The Films of Jack Arnold: Visions of Giant bugs, sympathetic monsters and little men danced in his head.

Good Afternoon folks!

Just a little note. It’s Sunday. that always gives me a feeling of nostalgia as does Saturday afternoons. Those were the times when I would sit quietly in front of the television set. All the other kids were outside scrambling around getting sweaty and dirty and doing well, what most kids do be mean to each other. Me, I chose to inhabit the mysterious worlds that Roger Corman, Jack Arnold, William Castle, Universal and RKO pictures had the good sense to give us “outliers” of society. Those of us who Identified with the monster. Thus the nickname Monster Girl. A name the neighborhood kids used to taunt me with, not realizing that eventually I would wear it as a badge of honor.


I owe much of my creativity as a songwriter and artist, to these films that validated my existence. These monsters were my true friends, because they helped me cope with the awkward phases of childhood when you just don’t fit in, and never will. These films are more than just nostalgic memories for me, they were my epiphany into the real world as an imaginative, compassionate, empathetic and yes a visionary in some ways. With my music and my writing. I plan on doing extensive individual posts about some of these great films.

Like Incredible Shrinking Man. Creature From the Black Lagoon and It Came From Outer Space. It’s Sunday, so I thought I’d share a little tidbit of the old days, when Jack Arnold bestowed upon us Giant Spiders and one little guy who had to fight one off in the basement of his house, a common environment turned sinister and dangerous, where it takes a whole day of strategizing to get a moldy crust of bread the size of a small crouton to us.

During the years of 1950’s horror and sci-fi films made by the great Jack Arnold there was a sympathetic, symbiotic lens that Arnold used towards aliens and “The Other” and the outsider. While working at Universal along side the production of William Alland, he gave us our first venture into the genre offering us benevolent yet mystifying aliens who crash land near a small town, inside a mountain and merely need time to fix the spaceship in order to leave earth.

It Came From Outer Space (1953) based on a story by Ray Bradbury the prolific science fiction writer of that era, as did Richard Matheson who told of bizarre, inscrutable and very advance race of one eyed amorphous creatures who could assume the form of any human in order to facilitate the uninterrupted  repair of their ship. The aliens were not here to seize the planet to enslave earth people, nor destroy earth in order to be the ultimate life form in the universe, threatened by the advancement of our weaponry, fear of the bomb in that age engendered many bomb, cold war scare films.

Like Invaders From Mars (1956) and Don Siegel’s Invasion of The Body Snatchers (1956),fear of Communism and losing our individual identity as well as the patriotism and national prowess. The visionary writers and film makers knew how to frame this message in their flights of fantasy films. The last major film that Arnold did was the sublime and metaphysical masterpiece The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). A film that still inspires chills up the back of my neck when Grant Williams realizes that he isn’t disappearing, merely becoming greater as he is subsumed by the vast universal heart beat of the unknown yet interconnectedness and essence of life force itself.

The Incredible Shrinking Man was based on Matheson’s novel and actually scripted by him as well. Shrinking Man and It Came from Outer Space are still considered two of Arnold’s best work. The film that has really become his most iconic as an enduring classic is Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)

Creature From The Black Lagoon had no involvement from either writer. In fact, it was because this film was so successful for Universal, that it prompted them to direct their attentions specifically in more productions that involved Sci-Fi and Horror films after 1954 many of which were directed by Jack Arnold.

In a lot of ways, aside from the money that these films made for Universal, it’s really the charm of Arnold’s films that make this specific moment in history for the genres to remain in the hearts of those of us who remember watching them on rainy Saturday afternoons, or like I said the sunny ones when you didn’t fit in with the nasty jerk heads in the neighborhood, so you’d rather hang out with the sort of cute green scaly guy who could stay underwater for days at a time.

David J Skal who’s a hell of a writer, I recommend The Monster Show refers to Creature as the “most vivid formative memories a large segment of American population”

Like The Twilight Zone, Serling’s compact morality plays tied up in fantasy story telling, for a lot of us these offerings became the rituals that were quickly picked up on by the “mass media” The desire for these type of stories became the contemporary trend that inspired great writers and film makers like Stephen King, John Carpenter and even Steven Spielberg.

Much the same way that H.G Wells fantastical tales inspired a hunger for films about science marvels and other worlds.Edgar Wallace, Edgar Allen Poe and HP Lovecraft and Hawthorne inspired the Gothic horror, horror mythos and crime thriller.

