May 16, 2014 at 7:10 AM ET
Take heart, Godzilla fans, our favorite giant lizard is in good human hands. The new "Godzilla," which opens Friday, gives the legendary Japanese monster his due, honoring the traditions of his six-decade past and creating a new generation of fans with a 3-D upgrade. (Possible movie spoilers ahead.)
That iconic, distinctive roar? Check. The delicate hands and bodybuilder thighs? Double-check. His ability to slog through the ocean, spiked back and tail, his fiery atomic breath? Check, check, and check. And appearance aside, the new film lets the famed King of the Monsters do what he does best — fight other monsters and — inadvertently, perhaps — save the puny humans.
It's a good thing Hollywood treats him so well, because Godzilla is possibly the president of our Favorite Cheesy Monsters Club. From his weird little victory dance to his breath-powered backwards flying to his WWE-quality chest kick, he's as weird as he is wonderful. His early films may have been corny, but they're also innocent and sweet, reminder of a simpler time when they ran incessantly on Saturdays on one of the three channels we could pull in via a rabbit-eared TV. Here's a look at Godzilla's fellow Cheesy Monster Club members, in all their nutty glory.
So you're a Japanese film studio in the '60s and you want to create a competitor to Godzilla. How about a giant flying, spinning turtle with tusks? Oh, and add spiked elbows, just because. That's Gamera, known to "Mystery Science Theater" fans thanks to five spoofed movies and the slightly altered theme song, "Gamera is really neat! He is filled with turtle meat!"
Reboot status: Not yet, but there are rumors.
Planet of the Apes
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" hits theaters July 11, but the super-intelligent apes have been Cheese Club members since the first 1968 film. Right from the start, the fascination was with the superintelligent apes — psychologist Zira, archaeologist Cornelius and powerful Dr. Zaius. No one wanted the humans to kill them. No one bought action figures of Charlton Heston as Taylor. The apes even got all the best lines, as when a jerky human interviewing Zira asked "Does the other one talk?" and Cornelius snappily replied, "Only when she lets me!"
Reboot status: We're on the second round of rebooted movies, with the new one coming in July.
"The Walking Dead" has a long zombie legacy to live up to, from the Haitian folklore origins on up. But it's the undead created by George Romero that gave us so many of the spine-tingling standards that zombie films and TV still carry forward today. The creepy walk, the lust for brains and human flesh, the unstoppable resurrection of the dead — Romero instilled them in our bones, and now they won't ever die.
Reboot status: The "Living Dead" films were all remade recently, and "World War Z" featured Brad Pitt chasing zombies in 2013.
How awesome of a monster is "The Blob," which first oozed into theaters (literally — in one scene it squeezes into a cinema) in 1958? It's a gooey creature that looks like Jell-O and can't be shot or killed (they eventually freeze it). Extra points for introducing us to King of Cool Steve McQueen, who starred in the first film, and to the goofiest theme song ever, recorded by one guy overdubbing himself. It also has the best movie-monster name — credit co-writer Kate Phillips for saving us from referring to it as "The Molten Meteor."
Reboot status: Hardly anyone remembers the 1988 remake, but it was co-written by original "Walking Dead" showrunner Frank Darabont. Ripe for another go-round? Someone in Hollywood should start investing in Jell-O futures.
The Antichrist is ... actually kinda cute, at least in the original 1976 version of "The Omen." But the kid with the 666 birthmark and no fingerprints is evil to the core, as you'd expect. He kills his adoptive mother's own unborn child, his cousin Mark, a bunch of priests, and pretty much everyone else who gets in his way.
Reboot status: Was remade with Liev Schreiber in 2006 (released on 6-6-06 at 6:06 a.m.), but didn't scare the devil out of us like the originals.
Bigfoot's a little cheesier than most of the monsters on this list. Not even on his best day, when his fur is the fluffiest and his fangs flossed and brushed to a high gleam, is Bigfoot really that scary. But he deserves a spot in the Cheesy Monster Club, along with mythological pals Nessie and the Yeti, because there's always a place in our pop culture echelons for childhood campfire-story companions.
Reboot status: Big Hollywood filmmakers have stayed away in recent decades, but smaller filmmakers love him still. In 2012, rocker Alice Cooper, Danny Bonaduce, and Barry "Greg Brady" Williams all had roles in the TV movie "Bigfoot." Watch it if you can, it serves up more cheese than a pizzeria.
King Kong's the grandpappy of the Cheesy Monster Club, with his original movie debut dating back to 1933. Many remember the Jessica Lange 1976 remake as well or better than the original Fay Wray offering — that film is now a heartbreaking time capsule, because Kong uses the World Trade Center towers as his launching pad rather than the Empire State Building. And in 1962, "King Kong vs. Godzilla" pitted the two classic giants against each other in a brawl for it all. (Spoiler: Kong swims safely away in the end, while Godzilla's fate is unstated, but we believe he lived to roar another day.)
Reboot status: The latest remake featured Naomi Watts as the damsel in distress and Jack Black as the filmmaker who captures and exhibits Kong. Wait long enough, though, and someone will crown Kong a movie star again.
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