to his victims are a strolling Chinese-American man, a sleazy door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman (Dick Miller), and a trio of homeless male drunkards. The police are mystified by these “vampire killings”.
Johnson’s plans are disturbed by the unexpected and sudden appearance of a female from Davanna (Anna Lee Carroll). While Johnson can command Earth humans through telepathy, even to the point of using their native languages, he can also completely communicate with his fellow aliens through telepathy. The alien female asks him for an immediate transfusion, because her physical condition is rapidly deteriorating. Johnson breaks into Rochelle’s office, but by accident he steals blood contaminated with rabies.
Later, the Davanna woman collapses in the street, dying at a hospital. Nadine’s friend, police patrolman Harry Sherbourne (Morgan Jones), tries to question Dr. Rochelle about the dead woman, but he is unable to speak while under Johnson’s mind control. As a precaution, now fearing discovery, Johnson sends a bizarre oxygen-activated umbrella-like flying alien creature to kill Rochelle (nicknamed the “jellyfish monster” by special effects man Paul Blaisdell). He eradicates Jeremy, who has discovered evidence of Johnson’s alien origin. Nadine, whom he attempts to kidnap and take with him, manages to call the police as Johnson chases her through the park in his car. Johnson abandons her and flees, pursued by the arriving Sherbourne on his motorcycle. When Sherbourne turns on his siren, Johnson (to whom the sound is immensely painful) loses control of his car and dies in a crash.
After Johnson’s burial, Sherbourne and Nadine stand by his grave, which bears the inscription “Here lies a man who was not of this Earth”. While Sherbourne expresses mild compassion for Johnson, for his motivation to rescue his world and its dying populace, Nadine refuses to offer any kind of pity. They leave, just as a mysterious man, wearing dark sunglasses, approaches the grave site. Like Johnson, he wears the same sunglasses and carries the same distinctive case containing transfusion equipment.
THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN (also known as THE COLOSSAL MAN) is a 1957 American black-and-white science fiction film from American International Pictures. Produced and directed by Bert I. Gordon, it stars Glenn Langan, Cathy Downs, William Hudson, and Larry Thor. It is an uncredited adaptation of Homer Eon Flint’s 1928 short science fiction novel The Nth Man. AIP theatrically released it as a double feature with CAT GIRL.
A military site in Desert Rock, Nevada, plans a test explosion of the first atomic plutonium bomb. When it doesn’t detonate as expected, Lt. Colonel Glenn Manning receives orders to keep his men in the protective trench. Moments later, an unidentified small civilian aircraft crash-lands near the bomb site, and Glenn runs into the detonation area to rescue the pilot. Once in the detonation area, the bomb goes off, and Glenn gets caught in the radioactive blast.
Surviving the blast but suffering from third-degree burns over almost his whole body, Glenn gets treated by specialist Dr. Paul Linstrom and military scientist Dr. Eric Coulter at the army base hospital. Glenn’s fiancée, Carol Forrest, anxiously awaits a prognosis, but Linstrom refrains from telling her that the consensus is that Glenn is extremely unlikely to survive. The following day, however, Linstrom and Coulter are stunned to discover that Glenn’s burns have completely healed. That evening, Carol isn’t allowed to see him and learns the military moved Glenn to an army rehabilitation and research center in Summit, Nevada. She drives there and gets admitted entry. Upon entering his room, Carol faints in horror as Glenn has mutated into a giant about 16 feet tall.
The next day, Linstrom tells Carol that Glenn’s exposure to the plutonium blast caused his old cells to stop dying and his new cells to multiply at an accelerated rate, resulting in his abnormal growth. Linstrom admits that he and Coulter don’t know if they can stop it and that if they don’t, Glenn will keep growing until he dies. Awakening the day after, Glenn is initially frightened, then greatly disturbed. Carol sees him the following day to comfort him, but Glenn is now roughly 22 feet tall, distant, and depressed. While the public knows he survived the explosion, the military has kept the truth of his condition secret.
