One interestingly unique little film from the 1950s that I've always had an affection for is The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955). The original ad art featured a never-never creature with a body containing an endless array of eyes that disappeared off the edge of the poster. It was hyped as "filmed for Wide Screen in Terror-Scope." Since this film was promoted and sold before it was ever filmed, one can assume the 'Wide Screen and Terror-Scope' elements were there from the beginning. This same line appeared in the later printed lobby cards, which consisted of stills from the finished production. All showings that I've seen have been in the normal 1:66 to 1 format. The IMdB lists the 'official' format as 1:37 to 1, not really a 'wide screen' and surely not anything that could be recognized as being in any sort of 'terror-scope.' On the other hand I haven't heard of anyone expressing disappointment over not being thrilled by something that was not in any sort of 'terror-scope.'
If this little opus occupies any place in film history it would be for one main fact; it contains the very first Paul Blaisdell cinematic creature.
The premier issue of Fantastic Monsters of the Films (1962) features an article documenting the creation of this creature; 'Little Hercules.' The copy of the article emphasizes " ...we (the monster makers) do not always work on Million Dollar Movies, and we do not take home Million Dollar Paychecks. Often we have to work within limited funds in a budgeted amount of time." Not mentioned is the actual amount of money Blaisdell did in fact recieve for his work: $400 - half of which was spent on materials. In a series of step-by-step illustrations the creation of the model unfolds. Materials mentioned for the construction of the model were modeling clay and liquid latex rubber. Other materials listed, for a generic background structure, include chicken mesh wire and plaster of paris. Randy Palmer's affectionate book Paul Blaisdell, Monster Maker (McFarland, 1997) mentions the additional materials needed to complete the model; small plastic eyes, plastic fangs, rubber lizard tails for antennae and wire hangers for the bat-like wings.
Bill Warren in his Keep Watching the Skies! states the 'Little Hercules' model "...is so shabbily and cheaply created that to say it's merely unconvincing is praise." Taking into consideration that this was Blaisdell's premier attempt at cinematic monster-making and the conditions in which he functioned, this is a major put down. The book contains a publicity still of the creature and incorrectly identifies it as"...a wax finger puppet that spent it's last days slowly deteriorating in Forrest J Ackerman's refrigerator." True, Unkka Forry did indeed attempt to preserve it, but due to the nature of liquid latex rubber (not wax) it was doomed to deteriorate. Even in films where the artisans do 'get million dollar paychecks' crafting models and makeup pieces out of liquid latex, the life of the object is not expected to last very far beyond it's use in the individual project it was created for.
In Bob Burns' book It Came From Bob's Basement (Chronicle Books, 2000) is an illo of the 'Little Hercules' model head stating it is a wax test casting. Burns also states that after suffering through their first screening of Beast, Blaisdell's name wasn't to be found in the credits. In versions shown recently on cable, Blaisdell is indeed listed in the credits for special effects. However, producer Roger Corman's as well as original director Lou Place's names are not to be found. David Kramarsky is credited with production and direction.
Unkka Forry was very involved with the project, as he was with many at the time. It was he who recommended his client Paul Blaisdell to producer Roger Corman (after first recommending his old friend Ray Haryhausen and then Jacques Fresco). Due to the miniscule nature of the money involved, Forry didn't collect his agent's percentage. He was, however, pressed into service himself on the project. When the beast's ship takes off in the end of the story, it's the hand of the Ackermonster who is implimenting the liftoff. He always boasted he got involved with Beast and "pulled a few strings."
Soon after, Forry printed mini fliers advertising his agency. Two illustrations on the flier are Paul Blaisdell creations, 'Little Hercules' and the She Creature. Whether it was the draw of 'Terror-Scope,' the undeniable fact that Paul Blaisdell could work cheaply as well as quickly, or simply that this film was the bottom half of a pre-sold drive-in double bill, it was successful enough for the film's producer, Roger Corman, to call upon him again for several subsequent projects.
An oddball still exists depicting an attractive topless model sitting on a couch (presumably in the original Ackermansion) with her left breast covered by what appears to be the bottom half of a lace window curtain. Her right breast is obscured by the Paul Blaisdell 'Little Hercules' model she is holding in her hands. Also visible near her on the couch is a copy of James Warren's After Hours. This still turned up on page 37 in the first issue, of only two, of Forrest J Ackerman's Monsterama magazine. This still, along with many other collectible items, found it's way to the Kinema Archives from the Ackerman Archives.
The FanMo article of the creation of the model was the first time I learned about liquid latex rubber. Being a teenaged filmmaker and monster model maker at the time, it set me on a path for the next few years. Unfortunately I didn't become a film artisan recieving million dollar paychecks, but I'll always have a fond memory of The Beast With a Million Eyes, the FanMo article, and the ongoing exploration of Paul Blaisdell's work.
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