Arnold’s films evoke formative memories not only of being frightened by the elements of horror, but it brings you right back to the feeling of being that child again. At least if you’re like me and rail against growing older and losing your imagination. King and Carpenter have spoken about the individual films of Arnold that gave them their first cinematic experience which like for me, changed their lives forever. You could say that Arnold’s films could be used as a benchmark and cultural reference or jumping off place for teenagers to identify with feeling alienated by society. The 50’s were a period where the generation of teenagers were influenced by these types of films. Later on filmmakers would self consciously pay homage to Arnold’s films. And every decade or so, we also see a revived interest in the use of 3D, which make movie going a sort of ritual collective event. The glasses, the group experience.

Anyway, I plan on going in depth about Arnold and several of my most memorable beloved films of his. I just wanted to write a little Sunday hail to the king of giant bugs and little people, (not like the munchkins in The Wizard of Oz) I mean people who were once big enough to drive a car, and can now sleep in a match box for shelter.

Have a great Sunday, I think I’ll watch Tarantula (1955) . I’ve got my hot cocoa and it’s raining outside. The cats are all purring and I think it’s a perfect time to watch a little arachnid suddenly growing as large as a Semi and ambushes a whole town. I’m still kind of traumatized by the woman who’s skirt get’s stuck in the car door!

See ya later! MG

PLEASE DON’T HOLD IT AGAINST THIS CAT! Grant Williams was bite size…….

Contemplating man’s place in the universe. The Transcendent Man

Leo G Carroll’s well intended experiment, produces horrific results of great proportions!

Julie Adams is the object of The Creature’s affections.

MonsterGirl’s Quote Of The Day: House Of Wax (1953)

“There is a pain beyond pain, an agony so intense it shocks the mind into instant beauty” Vincent Price as Prof. Henry Jarrod

Sunday Nite Surreal: The Mask (1961) “I tried to stop, I can’t, I don’t want to”

The Mask (1961)Canadian director Julian Roffman only made 2 films. The Bloody Brood, starring one of my favorite actors Peter Falk about a gang of psychotic beatniks, and dope dealers who actually feed a delivery boy ground-up glass so they can watch him die!

Then there’s Roffman’s The Mask which is a oneiric trippy experience. The Mask which looks like a tribal bejeweled skull, enables the wearer to see his own Psyche, much like The Cheaters television episode of Boris Karloff’s Thriller. The dream sequences are surreal and quite disturbing for it’s day, just for extra fun, it was originally released in 3D.



And the film’s titles have gone through several incarnations with alternative titles like Face of Fire, Eyes of Hell, and the ridiculous The Spooky Movie Show.

The Mask was scripted by Frank Taubes and Sandy Habner. the film cast is Paul Stevens, Claudette Nevins(another busy television actress), Bill Walker, Anne Collings, and Martin Lavut.

Paul Stevens (soap opera star from Another World and television shows such as The Streets Of San Fransisco and The Rockford Files) plays psychiatrist Allan Barnes who has primal hallucinations whenever he wears the mask, which becomes like an addiction for him. The mask represents a hunger, to wear the mask and indulge in the hallucinations that create a rapturous psycho-sexual urge that lies buried deep in the subconscious part of our minds. Whenever these hallucinations occur, the film utilizes the gimmick of 3D to enhance the visual experience for us. The Mask came out after the 50s craze was over when 3D was causing a stir at movie theaters. The suits in Hollywood realized that 3D was not a powerful enough draw to get people away from the advent of television, so they quickly abandoned its novelty.

Psychiatrist Allan Barnes has a patient that is a challenge for him. Michael Radin is an archeologist played by Martin Lavut, who works for the Museum of Ancient History. Michael is struggling with horrible nightmares in which he is on a murderous rampage killing women. Radin doesn’t believe that these are nightmares he’s having, He thinks that he is being taken over while actually committing these crimes, and has no power to stop.

In addition to this notion, archeologist Radin thinks that it’s an ancient South American mask that belongs to the Museum that is holding sway over his consciousness. Radin’s theory is that wearing the mask puts the person in a deep trance-like state, then causes their most repressed subconscious urges, usually evil ones to become externalized.


As usually is the case in films of the 50s and 60’s the idea of an ancient religious artifact representing a primitive and savage culture was very common in various genre films. To portray another culture as “other” was an ethnocentric ritual of Hollywood. The dark deeds of a people other than white America, with no value system in place, and bizarre rituals were expected. And it’s only because a white American donned the evil foreign mask which was a)taboo, and b)made the wearer completely unaccountable for their heinous actions. The characterization of the savage inside us all, being invaded from without, by a foreign influence or idea. A place where dark gods and goddesses reign.

