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“The Thing,” “The Fly” and the Best Body Horror Movies Ever
Forty years ago, John Carpenter released a horror movie called The Thing . In the early ‘80s, Hollywood seemed to be extremely interested in extraterrestrial life and the not-quite-human: in 1982 alone, three of the top 30 movies were E.T. , Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Blade Runner .
The Thing , which is about a parasitic alien lifeform capable of mimicking other living organisms, was not as successful. It barely beat out its $15 million budget at the box office. It doesn’t have the sweetness or the optimism of E.T. ; it doesn’t have the world-building narrative charm of a Star Trek movie; it doesn’t have the cool, sci-fi crispness of Blade Runner .
And yet here we are celebrating The Thing after four decades, because it has a long-lasting popularity that makes it nearly the equal of those aforementioned films. What it has instead of all of the stuff those other movies have is blood, guts and gore. It’s a body horror movie, which means it showcases grotesque changes to the human form.
Body horror movies have an appeal that’s hard to explain in words, but is immediately understandable to anyone who has ever, for example, popped a zit. Movies — The Thing among them — create a fantasy space where we can imagine the limits of what the human form can endure. Movies are thought experiments, narrative hypotheses. We wonder what would happen if… And we get lost in the possibilities of that.
Body horror movies also seem to endure over time. The movies on this list were not often the biggest blockbusters when they came out, but they’ve gathered followers over the years. Something in them makes our skin crawl but that something also sticks with us — and we keep going back. Body horror movies are like the little sore in your mouth that you can’t stop touching with your tongue. But don’t worry! They’re just movies, right?
Dark Passage (1947)
Before we get into proper body horror films, I wanted to shout out this gem from 1947 by the great director Delmer Daves. It’s the story of a man who escapes from prison after being wrongfully convicted for murdering his wife. It’s also one of the four great movies that the real-life movie-star couple Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made together, and it’s worth watching for that reason alone.
But what makes this movie really great is that for the first third of it, we see everything from the perspective of Vincent Parry (Bogart). That means we never see his face until — due to a convenient plot twist — he gets some shady plastic surgery in the middle of the night and a couple weeks later is revealed to look like, well, Humphrey Bogart. It’s a great movie joke — having Bogart play an unseen man who does not look like Bogart until he does.
And yet there’s something creepy about it — about imagining someone’s face being altered to look like an entirely new person. It never sits quite right, and it’s part of what gives us the nagging sense that something’s wrong all the way through the film. Dark Passage has a happy ending, but to me it’s proto-body horror for the way it makes me squirm at the manipulation of the human form.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
I thought about including the 1978 remake of this film, but the purist in me wants to go with the original here. This movie, directed by Don Siegel, is an absolute masterpiece of the genre, and really as a movie, period. It concerns an alien invasion and involves plant seed pods that are able to grow exact visual copies of human beings. These “pod people” are devoid of life and personality — they just kind of wander around.
There are two classic body horror things going on in Invasion of the Body Snatchers . One is just the idea that the people you see walking around might be possessed by some other intelligence that has stripped them of their agency or selfhood. That’s scary enough. But the other body horror element is the pods themselves. They’re gross!
The Blob (1958)
We have no choice but to include The Blob , which also has the distinction of being the first starring role in the career of Steve McQueen, one of the greatest action stars of all time. The Blob is one of many movies in which some sort of alien goo crashes on Earth and begins expanding. In this case, the goo begins eating people and growing bigger and bigger as a result.
Honestly, the technical capacity of filmmakers in the ‘50s means The Blob feels a little quaint in comparison to more recent body horror movies. Nevertheless, the idea absolutely works. The director, Irvin Yeaworth, shows us the titular blob only here and there — a mass of red, vaguely pulsing. Like all great horror directors though, he knows that what we don’t see is more terrifying. With this in mind, so much of the body horror is revealed to us through the reactions the characters have to what they see around them.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
We wrote about this movie in our “Bad Dads” Father’s Day roundup recently, but it deserves mention here for being the flagship film in the demonic pregnancy genre of body horror. It’s the story of Rosemary (Mia Farrow), a woman whose husband does the unthinkable and gives his family over to a satanic cult.
