Creature Features

Monster (1980)

Directed by Kenneth Hartford (as Kenneth Herts). 1980.

Monster is a movie, like Isle of the Snake People, that was made because someone wanted desperately to make it. It's the curious nature of a movie like this that keeps you watching. What compelled the makers, and how ridiculous and hopeful did they feel every single day of the shoot? Even when their hero can't act. Even when their plucky young protagonists aren't worth killing. Even when their rubber star looks silly in the sunlight. How disheartening and wonderful when the climax of your movie involves a dead sheep stuffed with TNT.


"Goddamn foreign cars."

"Goddamn foreign cars."

Written by Chris Columbus. Directed by Joe Dante. 1984.

"Phone home, caca!" hisses a gremlin as it cuts the phone lines to the Peltzer house. In addition to his executive producer, Joe Dante quotes everyone, from Frank Capra to Don Siegel to George Pal to Red Skelton to Walt Disney to Sylvester Stallone. And on and on and on goes the trivia, my favorite being a cameo by Chuck Jones. Gremlins is a clever, funny movie about man's dogged, noble pursuit of convenience, which ultimately makes monsters of the machines he creates. Who better for a cameo, then, than the man who gave us Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius. Our hearts are in the right places, but our heads -- more often than not thanks to our own Acme rockets -- are up our asses. "Fantastic inventions for a fantastic world," goes Rand Peltzer's wonderful inventor's motto. "I make the illogical logical." What better setting for such a conceit than a movie-set town like Kingston Falls, drawn from the subconscious of old Hollywood -- and at Christmas.