I want to add this little note to my post. I did happen to find mention of Blaisdell in at least 2 books so far that are part of my library. Since I’ve moved to the coastal city of Bath Maine, my studio and library are in a disarray, so many of my books and things are sort of caught between worlds of stasis and static. Keep Watching the Skies by Bill Warren volume II 1958-1962 does cover Paul Blaisdell a bit as well as D. Earl Worth’s Sleaze Creatures. And now Randy Palmer’s book, Paul Blaisdell: Monster Maker This makes me a little less sad! M.G.
Paul Blaisdell was an unsung asset to American International Pictures (A.I.P) and to the truly unprecedented, unintentional pioneer and auteur of cheap, cheesy and campy gems on shoe string budget that somehow have been elevated to icon status because of their enduring charm.
THE GREAT ROGER CORMAN
Thanks to Roger Corman for giving Paul Blaisdell the opportunity to create his omni-present monster — the busty Beulah the incarnation of an arcane female manifestation from out of the primordial ooze channeled through Marla English during regressive hypnosis , in The She Creature (1956).
THE GREAT PAUL BLAISDELL
Beulah went on to appear albeit altered +crazy wig for Voodoo Woman (1957)
and an oddly incongruous to the plot, derivation of her had a cameo in The Ghost Of Dragstrip Hollow (1959).
Beulah in The Ghost Of Dragstrip Hollow just a little less busty!
The reason Beulah got around was due to the production company having no budget for any special effects so they asked Blaisdell if he would let them use Beulah and he was kind enough to consent allowing them to bring her out for a command performance.
I especially love the adorably nasty little bug eyed creatures with large heads somewhat like brussel sprouts who loved to get cows drunk , not to mention a young Frank Gorshin in Invasion Of the Saucer Men (1957)
LITTLE CABBAGE HEADED BUG EYED FIENDS!
And we can’t forget his laughable cucumber Mutant in It Conquered the World (1956), and of course the alien cucumber’s little flying minion a crusty umbrella bat thingy that implanted a doodad in your neck so you’d do it’s bidding.
Of course there’s the mutant that was supposedly most likely a bear at one time, before the fall out’s noxious vapors transformed it into a monstrous 3 eyed horny creature in Day The World Ended(1955)
And one of my personal favorites the awesome Tabanga tree stump equip with a beating heart that walked really slow, could hardly move a branchy arm yet inspired great fear amongst the superstitious jungle folk and interloping Western scientists alike.
Paul Blaisdell was an artist who worked in rubber like Auguste Rodin
worked in marble, well maybe not, but to those of us who grew up with his cheesy monsters, it was art after all.
At first Blaisdell was a sketch artist, fine arts painter, and sculptor, being an artist/musician myself I understand how poor one person can be by doing what they love. He never made a lot of money as monster maker in the height of the fabulous 50s. Also like me, he drew monsters and did models as a kid.
I used to make all the Aurora Universal monster models. Collected all of Forrest J. Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazines
and sketched the creatures from those sacred rags and super heroes from my huge Marvel and D.C. comic book collection. I would be stinkin’ rich if I hadn’t sold each and every one for 10 cents a copy while sitting on the street corner back in the good old days, in the suburbs of Long Island New York.
little monster girl and her pop who didn’t mind her playing with monsters!
Obviously Blasidell was really good at what he did, because he wound up making a great and lasting contribution to the monster business and Roger Corman’s campy cult films of the 50’s. Me I went on to become a songwriter inspired by these glorious childhood memories, but I am better at playing piano and songwriting than building giant rubber mutants with bulging eyes. Although I did try to build a space station in the basement with parts that I got from our vacuum cleaner, which wasn’t broken at the time… don’t ask.
From that point on, every time the hammer went missing in my house, my father would give me the most piercing looks and start yelling. To his credit, he’s the one who would take me to the local mom and pop stationery store to buy or bring me home the latest Famous Monsters Magazine, and never said, “little girls shouldn’t be interested in monsters”, so he was truly a great guy, even if he did yell about the hammer a lot! So anyway…
Blaisdell submitted his illustrations to pulp sci-fi publications like Spaceways
and Otherworlds. And eventually he was discovered by magazine publisher Forrest J. Ackerman who was so impressed with Paul’s work that he became his agent.
