Tim Burton: Nine monster movies that inspired him

June 30, 2011 | 12:45 p.m.
sinbad Tim Burton: Nine monster movies that inspired him

"The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad" (1958): Sinbad must save a princess from an island of evil monsters. (American Movie Classics)

fantasticvoyage Tim Burton: Nine monster movies that inspired him

"Fanstastic Voyage" (1966): A submarine and crew are shrunken and injected into a a diplomat's bloodstream after he is nearly assassinated. (20th Century Fox)

thething Tim Burton: Nine monster movies that inspired him

"The Thing" (1951): James Arness plays a bloodthirsty alien, discovered frozen in a spacecraft by researchers in the Arctic. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

journey 353 Tim Burton: Nine monster movies that inspired him

"Journey to the Center of the Earth" (1959): A professor leads an expedition down an extinct volcano, encountering prehistoric monsters along the way. (20th Century Fox)

shrinking Tim Burton: Nine monster movies that inspired him

"The Incredible Shrinking Man" (1957): A man exposed to pesticides and radioactive mist begins shrinking and finds out he is easy prey in a tiny world. (American Movie Classics)

argonauts Tim Burton: Nine monster movies that inspired him

"Jason and the Argonauts" (1963): The Green hero has to fight a slew of mythical monsters in his quest for the Golden Fleece. (American Cinematheque)

mothra Tim Burton: Nine monster movies that inspired him

"Mothra" (1961): A giant, telepathic moth wreaks havoc on an island. (Sony Picture Repertory)

thisislandearth Tim Burton: Nine monster movies that inspired him

"This Island Earth" (1955): Aliens abduct scientists, hoping to use their brilliant minds to help them in a faraway war. (Universal Pictures)

dracula Tim Burton: Nine monster movies that inspired him

"Horror of Dracula" (1958): A man on a mission to kill Count Dracula soon finds himself (and his fiancee) at the vampire's mercy. (American Cimematheque)

Tim Burton’s  gleefully macabre aesthetic is currently on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art — the exhibition that bears the filmmaker’s name and runs through Halloween brings together more than 700 drawings, paintings, photographs, film and video works, storyboards, puppets, concept art, costumes and other movie memorabilia. During a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, the Burbank-born director talked about the influence classic monster movies have had on his life’s work, and picking up on that theme, the museum this weekend will launch a Saturday Monster Matinee series spotlighting nine films that are close to Burton’s heart. Here’s a look at the lineup:

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” (1958): Directed by Nathan Juran, the film was the first of three “Sinbad” movies Columbia produced that special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen designed and animated with the dazzling stop-motion technique he called Dynamation. It took Harryhausen 11 months to complete the painstaking work on the film, which features creatures including a cyclops and a cobra-woman; Sinbad (Kerwin Matthews) even has a sword battle with a skeleton. The late Bernard Herrmann, who is the subject of several centenary celebrations this year, penned the score. Three years ago, “Sinbad” was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. Screens Saturday.

Fantastic Voyage” (1966) Directed by Richard Fleischer, this thriller finds a group of doctors, assistants and a CIA agent miniaturized and injected into the body of a scientist who escaped from the Soviet Union. (The scientist is comatose after an assassination attempt and this experimental effort is believed to be the only way to save him.) Stephen Boyd, Edmond O’Brien, Donald Pleasance and Raquel Welch, in her first major film role, star. The movie won Oscars for art direction (color) and for its then-cutting-edge special effects. Screens July 9.

The Thing From Another World” (1951) Produced by Howard Hawks and directed by Christian Nyby (though for years it has been contended that Hawks actually directed the classic), “The Thing From Another World” is set at a base in the North Pole where six scientists find evidence of a crash by an unknown flying object. A U.S. Air Force re-supply crew is sent to the base where a frozen, tall alien creature (played by a young James Arness) is discovered. Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey and Dewey Martin are among the stars. Time magazine named the movie, which was remade in 1982 by John Carpenter, as the greatest sci-fi film produced in the 1950s. Screens July 16.

Journey to the Center of the Earth” (1959) James Mason, Pat Boone, Diane Baker and Arlene Dahl headline this film, based on the novel by Jules Verne. The sci-fi fantasy revolves a professor in Edinburgh who leads an expedition to the center of the earth after he receives an unusual rock from one of his students. Bernard Herrmann also penned the score for the film, which earned three Oscar nominations, for art decoration-set decoration, effects and sound. Screens July 23.

The Incredible Shrinking Man” (1957) The great sci-fi writer Richard Matheson penned the film, which is based on his novel; Jack Arnold, who helmed the 1954 3-D hit “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” directed. Grant Williams stars in the title role, playing a businessman who is hit by a radioactive cloud while sailing with his wife. Six months later, he begins to shrink due to the radiation and pesticides. A hit with both critics and audiences, the film won the 1958 Hugo Award for the year’s best science fiction or fantasy dramatic presentation. Screens July 30.

Jason and the Argonauts” (1963) Ray Harryhausen considers this to be his best film, and it does feature his memorable stop-motion sequence in which Jason (Todd Armstrong) and two of his men battle an army of skeletons. The sequence took Harryhausen nearly five months to complete. Bernard Herrmann also penned the evocative score. Screens Aug. 6.

