It’s a black and white creature feature bonanza with this foursome—two from 1957 and two from 1958, all of which feel much more contemporary in tone than some of the horror-lite made in those days.
BLOOD OF DRACULA (1957)
The title kind of sucks. This is a contemporary teen vampire film that should have been called I Was A Teenage Vampiress. It would have been a favorite of mine if I’d been a teen in the 50s.
Our rebellious main girl is cool, tough, and independent, and doesn’t take any shit from the bitchy girls at her new boarding school. She does befriend her science teacher, who conducts some experiments that turn our main girl into a vampire…that looks oddly like Eddie Munster in drag.
Instead of pillow fights, the girls dance with couch cushions (I guess that was as titillating as it got back then). Boys sneak in to party, and one of the heartthrobs breaks into a song and dance number with the girls. I thought that shit only happened in 1980s movies!
The stalk-and-kill monster POV scenes are more effective than many “scary” scenes from movies of the time, and there’s even a Halloween scavenger hunt in a cemetery. This movie fricking has it all.
HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER (1958)
If you think horror didn’t start poking fun at its relevance as a genre until the 80s and 90s, think again.
How to Make a Monster takes a dig at movie studios for shunning the classic monsters to produce family friendly films. A highly regarded makeup artist is working on a Frankenstein vs. The Wolfman movie when it is announced that it will be his last. The studio has been bought, and horror is out to make room for musicals.
As revenge, the makeup artist puts a drug in his makeup and uses it to hypnotize his two monster actors into killing for real! One of these actors is a mega hunk…you know, before he’s made into a hideous monster.
Just like Blood of Dracula, there are some good killer POV attacks, and there’s another teen heartthrob song and dance number! No wonder these two movies come together on a 2-on-1 DVD.
The film is surprisingly progressive in actually having a black woman as a witness to one of the crimes while walking home from work. Of course they have to work in that she’s a maid.
And finally the film does something quite odd…a sort of Wizard of Oz stunt. For no really explicable reason, the final act of this black and white film suddenly turns to full color. The gimmick is supposed to be that you finally get to see the makeup artist’s creations in full color, but it’s just masks on walls, not the fricking monsters that have been killing people!
THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD (1957)
With great monsters—giant mollusks from the sea that basically look like huge maggots—this is a film that has several awesome creature feature moments but is weighed down by too many military and scientist scenes.
After an earthquake, the creatures are released from the ocean. When a couple out swimming gets dragged underwater, a search party is sent to look for the bodies.
30 minutes in we get our first look at the mollusk in a creepy underwater scene, although when it eats a diver’s head we definitely see the limitations of special effects back then.
It’s not until 65 minutes in that there another mollusk attacks, this time on land with a good jump scare.
And the final scene, in which a mollusk terrorizes a woman and her daughter, probably freaked audiences out back in the day, because it’s a pretty damn suspenseful scene.
IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (1958)
While it feels somewhat derivative of The Thing (from Another World), this killer creature on a spaceship movie is clearly the inspiration for dozens of movies from the 1980s that are usually accused of being Alien rip-offs. In fact, Alien was inspired by this film!
After a mission to Mars goes wrong, a ship is sent to rescue the survivors, but the team finds only one is still alive. They take him aboard their ship and immediately suspect he killed all his fellow astronauts. He claims it was an otherworldly life form that killed them.
He’s right. And that life form is now on their ship! After seeing just hands and shadows for the first half hour, we get a full blown battle with the beast. Awesome.
It’s nonstop battles from then on. Sure there’s a little slowdown as the team makes a plan to stop the hulking creature, but they get right back into the ring for a fight to the death.