The mask requires blood sacrifices and the person wearing it is forced to commit these murderous rituals. Again, the other underlying theme of the film is the idea of addiction. The person wearing the mask becomes compelled to wear it, it becomes a compulsion. “I’m like an addict,” Radin tells Barnes.

Barnes tries to convince Radin that the mask has no power over him and that the truth lies in his own mind. Radin becomes infuriated with Barnes and storms out of his office. That night Radin kills himself, but not before he sends the mask to Barnes first.

Barnes is obviously disturbed by the news that his patient has committed suicide, but once he receives the mask he starts to develop a fixation on it. During these times of preoccupation, he/we hear a voice that tells him to “Put the mask on now” and so Dr Barnes does it.

Once Barnes wears the mask, the film begins its journey into the realm of the three-dimensional world. During its theatrical release the audience was actually given cardboard copies of the mask with built-in 3-D glasses, and when Barnes was told to wear the mask, that was our cue to put the mask on as well.

During the 3-D segments, we are taken to a visually nightmarish landscape, complete with sacrificial altars, ritualistic figures who look like macabre Greek choruses in tattered black robes or players from the theater of the absurd., post-modern architecture that mimics ancient Aztec structures or perhaps visions of Hell. Snakes and fireballs would come hurling out of the movie screen at us. Snakes have often represented the sexual, fire often meaning purification which most cultures who’s use of human sacrifices were meant to purify the soul along with being an offering. Does the mask even take us beyond the Id, where women dress in silken black tatters just waiting to embrace us?

In the dream world, there is a man who looks like Barnes in a shredded suit, and Radin who comes in and out of sequence, with one eye horrifically dangling down by his cheek. These segments were very surreal, without much context to them, but were meant to be hallucinatory and primal excursions for the mask wearer and us viewers.

After putting the mask on the first time Barnes is convinced that the mask holds deep secrets into the Human Psyche, “Even deeper than the subconscious” Barnes tells us, just like Timothy Leary and Ram Dass taking an LSD acid trip during the 60’s. Perhaps Roffman, Taubes, and Habner felt that everyone wears a mask in society, and that only by going deeper into the subconscious can we be free to be who we truly are. A bunch of maniacal blood-lusting savages. Or maybe it was just darn fun to hurl fireballs at us from the movie screen. Or both are true. It’s definitely a cautionary tale about the dangers of addiction. When Barnes says ” I tried to stop, I can’t, I don’t want to,” his girlfriend Pam says, “Do you have to take the drug again, Allan?

Barne’s girlfriend Pam Albright played by Claudette Nevins, doesn’t approve of him messing around with something so unnatural, so taboo. But it’s too late because Barnes has fallen under the spell of the mask and is now compelled to wear it as Radin was. Barnes tells Pam that it orders him to pick it up, so Pam grabs it and plans on returning it to the museum. So that it can remain a relic and not a substance that can be abused.

Barnes steals it back, and the urges become even greater, ultimately he gets the craving to kill his secretary Jill Goodrich played by Anne Collings. This scares Barnes and forces him to confront what’s happening to him, so he calls a colleague of his, Dr Quincy,(Norman Ettlinger). Unfortunately, Quincy’s reaction is the same as when Radin came to Barnes. That the mask has no power, that it’s all in Barne’s head. But his friend Dr. Quincy is concerned and tells Pam that he’s worried Barnes is headed for a total breakdown.

Barnes wearing the mask once again, starts to pursue his secretary “I must experience the greatest act of the human mind, to take another human life” But girlfriend Pam gets the cops involved and they wind up arresting Barnes and putting him away.

The last sequence of the film shows us that the mask is back at the museum, and of course, there is another man gazing at it with fascination like Radin, and Barnes. That the evil events are destined to repeat themselves because curiosity is the damnation of human nature.

The Mask was certainly original for its time. The otherworldly dream sequences had disturbing images that weren’t usual for American-made horror films, in particular dealing with drug abuse and repressed sexuality.

Not until later on with the counterculture of the 60s and early 70s with LSD “trip” films like

The Angry Breed 1968 The Trip 1967, Angel Angel Down We Go 1969, and Go Ask Alice 1973

Even back in the days of George Melies with his 1902 classic A Trip to the Moon an iconic piece of film work that blends science fiction with psychedelic aspects that were very ahead of its time.

I’m a big fan of The Mask because it really creates a nightmarish experience for its actors and us, and is an original contribution to the genre of cult horror films.