Posted by Richard Harland Smith on November 21, 2006
As a freelance writer and a stay-at-home dad, I can’t say I’ve done my share for fashion lately, not by a long shot. As a resident of North Hollywood, which (like all of the San Fernando Valley) seems 10-15 degrees hotter than sunny Los Angeles at its warmest, you’ll find me most days in cargo shorts and an untucked shirt spotted with pureed carrots and last ironed back when gas was under $2 a gallon. Still, I came of age during the Brylcreamed Camelot era and was bounced on the knees of straight-arrow men with pressed trousers, narrow lapels and razor ties. I look at those old snapshots a lot and one thing that never fails to impress me is that no one seemed to take a bad picture forty years ago. Why? They knew how to dress. They had style.
Things changed, of course; things always do, and I’m not knocking change. But the relaxation of standards has had a disastrous effect in at least one regard—the monster movie. From The Texas Chain Saw Massacre on, monsters and madmen have just gotten sloppier and sloppier, as if the horror is directly proportional to the villain’s disregard of personal hygiene. Hannibal Lector notwithstanding, the threads of movie monsters these days are pretty sad, when the beasts even bother to wear clothes. It has a lot to do with the pants, I think.
Back when monsters wore pants, the scares were better. Lon Chaney, Jr. in The Wolf Man, Robert Clarke in The Hideous Sun Demon, Brett Halsey in The Return of the Fly, Bruce Bennett in The Alligator People… The juxtaposition of cuffed and pleated gabardine slacks with a glistening, fang-filled maw created a creepy cocktail not soon forgotten. Monsters in pants reminded us of our Dads, who could be alternately awesome or awful, funny or fearsome. Maybe Dracula and Frankenstein never lost their archetypal edge because they both wore suits and seemed like authority figures gone horribly wrong. When monsters stopped dressing up, we lost something. Look at The Werewolf of London– the first time he went lupine, Henry Hull was wearing a dressing gown and a celluloid collar. Well… they had designers then.
I’m not one of those turn-back-the-clock guys, I don’t live in the past. I don’t think progress is bad or technology evil. I like that women can vote and smoke and cuss in public, I think “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” deserved its Academy Award® and for the record I think Ebonics got a bad rap. But I say this… some standards need to be upheld. So let’s bring back monsters in pants. Nightmares were just plain better when they were around. And didn’t everybody look great?
MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
See more: facebook.com/tcmtv
See more: twitter.com/tcm
3-D Academy Awards Action Films Actors Actors' Endorsements Actresses animal stars Animation Anime Anthology Films Art Direction Art in Movies Asians in Hollywood Australian CInema Autobiography Avant-Garde Aviation Awards B-movies Beer in Film Behind the Scenes Best of the Year lists Biography Biopics Black Film Blu-Ray Books on Film Boxing films British Cinema Canadian Cinema Character Actors Chicago Film History Cinematography Classic Films College Life on Film Comedy Comic Book Movies Crime Czech Film Dance on Film Digital Cinema Directors Disaster Films Documentary Drama DVD Early Talkies Editing Educational Films European Influence on American Cinema Experimental Exploitation Fairy Tales on Film Faith or Christian-based Films Family Films Film Composers Film Criticism film festivals Film History in Florida Film Noir Film Scholars Film titles Filmmaking Techniques Films About Gambling Films of the 1960s Films of the 1980s Food in Film Foreign Film French Film Gangster films Genre Genre spoofs HD & Blu-Ray Holiday Movies Hollywood history Hollywood lifestyles Horror Horror Movies Icons independent film Italian Film Japanese Film Korean Film Literary Adaptations Martial Arts Melodramas Memorabilia Method Acting Mexican Cinema Moguls Monster Movies Movie Books Movie Costumes movie flops Movie locations Movie lovers Movie Reviewers Movie settings Movie Stars Movie titles Movies about movies Music in Film Musicals New Releases Outdoor Cinema Paranoid Thrillers Parenting on film Pirate movies Polish film industry political thrillers Politics in Film Pornography Pre-Code Producers Race in American Film Remakes Revenge Road Movies Romance Romantic Comedies Satire Scandals Science Fiction Screenwriters Semi-documentaries Serials Short Films Silent Film silent films Social Problem Film Sports Sports on Film Stereotypes Straight-to-DVD Studio Politics Stunts and stuntmen Suspense thriller Swashbucklers TCM Classic Film Festival TCM Underground Television The British in Hollywood The Germans in Hollywood The Hungarians in Hollywood The Irish in Hollywood Theaters Thriller Trains in movies Underground Cinema VOD War film Westerns Women in the Film Industry Women's Weepies