DISCOVER--the creative genius of Paul Blaisdell

by jonabbott56 | created - 18 Jun 2013 | updated - 28 Jan 2016 | Public

Blackballed by Famous Monsters of Filmland, the only major media information outlet for fantasy films in the 1960s, Paul Blaisdell worked in obscurity while his contemporaries were regularly name checked, making the cheapest of creatures and props for the cheapest of monster movies and producers. Indeed, he finally threw in the towel because he could never secure the proper funds to complete his work to his satisfaction, and became tired of taking short-cuts for minimum wages. By the time nostalgic sci-fi enthusiasts were asking questions about who designed the She Creature or the Saucermen, Blaisdell was gone... but his work lives on, and his name has finally been recognised.

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1. The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955)

Passed | 75 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

A dysfunctional family operating an isolated date farm in the California desert is threatened by the arrival of an extra-terrestrial.

Directors: David Kramarsky, Roger Corman, Lou Place | Stars: Paul Birch, Lorna Thayer, Dona Cole, Dick Sargent

Votes: 1,187

With distributors fuming that James Nicholson's and Sam Arkoff's sci-fi cheapie offered no monster, when one was clearly emblazoned all over their usual economical-with-the-truth poster art, Roger Corman turned to model maker Paul Blaisdell as a last resort, and for the princely sum of four hundred dollars, Blaisdell broke into the movie business...

2. Day the World Ended (1955)

Approved | 79 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

In a post-Apocalyptic world after an atomic war seven disparate people find themselves in a protected valley in the home of a survivalist and his beautiful daughter.

Director: Roger Corman | Stars: Richard Denning, Lori Nelson, Adele Jergens, Mike Connors

Votes: 1,635

At least the monster on this poster was actually in the film... And Blaisdell was in the monster suit...

3. It Conquered the World (1956)

Approved | 71 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

A well meaning scientist guides an alien monster to Earth from Venus, so that he can rid mankind of feelings and emotions - but only death and sorrow results.

Director: Roger Corman | Stars: Peter Graves, Beverly Garland, Lee Van Cleef, Sally Fraser

Votes: 1,947

A squat, demonic-looking vegetable creature from Venus (nicknamed Beulah) trundles out of its cavernous hiding place to menace the wonderful Beverly Garland (it's an obvious myth she 'kicked it over')... But what a long tedious wait to see it. Blessed with a wonderful series of promotional stills far superior to the actual film, a dark, bleak, and downbeat movie. Blaisdell also made the flying evil bat creatures for the film...

4. The She-Creature (1956)

Approved | 77 min | Fantasy, Horror, Romance

A mysterious hypnotist reverts his beautiful assistant back into the form of a prehistoric sea monster that she was in a past life.

Director: Edward L. Cahn | Stars: Chester Morris, Tom Conway, Cathy Downs, Lance Fuller

Votes: 1,332

Another wonderful Blaisdell creation hardly seen on film.

5. The Undead (1957)

Unrated | 71 min | Fantasy, Horror

A beautiful woman is sent back in time via hypnosis to the Middle Ages where she finds she is suspected of being a witch, and subject to being executed.

Director: Roger Corman | Stars: Pamela Duncan, Richard Garland, Allison Hayes, Val Dufour

Votes: 1,518

Blaisdell took his flying bat creatures from It Conquered the World out of mothballs for this tame medieval fairytale horror film.

6. Voodoo Woman (1957)

Approved | 75 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

Deep in the jungles a mad scientist is using the natives' voodoo for his experiments to create an indestructible being to serve his will. When a party of gold seekers stumbles upon his ... See full summary »

Director: Edward L. Cahn | Stars: Marla English, Tom Conway, Mike Connors, Lance Fuller

Votes: 365

The She Creature gets a ludicrous makeover in this hoot and a half. This was the result of another last minute mercy dash to save a film's effects botched by someone else. Blaisdell did what he could to embellish a Hallowe'en mask with a blonde wig glued to it!

7. Not of This Earth (1957)

Approved | 67 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

An alien agent from the distant planet Davana is sent to Earth via a high-tech matter transporter. There, he terrorizes Southern California in an attempt to acquire blood for his dying race, the result of a devastating nuclear war.

Director: Roger Corman | Stars: Paul Birch, Beverly Garland, Morgan Jones, William Roerick

Votes: 1,350

Blaisdell designed props and another flying bat-like creature for this horror pulp sci-fi yarn about an alien plot to steal blood (one of these props was the sinister scary suitcase the alien carries to remove it). The creature moved across the set on a pole and then dropped on the head of the actor, who was then obliged to then pull the wings around his head while appearing to struggle and spit blood! Despite all this, the film's most well-remembered image remains actor Paul Birch and his shades-concealed white eyes.

8. The Amazing Colossal Man (1957)

Approved | 80 min | Sci-Fi

A military officer survives a nuclear blast, only to begin to uncontrollably grow into an increasingly unstable giant.

