5 Most Embarrassing Movies Of Our Most Iconic Monsters
The beauty of using generic, public-domain monsters in horror movies is that everyone watching already knows what the creators are going for. There's no need to explain what a werewolf or a zombie is – the audience is already looped in on brain-eating and what happens during a full moon – thereby saving the filmmakers' precious minutes of exposition.
Also? Those kinds of monsters are free, allowing writers and directors and boom operators an opportunity to get clever and try something new, expanding on our collective common knowledge of what a monster can be. Of course, far, far more often, those same "creatives" just crap out a steaming pile of celluloid spookiness as quickly and cheaply as is humanly possible, safe in the knowledge that no matter how hard they fail, their movie will still live on forever in blasphemous infamy. Just like the monster myths that they horrendously maligned in the process ...
The Werewolf of Washington - The Wolf Of Penn Ave.
Werewolves aren't necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think about political satire. With roots that go back to Viking marauders and spooky European forests and themes that mostly include primal hunger, transposing your ravenous wolfmen to a post-hippie-era Washington, D.C. is, well, a bit of a stretch.
Which makes 1973's The Werewolf of Washington a goddamn yoga instructor.
Dean Stockwell of Quantum Leap and Battlestar Galactica fame stars as the press secretary to a very Nixon-like president. Also, he's a werewolf who murders his way through D.C. without ever changing out of his suit. Ostensibly a scathing critique of the American government dressed up in horror movie clothing – it was made in between the Watergate incident and Nixon officially getting caught – the movie's mostly just a colossal mess.
As a microcosmic example, let's take a look at one of the early, climactic scenes, where Stockwell's Jack is "bitten" by a "werewolf."
Aside from being filmed with only one flashlight, there's no sense of time or place, with people just randomly appearing and leaving. An empty wood is suddenly home to a family of eastern European stereotypes with what appears to be Futurama's alien language scrawled on their wagon.
All of this is preceded by a car accident that couldn't actually afford to ruin the car, so it's sitting, undamaged, a foot from the tree it "crashed" into.
Jack is then "attacked" by a "wolf" that's very clearly someone's confused German Shepherd …
… before hitting the ground with a golf club in the world's worst pantomime of dogicide.
Later, after he's wolfed out and begun terrorizing Washington, D.C., our hero conflates the Pentagon with a pentagram. You can feel how genuinely clever the movie thinks it is about realizing that two shapes with the same prefix are, y'know, similar.
Written in 10 days and shot for $100,000 in Long Island, the movie was so bad the writer and director, Milton Moses Ginsberg, never wrote or directed again. The DVD copy of Werewolf of Washington that he owns came from Germany because that was the only country that gave half a crap. The only person who would distribute it was Bob Sumner – noted owner of seedy porno theaters – and even he didn't care enough to keep the copyright. In fact, the whole thing's on YouTube right now.
The quality is, fittingly, terrible, as all but one of the film's original prints were destroyed, presumably shot with silver bullets to keep something like this from ever happening again.
Frankenstein Island - Frank's Spooky Bikini Beach Party
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is a pretty singular story with a singular monster. Unlike, say, Bram Stoker's Count Dracula, identified as one of countless vampires, or the general idea of ghosts or the entire cast of Entourage characters, Frankenstein's monster is one mad scientist's one creation. By the end of the book, the monster's kind of just bummed out about his existence and decided to go full emo, drifting to his death on an ice flow. The story doesn't really lend itself to a sequel.
And yet …
Here's how Frankenstein Island starts: a hot air balloon crashes on an island full of fur-bikini-wearing Amazons. The owner of the island, Dr. Sheila Frankenstein, great-great-great-granddaughter of the original Dr. Victor Frankenstein, wants to turn the balloonists into stitched-together monster slaves, only to discover that one of them is also a doctor. This is a big deal for some reason. The mad scientist who singlehandedly created an army of zombies needs help saving her 200-year-old husband … Dr. Van Helsing. You know the same Van Helsing who was totally the assistant to the original Dr. Frankenstein in the books and movies.
Meanwhile, the ghost of that O.G. Frankenstein – played by John Carradine, who never met a terrible monster movie he didn't love – is floating around and hamming things up, but only after being summoned by half-naked dancing women.
And, of course, the original monster is chilling in an underwater cave. Until he shows up at the end of the movie, anyway, in the world's worst Frankenstein make-up …
… during the world's worst fight scene, with a crew of henchmen who clearly got lost on the way to the set of Adam West's Batman show.
Unbelievably, this utter nonsense is actually a remake: director Jerry Warren just straight-up recycled his previous 1959 garbagefest, Teenage Zombies. Not wanting to be seen as some sort of hack, though, he wrote the script under a fake name, scored it under another fake name, and shot the whole thing in 10 days on his own ranch.
Shocking, we know.
The Amazing Transparent Man - The Film MST3K Couldn't Save
Tell us if you've heard this one before: a misogynist safecracker and a wildly underdeveloped gun moll walk out of a low-budget film noir and into a sci-fi B-movie that's also a retelling of the Faust legend, only with the devil played by a guy doing a bad J. Robert Oppenheimer impersonation, with big thoughts on atomic energy and no idea what radiation poisoning looks like, and also there's a lot of locking women in closets and then, uh … the aristocrats!
Anyway, the plot: a former military man wants an army of invisible soldiers, so he recruits a mad scientist to make an invisibility machine and springs a safecracker from prison to steal the necessary atomic materials. But then the safecracker and the scientist try to escape from the military man, only for two of the three to – spoilers! – die horribly in a nuclear explosion made entirely from stock footage.
