The terrible monster costume has, oddly enough, been a fixture of worldwide cinema for roughly the exact same amount of time as the terrible monster movie. And that’s wonderful, because there are few things that make for a more enjoyable cheesy monster movie experience than a guy in an ill-fitting, badly designed, clunkily assembled suit of hard rubber. They recall a more innocent time, when audience expectations were not nearly so high. We don’t get to see costumes like these any more—the closest analogy is bad CGI.
In most of these cases, filmmakers were simply trying to make the best of a meager budget while making an entertaining flick. Some of them succeeded. Other movies on this list are practically unwatchable. The one constant is the hilariously bad costuming—these are 20 of the worst monster costumes that unfortunate actors and stuntmen were ever forced to wear. They will redefine your conception of “lame” movie monsters.
20. Octaman (1971)
This one is almost, almost cool. The head design is interesting, but it’s impossible to get around the uselessness of most of the limbs. Other than the two holes the suit actor can stick his arms through, the rest of the octopus tentacles are functionally useless—they just dangle or drag on the ground the whole time, making this one far worse in motion than it is in a still photo. Surprisingly, this was the first film in the career of FX wiz Rick Baker, who has since won seven Academy Awards for special effects on films such as An American Werewolf in London. So I’m sure he doesn’t feel too bad about Octaman these days.
19. I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957)
A classic in the “All we had money for was a mask!” subset of bad monster costumes. I also like how they simply wrapped a bunch of gauze around his neck to hide the dividing line between the mask and his neck. The entire process of writing to filming was apparently completed by American International Pictures (B movie specialists) within the space of a few weeks, so perhaps we should be thankful they even had time to find a mask.
18. The Phantom Creeps (1939)
That’s a robot, if you were wondering. You’ve got to love the head on this guy, or the fact that his unchangeable face was constructed to convey a single expression: I believe it’s “just about to sneeze.” And why does a robot need half-closed, droopy eyes, exactly? Who knows. He’s got plenty of character, but it’s hard not to laugh when you see this guy stomping around.
17. The Gorilla (1927)
Bad ape suits are a long tradition in Hollywood, and this is basically the Ur-bad ape suit. The proportions are genuinely disturbing—the head is tiny while the hands are huge. The legs are massive as well, and why are they so long and bow-legged? He looks like he was born with a terrible case of Rickets, and then spent most of his life horseback riding. If there’s a worse ape suit out there, I haven’t yet seen it.
16. The Monster Club (1980)
That’s a werewolf, in nerd glasses. And a bow tie. And what appears to be lipstick. The film may be campy fun, with late-career appearances from Vincent Price and John Carradine slumming it up, but it’s still an incredibly lame werewolf.
15. The Alligator People (1959)
Ummm … yep, that’s pretty much an alligator person. I’m not sure what I was expecting? A head capable of any kind of movement or articulation would be nice, as would a body suit that doesn’t clearly wrinkle at every seam. But hey, at least the Alligator Person retained enough dignity to wear a nice pair of slacks. Seeing as this is 1959, they’re pulled up well over where his alligator belly button would be.
14. The Galaxy Invader (1985)
Take a bargain-basement alien/lizard man costume. Not particularly inspiring, but not “worst ever” material, right? Now put a bizarre black belt/suspender/thong thing on him and POOF, instant classic. This film is absolutely brutal, and the monster makes no sense. The suit is so bulky and awkward that the guy in it can barely walk, much less chase anyone, and yet they’re always getting tight shots of the monster trying to do complex tasks such as picking things up off the ground. He’s lucky if he can even bend over without falling down.
13. Atom Age Vampire (1960)
This confusing Italian film received the unfortunate title of Atom Age Vampire in the U.S., which is too bad because this “monster” is most certainly not a vampire. In truth, I have no idea what it’s supposed to be, except the result of science gone wrong. His face has the consistency of an old catcher’s mitt or a piece of beef jerky, but it’s the hair that really makes it. I love that someone’s idea of a frightening costume included “Nana’s white, wavy bouffant.”
12. The Horror of Party Beach (1964)
Dear lord, this one looks uncomfortable. Look at those “scales,” which are all different sizes and fail to overlap each other in any discernable way. Most notably, you’ve got to love the mouth, which appears to be filled with half a dozen hot dogs. I’ve seen the MST3k version of this film multiple times and I still have no idea what’s supposed to be going on with that mouth. It has nothing to do with the costume, but it’s also especially silly that the only thing that can kill the monster is sodium, considering it lives in a saltwater environment.
11. Blood Freak (1972)
What you’re looking at is a marijuana-addicted Vietnam veteran who has been lunching on tainted turkey meat. Yes. After eating some genetically modified turkey meat, he’s transformed into a were-turkey of sorts with a thirst for the blood of other junkies. It’s another “costume” that just boils down to putting a mask on, with no other accoutrement. This is about two steps away from going out to the prank shop, buying a rubber chicken mask and just saying “Okay, we’re ready to shoot this horror film now.”