REPOST: Uçan Daireler Istanbulda (1955)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Originally posted during our Turkish movie blowout — this one was originally on the site on September 13, 2020 — Uçan Daireler Istanbulda is a great example of alien women descending on our planet and fits in so well this week. Enjoy!

It’s 7,296 miles from Ankara to Mexico City, but you’d never guess it by this film, known in our tongue as Flying Saucers Over Istanbul.

In the same way that Mexican films like La Nave de los Monstruos and Conquistador de la Luna see the worlds beyond ours, this movie feels like it very well be a primo de Turquía of that psychotronic film familia.

Perhaps we can lay the blame or the thanks at the feet of Kenneth Arnold, who made the first publicized — well, you know, unless you count the Bible — sighting of what he called flying saucers on June 24, 1947. Before you could say B movie, they were the de facto villains of nearly every black and white science fiction movie coming out of Hollywood, which meant that other nations would not be far behind.

Much like so many of my favorite movies — Cat-Women of the Moon, Fire Maidens from Outer SpaceAbbott and Costello Go to Mars, Missile to the Moon, Amazon Women on the MoonQueen of Outer Space and El Planeta De Las Mujeres Invasoras — a planet full of women have decided that human men would be the best way to repopulate their dead mudball.

There’s also a secret club of old women that two of the men want to sell the Fountain of Youth that the aliens just so happen to possess, as well as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator played by Mirella Monro, a robot that makes the el Roboto Humano look like a James Cameron-directed piece of gleaming tech and more belly dancing than I’ve ever seen in one movie before. In short, this movie is everything you never knew you wanted and then even more of that.

You can watch this on YouTube.

The Racers (1955)

Henry Hathaway is usually known for directing westerns, but here he is making a film all about car racing in Europe, based on the book The Racer, which was the story of Rudolf Caracciola, who is called Gino Borgesa here and played by Kirk Douglas.

He meets his girl in the way so many have before, as her poodle runs on the track and nearly gets him killed. But hey, when a woman is Bella Darvi, well, you forgive these kinds of things. Darvi spent some of her teen years in a concentration camp before meeting Virginia and Darryl Zanuck, who invited her to move to Hollywood with them. Despite the fact that she slept in the same room as their daughter Susan, and getting a stage name that combined the two Zanuck’s names, she of course became his mistress. I have this theory that perhaps that the affair involved all three, particularly when after Mr. Zanuck left his wife for Darvi, but he would later leave the actresses when he found out that she was bisexual. After 1961, Darvi was mainly back in Monte Carlo, gambling around 30,000 pounds a night (which when we adjust for pounds to dollars and inflation is more than $250,000!) and continually overdosing on barbiturates, which never quite killed her, until she used gas to finally exit this world in 1971.

Anyways, back to the racing. Gino gets out of control after all his injuries get him on painkillers, even clouding him enough that he costs one of his mentors, Carlos Chavez (Ceasar Romero), his last race. He chases away his woman to a younger racer and pretty much ruins his life.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Uçan Daireler Istanbulda (1955)

It’s 7,296 miles from Ankara to Mexico City, but you’d never guess it by this film, known in our tongue as Flying Saucers Over Istanbul.

In the same way that Mexican films like La Nave de los Monstruos and Conquistador de la Luna see the worlds beyond ours, this movie feels like it very well be a primo de Turquía of that psychotronic film familia.

Perhaps we can lay the blame or the thanks at the feet of Kenneth Arnold, who made the first publicized — well, you know, unless you count the Bible — sighting of what he called flying saucers on June 24, 1947. Before you could say B movie, they were the de facto villains of nearly every black and white science fiction movie coming out of Hollywood, which meant that other nations would not be far behind.

Much like so many of my favorite movies — Catwomen of the Moon, Fire Maidens from Outer SpaceAbbott and Costello Go to Mars, Missile to the Moon, Amazon Women on the MoonQueen of Outer Space and El Planeta De Las Mujeres Invasoras — a planet full of women have decided that human men would be the best way to repopulate their dead mudball.

There’s also a secret club of old women that two of the men want to sell the Fountain of Youth that the aliens just so happen to possess, as well as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator played by Mirella Monro, a robot that makes the el Roboto Humano look like a James Cameron-directed piece of gleaming tech and more belly dancing than I’ve ever seen in one movie before. In short, this movie is everything you never knew you wanted and then even more of that.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Female Jungle (1955)

Lawrence Tierney plays Detective Sergeant Jack Stevens, a lawman so drunk that he doesn’t even remember killing a famous film star. Or maybe he didn’t. Life is imitating art here, as Tierney was a maniac on the order of a Kinski.