The entire thing was filmed in less than two weeks, on what appear to be only two sets, on, once again, the director's own property – along with another entire movie. The working title, by the way, was The Invisible Intruder, which seems to suggest they had no idea what this thing was even as they were making it. There's certainly no "intruder" anywhere in the released film that would make that title make sense.
But then "sense" is asking a lot of a movie that crams blackmail, a prison break, a bank robbery, multiple kidnappings, some very obvious allegories ("War is bad!" "Immigrants are good!" "The protagonist's name is Faust and he has to make a bargain with someone!"), and, like, three double-crosses into itself. Rambling exposition is sprinkled alongside the longest, most pointless tracking shots in known history – there's literally a full 20 seconds devoted to watching a guy valet a car. All of it in a movie with less than an hour's runtime.
The Amazing Transparent Man was so bad that even Mystery Science Theater 3000 couldn't save it, with the episode perennially rated as one of the fans' least favorite.
Zombie Lake and Oasis of the Zombies - Zombies, Nazis, and Gems, Oh, My
Apparently, the French have a thing for terrible zombie exploitation flicks. In the span of two short years, the country released a pair of practically identical movies featuring zombies, Nazis, topless women, and forgotten gemstones. And if you're curious about what specific part of the previous list the movies focus their attention on, well, here are the original posters for both:
Anyway, let's talk about Zombie Lake:
It's a zombie movie with a lake, which seems to exist solely for the purpose of allowing undead Nazis to feast exclusively on gratuitously naked young women. Seriously, the above trailer is 50% blurred-out boobies and hoo-ha's. The rest of the movie … isn't drastically different. A lot of zombies in tiled pools pretending to be lakes, a lot of zombie make-up falling off faces because it isn't waterproof, a lot of women in various states of undress.
In between, there's a history lesson shoehorned in – presumably so the filmmakers could argue this was a real movie and not just a teenager's X-rated fever dream – along with a subplot involving a child with a dollar store-purchased magic amulet, because, reportedly, maybe, the actress was related to a producer. There's not many reputable sources for information about this piece of crap. But there is a hilarious slow-motion fight at the end where the good zombie and the bad zombie try to stab and choke one another despite being, y'know, zombies.
Zombie Lake was directed by three people (two of whom used pseudonyms, and one of whom jumped ship entirely), was written by two people (one of whom hid his identity), was edited two separate times, and has a score that's largely stolen from other movies. Which, as we're sure you would agree, are clearly the hallmarks of a groundbreaking and historic piece of cinema.
And then there's Oasis of the Zombies:
Come for the only marginally better zombie make-up; stay for the actors who absolutely cannot keep a straight face, even as they're screaming.
The only real differences between the two movies are that Oasis of the Zombies is set in the African desert instead of a lake town and involves searching for buried treasure instead of a little girl with a necklace. The Nazis, French people, and naked ladies are all still there.
But why, we're sure you're asking, are these two movies so similar? Well, remember that director who bailed on Zombie Lake? That was Jesús Franco, the director of Oasis of the Zombies. And the writer who hid his identity? That was Marius Lesoeur, the producer of both films.
Honestly, you'd think he'd know better the second time around.
Dawn of the Mummy - Mummy's Fashion Show
Have you ever wanted to watch a mummy movie that was inspired by Dawn of the Dead and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre? Well, then, good news!
Dawn of the Mummy is a 1981 Italian/American/Egyptian production that reimagines mummies as … well, as zombies rising from underground then running around eating people's flesh and entrails.
They're also Jason Voorhees-esque slashers now, murdering people with machetes, because why not. And their hands acid-burn people? This visceral reimagining is both a bold take and a complete misunderstanding of what makes mummies, y'know, mummies.
Directed by Frank Agrama – the same guy who would soon executive produce a bunch of different anime programs into one and bring Robotech to America – the movie's gory as hell and was even briefly banned in England. That's about all it has got going for it, though. Well, that, and the fact that the mummies do kind of look like actual IRL mummies, which is a nice touch given how absolutely stupid every other part of Dawn of the Mummy is.
The plot revolves around a group of fashion models disturbing a tomb and activating an ancient curse. The fashion models, by the way, are the third set of people shown disturbing the tomb, but despite dynamiting and plundering, it's the photographer's heat lamps that raise the dead. The mummy/zombies don't show up until halfway through. Also, there's a witch who just kind of comes and goes.
Dawn of the Mummy seems to crib from, conservatively, every movie ever. There's a scene with a woman in a lake that's very clearly meant to invoke Jaws and a guy who looks spookily like Flash Gordon. The movie also gets a lot of mileage out of recreating Night of the Living Dead's entrail munching and generally failing to imitate Lucio Fulci's Zombi films.
Also, the movie cuts between horror and, like, a fashion documentary? Especially early on. There are long scenes about putting on make-up and getting the lighting right because this mummy movie is remarkably thin on actual mummy attacks. That is until the last 15 minutes, which is apparently where their entire budget went. It's also possible that's when Agrama took over from the porno director who had originally been behind the camera.
However, we'd be remiss if we didn't highlight the most amazing 30 seconds ever put to film. Despite guns not so much as damaging the rampaging horde, at one point, our hero karate kicks a pair of mummies away, only to get knocked out by a door.
The movie's not a comedy, and the actor's just not that good at pretending. He absolutely tripped over an extra, injured himself, and no one cared enough to redo the scene. Because even the most festering pile of filth can have a silver lining. Usually, it's, like, a used needle or something, catching the sun … but, sometimes, it's goddamn art.
Eirik Gumeny is the author of the Exponential Apocalypse series, a five-book saga of slacker superheroes, fart jokes, and assorted B-movie monsters. Recently, he recently added werewolves and assassins to The Great Gatsby. He’s also on Twitter a bunch.