Part of body horror is imagining that there’s something terrible inside of you, unseen. Rosemary’s Baby , as Rosemary’s paranoia mounts, makes you feel that fear to a sublime degree. It’s a film about possession and invasion, but, most troublingly, it’s also a film about choice. Rosemary doesn’t get to choose what’s happening inside of her body, and the decision she makes at the end of the movie shows the limitless capacity of a mother’s love.
Another movie dealing with the emotional weight of parenthood, Eraserhead is nearly impossible to explain, plot-wise. It’s a dreamlike nightmare from the master of psychological horror, David Lynch. In fact, it was his first film, and that it was made as he himself was going through the emotional experience of raising a very young child is pretty creepy and troubling to consider.
The body horror elements are in the details. At dinner, a chicken that’s about to be carved moves and spurts blood, for example. The child itself is inhuman, reptilian and screaming. It really is a nightmare, but Lynch films can’t be experienced as simple narratives. It’s a curated series of moving images designed to unsettle and confuse you. It’s experimental, but the feeling in the end is pure body horror, as we are left deep in thought about the oddness of our physical selves.
Altered States (1980)
One of the greatest performances by recently deceased movie star William Hurt was this hallucinogenic classic from 1980. Hurt plays Eddie Jessup, a psychopathologist at Columbia University who ends up using psychoactive drugs and sensory deprivation tanks to explore the limits of human consciousness.
The results — this is a body horror movie, after all — are pretty horrifying. Jessup starts to experience the externalization of his visions; the things happening in his mind end up getting transferred into the real world. He begins to regress, turning into more and more primitive forms of life and consciousness. It’s wonderfully spooky to consider the possibility of your imagination becoming real — intoxicating and terrifying all at once. That’s what makes this movie such an exciting ride.
The Fly (1986)
As far as I’m concerned, David Cronenberg’s 1986 film The Fly is the archetype of the body horror genre. You could include lots of Cronenberg’s films here: Shivers , Rabid , The Brood , Scanners , Videodrome and a whole bunch of other films he’s made over the course of his career are body horror classics. The Fly is, in some ways, the simplest though. It asks: what happens if, by accident, you cross a man with a fly?
Jeff Goldblum plays Seth, a weirdo scientist who’s working on a bit of technology involving the teleportation of matter between two pods. Geena Davis is Ronnie, a journalist he ropes into covering his experiments. You’re not going to believe this, but Seth ends up trying to transport himself, and a fly buzzes into the pod at that exact moment. And then we’re off to the races.
The movie gets to play with the classic elements of body horror: grotesque physical changes, experiments gone too far. It also gets to have some fun though. As Seth becomes more fly-like, he craves sugar and becomes inhumanly strong. In predictable fashion, he gets excited about the changes before he becomes afraid, but it’s too late.
Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)
I don’t know if I’m recommending you watch Tetsuo: The Iron Man if you haven’t, but I can’t make a list of body horror movies without including it. It’s an incredibly low-budget independent Japanese film by Shinya Tsukamoto, and although it’s pretty brief — the run time is just over an hour — it’s a real ordeal to go through.
The basic idea is that a man who’s obsessed with adding metal to his body ends up creating a monster who becomes increasingly metallic in nature. The monster isn’t a glistening, smooth metallic creation like the T-1000 in Terminator 2 though. It’s hideous and deformed, with metal protrusions of all shapes and sizes.
In the end, the spread of this monster threatens to take over the entire planet, which is always the fear in these body horror transformations. But really this is an experiment in moods — the film is so frantic that it’s nearly impossible to follow, and you start to feel as though you’re watching a nightmare. When the scope widens out to the entire world, it’s jarring. You might have hoped this problem was local, but it’s global, and that’s the scariest part.
