Irradiated Sci-Fi

The Cyclops

Fifties sci-fi remains some of the coolest, cheesiest, wildest and excitingest movies ever made. Besides uninvited UFOs and alien b-holes showing up like holiday relatives, a large portion of ’em have to do with the effects of radiation-gone-wild on everything from ants (Them!/ 1954) and spiders (Tarantula/1955), to octopuses (It Came From Beneath The Sea/1955) and lizards (Giant Gila Monster/1959) – and all creatures in-between – including rats, bunnies, grasshoppers, salad tomatoes and people. Heck, just watching these movies gives you radiation poisoning. (OK, not really. But my glowing epidermis sure feels like it sometimes.)

'50s Sci Fi

I love the “mutated creature” stuff – quite a bit, as it turns out. But where radiation really earns its keep is when it turns humans into death metal monsters. Take for instance The Cyclops (1957), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957) and War of the Colossal Beast (1958), all created by B-movie legend Bert I. Gordon.

'50s Sci-Fi

The monster is essentially the same in all three, with the actor Duncan Parkin playing the pitiful reconfigured giant – in two of the three with a mangled face and one presumably good eye. (Maybe the “I” in Bert I. Gordon is a subtle reference. Heh.) Duncan, by the way, is credited as a stagehand in The Beginning of the End (1957), that infamously bad giant grasshopper movie. Maybe he got a dose working on that one.

'50s Sci-Fi

Amid all of them, The Cyclops, with its lava-lamp faced monster and shredded pants (apparently radiation mutates clothes as well), is one of those mega-cheesy guilty pleasures – and the first giant human monster movie. No, Gulliver’s Travels in 1939 doesn’t factor in because his size was regular – the people who f’d with his mind were super small. (Note: There may have been a giant human monster movie before The Cyclops, but I’m too busy combing my hair to do research. Note: v.2: 1952’s Jack and Beanstalk had a giant, but that one was not a monster movie – it was a comedy starring Abbott & Costello, the Laurel & Hardy of their day.)

The Cyclops

A test pilot goes missing. Probably fell down a hole. So they go looking for him in one of Mexico’s deep, hole-filled jungles. Arriving via a small plane that looks about as sturdy as a two-seater kite, they encounter giant birds, lizards, bugs and a 50-foot giant human with a face distorted by radiation, of which there is plentiful in Mexico. This is why to this day people traveling there are warned not to drink the water, what with its f’d up face melting properties and such.

The Cyclops

And what a mutated giant hey is – one eye is completely melted over with dripping skin gelled into place like a flesh curtain. The other eye, bulging to the point of popping, looks like it was too big to begin. Go big or go home, I say. And the all-angle teeth? Probably got that way chewing on small airplanes.

The Cyclops

Of course, the search party has to bring along the missing pilot’s girlfriend so that the monster has something to distract him from the giant snake wrapping around his food chute, ala King Kong (1933). Even with only one kinda sorta maybe good eye left, he seems to recognize her. Get where this is going?

The Cyclops

The craptacular special effects were slightly refined for Duncan’s next two roles as a homeless giant everyone wants to kill because he can get Frisbees™ off the roof without a ladder. Regardless, in order to fully understand yourself, take a look at these sci-fi classics and see if you can’t discover a part of you in them.

OK, that just sounded plain dumbass. Must be the radiation kicking in.

2 Responses to “Irradiated Sci-Fi”

  1. And let us not forget Allison Hayes, in “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.” A movie that traumatized me as a kid watching Sci-Fi Theater on channel 4. To this day, tall women make me nervous. Kinda excited–but nervous . . .
    Then there was “Reptilicus” the Dinosaur that attacked Copenhagen giving a whole new meaning to the term: “Cheese Danish.”

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