As Glenn reaches 30 feet tall, Linstrom moves him to a tent large enough to provide shelter and recommends that Carol spend time with him. Despite her encouragement, Glenn is angry and bitter. Linstrom eventually reveals that Glenn’s heart is growing at only half the rate of his body, and soon it won’t be able to support his enormous size and weight. He warns Carol that Glenn’s sanity will decline before his heart finally explodes. That night, Carol tries to console Glenn, but he loses his temper and shouts at Carol to leave him alone.
The following morning, Glenn disappears as Coulter reports to Linstrom that he may have found a solution to Glenn’s growth. Led by Colonel Hallock, the military conducts a 10-mile-wide search for the now 50-foot-tall Glenn, but with no results. When Carol asks Linstrom if she can help in their search, he cautions Carol that Glenn may no longer recognize her. Coulter reveals that he has created a special syringe filled with a serum for Glenn’s bone marrow that will stop his growth.
Meanwhile, the local news relays that a “giant man” was spotted approaching Las Vegas. As the military heads there, Glenn, now over 60 feet tall and confused, is drawn to the Vegas Strip. He wreaks havoc on various casinos, and after a policeman shoots him, he hurls a palm tree at the formed crowd. When his behavior alarms the police, they begin firing at Glenn, enraging him. He destroys the Pioneer Club’s Vegas Vic sign, then heads toward Boulder Dam as army helicopters track his movements.
Linstrom, Carol, and Coulter attempt to intercept Hallock’s troops. After landing at the dam, Lindstrom uses a bullhorn to try reasoning with Glenn, who seems to listen. Coulter and Linstrom take the enormous syringe and plunge it into Glenn’s ankle. He removes it and angrily spears Coulter with it, killing him. Then Glenn grabs Carol and starts across the dam. Linstrom stops Hallock from attacking prematurely before he and Carol implore Glenn to release her. Though Glenn is disoriented, he complies. Once she’s free, Hallock orders his men to open fire, causing Glenn to tumble into the Colorado River to his apparent death.
AIP’s special effects technician Paul Blaisdell designed and built all of the tiny-sized props used in the film as well as the Las Vegas signs that Glenn destroys.
INVASION OF THE SAUCER-MEN is a 1957 black-and-white comic science fiction/horror film produced by James H. Nicholson for release by American International Pictures. The film was directed by Edward L. Cahn and stars Steven Terrell, Gloria Castillo, Raymond Hatton and Frank Gorshin. The screenplay by Robert J. Gurney Jr. and Al Martin was based on the 1955 short story “The Cosmic Frame” by Paul W. Fairman. INVASION OF THE SAUCER-MEN was released as a double feature with I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF.
A flying saucer lands in the woods. A teenage couple, Johnny Carter and Joan Hayden, while driving to their local lover’s lane without the headlights on, accidentally run down one of the saucer’s large-headed occupants.
Joe Gruen, a drunken con man, stumbles across the alien’s corpse after the teenagers have left to report the incident. Imagining future riches and fame, he plans to keep the body stored for now in his refrigerator. After failing to convince his friend Art Burns to help him retrieve the alien body, Joe decides to return to the scene. Other aliens soon arrive, however, and quickly inject alcohol into his veins via their retractable needle fingernails. Joe, who was already intoxicated, dies from alcohol poisoning. The aliens remove their dead companion from the scene and replace it with Joe’s corpse.
Having reported the accident and the deceased alien to the police, Johnny and Joan return with the sheriff, only to find Joe’s dead body at the scene of the accident instead of the alien’s. The police then decide to charge Johnny with vehicular manslaughter. (The aliens have in a sense “framed” Johnny, hence the title of the short story the film was based on).
Meanwhile, the dead alien’s hand has detached itself from its arm and runs amok in the woods, causing trouble. The military, following up an earlier UFO report, soon get involved, eventually surrounding the alien’s saucer and accidentally blowing it to smithereens.