This movie by visionary director Guillermo Del Toro deserves credit for flipping body horror tropes in a way I’m not sure I’ve seen elsewhere in movies. Instead of the humans being transformed, a novel species of cockroach evolves to mimic the look of humans. But this doesn’t mean the characters are dealing with walking, talking cockroaches. In fact, it’s much scarier.
The story is about a team of scientists, led by entomologist Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino). Alongside the CDC, the team creates a new species to eradicate the cockroaches in New York City, which are spreading a deadly disease that afflicts children. The new species is supposed to be unable to breed, but, as we learned in Jurassic Park a few years earlier, “Life finds a way.” It’s a real thrill-ride of a movie, but the scariest part is the way the new cockroaches, which have grown to be man-sized, can fold their wings to mimic a man’s face. I’m telling you: you will have shivers down your spine the first time you see it.
We seem to have gone beyond the golden age of the body horror movie, but once in a while a new director comes along who carries on the legacy of body horror directors like John Carpenter and David Cronenberg. The most recent is Julia Ducournau, who directed her debut feature film, Raw , in 2016. It’s about a veterinarian student who develops a taste for flesh, so, yes, Ducournau is squarely in the body horror zone.
Titane , which came out last year, is the story of a girl who has a metal plate put in her skull after experiencing a horrific car accident as a child. She grows up to be a serial killer who has, well — let’s just call it a strange relationship with metal. The movie is a terrifying masterpiece, and it makes me really excited to see what’s next for Ducournau, who is the daughter of a gynecologist and a dermatologist , if you can believe it.
The truth is that we understand so little about ourselves. Titane is a terrifying vision, yes, but so is getting old, if you really think about it. Our bodies are so familiar to us, but also so strange sometimes. Body horror movies are one way of exploring that strangeness. They’re about learning to accept what we can’t change, about remaining mysterious to ourselves, and that’s why we’ll always come back to them.
MORE FROM ASK.COM
- View history
- 2 Mirror universe
- 4.1 Appearances
- 4.2.1 Origins
- 4.2.2 First appearances
- 4.2.3 Reappearances
- 4.2.4 Reception and likenesses
- 4.3 Apocrypha
History [ ]
Talosians were once a warp-capable , technologically advanced culture but a nuclear holocaust left their planet virtually uninhabitable and killed most of the species.
The survivors of the nuclear war congregated in underground dwellings, where they became dependent upon their own mental powers , which they used to create stunningly real illusions, an ability that had been developed by their ancestors. As their mental powers grew, they lost the ability to use the technology left behind by their ancestors.
The Talosians found that life using illusion was addictive, almost like a Human developing a physical and psychological dependence on narcotics . They became bored with the content of the illusions which they had. Their dependence upon these illusions for mental stimuli caused the Talosians to begin capturing space travelers to use as the living basis for their illusions.
In 2236 , the SS Columbia , carrying members of the American Continent Institute from Earth , crashed on Talos IV. All aboard were killed, save for one Human: a badly injured female named Vina . The Talosians repaired her injuries, but their work left her disfigured, as the Talosians were unfamiliar with Human anatomy . Using their powers of illusion, Vina could live as if she was uninjured and was made to appear abnormally beautiful.
A sketch of a Talosian from the Enterprise 's computer
In 2254 , the Talosians captured USS Enterprise Captain Christopher Pike and attempted to use him to rebuild their civilization. The Talosians hoped that Pike would be attracted to Vina and would wish to remain on Talos IV. Thousands of the Talosians probed Pike's thoughts, discovering he had "excellent memory capacity ." However, after assimilating the records of the Enterprise , the Talosians learned that Humans have a "unique hatred of captivity;" even when made as pleasant as possible, Humans prefer death. This made Humans unsuitable to the Talosians for breeding stock, and Pike and his crew were released.