Quentin Tarantino referred to him as “a complete lunatic” and an opportunity to play Elaine’s father on Seinfeld ended with him stealing a knife from the set and threatening the life of the show’s creator and star. These are minor anecdotes in a life filled with brawls, battles with the law and brilliant acting.

For example, in June of 1975, Tierney was questioned by the NYPD in connection with the apparent suicide of a 24-year-old woman who had jumped from her high-rise window. He told the police, “I had just gotten there, and she just went out the window.” This would be strange enough, but Tierney also played a character in the movie The Hoodlum who is suspected of driving a woman into jumping to her death.

Jayne Mansfield shows up as Candy Price, an artist’s mistress, and John Carradine plays a tabloid reporter. Kathleen Crowley was the lead; she showed up late one day and claimed that she had been raped, which meant that many of her shots are a double and Mansfield — who was paid $150 for the role and went back to selling popcorn at a movie theater after this — had her part increased.

This noir was directed by character actor Bruno VeSota, who also made The Brain Eaters and Invasion of the Star Creatures.

You can watch this on YouTube.

King Dinosaur (1955)

This shot-in-one-week effort was Bert I. Gordon’s first solo movie as a writer-director (he co-directed the previous year’s Serpent Island, which he wrote), made with borrowed equipment and the cast of four all working on deferred salaries. The rest of the footage is all stock, including a mammoth taken from One Million B.C. And it takes 10 minutes — of educational space exploration stock footage and narration — before the first actor steps foot on the newly discovered planet.

It takes place five years in the future, which would be sixty years in our past.

Zoologist Dr. Richard Gordon, geologist Dr. Nora Pierce, medical specialist Dr. Ralph Martin, and chemist Dr. Patrica Bennett (while the men wear baggy flight suits and military-issue boots, the gals wear sensible gauchos and knee-high boots) are on a space voyage to the planet Nova in the hopes of starting a new Earth colony. It’s filled with animals (bears, elk) that are way bigger than they should be — remember that Burt I. Gordon directed this one — including King Dinosaur, which is really an iguana. So the scientists do what any good researcher should: they nuke the processed-shot and floating-matte planet, and leave.

Is there a deeper message about Manifest Destiny and American Imperialism in the frames? Is this a plight of the American Indian allegory? Nope. Burt just likes big creatures on film and blowing up stuff: for this is a world where, regardless of the intelligence of smartly-dressed women (clad in ballet flats and wedged mules with their tailored flight wears) conquering space — just like in The Angry Red Planet and Gog — they’re still screaming and imploring the men to “do something” and to shoot everything they survey.

Death in Space King Dinosaur

The funny thing about this movie is that Ray Harryhausen and Ray Bradbury wanted to provide the dinosaur effects, so they brought in some footage. Gordon watched it, didn’t acknowledge them and just walked out. Harryhausen and Bradbury were obviously upset, but a few years later, at the premiere, Bradbury allegedly approached Gordon and said, “Remember me? Ray Bradbury. It won’t make a dime!”

If you wonder, “Have I heard this music before?” then you’ve probably seen Ed Wood’s The Violent Years. Actually, you should just watch that movie. It’s way better than this. Even at its short running time at a measly 63 minutes — 43 if you cut out the opening stock-narration salvo. And if you recognized the narrator, that’s Marvin Miller, who was the voice of Robby The Robot in Forbidden Planet and was Mr. Proteus on Commander Buzz Corey and the Space Patrol.

You can watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of this movie on Amazon Prime and Tubi. It’s also available without the commentary on Daily Motion.

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Harry Powers was born in the Netherlands but made his way to America in 1910 before settling in West Virginia in 1926. A year later, he met and married farm and feed store owner Luella Strother through a lonely hearts ad. But he didn’t stop running those ads, as he got ten to twenty replies to his lovelorn classified ads a day.

Police would later discover the bodies of several people who replied to his ads, like Asta Eicher, her three children and Dorothy Lemke.  A mob tried to kill him and had to be dispensed with fire hoses and tear gas. After a trial so large that it needed to be held in an opera house to contain all the spectators, he was hung. His story inspired both the book and the movie The Night of the Hunter.

In 1930’s West Virginia. Reverend Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum, who is the only person who really could have played this role) is fleeing the scene of his latest murder. He’s a self-anointed man of the cloth who preaches along the dirt roads and small towns, a man who is both attracted to and hateful toward women. On his right hand is the word LOVE and HATE on the left, symbols for his ready-made sermons.

