Teenage Monster (1958)

(aka Meteor Monster)

Today I learned that falling meteorites look just like burning sparklers.

Or at least, that’s what the one in Teenage Monster looks like (and, in fact, that is what they used for the effect!).  But fortunately, we get it out of the way right off the bat so we don’t have to worry about it again.

So, anyway, a meteorite falls to Earth, killing a hardworking miner and turning his son into some sort of monster.  The makeup may be by the legendary Jack Pierce, but it basically consists of a wig, beard, ugly teeth and a scar down the side of the face.  One is painfully aware of the fact that the monster is being played by a forty-something adult, and one never gets the idea of an oversized teenager.

Now the basic idea here is that it’s supposed to be part Western — complete with Sheriff, prospectors and horses — part monster movie and part SF — although that sparkler at the beginning is about it for science fiction.

On another level, we are talking about the monster movie version of Lennie from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men: he is a sad creature who doesn’t know his own strength.  His mother has kept him hidden all these years, and, of course, has put her romance with the Sheriff on hold because of that.  Nor does it come as any surprise that the poor, sad, slob of a monster comes to a tragic end, that the evil characters die, and that the guy ends up with the gal in his arms.

But if you’ve seen the right monster movies and Westerns you already knew that.

It comes as no real surprise that this one was made in a hurry to fill the bottom half of a double feature — or that the “teenage” label got slapped on it, thanks to the success of I Was a Teenage Werewolf and all those films that copied it.  The most interesting thing about this is that it is one of the many films in the Wade Williams Collection which have mostly dropped from sight.  That includes a lot of rare and frankly unimpressive films that we die-hard completists are forced to go scrambling to locate.

So, if the idea of a mashup of so many different genres sounds interesting, well, you’re probably wrong.  But it isn’t too painful, and worth a look if you want to be able to say you’ve seen it.

But it probably would have been better with Michael Landon, Robert Vaughn, Steve McQueen, or some of the other (overaged) movie teens who were out there at the time.

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