Because of Ackerman, Blaisdell got his first film job designing the alien creature for the The Beast With a Million Eyes (1955). He actually helped the project out because at the point he came on board, there wasn’t any little alien yet in the movie at all, which would have to be problematic!
Paul and Jackie Blaisdell with ‘Little Hercules’ between them.
The beastly slave of the alien is a hand puppet created by the cheesy greatness that was Paul Blaisdell.
Interesting side note: For The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955), Corman needed someone to design the alien who originally was supposed to be an invisible force marauding through the galaxy hitching rides on various life forms and taking over their consciousness, like the mind control of the animals in the film. In Bill Warren’s informative book Keep Watching the Skies, Corman contacted friend collector/historian Forrest Ackerman suggesting stop animation genius Ray Harryhausen (who obviously was way out of Corman’s league and price range) Warren-“Corman recoiled in economic in shock.” Then Forrest recommended Jacques Fresco a futuristic eco-conscious architect and designer who had created the space station and rockets for Project Moon Base (1953)
But Fresco wanted too much money to do the job, so Ackerman came up with another idea. There was an illustrator who designed cover art and did illustrations for his magazines, named Paul Blaisdell. It wasn’t like Blaisdell had the experience building movie models but the young guy did build model kits (the Aurora kind I used to spend the days gluing and painting) and he also did some sculpting. Blaisdell said he would try it for $200 for the job and another $200 for materials. It was still more than Corman wanted to invest, but it seemed the last resort if he wanted a creature in his film. Corman sent the poster to Blaisdell as a composite and informed him that it didn’t have to do much more than show itself on screen for a few moments, then collapse. Blaisdell could then make it on a small scale, using only the upper torso since the rest would be hidden by the ship’s hatch. And so he made a hand puppet which was a dragon like creature with wings he molded from clay and placed a simple latex mold over it. Paul’s wife Jackie modeled it’s hands. The Blaisdells nicknamed him “Little Hercules”
Blaisdell made him a leather jacket, an eight-starred medallion and a toy gun, and then added manacles and chains to its arms to point out that he was really a slave to the alien intelligence. According to Randy Palmer’s book, Paul Blaisdell: Monster Maker he was happy with his work, and so were the crew.
Corman and American Releasing Corp must have been satisfied enough with Blaisdell’s skill and his price as well, as he went on to become the go to monster-maker for the studio during the 1950s. Including The busty She-Creature (1956), the cucumber alien in It Conquered the World (1956), The fanged umbrella bat in Not of This Earth (1957), The alcoholic google eyed brain invaders in Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), my personal favorite Tobanga the walking tree spirit in From Hell it Came 1957 and the alien stow away in It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958).
He also acted inside the suits he designed, created special effects and did his own dangerous stunts in Corman’s movies. However, the 60s were not kind to Blaisdell and he decided to retire. He did co-publish a monster movie magazine with fellow collector and friend Bob Burns, but walked away from the industry entirely. Blaisdell passed away in 1983 suffering from stomach cancer at the age of 55.
Paul went on to design monsters for all the low-budget American International Pictures like the little flying thingy in Not of This Earth (1957). The bug eyed little green men in Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957) and Earth Vs. the Spider (1958). He was also responsible for an uncredited corpse in The Undead (1957), but I don’t know if that counts as a monster, unless it was a crusty rubber corpse with bulging eyes? Blaisdell also created the imposing alien creature in the tautly paced and fantastic It, The Terror From Beyond Space (1958), which was an inspiration for Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979)
One of my absolute favorites is the Tabanga tree monster in From Hell It Came (1957) as well as the cucumber guy, as they are both hilarious and I simply just adore trees and cucumbers.
In terms of the cucumber mutant I don’t know if I dreamt this up, pulled it out of my arse or am just mis-remembering reading an interview or watching a documentary with Corman saying that Blaisdell’s cucumber creature sat in a shed for years until Paul and Roger got drunk one night and took it out and played with it until the arms fell off. If anyone else recollects hearing or reading this, please drop me a note so that I don’t start doubting myself.