“Ah, little lad, you’re staring at my fingers. Would you like me to tell you the little story of right-hand/left-hand? The story of good and evil? H-A-T-E! It was with this left hand that old brother Cain struck the blow that laid his brother low. L-O-V-E! You see these fingers, dear hearts? These fingers has veins that run straight to the soul of man. The right hand, friends, the hand of love. Now watch, and I’ll show you the story of life. Those fingers, dear hearts, is always a-warring and a-tugging, one agin t’other. Now watch ’em! Old brother left hand, left hand he’s a fighting, and it looks like love’s a goner. But wait a minute! Hot dog, love’s a winning! Yessirree! It’s love that’s won, and old left hand hate is down for the count!”

Finally, in one small town, Powell for driving a stolen car while he watches a burlesque dancer, muttering to himself, “There’s too many of them. I can’t kill the world.”

Meanwhile, Ben Harper kills two men in a bank robbery and races home to hide the money inside his daughter’s doll. He promises his two children, John and Pearl, to keep it a secret. His son is shocked by how the police treat his father, beating him into the ground.

Ben and Reverend Harry share a jail cell, where the evil preacher tries to discover the location of the money. He gets just enough info on Ben’s family before he is free. Ben isn’t that lucky as he’s executed for his crimes.

Powell then appears in town to both woo and marry Harper’s widow, Willa (Shelley Winters). He charms all the other townsfolk except for John, who promised his father he’d never reveal where the money is.

Instead of consummating his marriage to Willa, Powell tries to get her to be part of his preaching. However, she learns that he’s looking for the money and he stabs and kills her, dumping her body in the river while telling everyone that she left him for a life of sin with a drummer.

Willa’s drowned body is discovered by Birdie Steptoe, an elderly drunk who is sort of an uncle to John. He fears the town will blame him for her death, so he tells no one. Powell starts to hunt the children and they flee in a raft down the river, only stopped for a moment to sleep in a barn. The shadow of the preacher and his singing reaches them and John exclaims, “Doesn’t he ever sleep?”

By this point, the film has become a German expressionist stage play looking fairy tale. The children escape to the home of kindly Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish, the First Lady of American Cinema), a hard as nails old woman who is one of the few purely good people in this entire film. She protects and raises orphans, keeping the kids safe from Powell even when he tries to seduce the oldest, Ruby.

After an all-night standoff, the old woman shoots and wounds the preacher, who hides in the barn until the police arrest him. As they take him to jail, it reminds John of the night his father was arrested. He beats the man with his sister’s doll, screaming that he can keep the money.

At the trial, even the preacher’s staunchest defenders, like Icey Spoon (Evelyn Varden, The Bad Seed) become screaming drunks seeking his doom. A lynch mob has gathered while the executioner smiles at him, saying that he’ll see him soon.

Meanwhile, our children have gathered for Christmas, finally safe. It echoes the dreamlike beginning of the film, which again seems to be part of a fairy tale.

This was the only film directed by actor Charles Laughton and at the time of its original release, it was considered a critical and box-office failure. Laughton never directed another film.

Robert Mitchum was very eager for the part of the preacher. When he auditioned, he impressed Laughton when he said that he was looking for the character to be “a diabolical shit.” Mitchum promptly answered, “Present!” Mitchum later remarked that Laughton was his favorite director and that this was his favorite of the films he acted in.

While Laughton proclaimed Mitchum to be different from his public image — “All this tough talk is a blind, you know. He’s a literate, gracious, kind man, with wonderful manners, and he speaks beautifully–when he wants to. He’s a tender man and a very great gentleman. You know, he’s really terribly shy.” — on set, once producer Paul Gregory told the star that he was too drunk to be acting, he opened the door to Gregory’s Cadillac and pissed all over the front seat.

To Gregory, Mitchum pretty much was the character he was portraying: “He was a charmer. An evil son of a bitch with a lot of charm. Mitch sort of scared me, to tell you the truth. I was always on guard. He was often in a state, and you never knew what he would do next.”

WATCH THE SERIES: Creature from the Black Lagoon

There are no human beings worse than those that confront the Creature from the Black Lagoon, or the Gill-man, as he is sometimes called. All the creature wants to do is swim around, eat flamingos and lounge. Yet humanity wants to impose their will on him and only tragedy ensues.

Our clammy pal was the brainchild of producer William Alland, who was attending a 1941 dinner party during the filming of Citizen Kane (he plays the reporter Thompson in that classic) when Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa told him all about a mythic Amazonian race of half-fish, half-men. A decade later, Alland wrote the Beauty and the Beast-inspired The Sea Monster, which was expanded upon by Maurice Zimm, Harry Essex and Arthur Ross.

