Friday, February 16, 2007

An Astounding BEM

According to Harry Warner, Jr., Martin Alger coined the term BEM (Bug-Eyed Monster) in the early forties. The term referred to the monsters so loved by cover artists (or publishers) and often loathed by fans. Frankly I like BEMs. That's one of the things about pulps that first attracted me. Besides creating the sense of alienness, they are just plain fun to look at. Back several years before Spielberg filmed ET I concocted the idea for a television program about a young Jewish boy and his friend, an alien, to be entitled Gentile Bem. Fortunately Sanity prevailed and I left the idea to stay dormant until I could come up with an occassion to inflict on someone. Sad to say, it is you, dear readers.
Unfortunately, I have not read any of this issue. It is very fragile, missing the contents page and the back cover. It obviously had a hard life. Looking through the issue, though, the BEM in question appears to be illustrating "When The Moon Turned Green" by Hal K. Wells. Scanning the story has convinced me I am going to have to read it. It comes across like something Universal would have filmed in the fifties.
But, let's get back to BEMS. Earl K. Bergy concocted some impressive ones for the covers of Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories. And the one pictured above is by Wesso, I believe. He did the interior illustration for the story. Hollywood almost never got BEMs really right, although they came close a few times. Paul Blaisdell's creatures for "Invasion Of The Saucer Men" (1957, and based on "The Cosmic Flame" by Paul W. Fairman) were quite impressive and "The Mole People" were suitably bug-eyed. The Metaluna Mutant from "This Island Earth" is one of the best, but the one that would be most at home on the cover of a pulp was the rat-bat-spider from the otherwise undistinguished "The Angry Red Planet".
With the technology available to film makers in the fifties it would be a real challenge to create some of the more impressive BEMs in a movie. Paul Blaisdell was amazing when it came to concocting monsters on a budget. His work is also visible in such epics as "The She-Creature", "It! The Terror From Beyond Space" and "The Beast With A Million Eyes." He also put out a pretty good monster magazine to compete with "Famous Monsters" for a while.
So, celebrate the lowly BEM and recall those entertaining covers of days gone by.


Blogger Tom Floyd said...

Yes! thank goodness for the great BEM's of the pulps, comics, and movies - they gave birth to alot of imaginations.

10:35 AM  

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