October 31, 2011

My Five Favorite Monsters from Childhood

Oh what a month it's been here on the blog with a slew of great contributions from authors and bloggers. Look, if you haven't had a chance to pore over the Monster Movie Marathon guest posts, I urge you to do so because everybody did a fantastic job. So many aspects of monster movies were covered, and monsters in general, and because of that I kind of feel like I should apologize for taking the tone to a kindergarten level. But it is my blog after all, so if I want to reminisce about my childhood some more, I will.

I didn't become a big fan of monsters until probably my teen years, but the seed was sewn way back when I was a little boy. Looking back there were a slew of monsters I saw in movies and on television--not to mention the children's books--so I thought I'd offer up a fave five list of my favorite monsters from childhood. Don't tell me there aren't at least a couple from your childhood too, that you hold dear.

5) Gizmo (Gremlins): I was probably ten years old when I first saw Gremlins and lemme tell ya, when those cuddly critters ate after midnight and metamorphosed they freaked me right out of my own skin. I think Jim Henson's Workshop worked on the character design for these guys (correct me if I'm wrong). In any case, Gizmo was absolutely adorable. I mean come on, don't tell me you didn't want one just like him when you were a kid. Sure, they were higher maintenance than a prize poodle, but what dog could compete with such a cute little face.

And if you consider Gremlins 2 the cuteness factor only skyrockets. Remember the scene where he straps on the red bandana like Rambo and starts fashioning his own bow and arrows. Effin' sweet. Yes, the movie was kind of crap--but in a good way.

4) Beast Man (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe): When I comes across the occasional episode of He-Man while channel surfing, I have a hard time figuring out just what the heck I loved so much about that show. The animation was recycled to a ridiculous degree, the plots were utterly silly, and talk about an unrealistic setting of the bar for a boy with body image issues. The entire male cast of this show had to be on some magical form of steroids.

Anyway, one of the many thugs under Skeletor's employ was Beast. He was an orange, musclebound halfwit that got thrown around by He-Man probably more than any other villain--maybe Lockjaw took more thumpings per episode, but it'd be a close call. Still, the character design was great, and despite being an ineffectual villain the guy struck an imposing image when on screen. Of course, he'd open his mouth and the intimidation factor went out the window, but the same could be said for every character on that show. I have a soft spot for the orange galoot though, so I had to put him on the list.

3) The Tazmanian Devil (Looney Tunes): Less monster than marsupial perhaps, but I say the adorable holy terror counts so he's on the list. He's dumb as a post with sharp claw and teeth, and a ravenous appetite for destruction. Honestly, Daffy Duck has long been my favorite WB cartoon character, but I've got a soft spot for Taz. He was one of the villains that I rooted for as a child. Him and Wile E. Coyote.

My memory is a bit foggy, but I don't think there were many vignettes made with Taz. I should hit YouTube and see what I can find. Lord knows there are a ton of Coyote sketches. But they'd have to be from the early era of WB for me to enjoy them. All the cartoons they did after 1960 really lost their appeal. It's those ones from the 40s and 50s that are really special to me, in terms of animation style and tone. Sigh, now I really need to go find a Tazmanian Devil cartoon.

2) The Wolfman (Hilarious House of Frightenstein) - I'm not sure if anyone outside of Canada even got this show. Maybe a couple New England stations. Anyway, this was one of my absolute favorite kids shows when I was growing up. Hosted by Vincent Price--yes, THE Vincent Price--it was basically a sketch comedy and variety show. There was Dracula, Igor, Frankenstein, the Witch, and a few other zany characters. The vast majority of which were played by one man. But the character I dug the most was the Wolfman

I don't know who was doing the make-up for this show, but the Wolfman was one of the most convincing jobs on the show. And for a campy Canadian children's show that's a remarkable achievement. The Wolfman was the house DJ of sorts, spitting out a whole lot of radio disc jockey cliches with some punny monster gags, then he'd play a classic rock song. Maybe there was some disco thrown in--it was an old show--but I've blocked those memories out. Throw in a psychedelic backdrop as he and Igor danced to the songs, and the sketch was just mesmerizing for a kid like me.

1) Super Grover (Sesame Street): I could have populated this entire list with Jim Henson's Muppets, but I forced myself to keep it to one. Just about everything I loved about Sesame Street had something to do with monsters. There was the two-headed monster who fought with itself, the aliens who beamed into homes and marveled over household objects, and Cookie Monster of course. Picking one that was a constant joy to watch though, I gotta go with Grover. Not just Grover. Super Grover!

Grover had to be the most artless and likable characters on Sesame Street. He was a dimwit and a clutz, but so genuine a personality it was impossible not to smile when he was on TV. The little sketches where Grover talked to little kids were surreal in that I could easily suspend disbelief, ignoring it was just some guy with a hand puppet. That was Jim Henson's magic, though. Those Muppets, more often than not, felt as real as the people on the show. So when Grover put on a red cape and a steel helmet to become Super Grover, my eyes were glued to the screen.

Well, there's my list. I'm interested to know what you're list might look like, so feel free to leave a comment and share what your favorite monsters were when you were a little kid.


  1. Sloth from the Goonies. Hands down the best monster.

  2. Good way to wrap up the marathon, with childhood origins.

    Like every Ontario kid of a certain generation, I have fond memories of the House of Frightenstein and the Wolfman was groovy. My fave was always Grizelda the witch but the one that obsessed me was always Brucie, the Frankenstein creature on the operating table. Even then I knew it was a stuffed dummy but still... I kept waiting for him to rise up and go on a rampage.

  3. Gizmo was awesome.

    The one Seseame Street monster I loved the most was Count Von Count.

  4. Bradley - My fondness for the Goonies has waned over the years.

    Tim - Ah, Brucie. I miss that show.

    Ellie - Let's cross our fingers for a Gremlins 3. Though, with today's fads, it'd be Gremlins 3-D!

    Ryan - Was that the Count's actual name? Never knew.