There’s some controversy over who designed the creature, as some say Disney animator Milicent Patrick drew the original look, but according to Andrea Ferrari’s book Il Cinema Dei Mostri. her role was “deliberately downplayed by make-up artist Bud Westmore, who for half a century would receive sole credit for the creature’s conception.” The bodysuit was created by Jack Kevan, while Chris Mueller Jr. sculpted the head.

When you see the merman on land, he’s played by Ben Chapman. When we see him swim, it’s Ricou Browning. The costume was rough to be in for an entire day, so we should really be thankful to these actors for enduring painful fourteen hour shooting days.

The first movie in the series, The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), opens on an Amazon expedition. A fossilized hand that shows webbed fingers points to a missing link between land and sea animals, so Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno, one-time rival to Rudolph Valentino during the Silent Era) leads an expedition to find a complete skeleton, which includes Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson, It Came from Outer SpaceHold That Ghost) and financial backer Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning, An Affair to Remember).

The first appearance of the Gill-man, as he frightens two assistants who then attack him, is startling. Even more so is how quickly he dispatches both men.

Soon, the expedition on the tramp steamer Rita is underway, with Lucas (Nestor Paiva, who also appears in the sequel) as the stereotypically coarse sea captain, joined by the aforementioned crew plus Dr. Edwin Thompson (Whit Bissell, I Was a Teenage WerewolfI Was a Teenage Frankenstein, the original Invasion of the Body SnatchersThe Time Machine and many more) and Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams in an iconic role), the girlfriend of Dr. Reed. 

Despite the fact that no one has ever returned from the paradise the natives call the Black Lagoon, the crew decides to go deeper into the Amazon. They’re stalked by the Gill-man, who takes notices of Kay and is caught in a dragline, escaping but leaving a claw behind.

Like Jason Vorhees with gills, our antagonist wipes out the members of the crew. Only fire seems to harm the creature, who is smart enough to block the exit of the ship with fallen logs. Mark becomes obsessed with capturing or killing it, leading to him trying to fight the creature barehanded and getting his money having ass handed to him. The creature then takes Kay to his underwater lair, where David, Lucas and Carl hunt him down and shoot him multiple times.

The movie ends with the creature slowly sinking, possibly dead. This will not be the last depressing close in this series, trust me. There’s a real undercurrent of longing from the monster in this film, of which Adams said, “There always is that feeling of compassion for the monster. I think maybe it touches something in ourselves, maybe the darker parts of ourselves, that long to be loved and think they really can’t ever be loved. It strikes a chord within us.” This same emotional tie to the creature was expressed by Marilyn Monroe’s character in The Seven Year Itch, who remarks that the Gill-man “just wanted to be loved.”

While we value today’s props and love horror, to show you exactly how much Universal Pictures cared for their real stars, Forrest J. Ackerman bought the mask and claws of the Creature’s costume from a young man. And how did that man get them? It turns out that after production wrapped on the three films in this series, they threw everything away. A janitor — the boy’s father — rescued the claws and mask, as he felt that they would make a great Halloween costume for his son.  thought the ensemble would make a good Halloween costume for his son. Other costume pieces were recently sold at auction by Bud, who was an assistant to Milicent Patrick, the original designer of the costume.

Originally shot in 3-D (although it played smaller theaters in 2-D), the original film was successful enough to merit a sequel, 1955’s Revenge of the Creature.

Somehow, the monster has survived and a new expedition — oh hey, there’s Lucas again — captures the Gill-man and brings him to the Ocean Harbor Oceanarium — thank SeaWorld — in Florida, where Professor Clete Ferguson (John Agar, Shirley Temple’s first husband, who appeared in tons of science fiction films along with many appearances alongside John Wayne) and ichthyology student Helen Dobson (Lori Nelson, who reprised the role in 2005’s The Naked Monster). Of course, Helen and Clete fall in love. Of course, the Gill-man falls for her, too.

The Gill-man eventually escapes, but he can’t stop thinking about Helen, even abducting her from a party. Clete and the police chase him down and, as is customary, gun our amphibian antagonist down. A slave to love, trapped until the end!

Despite being the screen debut of Clint Eastwood (in a blink and you’ll miss him appearance as a lab technician who misplaces a rat) and being shot in 3-D, Revenge of the Creature isn’t quite as good as the original. But it made the most money of the three, so that led to 1956’s The Creature Walks Among Us.

Jack Arnold, the director of the two previous films, graduated to Universal’s A-list and John Sherwood, a long-time assistant director, took over. It’s the only film of the three not to be shot in 3-D.

