Thursday, May 15, 2014

Is Godzilla Your Favorite Radioactive Monster?

In honor, sort of, of the new Godzilla film*, we thought we’d ask our readers: which is your favorite movie beast with a nuclear energy or radiation connection? We’ll do this in the form of a poll, but if you have a better candidate, leave it in the comments. No awards or prizes, just the warm glow of knowing your nuclear monster history.
50footThe Fifty Foot Woman – From Attack of the … (1957) – Incredibly sleazy with the cheapest imaginable special effects (big things become transparent due to shabby fx), the fifty foot woman (the inimitable Allison Hayes) drinks too much, longs for her faithless husband and encounters an alien whose radiant being causes her to grow to – well, 50 feet – and go on a rampage. Remade a couple of times, but the original has the benefit of 50’s style scuzz (Director Nathan Juran sensibly used a pseudonym).
kronos-robotKronos(1957) – A bit higher brow (which almost anything would be), Kronos is a cube-like spacecraft that moves across the earth absorbing radiation for who knows what purpose. (The new Godzilla does this, too.) As it collects radiation, it gets larger and more sinister – and now it has its sights on a nuclear reactor. Actually pretty good, leading with its ideas about technology and letting the unknowable nature of the cube increase the fear factor. Director Kurt Neumann moved right on to The Fly (not radiation, sorry), then, sadly, died fairly young – of fright?!
ThemThem! (1954)– Posed as a mystery, something is rampaging through the southwest, wrecking houses, skeletonizing people with goop and sending little girls into stupefied states of shock. How atomic test bomb-derived gigantic ants could hide is a mystery in itself – maybe to keep their papier-mâché selves under wraps – but the film is actually quite spooky. Being hoisted by mandibles is pretty alarming and the sound effects accompanying the ants are eeriness incarnate. The movie can still cause nightmares if accepted in the right spirit.
hulkThe Incredible Hulk - In the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby comic book, which started in 1962, scientist Bruce Banner finds himself at the epicenter of a “gamma bomb” blast while saving his foolish young assistant. This causes him to become the world’s worst rageaholic – and green, too, for no discernible reason. Basically a Jekyll-Hyde story, Hulk can destroy things but not kill people – he’s sort of sympathetic – though his fearsomeness could certainly induce heart attacks. Movie-wise, you can choose between Eric Bana, Edward Norton, and Mark Ruffalo, but I think we can all agree that the definitive screen Hulk is Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno from the 70-80s TV show. More massive then gigantic, but we’ll give him a pass.
amazing-colossal-manThe Amazing Colossal Man (1957) – This time, Lt. Col. Glenn Manning (40s Fox star Glenn Langan hitting career rock bottom) meets the business end of a plutonium bomb and grows, um, see title. If you know Las Vegas, it’s amusing to see him somehow hide himself while traversing the low-lying city - a trick he learned from Thems’ ants, I guess. At least he could literally raise the roof at the Sands to see Dean and Jerry perform. Ring-a-ding-ding! Made by Bert I. Gordon (note initials) whose entire 30-year career was spent growing and shrinking things using his home grown – and endearingly awful – travelling matte system. This movie was successful enough to spawn a BIG-helmed sequel.
night-of-the-living-deadThe zombies from Night of the Living Dead (1968) – Eric caught this one. Despite having seen this still effective sweat inducer many times, I’d forgotten that a crash-landed outer space probe spewed radiation that turned the dead into zombies. Creator George Romero considered them ghouls (flesh eaters), not zombies (ensorcelled slaves), but he’s probably accepted by now the term of art for his perambulating, pustulating pals. I don’t think anyone has ever commented (in the movies, that is) on their stench, probably because it raises the question of how they could ever sneak up on you. Dinner time!
EDITOR'S NOTE: Early reviews indicate that this version of Godzilla is unleashed upon the world via a nuclear power plant accident before he embarks on a global rampage. This might be a good time to mention that former NASA scientist James Hansen has made the case that nuclear energy has saved over 1 million lives in recent decades, with the potential to save millions more in the future.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

No Spiderman?

John Keeley said...

I dig Godzilla. True menacing appearance, and his refuge in oceans added an element of mystery/suspense.

MIchael Sexton said...

I thoughtfully cast my vote for the Incredible Hulk because everyone knows that radiation is green. Right?

Anonymous said...

Not really monsters, but the implication of the green "ooze" is what made the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a regular household word. Also not a monster, but I think radiation got the rap for turning Grant Williams into The Incredible Shrinking Man. I think insecticide also had a hand in that one, so they dissed rads and DDT in one movie. It's a two-fer.

jimwg said...

I know it sounds unbelievable and it could only be affirmed by poll, but I think nuclear professionals would be surprised as hell to realize that the nuclear-caused-monster fear-factor of those old films is very much alive as a portion of nuclear FUD. I think if you gave a poll in Japan of how many think radiation can do SOMETHING to create some kind of monster or mutant like in those films it'd would probably least hit 30% of the Japanese populace and even a fair fraction here. The criminally poor and PC science education in the U.S. would account for that in a era where "science shows" need inane glib nerds and tons of explosions and gross performances to show "what science is." How many anti-nukers (or even orgs like Greenpeace) have you heard come out and proclaim Godzilla and other nuclear mutants are scientifically B.S.? Yea, that sounds a silly question but see how many have ever done that, along with its PR implications for public nuclear acceptance which isn't so funny. More people think nuclear waste is the glowing green creeping goo that Homer Simpson runs into than the dormant reality by a thousandfold. We have a LONG way to go in thrashing FUD and clearing fact's way for public calm and understanding and appreciation for things nuclear.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

SteveK9 said...

Godzilla, Attack, Colossal, Kronos, Them ... all fond memories.

Anonymous said...

I thought the original Big Guy (Godzilla) was roused from a slumber by atomic testing. He was a bigger version of a T-Rex and the rads gave him the fire (radioactive) breath. I know the Beast From 20,000 Fathoms was unfrozen by an arctic nuclear test. But otherwise Beastie was in his original form. Good, cheesy 50s-60s sci fi, I love it.

Just as an aside, I had the pleasure of working with a Visiting Scholar from Japan a few summers ago. We were doing BNCT for tumor treatment and had a lot of discussion about neutrons and gamma radiation. A couple of times I slipped and referred to "Gammera" radiation. He missed the first couple but on about the third one he kind of looked up and laughed and said something like, "You know many Japanese monster movies!" I think it may have been a source of pride that those were so popular and well-known over here.

Anonymous said...

Congress - For Blocking the implementation of the Radwaste Policy Act (aka Nymy - 'No Yucca Mountain Yet')

Mitch said...

I'm surprised we haven't seen more anime and manga about Fukushima monsters or maybe they're not translated yet

Joffan said...

I always get pushed by my inner nerd-pedant into vetoing approval of any film that requires significant mutation of a single organism during its own lifetime.

So the ants of Them could pass muster on that score but fail on the physical impossiblity of their physiology... arthropods that size couldn't get the oxygen they require, legs would break, etc.

So I'm left almost by default with the mystery of Kronos. What is unspecified can't easily be argued with.

KitemanSA said...

All well and good, but Helen Caldicott is still the most monstrous radioactivist, IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Kronos! Good movie and not too hokey.