The Talosians refused Pike's offer of trade and mutual understanding, claiming that Humans would use their powers of illusion to their own destruction, as the Talosians had inflicted on themselves. After Vina's true appearance was revealed, she was given back not only her illusion of beauty, but an illusory Pike to keep her company. ( TOS : " The Cage ")
In 2257 , Christopher Pike's science officer , Lieutenant Spock , began experiencing time non-linearly after an encounter with the being known as the Red Angel . Spock exhibited symptoms of a mental disorder, but was able to repeat the coordinates of Talos IV backwards, which he recalled from his previous visit with Pike. Brought to Talos IV by his adoptive sister Michael Burnham , the Talosians and Vina agreed to help heal Spock, and later assisted in their escape from the planet by projecting illusions on to the Section 31 ship NCIA-93 , making Leland think that he had beamed them aboard while Burnham and Spock had actually escaped in a shuttlecraft. ( DIS : " If Memory Serves ")
This same compassion was again shown ten years later, when the Talosians collaborated with Pike's former science officer, the now- Commander Spock, to bring Pike back to Talos IV (even though Spock's participation in this effort involved defying Starfleet general orders and illegally taking command of the Enterprise ). As Pike was himself a prisoner of his own body after an accident involving delta rays , the Talosians assisted with his return so he could live out the rest of his life virtually free from his useless body. ( TOS : " The Menagerie, Part I ", " The Menagerie, Part II ")
Mirror universe [ ]
In the mirror universe , the Talosians attempted to trick Terran emperor Philippa Georgiou with their mental projections. In response, Georgiou had their civilization 'blasted from the face of Talos IV'. Georgiou noted this to Leland after Section 31 discovered the power of the Talosians to create illusions. ( DIS : " If Memory Serves ")
Appendices [ ]
Appearances [ ].
- " The Cage "
- " The Menagerie, Part I " (archive footage)
- " The Menagerie, Part II " (archive footage)
- DIS : " If Memory Serves "
- LD : " An Embarrassment Of Dooplers " (photograph)
Background information [ ]
Origins [ ].
The Talosians were the first aliens encountered on Star Trek , appearing in the earliest Star Trek: The Original Series production, " The Cage ". (While Spock was the first non-Human featured, his species is not mentioned in that episode.)
Upon devising the Talosians, Gene Roddenberry reused elements of the species from a story outline he submitted for an ultimately unproduced episode of the television series Science Fiction Theater . The story treatment was titled "The Transporter" and featured the invention of a device – the "transporter" referenced in the title – which, in Roddenberry's words, "creates an artificial world for the user, capable of duplicating delight, sensation, contentment, adventure – all beyond the reach of the ordinary person living the ordinary life." The outline also involved the machine's inventor realizing the device might eventually lead to mankind's destruction or, as Roddenberry put it, " [The machine] might be used as they have used the miracle of radio, television, the motion pictures – with more devastating results…. It could create wants and desires for which the world would destroy itself – a dying race sitting at their 'transporters'. " Thus, Roddenberry later made the Talosians capable "of duplicating delight, sensation, contentment, [and] adventure," and established them as a dying race, experiencing life vicariously through others. ( These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One , Chapter 1: "The Creator")
The Talosians were originally written as a crab-like species. The story outline for "The Cage" (as reprinted in The Making of Star Trek , pp. 47-65) commonly referred to them as "crab-creatures" and said of the aliens, " Although in no way human, they are obviously intelligent and have digital capabilities via six multiclawed arms and legs. " The outline also dictated that, among their own kind, the Talosians were to have used "claw-snap and clatter for speech" and were originally intended to have not only claws but also an "external armor-skeleton" that made similar noises. The aliens were not imagined as being capable of communication, other than the clattering of their claws; the commanding officer of the Enterprise (at that time, known as Captain Robert April ) instead understood the aliens by translating their noises via his "telecommunicator" (a device that later developed into both the common communicator and the universal translator ). Also, the aliens' mode of moving was referred to as "scuttling." ( The Making of Star Trek , pp. 48-49, 58)
Gene Roddenberry discovered crab creatures would be too expensive to build. As a result, the aliens became humanoid. (" The Menagerie, Part I " text commentary , TOS Season 1 DVD ) In the second revised final draft script of "The Cage", the Talosians were thus introduced as " small, slim, pale human-like creatures with large elongated heads, suggesting huge and powerful brains. They wear shimmering metallic garb. " Roddenberry imagined the aliens as not only thin but also very frail. ( The Making of Star Trek , p. 349)
In a line of dialogue which was scripted for "The Cage" but not included in the final version of that episode (nor any other installment), Pike commented, " What's happened to the Talosians could be sort of a warning, couldn't it. For us individually or for a whole race. Our electronic tape, our viewing screens, even our books, must never become a substitute for real life. " In another scripted but discarded line, Vina said of the Talosians, " Since their minds can reach anywhere, most of them are like cocoons or larvae now. They just sit and let the thought records or some specimen live for them. Some of them hardly move, except to take that blue protein once a day. " This "blue protein" was a reference to the Talosians' protein complex .
