31 Monsters #27: The Bat-Rat-Spider-Crab
The story of the 1959 sci-fi movie The Angry Red Planet was itself nothing new: astronauts visited Mars, Martians convinced them to leave. But the filmmakers were less lacking in creativity when it came to designing their pissed-off aliens.
Perhaps this was due to the presence of Alex Toth as the film’s storyboard artist. Toth is well-loved by adventure cartoon fans for his character designs on Jonny Quest, Space Ghost and Thundarr the Barbarian, among many others.
Among the denizens of The Angry Red Planet were a spiky, carnivorous planet; a colossal, one-eyed waterborne amoeba; and a 40-foot-tall walking horror colloquially known as “The Bat-Rat-Spider-Crab.” And just as advertised, the latter appeared to be the unholy love child of a zoological four-way: a rat’s body raised on membranous, spidery legs ending in pincer claws.
This unlikely creature (actually a wire-operated marionette) pursued the plucky astronauts across the landscape until one of them thought to shoot it in the face. The poor Bat-Rat-Spider-Crab pathetically attempted to cover its eyes with its tiny rat paws, cursing Darwin for the evolutionary missteps that caused it to sprout such absurdly short arms. Kinda sad, really.
The Angry Red Planet was also notable for its solarized, red-tinted Martian “exterior” scenes. The process, dubbed “Cinemagic,” was allegedly intended not only to give it a suitably alien look, but to blend the cartoony, hand-painted backgrounds with the live-action humans and puppets.
Producer Sid Pink later went on to make Denmark’s entry in the giant monster sweepstakes: Reptilicus, starring a prehistoric, acid-spitting, winged serpent that chased an entire Danish bicycling club off an open drawbridge. You may be surprised–and possibly disappointed–that I won’t be covering it for this Halloween month retrospective.