Archive for Paul Blaisdell

The Cliff Monster (1960)

Posted in 8mm, Old School, Scarce Films, Sci-Fi with tags , , on February 3, 2018 by MONSTERMINIONS

Here’s Youtube link and some screen shots from the Bob Burns and Paul and Jackie Blaisdell home movie film “The Cliff Monster”. This would be the last film of a Blaisdell creation. The monster/puppet used a clock drive mechanism, which anticipated Carlo Rambaldi’s ET and CE3K aliens by near 20 years.

Little Hercules

Posted in Model Kits, Sci-Fi with tags , , on November 5, 2012 by MONSTERMINIONS

It Conquered the World (1956)

Posted in Sci-Fi with tags , , , on December 12, 2011 by MONSTERMINIONS

This low-budget gem from Roger Corman and AIP is one of my favorite sci-fi films of the 50’s which is to say it’s one of my favorite films of all-time. Everything clicks (including the alien), beginning with solid acting with Lee Van Cleef as wacko physicist Dr. Tom Anderson, who communicates with “It”, Peter Graves as logical Dr. Paul Nelson, and Sally Fraser and Beverly Garland as the love interests.   We also have Corman regulars Dick Miller and Jonathon Haze as barely competent soldiers who encounter the alien presence.  Dick Miller is always fun in this sort of role.

The story goes something like this:  U.S. launched satellites are blowing up in space.  Eccentric physicist Tom Anderson believes an alien presence is monitoring the U.S. space program. Anderson warns the government ilk not to launch anymore satellites, but they do anyway, and the satellite vanishes.  Tom reveals to his friend and space program leader Dr. Paul Nelson that he is monitoring signals from Venus using a home-made radio-telescope.  Paul and his girlfriend think Anderson is nuts.  Anderson converses over the radio with a Venusian, which sounds like an out-of tune Theremin.  The alien takes control of the lost satellite and uses it a as vehicle to invade Earth. The satellite blows up, but not before the alien intelligence  lands on Earth near Bronson Cave.  Resultant mayhem ensues.

The alien has telepathic powers and the ability to disrupt power transmissions.  It also sends out curious bat-like flying finger creatures that serve as surveillance drones.  The drones attack people and implant electronic control devices in the necks of it’s victims.  The mother alien controls these victims, which include various military, government and police types.  The alien controls these folks, including the Major and a General.

I love the flying finger creatures.  Check out the creature by the Texaco sign (above). They were designed and constructed by Paul Blaisdell.  A total of four “bats” were made out of latex and rubber. Blaisdell named them Manny, Moe, Mack and Sleepy.  Three of the bats were rigged for flying using monofilament wire described by Blaisdell as similar to operating a marionette (Palmer, 1997).  Sleepy was a stationary prop rigged to breath or pulsate by means of a bladder coupled to a regulator and CO2 tank.

Look ma no wires! The flying drone effects are effective and well staged. At times the flying fingers appear to me to be cartoon animated, but they’re suspended on wires.  Here’s one swooping down to attack Peter Graves. Where are the wires?  You don’t need CGI to hide wires.  Just hire Paul Blaisdell.

Peter Graves, Sally Faser, Beverly Garland and Lee Van Cleef appear to be having fun.

Of course the real star of It Conquered the World is the Venusian “Beulah” (nick-named by Blaisdell).  Paul Blaisdell went through a few different conceptual designs before settling on a squat conical beast with elongated crustacean claws.   Beulah was made out of a lattice-work of plywood mounted to a swivel base capable of 90º movement. The wooden skeletal frame was covered with panels of foam rubber and touched up with multiple layers of liquid latex to create the finished Venusian (Palmer, 1997). Beulah was painted with red lacquer paint and highlighted with black, but the finished film is black-and-white (year’s later FilmFax published some color photograph’s of Beulah).  The prop was eventually destroyed in 1969 during a devastating flood that occurred in Southern California.  In the film, Lee Van Cleef pulls out a trusty blow torch…

It Conquered the World still hasn’t received an official DVD or Blu-Ray release.  I only have a crappy VHS copy several year’s old.  This is one of the films that Susan Hart (widow of James Nicholson) refuses to sell for a reasonable cost for release.  It’s a shame.  Along with Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), It Conquered the World perhaps showcases Paul Blaisdell’s finest monster creations.