First appearances [ ]
The producers and Gene Roddenberry decided to cast the Talosian roles as females and then dub male voices over the footage. In a 1988 interview, Director Robert Butler uncertainly recalled that this idea "might have been" his. He went on to say, " When I saw the characters in the script I thought it would be interesting to get a difference, and one easy difference is to cast women just because of their size and grace, and then add voice-overs later. Therefore you get an oddness, an antisexuality that certainly might be more the case in other galactic cultures than our own, and I think that might have been my notion. But at the same time I remember that when I mentioned it to Gene he had had a similar feeling that we should go bizarre, so there was not much discussion if it was my idea. If I said, 'Hey, let's do that,' he might have said, 'Yeah, I get it, it's a good idea,' or vice versa. " ( The Star Trek Interview Book , p. 97) The idea of casting women, with their lighter builds, appealed to Roddenberry because he thought it might give the impression that the Talosians had let their bodies atrophy in favor of higher brain development. ("The Menagerie, Part II" text commentary , TOS Season 1 DVD ) Thus, Roddenberry searched Hollywood for diminutive actresses who had faces that he deemed to be interesting. ( The Star Trek Compendium , 4th ed., p. 15) Once the performers were cast, their breasts were tightly wrapped, in an effort to disguise each actress' female form. ( The Making of Star Trek , p. 349)
The design of the Talosians additionally incorporated headpieces that – complete with their bulging veins and small, round ears – were created by craftsman Wah Chang and were blended into the actresses' own facial features by Fred Phillips and his make-up staff. ( The Star Trek Compendium , 4th ed., p. 15) Chang's work on the Talosian head prosthetics also included the throbbing quality of veins, but this effect can only be seen on The Keeper 's head. ("The Menagerie, Part II" text commentary , TOS Season 1 DVD ) Meg Wyllie , the actress who played The Keeper, later remembered the make-up required; " The base was an old-fashioned rubber bathing cap – the type with a chin strap. Above, or rather upon the cap, a rubber substance was placed. When that was set, the cap was removed, placed on a form and the technical special effects people finished the skull – placing the blood vessels and covering them. The makeup was not comfortable – my ears especially suffered being so confined under the bathing cap. " ( Starlog issue #117, p. 52) To operate the pulsing veins on The Keeper's head, Assistant Director Robert Justman hid out of the camera's line-of-sight and squeezed a small rubber bulb that inflated and deflated the veins. ("The Menagerie, Part II" text commentary , TOS Season 1 DVD ) Sandra Gimpel , who also played one of the Talosians, commented, " Well, the makeup took, like, two and a half, three hours. The interesting part about it is how different it was then from now. The heads. The Talosians talk by telepathy, so the veins would pump every time they talked. So they had an air bladder in the head, with the veins. Then a tube ran down my back and down my arm, and I had a ball in my hand. Every time I pushed it, the air would make the bladder move. That's why you'd see the Talosians standing so still. The costumes had really long arms, because they covered up us holding the ball. " 
In an unused line of dialogue from the final draft script of "The Menagerie, Part I", James T. Kirk speculated that the Talosians may have developed "some surgical methods" that the Federation had not yet developed, as of the timing of that episode (in 2267 ). However, Commodore Mendez skeptically replied that the single reference to life on Talos IV in Spock's entire report referred to it as "feeble and parasitic " and that such parasites "hardly make skilled surgeons ."