So Blaisdell had a unique vision with the design of his campy mutants and aliens and little flying thingies He probably will be most remembered for Beulah the grotesque representation of primordial womanhood with the scaly protruding mounds of what were supposed to be her luscious scaly creature boobs? in The She Creature.
Of course he’ll be fondly thought of for the outrageous cucumber creature in It Conquered the World that terrorized Beverly Garland thanks to husband Lee Van Cleef who invited the damn thing to earth. It’s just sad that he doesn’t get more notoriety for creating some of the most ludicrously delicious and silly monsters of all time.
In addition to designing these creatures, he also often played them as well. Unfortunately Blaisdell became disillusioned with the film business and just quit making anything more for the movies in the 50s. How many times can Beulah make an entrance right?
I would have thought that Paul designed the giant Crab Monsters for Corman in what else but Attack of the Crab Monsters,(1957) but he was already working on The She Creature and apparently the low budget for the special effects on that film had put Blaisdell off.
In the early 60s Blaisdell started his own magazine called Fantastic Monsters of the Films but it was a very short-lived endeavor which featured a “how to” section called The Devil’s Workshop
In the early 60s he did some conceptual artwork on several movies which never made it out of the can. And like a lot of talented people, he wound up living out his life in obscurity. I’ve tried to find his name in several indexes of the film books about the 50s genre that I have here and I can’t find mention of him at all. It made me a little sad.
It would be really interesting to see what kind of monsters he could envision today if he were still with us.
Blaisdell had a knack for working with no budget and yet slapping something together although absurd and silly looking he always came through for AIP and even Bert I Gordon who soon realized that Blaisdell could get things done – and not just making rubber monster suits. Bert I. Gordon hired him to build all the miniature and oversized props needed for his films The Amazing Colossal Man, (19570 Earth vs. the Spider, and Attack of the Puppet People (1958). It was Blasidell who was responsible for the giant hypodermic needle in Colossal Man and for the set of doll-sized items used in Puppet People.
He also worked doing some conceptual sketches for the Milner brothers, designing my favorite Tabanga Tree in From Hell it Came.While the Milners based their menacing tree-stump on his designs, Blaisdell didn’t receive any money, and awful but true he didn’t even get credit for it either, that’s why it’s a lessor known fact that he was responsible for the Tabanga Tree Guy at all.
Sadly, Paul died of stomach cancer at the very young age of 55 on July 10, 1983 in Topanga Canyon, California. But Beulah, the cuke, the flying thingies, Tabanga, all the little bug eyed guys and Paul Blaisdell’s devoted fans like me, will always appreciate the giggles and chills he/they evoked when watching his wonderful creations come to life.
Paul Blaisdell’s film contributions:
- Beast With A Million Eyes 1955
- Day the world ended 1955
- The She Creature 1956
- It conquered The World 1956
- Invasion of the saucer men 1957
- The Amazing Colossal Man 1957
- Not Of This Earth 1957
- From Hell It Came 1957
- Voodoo Woman 1957
- The Undead 1957
- How To Make A monster 1958
- It the terror from beyond space 1958
- Earth vs.The Spider 1958
- Attack Of The Puppet People 1958
- The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow 1959
I found these two links about Paul Blaisdell and thought that both people put a lot of heart and effort into collecting great information about this unsung patron saint of foam rubber and glue.
4 thoughts on “The Tacky Magnetism of Paul Blaisdell’s Fantastically Ridiculous Sci-Fi/Horror Puppetry”
Just by the by…The monster (dubbed “Marty” by Paul Blaisdell) for THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED is not a mutant bear. It’s supposed to be Lori Nelsons (unseen) boyfriend Tommy who was supposed to share the safety of she and her fathers sheltered home, but had left and been trapped, supposed to die, in the thermal hell of World War III. By the way, I enjoyed this article, immensely.
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Thanks for the terrific collection of photos and the memories those creatures evoked for you. They stir me up still and have enjoyed Paul Blaisdell’s work for decades.
(Mr. Blaisdell referred to the cucumber invader from 1956’s It Conquered the World as “Beulah”)