Despite how we saw the Gill-man get shot to death, he somehow survived and is somewhere in the Everglades. Dr. William Barton (Jeff Morrow, This Island EarthOctaman) is pretty much insane, a man driven to capture the merman and abuse his wife Marcia (Leigh Snowden, who was in the same Universal acting classes as Clint Eastwood, James Garner and John Saxon). The dude loses his mind any time she is near their guide, Jed Grant (Gregg Palmer, who appeared in many of John Wayne’s films).

For some reason, Marcia joins Jed and Dr. Tom Morgan (Rex Reason, who has a name like a pro wrestler or a Stan Lee character, but he was an actor who appeared in films like This Island Earth and TV’s The Roaring 20’s) on a dive, but she somehow goes crazy and overcome with the “raptures of the deep.” Also known as nitrogen narcosis, this creates a mental state similar to doing nitrous oxide. It causes Marcia to take off all her scuba gear and the guys have to rescue her.

Of course, the Gill-man follows her and he gets shot with a spear gun, to which he looks right at the crew and seems to want to say, “Come on, dude.” Then, they set him on fire!

This all leads to our underwater pal being in need of surgery from Dr. Borg and Dr. Johnson. And why do they do all this? They want to see if the Creature can help people survive in space! Well, all their work costs the monster his gills and now, he has lungs that can breathe our air. He also has more human skin, so he has to wear clothes.

The doctors try and get the Gill-Man to live among humans, but he gradually becomes depressed, staring at the ocean. He even tries to dive into it and swim back home, but he can no longer breathe as he once did. It’s horrible. Seriously, this movie makes me so upset, as they take everything from him and he gets nothing back in return. Even when he saves some animals from a lion or tries to attack Barton when he kills Jed in a jealous rage, everyone thinks the worst of our undersea friend.

At the end, he finally makes it back to the beach and just stares at the water, unsure what world he finally belongs in. It’s the most unsettling and upsetting of endings, on par with Son of Kong. There are no easy answers — man has put the Creature in this place and nothing can return him back to the home he misses so much.

Following his appearances in these three films, The Creature showed up as Uncle Gilbert on TV’s The Munsters in 1964.

Of course, a version of our clammy friend shows up in The Monster Squad. And there was also a stage musical at the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. But there have been remakes in the works for years that have never made it to production.

Let’s start with the effort made by John Landis in 1982. He commissioned Nigel Kneale (who of course, wrote Quartermass and the Pit but also scripted Halloween III: Season of the Witch) to write a script that original director Jack Arnold would return to helm. According to Andy Murray’s Into the Unknown: The Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale, the script had a pair of creatures — one destructive and one calm — battling the U.S. Navy. As the film was to be shot in 3-D, Universal worried about its budget and that it would compete with their release of Jaws 3-D, so the movie was canceled.

In the 90’s, John Carpenter, Peter Jackson and Ivan Reitman were all attached to a remake. And in the 2000’s, Gary Ross (Pleasantville, The Hunger Games) nearly got on board, which is interesting as his father, Arthur Ross, was one of the original film’s writers. 

Guillermo del Toro was also attached to the film for some time and wanted the movie to be seen from the Creature’s perspective and for him to finally have some romantic success. While the actual film never happened due to Universal’s rejection of these themes, del Toro saved these ideas to create The Shape of Water. Oh Universal. You had no idea what you had.

Breck Eisner (who directed the remake of The Crazies and was set to be crowned as Hollywood’s remaker, as he was due at one point or the other to direct new vesions of Flash GordonThe Brood and Escape from New York) was also attached for some time to an eco-horror version about the rainforest being exploited. The 2007-2008 writer’s strike halted this effort.

There was another movie called The Black Lagoon that was to come out in 2014, but that also failed to surface. And while the Dark Universe reboot of the classic Universal characters is in some doubt, one would think that the Creature from the Black Lagoon would show up if that ever gets any more traction. The appearance of a hand of our finny friend in the remake of The Mummy was just too much! Come on! Stop with the teasing!

What I didn’t know was that there was an Abbott and Costello Meet the Creature from the Black Lagoon TV show, created to promote the first film!

There were also two memorable appearances by the Creature from the Black Lagoon in arcades, thanks to Bally Midway’s Creature from the Black Lagoon and Monster Bash pinball games.

The former of those two machine has a startling hologram of the merman that pops up throughout gameplay.

In case it doens’t come through, I love the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I even had this Remco figure as a kid and would carry it everywhere with me.

I vividly recall the 3D reshowing of the films in the early 1980’s, too!

Our amphibian hero never gets the girl. Never gets the love he deserves. And never even gets a remake! But here’s to him! Long may he swim!