Mothra” (1961) The female creature first appeared in the serialized novel “The Luminous Fairies and Mothra” before she made her film debut in this Japanese feature. A giant lepidopteron with butterfly-moth characteristics, Mothra has been an ally with Godzilla but often the two square off in combat — with Mothra winning most of the bouts. When the film was released in the U.S. in 1962, it ran on a double bill with “The Three Stooges in Orbit.” Screens Aug. 13.

This Island Earth” (1955) Shot in Technicolor and featuring innovative special effects for its time, the film, directed by Joseph M. Newman, stars Jeff Morrow as the intellectual alien Exeter who recruits Rex Reason as scientist Cal Meacham and Faith Domergue as Dr. Ruth Adams for a “special” research project. Screens Aug. 20.

Horror of Dracula” (1958) The first — and arguably the best — in a long line of Dracula films from Hammer, the film cast towering Christopher Lee as the vampire count and Peter Cushing as his nemesis Van Helsing. It was released in the UK as “Dracula” but was renamed for the U.S. so as not to be confused with Tod Browning‘s 1931 Universal classic starring Bela Lugosi. Screens Aug. 27.

For more information, go here.

— Susan King


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14 Responses to Tim Burton: Nine monster movies that inspired him

  1. Horace Austin says:

    Some good ones he mentioned there. Ray Harryhausen turned 91 yesterday.

    • Steven Moshlak says:

      Ray Harryhausen did some amazing work in Sinbad and Jason. I remember watching them on KHJ-TV's / Channel 9 "Million Dollar Movie" and on an occasional weekend.

      • John Thomas says:

        Cinema 9, Ben Hunter's Matinee, The Fabulous 52, The Late Show, Chiller, Jeepers Creepers, Fright Night…

    • S.S.F. says:


    • Harriet Bee says:

      I had the great pleasure of meeting Ray Harryhausen (pronounced Rey Herrihoosen) at a reunion of the WW2 Army Motion Picture Unit, of which my grandfather was an member-in-good-standing, and I remember asking him: "Ray, you've made so many damn monster pictures in your day, is there any monster that has ever truly frightened you?" and he said to me, with that ever-present twinkle in his eye: "Sweetheart, I'm terribly sorry, but I'm really here to chat with some dear old friends, so I'd appreciate it if you'd be a lamb and leave me alone the rest of the night, all right?" Later that evening I tried to engage him in conversation again, but first he ignored me, then jerked his arm away from me as I tried to grasp his shoulder in friendship. I will never forget our special time together.

  2. Jonesy Morris says:

    These movies are all great. I am from LA and I really loved "Them" (1954). It was giant ants in the LA river! I locked my window (I was 7 when I first saw it). Cool!

  3. Ironman Carmichael says:

    Not "Mad Monster Party"? Come on, that had to have inspired or at least influenced "Nightmare Before Christmas."

  4. Bob says:

    They forgot the day the earth stood still.

  5. SageOnTheHudson says:

    A couple of things:

    1: “'Fantastic Voyage'… finds a group of doctors, assistants and a CIA agent miniaturized and injected into the body of a scientist who escaped from the Soviet Union."

    The scientist in question, Jan Benes, is a defector from Communist CZECHOSLOVAKIA, NOT the USSR, and the reason he's so important is because Benes holds the secret to making the miniaturization process permanent, which is why the surgical team has only sixty minutes to laser away the blood clot in his brain before they begin to grow back to full size inside him…

    2: "Time magazine named ['The Thing from Another World']…as the greatest sci-fi film produced in the 1950s."

    While I think that Time's wrong — Robert Wise and Edmund H. North's "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is the best, and most human SF film of the '50s, and maybe of all time — that's obviously just grist for a pleasant debate but , far more importantly, the two films, both released in 1950, essentially tell the same basic story from opposite points of view. As such they make excellent companion pieces, each providing context for the other, but are seldom paired in showings or even spoken of in the same breath, which is a pity.

    Lastly, apparently writers don't exist in King's universe: she uses the verb "penned" four tiresome times (and "wrote" none) in the above piece's ten paragraphs to express what ought to be a very simple concept. Perhaps you yourself have been "penning" too much lately, Susan.

  6. Sammy Parker says:

    "The Day The Earth Stood Still" is not only one of the best of the '50s sci-fi movies but, also and more importantly, one of the best sci-fi movies ever made, a classic example of how the genre can be used both to entertain cinematically at the highest level and to examine and spotlight the consistent human frailties of unwarranted distrust, suspicion, and knee-jerk xenophobia in response to "monsters" who really are not monsters. I humbly submit that its lack of inclusion here is far beyond a gross oversight.

  7. Great review! You actually overviewed some nice news on your blog. I came across it by using Yahoo and I’ve got to admit that I already subscribed to the site, will be following you on my iphone :)

  8. Jim Dawson says:

    Tim forgot the greatest of them all, the 1956 version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." The monsters? Us. As Sartre once said, "Hell is other people."

  9. dcmortimer says:

    I've seen all his movies he brought a wonderment and excitement into my life as a kid , he learned from the master Willis O' Brian and boy did he do him proud , good luck to you sir your like will never be seen again a true legend.

  10. dsc77 says:

    Man, what a great line-up! I wish I were spending the summer back home in L.A.!!

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