Here are five tiny tributes to five minor monsters:
Drakulon, Creature of Doom!
Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot (1968)
It blows my mind that Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot — the American edit of Japan’s Giant Robo — never became big-on-the-internet.
In the series, Johnny Sokko calls upon Giant Robot — who looks like a friendlier King Sphinx — to stop the alien Gargoyle gang from taking over Earth. Led by Emperor Guillotine, the gang includes huge monsters based on everything from limpet mines to eyeballs.
Every moment of the series was jubilantly odd, but its penultimate episode — Drakulon, Creature of Doom — was out there even by Johnny Sokko standards.
Sokko and his do-gooder pals are captured by Drakulon, a vampire in a thick blue mask who talks like an under-the-weather Count Chocula. He’s billed as one of Emperor Guillotine’s heavies, but it’s hard to imagine this guy taking orders from anyone.
After raising an army of zombie-like vampires, Drakulon magically grows tall enough to battle Giant Robot… who promptly kills him by hurling flaming crosses at his head. I love Drakulon, and I love this show.
World Championship Wrestling (1991)
Oz is considered one of the dumbest wrestling gimmicks ever, but not by me.
Back in 1991, World Championship Wrestling unveiled its newest monster heel. Oz — who was indeed supposed to be Oz of Wizard of Oz fame — was portrayed by Kevin Nash, who’d later enjoy more success as Diesel in the WWF, and then as himself as part of the nWo.
That Nash — never a great technical wrestler, but a huge, handsome and witty one — had to play such an absurd character is part of Oz’s charm.
Oz donned an “old man mask” that looked like something CVS might’ve sold for five bucks in October. The rest of his outfit painted the picture of an Irish genie. Before each match, he’d lose the mask and wrestle like an alien Ivan Drago.
Much was lost in the execution, but the idea of an ancient wizard summoning youth and Herculean strength just to win wrestling matches was kinda brilliant. I know I’m in the minority, but I found this to be pretty high-concept.
Tales from the Crypt (1972)
I’m a big fan of 1972’s Tales from the Crypt, an anthology film along the lines of Creepshow or Trick ‘r Treat. It’s joyless by design and legitimately scary. Not the kind of movie you’d throw on at a party, but totally the type of movie you’d watch on a rainy Sunday over a sleeve of Ritz crackers.
For me, the film peaked during its fourth segment, Wish You Were Here, which was based on The Monkey’s Paw by W. W. Jacobs.
The story: A married woman messes around with a wish-granting figurine. While her wishes do come true, there are hideous side effects. You’re looking at one of them up there.
The woman’s first wish is for lots of money. Fair enough, but she didn’t consider where it might come from. While driving alone, her husband suffers a heart attack and dies… which lets her collect on his health insurance. Oops!
Here’s the kicker: Just before the heart attack, the guy checks his rearview mirror and sees DEATH ITSELF, which had been following him on a motorcycle. (In Tales from the Crypt, Death looked like X-Cop from The Real Ghostbusters.)
That one quick shot has been stuck in my brain for over three decades. I saw Tales from the Crypt as a kid, and came to believe that nobody died without seeing Death. Maybe not this exact Death, but some Death. It’s horrible to imagine now, but when you’re eight, that kind of shit that just destroys you.
Star Wars (1977)
Wioslea was the strange alien who bought Luke’s landspeeder in Star Wars. She was only onscreen for a moment, and for good reason: Even by Star Wars standards, Wioslea was too much.
Resembling a mutant Snork, the mask was straight out of a 1950s B movie. The fact that the rest of Wioslea’s body was fairly humanoid only made her eerier.
PS: Judging by the novelization of Star Wars — which was based on the screenplay — it may have been Wioslea who was originally slated to mess with Luke in the cantina. (The book references Luke’s assailant as a “large, multiple-eyed creature.”)
It’s fun to imagine Wioslea in Ponda Baba’s role, but I prefer things the way they turned out. It’s so cool that an alien this frightening was perfectly harmless. Wioslea’s only crime was making one-sided deals for used space cars.
Get a Life (1992)
Get a Life was a FOX sitcom about an eternal man-child (Chris Elliott) doing incredibly stupid things. That’s the simplest explanation, but it doesn’t say nearly enough.
During the show’s second and final season, Get a Life became so bizarre that it practically dared the network to pull it. For example, Elliott’s character (also named Chris) literally died in most of the episodes, with the causes ranging from strangulation to tonsillitis. (Another time, the supporting characters simply tore off his head and proceeded to play soccer with it.)
Perhaps the most famous episode is called SPEWEY and Me, wherein Chris adopts a space alien that looks like a cross between E.T. and ALF. (Chris names it “SPEWEY,” which stands for “Special Person Entering the World… Egg Yolks.” Yes, this show was amazing.)
SPEWEY spends most of the episode ejecting disgusting liquids from his every orifice. Fed up, Chris’s landlord kills and cooks the alien… and even a mourning Chris has to admit that SPEWEY is pretty tasty.
Thanks for reading. Look for more tiny tributes to minor monsters in the near future!