Reappearances [ ]
An action figure bearing the likeness of a Talosian
A small action figure of what appears to be a Talosian can be seen on Rain Robinson 's desk in the 1996 of the Star Trek: Voyager episodes " Future's End " and " Future's End, Part II ". The same or a similar action figure could be found in Production Designer Richard James ' office during production on Voyager . ( Star Trek: Communicator issue 111 , p. 54)
According to an early script for Star Trek Nemesis , the Talosians discovered B-4 drifting in space. It is likely that Shinzon acquired B-4 from them.
During the making of Star Trek: Enterprise , little consideration was given to bringing back the Talosians, despite other TOS aliens reappearing on the series. Michael Sussman recalled, " To my knowledge, no one on the writing staff was pitching Talosian stories. " ( User talk:Mdsussman#TOS Aliens )
A Talosian was to cameo in the 2009 film Star Trek . It was redesigned by sculptor Don Lanning . He later referred to it as an "amazing design" and speculated that the aliens "would have been played by women." Lanning went on to explain, " I did a drawing that was pretty much a straightforward make-up, where the actor's real neck would be painted green for digital removal, leaving this little spindly neck sculpted onto the front of the actor, and the body would be worn like a Bun Raku puppet. It was a fully realized make-up that was actually rendered out by Joel [Harlow] , and it was a fascinating idea. " ( Star Trek Magazine Special 2014 , p. 137) Harlow crafted the design into a sculpture which featured a paint job by himself and Crist Ballas .  Offered Harlow, " What I did was sculpt the head extra-large with a thin neck on top of his real neck. We just assumed that when they shot it, his own neck would have been green-screened out, leaving a giant head on this tiny little neck. I think it would have looked really cool, but it ended up just being a mask, and all the body stuff, which would have been a rod puppet, was sort of neglected at that point. " ( Star Trek Magazine Special 2014 , p. 137)
According to Star Trek: Star Charts (p. 34), the Talosians became warp-capable 500,000 years prior to 2378 .
Reception and likenesses [ ]
Dave Rossi , VFX Line Producer of the remastered version of Star Trek: The Original Series , once enthused about his fondness for the Talosians, " Any aliens that garner the death penalty if you go see them is... They're pretty epic. And it just speaks to their unique power of mind control [....] The Talosians take it [mental powers] to a whole other level. In fact, I would say that, in as far as The Original Series goes, the Talosians are probably one of the most powerful aliens we ever met, and that makes them fun, even though they have fanny heads. " (" The Menagerie, Part I " Starfleet Access , TOS Season 1 Blu-ray ) With similar gusto, Michael and Denise Okuda commented the casting of females as the otherwise male Talosians was "highly creative." (" The Menagerie, Part II " text commentary , TOS Season 1 DVD )
A similar casting trick was used again much later, with the Sphere-Builders in Star Trek: Enterprise , as they were all women except for one male. The same casting strategy was also used in another of Gene Roddenberry's (posthumous) TV series, Earth: Final Conflict , wherein the Taelons (a species that, coincidentally, bear a striking resemblance to the Talosians) were all played by female actors. The Talosians are similar too, in many ways, to the underground mutants of the Planet of the Apes series. Both are subterranean survivors of nuclear disaster with impressive mental abilities, which include the power to create thoughts and images in the minds of others.