Director: Bert I. Gordon | Stars: Glenn Langan, Cathy Downs, William Hudson, Larry Thor

Votes: 2,115

Paul and his wife Jackie made the miniature furniture and other items that surround the rapidly growing "colossal man", and the famous and memorable six-foot giant working syringe with which the army try to save his life (he rather ungratefully harpoons the luckless guy trying to use it on him). Blaisdell also made the copies of the Las Vegas landmarks the menace destroys in the sequence later spoofed by The Simpsons...

9. Cat Girl (1957)

Unrated | 76 min | Horror

A young woman inherits a family curse that turns her into a murderous feline when she is angered.

Director: Alfred Shaughnessy | Stars: Barbara Shelley, Robert Ayres, Kay Callard, Ernest Milton

Votes: 304

When AIP were lumbered with a British co-production whose director had decided to ditch the cat girl of the title and delivered a snoozy "psychological thriller" instead, Blaisdell had two days to design a cat face mask and put the title creature back in... The prototype was one of the masks inadvertently destroyed when the climactic fire in How To Make a Monster got out of hand and burned all AIP's props...

10. Monster from Green Hell (1957)

Approved | 71 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

A scientific expedition in Africa investigates wasps that have been exposed to radiation and mutated into giant, killing monsters.

Director: Kenneth G. Crane | Stars: Jim Davis, Robert Griffin, Joel Fluellen, Barbara Turner

Votes: 726

Blaisdell provided early production illustrations for the monster which were never used, never paid for, and went missing...

11. From Hell It Came (1957)

Approved | 71 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

A wrongfully accused South Seas prince is executed, and returns as a walking tree stump.

Director: Dan Milner | Stars: Tod Andrews, Tina Carver, Linda Watkins, John McNamara

Votes: 1,143

Unable to work on the actual production as he was otherwise engaged, Blaisdell advised the producers and provided sketches for the infamous tree monster.

12. Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957)

Passed | 69 min | Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi

A teenage couple accidentally awakens an alien after hitting it with their car.

Director: Edward L. Cahn | Stars: Steven Terrell, Gloria Castillo, Frank Gorshin, Raymond Hatton

Votes: 1,387

Better known as Invasion of the Saucermen, these classic 1950s bug-eyed, big-brained aliens inspired by the pulp sci-fi mag covers of the '30s and '40s have become the archetypal flying saucer occupants of dozens of jokes, cartoons, gum cards, and copycats, and are surely (alongside the She Creature and the Venusian) his greatest creations. You will see two variations in stills; originally told to make the heads "really big", he was then told to make them smaller because they were "too big"! Of course the only way to do that was to make them all over again. Sadly, like the disappointing Mars Attacks, the film itself is played for laughs, and the aliens are not seen as much as we might hope; as ever with Blaisdell's wonderful artistry, they are better appreciated in photographs than in the film itself. And no imitators have ever bettered them.

13. Attack of the Puppet People (1958)

Approved | 79 min | Sci-Fi, Horror

Lonely, deranged puppet-master designs a machine that shrinks people.

Director: Bert I. Gordon | Stars: John Agar, John Hoyt, June Kenney, Susan Gordon

Votes: 1,856

Better known as Attack of the Puppet People. Blaisdell built the props to scale for both the miniaturised people (John Agar and June Kenny, etc.) and the mad scientist (John Hoyt) who reduced them to doll-size.

14. Earth vs the Spider (1958)

Approved | 73 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Teenagers from a rural community and their high school science teacher join forces to battle a giant mutant spider.

Director: Bert I. Gordon | Stars: Ed Kemmer, June Kenney, Eugene Persson, Gene Roth

Votes: 2,190

A real tarantula was super-imposed onto real streets, photographs, and sets for this rip-off of Tarantula, which I actually prefer to the original. Blaisdell made the gruesome dummy used to represent the drained bodies of the two main victims and a giant spider leg. He also made promotional materials.

15. How to Make a Monster (1958)

Unrated | 73 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

When a master monster make-up artist is sacked by the new bosses of American International studios, he uses his creations to exact revenge.

Director: Herbert L. Strock | Stars: Robert H. Harris, Paul Brinegar, Gary Conway, Gary Clarke

Votes: 702

Blaisdell made the melting wax masks for the big blaze that takes out the murderous bad guy (a disgruntled movie make-up man) in this stand-alone sequel to the Teenage Frankenstein and Werewolf films, pairing the two creatures, but as fictional movie creations. Although Blaisdell was not responsible for the design of those two AIP characters, numerous creations of his from previous films litter the main set for this film, and some were sadly destroyed in the fire during filming. On view in the background are the Doctor Jekyll puppet from Attack of the Puppet People, the Saucermen, the She Creature, and remnants of Beulah, although all these were falling to bits even before they burned. Blaisdell was not happy that his original Cat Girl mask was lost. It was not supposed to be torched, and didn't even make it into the film anyway.

16. Teenagers from Outer Space (1959)

Not Rated | 86 min | Sci-Fi, Thriller

A young alien and a teenage earthling fall in love, and plot to stop the alien's race from using Earth as a food-breeding ground for giant lobsters from their planet.

Director: Tom Graeff | Stars: David Love, Dawn Bender, Bryan Grant, Harvey B. Dunn

Votes: 2,854

This is actually Teenagers from Outer Space, as the poster shows. Blaisdell was turning down a lot of offers at around this time because of joke salaries, and this was one of them, but he did customise a few props and work on the poster art.

17. Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)

Approved | 62 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

A backwoods game warden and a local doctor discover that giant leeches are responsible for disappearances and deaths in a local swamp, but the local police don't believe them.

Director: Bernard L. Kowalski | Stars: Ken Clark, Yvette Vickers, Jan Shepard, Michael Emmet

Votes: 3,574

This is actually Attack of the Giant Leeches, later known as just The Giant Leeches. Without Blaisdell, whose meagre salary again could not be met, the end result looked like a pile of bin bags (apparently they were raincoats, as Blaisdell had facetiously suggested when the producers had the gall to ask him for advice).

18. It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)

Approved | 69 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

The first manned expedition to Mars is decimated by an unknown life form which stows away on the rescue ship.

Director: Edward L. Cahn | Stars: Marshall Thompson, Shirley Patterson, Kim Spalding, Ann Doran

Votes: 4,141

What would turn out to be Blaisdell's last major piece of work for a movie was also his most elaborate, marred by the refusal of the difficult, drunken oaf hired to wear the costume to attend measurement fittings. As a result, his chin protruded through the mouth of the headpiece, and had to represent an unintended tongue. The film, about a spaceship with a hostile lizard monster on board that is methodically picking off the crew, is widely believed to have inspired Alien, although it's hardly the most unusual idea in the world, and most of the sci-fi TV series of the '60s used a variation of it at some point.

19. Invisible Invaders (1959)

Approved | 67 min | Sci-Fi, Horror

Aliens, contacting scientist Adam Penner, inform him that they have been on the moon for twenty thousand years, undetected due to their invisibility, and have now decided to annihilate ... See full summary »

Director: Edward L. Cahn | Stars: John Agar, Jean Byron, Philip Tonge, Robert Hutton

Votes: 1,340

The It! Costume is utilised in this film.

20. Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (1959)

Approved | 65 min | Comedy, Horror

A group of drag-racing fanatics, members of a Los Angeles club, move into an old deserted mansion and set up shop, making it their headquarters. They hold a Halloween masked ball for the ... See full summary »

Director: William J. Hole Jr. | Stars: Jody Fair, Russ Bender, Henry McCann, Martin Braddock

Votes: 504

Not only was the She Creature costume used in this light teen comedy, but it had more screen time and can be seen more clearly!

21. Vengeance of Hercules (1960)

87 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

A warrior returning home to his country must battle giant bats, three-headed dogs and a vicious dragon to save his wife, and his people, from the machinations of an evil ruler.

Director: Vittorio Cottafavi | Stars: Mark Forest, Broderick Crawford, Gaby André, Renato Terra

Votes: 380

Unused production art.

22. Jack the Giant Killer (1962)

G | 94 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy

A farmboy turned knight must protect a princess from the schemes of an evil wizard.

Director: Nathan Juran | Stars: Kerwin Mathews, Judi Meredith, Torin Thatcher, Walter Burke

Votes: 1,990

Blaisdell provided unused production designs for this film, an underrated gem.

Jon is not on Facebook, but can reply to comments here, at the base of this list.

Hi, Michel. Shame about those props! My source on the Famous Monsters situation was the superb reference work on Blaisdell from McFarland by Randy Palmer (now sadly deceased), although the story was first told in the May 1990 Cinefantastique retrospective, also by Palmer. Although this information only comes from the one source, Palmer thanks Ackerman in his book, and Ackerman had plenty of opportunity to refute the charge. Apparently, Blaisdell rather vocally badmouthed a feature on his work for Saucermen in the first issue, and publisher Warren forbade his name ever being mentioned in any Warren publication again, something which Palmer suggests was not only the case (I admit I haven't obtained, or ploughed through every issue to check!), but also played a large part in his obscurity. Ackerman apparently did nothing to rectify this situation, which over a thirty-plus year timespan I think is pretty poor. If anyone knows different I'd be interested to hear (emphasis on knows), but note that it wasn't the films or the effects that couldn't appear in the mag, only any mention of Blaisdell. There were other monster mags that may or may not have referenced Blaisdell, such as Castle of Frankenstein for example, but even today he gets short shrift in many books and articles on Corman. Perhaps you saw features on Blaisdell in his own short-lived Fantastic Monsters magazines, the sorry tale of which is also related in the Palmer book, along with most of the more familiar ones, and which I strongly recommend. Some of the above information on his prop work in my list came from this book, Paul Blaisdell, Monster Maker (1997), still in print.

Obsessed with the popular culture of the 1960s and surrounding decades, Jon Abbott has been writing about film and TV for over thirty years in around two dozen different publications, trade, populist, and specialist. He is the author of several books, including

Irwin Allen Television Productions 1964-1970, Stephen J. Cannell Television Productions: A History of All Series and Pilots, The Elvis Films, Cool TV of the 1960s: Three Shows That Changed the World, and Strange New World: Sex Films of the 1970s.

See his Amazon author's page, and his other lists on the IMDB, all under the pre-fix DISCOVER.

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