Further Reading:

Mark Thomas McGee, 1984. Fast and Furious, The Story of American International Pictures, McFarland & Company, Inc.

Randy Palmer, 1997. Paul Blaisdell, Monster Maker, McFarland & Company, Inc.

Crab Monsters on Wires

Posted in CONS, Sci-Fi with tags , , on May 3, 2011 by MONSTERMINIONS

While flying out to Dallas to attend the Texas Frightmare convention and visit friends, I watched a copy of Attack of The Crab Monsters (1957). I think this is my favorite Roger Corman flick (although It Conquered the World (1956) is right up there too). Crab Monsters is really fun with a good cast on a mysterious Pacific atoll harboring outlandish, cave-dwelling, telepathic talking giant crabs. I love the dialogue: “Foolish Humans…” I caught a few trivial details. Early on in the film you’ll catch a scene showing a crab crawling around the edge of the shoreline. If you look closely you’ll spot a filament of line attached to the crab. It’s a tether to keep the crab from escaping into the water! The ever-frugal Roger Corman recycled the crab in other later scenes.

I love the design of the crabs. The Charles B. Griffith script originally called for crabs with eyes on stalks, but the final design renders caricatures with human-like faces with eyelids. How wild is that? “Foolish humans!”.

In the final confrontation with the boss crab, look for the guide wires used to manipulate the claws. Roger Corman was clever in shooting the scene around numerous tension wires used to keep the radio beacon upright. It’s difficult to spot the boom wires, but they’re there. Bill Warren notes that the claws were manned by actor Beech Dickerson, who is also in the film. I may be wrong about the use of the wires —they might just be there to be torn down from the beacon, which of course topples down on the crab.

There’s been some debate about the design and construction of the monster crabs. I always thought the crab had the earmarks of a Paul Blaisdell creation. However, Randy Palmer noted that Corman offered the job to Blaisdell, but he turned it down because he felt he couldn’t do the crab justice for the limited budget. Bill Warren suggested that Karl Brainard was the prop designer. Brainard was with Corman on several films of this era, including The She-Creature, Day the World Ended, Not of this Earth, plus other films like Invasion of the Saucer Men. J.J. Johnson notes that the crab consisted of an aluminum frame, covered with styrofoam and fiberglass resin, and was fabricated by a group of unknown effects artists calling themselves Dice, Inc. The crabs allegedly cost under $400 and housed actor Ed Nelson, who also appeared in the film.

This past weekend at the Texas Frightmare show I had my one and only chance to ask Roger Corman if Blaisdell worked on the crabs. And I did. Corman scratched his head and replied “I had to think a minute about this —Yes he did.” I prodded a bit more, “Did he design the crabs?” And Corman replied with a nod. He even signed a poster for me!

Palmer, R. 1997. Paul Blaisdell —Monster Maker. McFarland, Pg. 112.

Warren, B. 1982. Keep Watching the Skies! Vol. 1. McFarland.

Worth, D.E. 1995. Sleaze Creatures. Fantasma Books.

Johnson, J.J. 1996. Cheap Tricks and Class Acts. McFarland, Pg. 10.

Day The World Ended (1956)

Posted in Sci-Fi with tags , , , , on January 30, 2011 by MONSTERMINIONS

What you are about to see may never happen….but to this anxious age in which we live, it presents a fearsome warning…. Our Story begins with….

Atomic blast.  Theremin music. Nicholson and Arkoff present Day the World Ended

The U.S. government conducted an estimated 210 aboveground nuclear weapons tests in the contiguous 48 states and Pacific Ocean between July 1945 and November 1962. The Nevada Test Site (NTS), a 1350 square-mile area about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, accounted for 100 tests. Back in the day, atomic testing was shown on television and the threat of nuclear fallout permeated public consciousness. Like Them! (1954) and Gojira (1954), Day the World Ended was one of the early sci-fi films that presented the detrimental effects of nuclear fallout.  All three films feature atomic mutants –giant carpenter ants (Genus Camponotus), a huge prehistoric bi-pedal reptile, and Marty the Mutant (one of Paul Blaisdell’s most original creatures).  More on him later.