Apocrypha [ ]
The novel Burning Dreams reveals that Talosians are androgynous and uses the "s/he" and "hir" pronouns to refer to them. According to the novel, Talosian civilization had been revitalized by the year 2320 thanks to the influence of Christopher Pike. An older novel, Legacy , referred to the Keeper using male pronouns.
In the 1980s DC Comics' Star Trek series, Vol. 1 annual #2, entitled " The Final Voyage ," the Talosians appear when the Enterprise, en route home at the completion of its five-year mission under James T. Kirk , is tricked into returning to Talos IV by Klingons under the command of Captain Koloth . The savage Klingons have taken control of the planet, killed most of the remaining Talosians, and forced the remaining few to teach the Klingons their power of illusion. The Klingons, after delighting in torturing Christopher Pike, force Kirk and crew to relive their entire five-year mission, with their experiences twisted towards their greatest fear. With the help of the remaining Talosians, the crew overcome the Klingons using anger and rage to overcome the illusions, and continue home.
The Talosians of the mirror universe appeared in the short story "The Greater Good" by Margaret Wander Bonanno , contained in the anthology Shards and Shadows . As in the primary universe, they used a distress call to lure the ISS Enterprise to Talos IV with the intention of having Christopher Pike mate with Vina so as to create a race of Terran slaves. However, Pike rejected her, refusing to mate with an "insipid Human female." Upon learning of the Terran Empire fear of telepaths, the Keeper decided to release Captain Pike and use him as their eyes and ears throughout the empire; the captain would give the Talosians an early warning, should the empire ever decide to attack and obliterate their planet. After assassinating Pike and assuming the captaincy of the Enterprise in 2264 , James T. Kirk returned to Talos IV and ordered that its surface be leveled, annihilating the Talosians for the good of the Terran Empire.
- 1 Nick Locarno
- 2 Sito Jaxa
- 3 USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-G)
“Bumheads!” Big Brain Aliens: A Gallery
July 13, 2020 G. W. Thomas artwork , Dark Worlds Quarterly , G. W. Thomas , Jack Mackenzie , Movies , Pulp Magazines , Science fiction , Space Opera , Television 2
M. D. Jackson wrote about big-brained aliens awhile back but I thought it would be fun to look at some of those covers that gave us that image. As kids watching Star Trek we always called them “Bumheads”. Granted not all of these are aliens but I think they all contributed to the idea of the being as bumheads. We have this idea that a being with a massive head would have abilities like telepathy, teleportation, etc. but we never really wanted to look like that. For the minutiae-minded they are Talosians from “The Menagerie”.
The earliest image comes from Francis Flagg’s debut, “The Machine-Man of Ardathia” ( Amazing Stories , November 1927)
Amazing Stories , December 1930 gave “The Second Missile” by Ed Earl Repp.
The next one comes in Wonder Stories April 1931 with Edmond Hamilton’s “The Evolved Man “. Not an alien per se but a human evolved into a monster.
Astounding Stories June 1935 got in on the action with “The Invaders” by Don A. Stuart (John W. Campbell).
Thrilling Wonder Stories (August 1936) began a run of big-headed aliens like no other. Its sister magazine Startling Stories helped out occasionally.
I think there is a legitimate connection between this art and UFO images. The Grays, those big-headed, almond eyed creepers, owe something to the Pulps. Especially through Ray A. Palmer who went into the UFO business after the Pulps. Otto Binder too, who created Brainiac for Action Comics #242 (July 1958) (which gave us the slang term for a smart person.) Hollywood has never been shy to use the idea but it was the bubble gum cards who cemented the image with Mars Attacks in 1962. The cards were designed by Wally Wood and Bob Powell, then painted by Pulp cover genius, Norman Saunders. What a fitting way to pay tribute to this old Pulp idea.
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2 Comments Posted
What about the Mekon?
I’m Canadian and haven’t really got into Dan Dare yet. I will take that as a recommendation.
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Star Trek Aliens
The big head telepathic alien dudes from star trek..