Art goes to the accident scene with the teenagers, where he also gets injected numerous times with alcohol by the aliens, but he doesn’t die because he wasn’t already intoxicated at the time. In the end, it is the teenagers, not the military, who defeat the aliens when they discover that the saucer’s occupants cannot stand the glare from their car’s bright headlights. When the teenagers all flash their headlights on them at once, the three remaining aliens disappear in a puff of smoke.
Special effects technician Paul Blaisdell, who provided four alien costumes, a mobile severed hand and a flying saucer, recalled that Invasion of the Saucer Men was originally intended as a serious horror film, but gradually developed into a comedy. Blaisdell and his friend/assistant Bob Burns played two of the aliens, with the others being played alternately by dwarf actors Angelo Rossito, Eddie Gibbons, Dean Neville and Lloyd Dixon.
ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE (retitled SIX INCHES TALL for its U.K. release) is a 1958 American black-and-white science fiction horror film produced and directed by Bert I. Gordon. It stars John Agar, John Hoyt and June Kenney. Gordon also supervised the film’s special effects. American International Pictures released the film on June 30, 1958, as a double feature with WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST. The film was rushed into production by AIP and Bert I. Gordon to capitalize on the popular success of Universal-International’s THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, released the previous year in 1957.
The doll manufacturing company Dolls Inc. is owned and operated by Mr. Franz, who has a personal collection of very lifelike dolls stored in glass canisters locked in a display case on a wall. Sally Reynolds answers a newspaper advertisement for a secretary position. Although unnerved by Franz’s extremely friendly and pushy manner, she is ultimately moved to take the job by his appeals over how short-handed the company is.
A traveling salesman, Bob Westley, comes to the office, and he and Sally develop a relationship. After working at the doll factory for several weeks, Bob makes a marriage proposal to Sally. He persuades her to quit her job, promising to break the news to Franz.
The next day, however, Franz tells Sally that Bob has returned home to take care of extended business. She finds it completely implausible that Bob would abandon her in such a manner and notices a new doll in Franz’s collection that looks just like Bob. She goes to the police, claiming that Franz has shrunken Bob and added him to his doll collection. Sergeant Paterson is skeptical until Sally names the secretary who preceded her and a postman she heard vanished after a visit to Dolls, Inc.; both are listed as missing persons. Confronted by Paterson, Franz says his dolls are all modeled on people he knows and shows him a complete run of Bob dolls to prove the resemblance to a shrunken Bob is meaningless.
Franz implores Sally to stay at Dolls, Inc. despite her reporting him to the police. When she refuses, he uses a machine to shrink her down to doll size. He uses the shrinking machine on anyone who tries to leave him. All the “dolls” in his glass case are friends put in suspended animation. He revives Bob and four others as company for Sally.
During a welcoming party for the two newcomers, Franz is visited by his friend Emil, who wants Franz to repair his marionettes for an upcoming production. Franz mentions to Emil that he has been afraid of being abandoned ever since his wife left him, unconsciously explaining his “doll” abductions. The small prisoners have access to a phone, but their voices are too small to be heard over the phone lines, and loud music on a record player is drowning out their voices. Sergeant Paterson continues investigating Franz, with Sally and Bob now confirmed as missing. After Franz is questioned again by Paterson, he decides to kill his prisoners and himself before he is caught. He takes his “collection” to an old theater, supposedly to test his repairs made on Emil’s marionette. There, he throws one final party, forcing his captives to act-out Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The prisoners drug Franz’s coffee with one of the capsules used to keep them in suspended animation and escape while Franz is occupied with a theater worker. Separated from the others, Bob and Sally head to Franz’s workshop, planning to go back for the others after using Franz’s device to restore themselves. Franz returns to his workshop, but not before they have returned to normal size. They go to the police, leaving a despondent Franz behind.
