clockwise from top right: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Cat People, Frankenstein, King Kong, Le Belle et Ie Bete, The Creature From The Black Lagoon and The Mummy’s Tomb
monster frequently seen sleeping in back alleys. derelict properties or under trees in the rain.
Different countries have different political metaphors. Japan‘s Godzilla revisited its war experience of defeat and nuclear holocaust. In the films of the 50s. we see soldiers and civilians stand by their posts in courageous resistance. before being swept away in an atom-powered Armageddon by the big lizard. In the l998 American version. it's not so much Armageddon as Armageddon-outta—here. with crowds running in all directions to avoid the wrathful reptile. This symbolises the individualist ethic of modern American culture where looking after number one supplants the corporate mentality of the Japanese story.
And so to the sexual politics. Here. Godzilla is an interesting exception. The American version confirmed the creature‘s asexual status. We‘re informed. in the l998 telling. that the creature can. in effect. mate with itself to produce young. More typically. sexual politics is a huge subtext to the monster movie. The Mummy. in both l932 and 199‘). created a creature who sees in a modern woman his lost love of 3600 years ago and seeks to tum her into a substitute for his old partner. This is. in a sense. a pardonable sin; aren‘t we all inclined. in our own minds. to turn the people we‘re with into what we want them to be. rather than acknowledging who they are? In this respect. the Mummy's infatuation is another version of Beauty And
The Beast. just like King Kong. The Bride ()f
Frankenstein and The Hunehbaek OfNotre Dante. These creatures are really rather tragic.
When her passions are aroused, she turns into a dirty great man- eating panther.
When all is said and done the half-man. half- lish of Jack Arnold‘s 1954 The Creature From The Black Lagoon does no harm at all to heroine Julie Adams. but is shot for his trouble. And all he was looking for was a nice gill- friend.
When women turn creature—like. it's another matter altogether. In two 7()s versions of the mummy movie. Blood From The Muinnrv's Tom]; and The Awakening. Valerie Leon and
Stephanie Zimbalist. respectively. become the all- conquering ligyptian
Princesses. evoking male fears of the powerful. sexualised woman. Probably the prime example of this subtext is Simone Simon‘s protagonist in Cat People. Jacques Tournier's incomparable l942 classic. remade 40 years later by Paul Schrader. with Nastassja Kinski in the lead. Simon’s nice. clean-living immigrant girl is just like anyone else in everyday life. but when her passions are aroused. she turns into a dirty great man-eating panther. Yes. boys. the message is clear: she might look pretty and innocuous. but once she gets her motor running. you could be faced with a scarily insatiable pussy.
So much for the liberation of women in the realms of both the public and the private. All the same. you can take it at face value and just have a rollicking good time. For myself. I'm looking forward to Rachel Weisz tangling with the creature again. I don‘t want to get all Oedipal on your asses. but I want my mummy.
The Monster Collection including four Mummy titles, Universal/4 Front Video, £9.99 each, out now.
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