Monsters Turned Loose On 1959
They Will Blast the Flesh Off Humans!!
Warner Bros. had wise 50's policy of putting sci-fi on deck each summer, much of it bought cheap from the outside, then played off fast via regional saturation where money was hauled on heels of intense TV/radio saturation (accent on TV: that medium was assuming lead once enjoyed by newspapers and radio). The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms in 1953 had shown ways, a model of how to sell monsters to youth. Again it would work with Them! a following year, then The Black Scorpion in 1957. Cynicism, as in "They'll buy anything," may have been WB thought behind 1959's spew of Gigantis, The Fire Monster with Teenagers From Outer Space, a most arrogant offer of low-grade stuff by a major studio until 20th did WB one (actually two) better with 1964 combo of Horror Of Party Beach and Curse Of The Living Corpse. But wasn't 1959 a little late going to market with cheapjack B/W horrors? Jim Nicholson thought so, taking pledge re poverty pairings in favor of colorful Horrors Of The Black Museum and in-works House Of Usher. Was chilling on a verge of new greatness?
Warners could get away with Gigantis/Teenagers thanks to distribution/sales force dragging kids from front of home sets to paying windows downtown, a trick AIP had managed until a few of their 1958 parlays lost money. Nicholson admitted as much to Variety in a 5/19/59 inquiry headlined "Horror Quickies Over?" AIP's "cheap, run-of-the-mill exploitation pix" were no longer able to compete in a "flooded market," said the producer. AIP would drop from ten horror/sci-fi's in 1958 to four for '59, result of playdates being way down. Jim recalled five to seven thousand theatres that had booked with AIP in 1957, those numbers now dipped to three thousand. The reason was more swimmers in the pool and crabbing Nicholson/Arkoff's act. Warners among majors learned how to earn money by spending virtually none, except at ad/pub level. Their 1957 bet on The Curse Of Frankenstein yielded obscene profit for nickels paid to owners Hammer and Seven Arts. Gigantis would be had for change, the case also with Teenagers From Outer Space, made by a Midwest independent, Todd Graeff, who thought he had a better deal with Allied Artists (for $60,000) until the exec with whom he shook hands died sudden, leaving Graeff to fire-sell Teenagers to WB for $28,500. He'd sue AA for the difference, alleging "a market value greatly decreased" thanks to the firm's welsh. Graeff had a point; like Jim and Sam, he knew the sci-fi/shock engine was corroding.
|Randy Sweetens Drive-In Monster Mix|
I missed Gigantis in theatres, but heard older boys clucking about it, and a few years later saw reference in Famous Monsters to a Godzilla Raids Again, which was .. what? Certainly nothing I'd seen. Eventually it came to light that they were one and same, Gigantis limping onto Channel 2 Greensboro's weekday afternoon schedule, where I'd see it through snow endemic to that 83 mile-away station. You'll imagine faint impression Gigantis made. Recent revisit came courtesy DVD release, under proper label Godzilla Raids Again, and full-frame, which I cropped to 1.85 for OK result. There was the Japanese version as disc option, but I always prefer
Gigantis isn't too well regarded, but I had fun. Godzilla roars different this time --- was there a reason, as in trying to blur his identity? He also doesn't spit fire until the final showdown ... or did he, and I was dozing? Godzilla/Gigantis's opponent looked turtle-ish with a porcupine shell, lacking gravitas that made his defeat both appropriate and welcome. Besides, "Angurus" for a name seems too on-the-nose, sort of like "Gigantis" for Godzilla, come to think of it. Here's a theory: Since Godzilla was utterly destroyed in the 1954 pic, was Gigantis actually his son, or close friend, or as Mike's local manager claimed, a cousin? I would accept that and live with it if so. Further reality my generation must face: the Godzillas, Rodans, etc. were the only Japanese films we'd see during the 50/60's. It's not like we'd exit a Mothra saying, "That was swell, but just wait till the new Kurosawa gets here next week." There was, however, exposure to Japanese culture in these monster rallies. A Gigantis wedding party segment illuminates as to Eastern way of celebration, even if dubbing dulls reality otherwise. Anyway, it's close as most of us got to other culture practices. Between Toho and Hammer, I'd get extent of a foreign film education, at least until spaghetti westerns came along to augment the curriculum.
For a second feature, Warners found it more efficient to again shop outside for a quickie than make their own. That had worked before, most notably with The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. Collapse of the Allied Artists deal had indeed compromised producer Tom Graeff, allowing WB to again put lion's share of investment in merchandising and exploitation. Teenagers From Outer Space (the studio's idea for a title) wasn't half-bad for what amounted to Graeff's home movie with friends. The story as spun at chase pace: Aliens land, Good titular teen breaks with invasion plot and goes on run with Bad teen in pursuit. They cover much of unspoiled