The latest Godzilla film proudly proclaims itself to be King of the Monsters, but what about the other possible contenders? From Kong to the Beast, we look at monsters in the movies through the ages.
King Kong – The clue is in the name. King Kong has ruled the screen ever since Merian C. Cooper’s 1933 box office smash, captured on Skull Island only to break free and run havoc in Manhattan. It has since been re-filmed by Dino De Laurentiis and Peter Jackson. A sequel The Son of Kong was rushed through the same year as the original film. Not to mention, Godzilla and Kong actually faced off in the 1962 film King Kong vs Godzilla. The climactic battle sees Kong as the only visible survivor, but it is a sequel friendly inconclusive as to the defeat of Godzilla. More recently a follow up to Kong: Skull Island has been rumoured to be a remake of King Kong vs Godzilla.
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Gremlins – From the biggest to the smallest. Joe Dante’s Gremlins might not have the stature of Godzilla and King Kong but they certainly have the destructive power. And they start of so cute. Little cuddly teddy bears. All you have to do is not feed them after midnight and not give them water because if you do the next thing you have to do is microwave them until they explode or some other similar madness.
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T.Rex – Steven Spielberg has created some fine monsters in his career. The shark from Jaws for one. Or going back further the monster truck from Duel. But the T.Rex in Jurassic Park is another beast altogether. T.Rex faced up to Godzilla in the teaser trailer for Roland Emmerich’s 1998 remake. We are in the museum with the skeleton of the dinosaur when a huge Godzilla foot comes through the ceiling and crushes it. ‘Size matters’ is the tagline. But Spielberg’s beast has proven durable – despite being extinct – and has roared and caused ripples in glasses of water for two sequels and then another franchise. He also possesses along with Godzilla an ambivalent status as both baddie and occasionally hero.
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The Thing – The polymorphous invader from out of space first crashed down in Howard Hawks’ classic sci-fi Thing From Another World in 1951, but it was John Carpenter’s 1982 remake which elevated the alien to horror. Whereas Ridley Scott’s Alien had an instantly recognisable Xenomorph, the fear with Carpenter’s monster is that it will look exactly like us until it terrifyingly doesn’t. Godzilla might be frightening but he wouldn’t be sitting on a couch waiting for his blood to get tested and that’s pretty freaky too.
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms – Going to the North rather than the South Pole, a group of scientists unleash another beast on New York. A young Ray Harryhausen produced the special effects for this early monster movie which set off a wave of similar B-Movies like Them! Scientists advise, the military do their best and citizens run around screaming and getting trodden on or eating. Cold War paranoia and worries about the atomic bomb often fuelled these fantasies but there’s also the unspoken delight in watching a fishing boat smashed, a lighthouse knocked over and Manhattan once more reduced to rubble. The Beast could give Godzilla a run for his money. (Also look out for a young Lee van Cleef, as an army sniper).