EARTH VS. THE SPIDER (a.k.a. THE SPIDER) is an independently made 1958 American black-and-white science fiction horror film produced and directed by Bert I. Gordon, who also provided the plot upon which the screenplay by George Worthing Yates and Laszlo Gorog was based. Though the title suggests a global crisis, the film focuses entirely on a small town being terrorized by a giant spider whose origin is never explained. The film stars Ed Kemmer, June Kenney and Eugene Persson. The special effects were by Bert I. Gordon and Paul Blaisdell. EARTH VS. THE SPIDER was released by American International Pictures as a double feature in different film markets with either THE BRAIN EATERS or THE SCREAMING SKULL.
Jack Flynn is driving down a highway at night looking at a bracelet he bought his teenage daughter Carol for her birthday, when his truck hits a massive spider thread. The next morning, Carol is concerned that her ne’er-do-well father did not come home the night before. She convinces her boyfriend Mike to assist in a search. They find his crashed truck and the bracelet. Thinking he may have taken shelter in a nearby cave, they investigate. In the darkness of the cave, they step off a ledge and fall onto the gigantic web of an enormous tarantula, which emerges to attack them. They escape and make it back to town.
The sheriff does not believe Carol and Mike about the giant spider, but their science teacher, Mr. Kingman, persuades him to return to the cave with large amounts of DDT. They find Jack’s body, drained of fluids, and spray DDT throughout the cavern to flush out and then kill the spider. The apparently lifeless body of the spider is taken back to town to the high school gym, where Kingman wants to study it, concerned that whatever conditions created it may produce a whole race of giant spiders. A group of teenagers uses the gym to practice rock and roll numbers they are going to play for a school dance. The music awakens the spider and it crashes through the wall of the gym. The janitor, stopping to call the teacher, is killed.
The spider terrorizes the town, killing a number of people before heading to Kingman’s house, attacking his wife and son. Kingman, in his car, gets the spider’s attention and lures it outside of town before escaping and doubling back to confirm that his wife and son are safe.
The spider is spotted returning to its cave. The sheriff and Kingman use dynamite to seal the spider in, but then discover Carol and Mike had gone into the cave to retrieve the bracelet her father had bought her as a final memento of him. A crew is put to work digging into the cave through its ceiling. Kingman acquires a couple of large electrodes from the power company and runs cables to some power lines. In hopes of escaping the spider’s reach, Carol and Mike proceed onto a narrow ledge, which collapses behind them, leaving them trapped. The spider descends on a strand of web to get at them. The townspeople arrive and toss one of the electrodes to Mike. Kingman and Mike use the electrodes to electrocute the spider, which falls, impaling itself on stalagmites. Dynamite is again used to seal off the cave, and the sheriff remarks with satisfaction that even should the spider return to life again, it will be trapped and starve to death. However, Kingman fears that curious scientists may again dig up the spider in hopes of studying it.
Special effects expert Paul Blaisdell created a life-size giant spider leg to use in the film, as well as a desiccated, mummy-like corpse that was used to represent the Spider’s victims in several scenes. The same dummy was used to film both the dead truck driver from the beginning of the film as well as a deputy sheriff; all that was required was a change of clothes on the mannequin.
IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE is an independently made 1958 American science fiction horror film, produced by Robert Kent, directed by Edward L. Cahn, that stars Marshall Thompson, Shawn Smith (Shirley Patterson), and Kim Spalding. The film was distributed by United Artists as a double feature with CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN. The film’s premise has been cited as an inspiration for screenwriter Dan O’Bannon’s screenplay for Ridley Scott’s classic 1979 film ALIEN.
In 1973, a nuclear-powered spaceship blasts off from Mars for Earth, bringing with it the sole survivor of the first mission, Col. Edward Carruthers (Marshall Thompson). He is suspected of having murdered the other nine members of his crew for their food and water rations, on the premise that he had no way of knowing if or when an Earth rescue mission would ever arrive. Carruthers denies this allegation, attributing his crew’s deaths to a hostile humanoid life form on the Red Planet.
