Image Credit: (c) Godzilla (1954)/ Toho Studios, Japan
“Monster Movies” first appeared in 1915 with the German silent film The Golem, directed by Paul Wegener (1874-1948), and rose to new heights between the 1930s and 1960s. Monster movies became quite popular, considering there was always the rhetorical question "what if this actually happened?" or "what if there really are creatures of the night we don't know about?".
The following article will discuss popular monster films, and the culture surrounding it.
Creatures of the Night:
Video Credit: (c) Kiss/ "Creatures of the Night" (1982). UMG (on behalf of Island Mercury); LatinAutor - UMPG, UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA - UBEM, UMPG Publishing, Harry Fox Agency (Publishing), CMRRA, UMPI, ASCAP, BMI - Broadcast Music Inc., LatinAutorPerf, and 15 Music Rights Societies.
Of course, those are not the same "creatures of the night" we are going to talk about, but I really do like that album... it's certainly underrated.
Okay, so let's get to the first example.
Flashback to 1933:
It was almost 100 years ago, the monster movie genre truly entered "high culture" or "the elite". 1933's King Kong was an instant hit for all social classes. Not only was this an entertaining story of unrequited love, and the juxtaposition of "beauty" and "beast", this was significant because it was one of the first films to incorporate sound. For instance, Rudolph Valentino (died 1926) was a silent film actor. So, this 1933 film is very much a "monster film" within a monster film. According to the film's story, filmmaker Carl Denham is known for his exotic films, depicting monsters.
Interestingly, this very much reflects society of the time. Fans of cinema were interested in new types of films, and as monster movies rose to prominence, it's quite fitting that someone (Radio Pictures) would make a film about it. Of course, Denham wants his movies to be more realistic, and unintentionally causes much of New York City to be destroyed in the process. With respect to the film's success, a remake was released in 2005.
The remake of King Kong was directed by Peter Jackson, starring Jack Black. I watched that movie in a small theatre with my cousins, and we almost got kicked out because my older cousin couldn't stop laughing. Honestly, I don't even remember what he thought was so funny.
Image Credit: (c) Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005)
It's not surprising that monster movies of the twentieth century expanded through cultural hegemony. For instance, collectors (that are fans of the horror genre) often have items dedicated to monster movies, and other types of horror films. Cultural hegemony is a term coined by popular culture scholar John Storey, and this refers a shared cultural identity through a very specific means. In saying that, I could meet someone at work and we both bond through our love for video game-related toys.
I must confess I don't collect action figures or any sort of memorabilia at this point, but that wasn't always the case. So, why do people collect toys and other items from popular culture? When I used to do it, the process of collecting made me happy. However, it was taking up too much space and I sold my collectible items to another collector back in 2018.
Image Credit: (c) http://tsukitiger.deviantart.com/art/godzilla-collection-94454214
Meet me down at the drive-in:
Although drive-in movies became popular back in the 1950s, they actually existed much earlier in the twentieth century (1910s). Interestingly, there was a drive-in movie theatre in my home town of St. John's as recent as the 1980s. I was born in 1996, so I didn't get to experience a drive-in film. However, there have been talks of bringing it back. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is preventing the return of drive-in movies at the moment.
Many of us are familiar with the story motif "makeout point" or other versions as urban legends start with places of similar names. Although "makeout point" would refer to an undisclosed location so it can resonate with audience members, often times in real life it was a common dating spot: a drive-in movie. Drive-in movies became quite popular from the 1950s up until the 1980s, as this allowed young people to watch a movie while enjoying the privacy of their car. Of course, films of all genres were played, but the monster movie was probably the best option if we're looking at the societal values of the 1950s. "Pretty girl jumps into guys arms because she's scared of the creature from the black lagoon... or something".
Video Credit: (c) YouTube/ HoldenMcGroyne81
Bringing Horror to the table:
When discussing the expanded popular culture because of love for monster movies, I can't forget Williams Pinball. Williams was formally founded in 1974, although it first produced pinball machines ten years earlier in 1964. The Williams brand is among the most famous brand of pinball machines, and their classic tables are available electronically through the video game Pinball FX3.
I have been playing video games since 2003, but my favourite arcade game will always be pinball. A good friend of mine actually runs an arcade, but I've told him it disappoints me how he won't provide pinball tables (that's a joke, of course). As a kid, I always liked playing pinball, and this was one of the most popular arcade games back in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Not surprisingly, the Williams brand took advantage of this popularity with their monster movie-themed tables.