My interest in monsters -- those found in the movies or on TV -- has been a long-standing passion.
When I was young, I used to rate a monster (or horror) movie by how scared I got. This was the black-and-white era of television, and horror movies in those days were cranked out from budget-conscious Hollywood studios.
In those days, most horror films ran about 90 minutes (or two hours, including commercials, on late-night television). Many starred the likes of Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi, with vampires and Frankenstein-related creatures anchoring many storylines.
Those were the days when you had to allow your imagination to drift to make up for the lack of special effects that we now take for granted.
Here's another important item to consider: If a monster in the horror movie I was watching repeatedly drooled, I always felt satisfied by the time the credits rolled. Drool tended to make the monster seem more threatening and realistic. The presence of bodily fluids was key, especially when the beast was blown up or killed in some fashion.
One more thought on my "drool" theory: What is the first thing that comes to mind when considering some of the memorable scenes from the "Alien" and "Predator" movies?
It's the drool.
Remember when Sigourney Weaver is confronted by the Alien? The creature is about 2 inches from her face and slobbering all over.
The formula was simple. Slobber equals fright.
I felt horror movies took a jump forward toward realism with "An American Werewolf in London" in 1981. Not only was comedy introduced to the genre, but this film, featuring David Naughton and Griffin Dunne, also brought a new level of special effects, particularly the shredding of flesh. Thirty-seven years later, it remains a classic.
In many ways, "An American Werewolf in London" was a forerunner to today's most-heralded squeamish entertainment, programs like "The Walking Dead" and "Fear the Walking Dead."
Some of the early black-and-white monster flicks now seem comical when we look back. But we should not lose our appreciation of movies like "The Creature From the Black Lagoon" or the early "Frankenstein" efforts. They were the forefathers of many of today's slobbering blockbusters.
Today's sophisticated filmmakers owe a lot to those old black-and-white screenings, especially when it comes to outright gore and other special effects.
For the record, here are my all-time five favorite monster/horror films:
1. "Dawn of the Dead" (1978).
2. "An American Werewolf in London" (1981).
3. "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" (1974).
4. "Island of Lost Souls" (1932).
5. "The Blair Witch Project" (1999).