On The Infinite Endurance of Some Bogeymen
by William Alan Rieser
Page 1 of 1
Iím sure youíve noticed that there are very few bogeywomen. I can recall the
50 foot woman of the Hollywood C films, Medusa, various and sundry spider
ladies and an abysmally rare glimpse of a gigantic breast in a Woody Allen
film. I donít think itís a deliberate slight, but it does make one pause to
consider the implications. Women simply donít make very effective monsters,
except perhaps in the bedroom. On the other hand, they canít be taken for
granted. After all, one of the most truly horrific conceptions in literature,
the Frankenstein monster, was imagined and fully developed by the wife of the
poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley. You canít tell by looking at the
ladyís photo that she is other than the delicate flower she dissembles to be.
Once filmdom became a real venture, Boris Karloff turned her creation into a
lingering image of horror and instituted a very short list of equally talented
Bram Stoker probably deserves his reputation as a monster maker because,
like Shelley, his Dracula, initially portrayed most effectively by Bela Lugosi,
riveted audiences and generated hosts of imitators and those seeking to cash in
on his genius. Another monster constantly being resuscitated is the Mummy,
again initiated by Karloff and the precursor of thousands of interpretations.
Still another member, the Invisible Man as first depicted by Claude Raines, is
an enduring bogeyman, though more mad than monster. That brings us to the less
Probably first among the dimmer lights is the Wolfman, initially generated
by Lon Chaney Jr., the son of the more famous actor. His icon does not threaten
to vanish anytime soon. A less famous, but still vibrant monster, was the
Creature From the Black Lagoon. There were three moderately successful films
before it was consigned to cult status. There was the Fly, another black and
white film that received modern treatment but more intriguing to me was the
Incredible Shrinking Man, even though it didnít actually qualify in terms of
horror specifics. You will undoubtedly remark that after Frankenstein and
Dracula, the written horror genre has been mostly replaced by screenwriting.
Sadly, that seems to be the case.
Some may want to include Poe and Lovecraft. I donít buy Poe, because his
brand of terror tended to be alcoholic. Lovecraft, on the other hand gave us
Cthulhu, but it lacks a connection to human anatomy and makes itself less
susceptible to eternity. Others might want to include the Worm, Ourobouros, but
I think it fails for the same reason. Ghosts, goblins, witches, warlocks,
devils, changelings, psychos, serial killers and ex-wives are little more than
diluted versions of those mentioned above.
So much for the eternal giants, because nothing else has come close. You
might want to argue about the Abominable Snowman, but that question is still
unresolved. Also, the Phantom of the Opera is nothing more than a disfigured
man. It looks to me as though the membership has achieved closure, unless you
want to admit aliens which is patently unfair. The Thing, though a lively
concoction played by James Arness and revitalized with modern techniques, was
not from here. I like my monsters earthy and bipedal if you donít mind. So,
too, the Predator and the Alien. Theyíre just not clubbable. Thatís not to say
Iím unwilling to champion a new one. Itís just that I havenít read about or
seen anything that can compare with the greats who had their feet on the
ground. Have you?
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 William Alan Rieser, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.