Welcome to the first installment of Chaos Theory’s “Fiendish Fun”. This column is dedicated to reviewing potentially pleasurable ways to waste your time and designed to titillate the darker side of your psyche. Movies, books, videos, music, toys, and anything else that makes an impression on my media saturated senses are fair game here.
First up, Stan Winston, the Academy Award winning special effects wizard who created the Alien Queen, Pumpkin Head, the Terminator, and the dinosaurs for Jurassic Park. Stan has released (perhaps unleashed is more appropriate) a series of direct to video/DVD monster movies as “Stan Winston’s Creature Features”. The series obviously grew out of Winston’s love for the monster genre. It gets its’ name from the “Creature Feature” program that ran on television in the 1960s, usually at midnight with a local horror host, and showcased classic and drive-in cult monster and science fiction movies.
To date Winston’s studio has released 5 Creature Features: “Earth VS. The Spider”, “She Creature”, How To Make A Monster”, “The Day The World Ended”, and “Teenage Caveman”. Each of these titles was originally the title of a Samuel Z. Arkoff American-International drive movie, and the venerable Mr. Arkoff acts as Executive producer for this series. Stan Winston has actually introduced some of the original Arkoff films on the American Movie Classics cable show he hosts.
Not coincidentally, “Earth VS. The Spider” was released while “Spiderman” was #1 at the box office. As with all the Winston productions, his new version shares little with the original release. Whereas the original featured the citizens of a small town engaged in mortal combat with a gigantic spider (courtesy of the “magic” of process photography), Winston’s “Spider” focuses on the mutation of a young superhero want-to-be from nebbish rent-a-cop to multi-limbed horror. This story comes complete with a spider’s mandibles and hunger for the bodily fluids of his prey. The storyline of Winston’s feature borrows elements from “The Fly”, the origin issue of “The Amazing Spiderman”, and of numerous B-movies where a basically good guy gets turned into a predatory monster (e.g. “The Hideous Sun Demon” or “Curse of the Werewolf”).
You’ve probably seen it all before and it could be more tightly edited, but it’s still entertaining with an adequate supply of beer and popcorn. The cast includes Dan Aykroyd as an earnest police detective with marital problems, Theresa Russell, who played a serial killer in “Black Widow” (here she plays Aykroyd’s cheating, alcoholic wife that ends up on the menu), and Amelia Heinle (named as one of TV’s most beautiful women by Soap Opera Digest) as the love interest. The lead is well played by Devon Gummersall, who has been acting since age 10 and is best known for his work on the TV series “My So-Called Life”, “Felicity”, and “Roswell”, but the real star of the show is the creature make-up he wears.
Winston and cohorts transform the very benign looking Gummersall into a truly hideous human-arachnid hybrid. Readers of Marvel Comics’ “The Amazing Spiderman” will instantly recognize that the transformed Gummersall looks like he stepped out of Peter Parker’s worst nightmares, as Gummersall ends up as a much more anatomically correct, for arachnid anatomy anyway, entity than everyone’s favorite web-slinger. Winston’s make-up design even includes spinnerets on Gummersall’s abdomen from which he extrudes web.
Additionally, for truly fanatical fans of Winston’s work there is an action figure for each of the title monsters from the “Creature Features” lovingly rendered in ghastly detail. The figures are well-sculpted, come with a scenic display base, and include a CD-ROM from Winston’s studio showing the artists and design process responsible for them. These are great tie-in collectibles that remind me of a modern updating of the Aurora monster models I loved as a kid without the hassle of assembling them (or the opportunity for inhaling paint and glue fumes).
I haven’t had an opportunity to watch the other titles in this series but given my obsessive compulsion to seek out all things monster related, I’m sure to get around to it. If you’ve got the time to waste, and obviously you do or you wouldn’t be reading this, check out Stan Winston’s Creature Features on video or DVD. For more information on the whole enterprise go to www.stanwinstoncreatures.com and www.stanwinstonstudio.com. Until next time, remember life is short, so don’t sleep, watch movies.