Monster Movies

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Zappa's Monster Movie Projects

In the early 1960s, Zappa wrote his first movie script for a science-fiction/monster film called Captain Beefheart vs. The Grunt People, in which Don Van Vliet played the title role. Even though the movie itself was never finished, Van Vliet would stick with his character's name "Captain Beefheart" as his stage pseudonym. In 1969, Zappa re-wrote the script for the movie. A copy of that script can be found on The Captain Beefheart Radar Station (external link).

Zappa's first film project with The Mothers Of Invention was Uncle Meat. The title character "Biff Debris""/Uncle Meat" (Don Preston) is an evil scientist that turns himself into a monster. While the actual Uncle Meat film wasn't finished until 1987, Biff Debris made earlier appearences, for example in Zappa's 1968 stage production Progress?. For more information see: The Story Of Uncle Meat

In 1972, Zappa wrote a Broadway science-fiction musical called Hunchentoot, which unfortunately was never realised. Its title character is a Giant Spider that is used by the evil alien queen Drakma for her plans to conquer Earth.

The background story of Zappa's 1984 Broadway musical Thing-Fish also shows strong monster movie influences. In it, a group of African American prisoners are exposed to a secret potion developed by an Evil Prince. The potion turns each of them "into a strange, unknown kreetchuh, never befo' seen on Broadway" (namely, a Mammy Nun). In the course of the play, the Evil Prince creates an army of Zombies and eventually mutates into a Mammy Nun himself.

One of Ahmet Zappa's names, "Rodan", is a reference to the pterodactyl Rodan from the Japanese monster movie series.

References to Monster Movies (and Horror Movies)

  • King Kong was named after the famous monster movie.
  • "Would You Go All The Way?" mentions a visit to a monster movie in the first verse ("Where did your brassiere go / When the monster came out, / 'N everybody shout! / People all around you, / Screamin' at the monster; / The Monster From The U.S.O. ")
  • The song "Cheepnis" is an hommage to the monster movie genre; in his introduction to the song on Roxy & Elsewhere Zappa tells about his experience with a movie called It Conquered The World. The song also introduces the gigantic poodle monster Frunobulax.
  • "Zomby Woof" on Over-Nite Sensation again combines monsters with dogs by having a kind of werewolf (a "zombie wolf") as a narrator.
  • The film Brainiac is referenced in Debra Kadabra.
  • On the back cover art of One Size Fits All giant ants destroy human society in reference to the film "Them!" (1954).
  • The track Manx Needs Women references the film Mars Needs Women.
  • The lyrics of Drowning Witch also take a very monster-movie-like turn at one point ("She could get radiation all over her / She could mutate insanely / She could mutate insanely / You know, she could go on the freeway and grow up to be 15 feet tall / And scary-lookin' / And then / Cars could crash all over the place / As a result of people with Hawaiian shirts on / Lookin' up to see her face")
  • The Radio Is Broken tells a typical science-fiction "lost in space" story where the crew of a space ship encounters strange alien creatures ("The things that were supposed to be green / In the black and white movies / They get you in the neck when you're not looking"); the lyrics also make a reference to Hunchentoot by mentioning a "Gigantic Spider" from out of space.
  • Godzilla is mentioned in Jesus Thinks You're A Jerk.
  • Gorgo references a famous British monster movie.

Song Naming Conventions

Zappa would often title his songs in the manner of sequels for monster b-movies, adding either "The Return of..." or "The Son of..." or both to the title.

Sometimes he would follow that convention even if the song in question did not have a first part or an original version in the first place: