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.”
10. Attack of the Eye Creatures (1965)
Alright, what is going on with this guy? The lumps all over its body—are those eyes? How does it walk or move with feet that are covered with eyeballs? If they’re eyes, why are there no irises or pupils anywhere? Is the center of its face another big eye as well? Oh, and by the way, this is the COMPLETE version of the costume. The film is so cheap that in some scenes, other versions of the monster can be seen simply wearing the headpiece, draped over a turtleneck sweater. As the MST3k mantra goes: “They just didn’t care.”
9. Robot Monster (1953)
The suit from Robot Monster is probably what a lot of people would immediately picture when someone says “bad monster costume.” It’s iconic, the granddaddy of all cheesy, thrown together costumes. There wasn’t any money in the shoestring budget for an actual robot costume, so director Phil Tucker simply asked a friend to lend them his gorilla costume. Being a savvy filmmaker, he realized that audiences might be able to discern the difference between the two, so he stuck a space helmet on it, and voila—cinema magic. You could never make a list like this and leave off Robot Monster, it’s an indisputable classic.
8. The Godmonster of Indian Flats (1973)
It’s very difficult to find decent, full-body images of this one online, so to fully appreciate just how messed up it is, you really should watch a clip of it in motion. The “godmonster” is supposed to be some kind of mutated, killer sheep, but the costume is absolutely hideous. What in god’s name is going on with the arms? One is of vaguely normal length, but the other reaches all the way to the ground (naturally with no articulation or movement) and looks like nothing so much as a giant phallus. The headpiece of the costume is so lumpy and misshapen that it’s hard to tell it’s supposed to be a sheep, even when you’re seeing it in broad daylight. This costume should be burned, and the ashes thrown to the winds.
7. Unknown Island (1948)
I feel legitimate empathy for the man who was made to wear this dinosaur costume. It looks like the most uncomfortable/genuinely painful thing imaginable, but beyond that, it has some really weird proportions. Those are just some guy’s legs down there! Imagine how you would be forced to move, wearing this thing, waddling along like a giant duck. Assuming he had some kind of viewing window to see at all, he must have been envying the guy in the gorilla suit pretty hard.
6. From Hell it Came (1957)
This disgruntled tree man was certainly among the dumber monster ideas on a conceptual level—“Hey, let’s make a gigantic, bulky, immovable tree man costume where the guy in it is basically just forced to stand there!” Then you get to how it actually looks, which is inadvertently hilarious. The shape of the trunk/branches coming down from the face make it look like it has a huge, wooden Fu Manchu mustache, and the face is completely immobile. You’ve got to love these costumes that have absolutely no articulation. If that girl could just roll down out of his arms, he wouldn’t even be able to bend over and pick her up again.
5. Killers from Space (1954)
The simplest “costumes” on the list, bar none, show exactly what kind of resources (or lack thereof) some poor, distraught B-movie makers were working with in the 1950s. Need some aliens for your science fiction picture? No problem! Do you have access to some ping pong balls, bushy eyebrows and wool cloth to make onesies? Then you’ve got yourself some aliens! You could literally make a better Halloween costume than this for yourself in the course of a single night.
4. It Conquered the World (1956)
It’s hard to beat this one for sheer goofiness. They certainly came up with an original design for the Venusian alien in this picture, you have to give them that. But please—conquer the world? This thing has a top speed of 1 mph. It couldn’t conquer a steep incline. But it’s Roger Corman, so this is pretty much par for the course.
3. Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961)
What a dope. The costume is essentially what would happen if you took Cookie Monster, removed the eyes and then glued on some halved tennis balls before drawing pupils. I like the two ineffectual little teeth, as well. He’s only on screen for a few brief moments in the film, and really, can you blame them? Guess who’s responsible for this movie as well, by the way. Would you believe it’s also Roger Corman? When you needed somebody to film a really terrible monster costume in the late ‘50s or early ‘60s, he was the man to call.
2. Pretty Much Any Ultraman Monster (1966)
Everything else on this list came from feature films and not TV, but I couldn’t help myself. Look at this thing. Words fail me. Are those white things its teeth? It looks like a cartoon character that’s just been hit with a frying pan, with all the teeth moments away from falling out. Why are the ears so large, and what are those things coming out of them? Moreover, how could any viewer possibly consider this monster a threat to any hero, in any form? In fact, I can’t even stop with one. Have a bonus Ultraman monster on me. Gotta be tough for this spiny guy to sit down.
1. Sting of Death (1965)
If you had to guess, what would you say this guy is supposed to be? Give yourself five seconds. Did you say “killer jellyfish man?” Because that’s what you’re looking at. You thought Octaman was silly? Octaman is like The Thing when compared with Jellyfish Man.
Here’s what this costume consists of: A wetsuit, topped with what appears to be a plastic trash bag. With dangling pipe cleaners. And gardening gloves. I can’t help but wonder if this entire movie was based around the concept that they’d be able to obtain a decent Jellyfish Man costume, and then when they showed up for the first day on set, this guy was just standing there, waving at them. And everyone involved in the production took one look and thought “We have made a terrible mistake.”