Day the World Ended was produced and directed by Roger Corman (his first sci-fi), on a budget estimated to be less than $100,000.  The original story and screenplay was written by Lou Rusoff (Sam Arkoff’s brother-in-law) who worked quite a bit with Corman (It Conquered the World, The She-Creature, The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues).  I like Ronald Stein’s eerie score, which made good use of  the Theremin electronic instrument. Day the World Ended is available on DVD and comes in a double package with The She-Creature from the Samuel Z. Arkoff Cult Classics collection. The print is crisp and preserves the film’s original Superscope anamorphic aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

I remember the film from my childhood when “Son of Svengoolie” (WFLD, Chicago) played it often as Saturday afternoon monster matinee fodder.  I don’t know why, but I confused the movie as a kid with Phil Tucker’s Cape Canaveral Monsters (1960).  The films have nothing in common.  Day the World Ended stars Richard Denning, Lori Nelson, and Adele Jergens. Mike “Touch” Connors plays the villain. Paul Blaisdell got last billing and plays the mutant.

The story begins with a biblical prologue at TD day –Total Nuclear Destruction. “The world as we know it no longer exists”.  A mist moves over a western landscape and “hangs [as] the atomic haze of death… man has done his best to destroy himself…” God has spared a few, and we are introduced to seven central characters: Richard Denning plays an exploration geologist, Paul Birch (a Corman regular) is a tough survivalist rancher who lives with his daughter (Nelson),  Smarmy Touch Connors plays a con man who arrives with his floozy girlfriend (Jergens), a grizzled old prospector and his mule diablo, and Radek, a radiation-poisoned survivor who craves raw red meat.  There is also a telepathic mutant outside, designed and played by Blaisdell.

Day the World Ended predates George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) and The Mist (2007), with an uneasy alliance of dissimilar personalities held up in a house (or grocery store), because of an outlying common threat.  We learn from the get-go the threat is radiation.  “47 Roentgens… It’s down another one… We might live…” Screenwriter Lou Rusoff appears to have done his research.  A Roentgen (R) is a unit for the exposure to ionizing radiation (e.g. x-rays).  In 1956, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) recognized that 25 R changes blood, a dose of 75 R causes nausea, 175 to 200 causes hair loss, and dosages over 450 R can cause death.  Victim Radek  is “lit up like an atomic fire” with 740 Roentgens!  And we learn that radiation causes mutation…

The real star of the film is the mutant, nicked-named “Marty” by Paul Blaisdell.  Marty the Mutant reportedly cost about $1,475 in materials (“special equipment” listed in the film production costs) and a little over 4-weeks to build.  The translucent spikes on the mutant’s head were the tails from cheaply-molded toy plastic lizards.  His claws were constructed of pine.  The body-suit was layered with pieces of foam crescents, attached by contact cement.  Day the World Ended is one of my favorite Corman films –it’s presented story-wise from end to beginning, has plenty of suspense, contains fairly interesting characters and has an awesome monster (I love how Marty/Blaisdell swats at bullets shot at him).

Vinyl Marty the Mutant, designed by X-Plus for AMC's Monsterfest.

Randy Palmer, 1997.  Paul Blaisdell: Monster Maker.  McFarland.  298 pg.

P.L. Fradkin, 1989. Fallout: An American Nuclear Tragedy. Publisher Unknown.

Vampyroteuthis blaisdellii?

Posted in Sci-Fi with tags , , on January 27, 2011 by MONSTERMINIONS

If I had discovered deep-sea cephalopod Vampyroteuthis infernalis (literally the vampire squid from hell), I would have named it instead after famed low-budget monster maker Paul Blaisdell!  He was ahead of his time because his “umbrella monster” from Roger Corman’s Not of This Earth (1957, just released on DVD by The Shout Factory) looks a whole lot like Vampyroteuthis! Actually, this odd squid group was first described by G.E. Pickford in 1939.  I wonder if Blaisdell saw a picture somewhere?

Pickford, G. E. (1939). The Vampyromorpha. A new order of dibranchiata Cephalopoda. Vestnik Cs. Zool. Spol. Praze VI, 346-358.

Pickford, G. E. (1946). Vampyroteuthis infernalis Chun, an archaid dibranchiate cephalopod: natural history and distribution. 29.

Pickford, G. E. (1949). Vampyroteuthis infernalis Chun an archaid dibranchiate cephalopod: external anatomy. 32, 132.