Commander Col. Van Heusen is unconvinced and makes sure that Carruthers is constantly accompanied by another member of his crew. While the ship was on the Martian surface, an emergency hatch had been left open, allowing the creature easy access. The crew are at first skeptical that something crawled aboard while they were on Mars. However, when Kienholz investigates odd sounds coming from a lower level, he is killed, and his body hidden in an air duct. Next is Gino Finelli. He is found, barely alive, but the creature attacks his would-be rescuer. Bullets have no effect, forcing the crewman to leave Gino behind, much to the distress of his brother Bob. An autopsy of Kienholz’s body reveals that it has been sucked dry of all fluids.
The crew use hand grenades and gas grenades, but the creature proves to be immune to both. They next try electrocution, also with no effect. When “It” is tricked into going into the spaceship’s atomic reactor room, they shut the heavily shielded door and expose the creature directly to the ship’s nuclear pile. It easily crashes through the door and escapes. The creature is so strong that it can tear through the metal hatches separating each of the ship’s levels. The survivors (except for an injured crewman, who is trapped below in a spot inaccessible to the creature) retreat to the control room on the topmost deck. When Carruthers notices the ship’s higher-than-normal oxygen consumption rate, he surmises that this is due to the creature’s larger lung capacity, needed for the thin Martian atmosphere. In a last desperate move, everyone puts on their spacesuits, and Carruthers opens the command deck’s hull airlock directly to the vacuum of space. A violent decompression follows, and the plan works: “It” suffocates and finally expires, stuck part way through the final hatch.
A press conference is later held on Earth, revealing the details of what happened aboard the rescue ship. The project director emphasizes that Earth may now be forced to bypass the Red Planet “because another word for Mars is death”.
IT! was the last film of actor Ray “Crash” Corrigan. Corrigan was set to play the creature, but during pre-production, he did not want to travel over to Topanga Canyon in western Los Angeles County where Paul Blaisdell lived and operated his studio. Therefore, Blaisdell could not take exact measurements of Corrigan’s head. Consequently, there were final fit problems with the creature’s head prop: “[Corrigan’s]…bulbous chin stuck out through the monster’s mouth, so the make-up man painted his chin to look like a tongue.” Blaisdell then added a bottom row of fangs that covered Corrigan’s jutting chin.
Blaisdell said working for United Artists wasn’t nearly as happy an experience as working at AIP was for him. As filming progressed, Ray Corrigan turned up drunk on the set a few times, refused to follow certain directions from Ed Cahn and even damaged the monster suit, causing Blaisdell to be called in to do a couple of quick “patch-up” jobs. Blaisdell said it wasn’t a happy set, what with Corrigan drunk on and off, and the film’s female star Shawn Smith constantly in a bad mood, furious that she had been cast in a low-budget monster movie. Blaisdell said only Marshall Thompson seemed to be enjoying himself. The creature costume became the property of UA and wound up a year later showing up in their 1959 John Agar opus, INVISIBLE INVADERS (without paying Blaisdell for reusing his props).
Paul Blaisdell was also involved in other films, but it was mostly due to his props and costumes being re-used or modified for a new movie. In 1957’s VOODOO WOMAN, the She-Creature costume was re-used and modified. From the same year, Paul designed the monster in FROM HELL IT CAME but did not actually make it. In 1958’s WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST, tiny-sized props from THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN were re-used. The She-Creature and Saucer-Man masks were re-used in the 1958 film, HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER. The She-Creature was used once again in 1959 in the film THE GHOST OF DRAGSTRIP HOLLOW.
Paul was such an influential talent. His ability to create greatness from nothing is a talent not seen often anymore. He took a lot of pride in his work, and it shows in every creature and prop he created. Thankfully, his legacy lives on. Latex masks of his monsters, model kits, props and his movies continue to be released regularly, to the happiness of all of his fans.
Don’t forget to check out my other entries in the ARTIST SPOTLIGHT category.