Piranha With no discernible logic to this 1960s movie, audiences were seduced by masked, bloodthirsty Brazilian sea monsters. The film focused on the urban population’s ability to protect themselves from waterborne predator, though this predictable plotline was soon established with a wallop of Special FX. Watch with your children. Nobody got killed, though the ‘had-a-stompin’ time’ had been had and the trio of chief villains – played by Jerry Lewis, Christopher Lloyd and Paul Sorvino – did survive unscathed, perhaps thanks to that special brainwave.
When he was expecting his first baby, a young couple discovered a tentacled being at their back porch. This creature stopped a train headed for the highest point in the desert, dumping a part of itself in the engine – but this one died. The visitor returned to its residence, with the body of the family’s cook unharmed. But when the man climbed out of the baby’s belly and asked the creature what it wanted, it did not respond – so the man used his bare hands to hand the creature a car engine. Then he jumped in the car with it and drove away. Cue loud violin music. Don’t try this at home.
A Date for Madbury
Madbury is a small Michigan town, and most people’s local legend is a creature that hitched a ride into the sky. When that critter settled in the busy town street, it, you guessed it, struck a woman over the head with its tail and killed her.
Several months later, a recently arrived from England witnesses what she believes was another strange incident – as a plane passed overhead, it suddenly exploded in a cloud of dust – complete with a decapitated deathger poking out of the wreckage.
The landlubber was haunted by thoughts of her friend’s death, and came to believe that the sudden destruction of the plane’s engines had been caused by an alien flying saucer. After some rudimentary investigation – some testing of cars with mechanical parts that had been forced off the road and a radio warning of explosions in the sky – the landlubber and her husband hit upon an obvious clue: a box that her friend had secretly kept of a bird she had seen kill and eat another bird. The short bird appeared to be blown from the box, but also directly upwards – over the factory where the box was held. There, it was killed by a black fly, but a far more gory conclusion was to follow.
The Engineer: Is he a flying saucer? What if he’s not?
They say you should never work with kids or dogs, but in this case the cats are yucky. A plumber in London had just replaced a faulty fire hydrant with one of his own invention when he made an unfortunate mistake. After a dry spell of 12 years, the new hydrant began to flash red – with flames licking out of it. Soon, a series of buildings were torched.
Things progressed like this: the orange fire hydrant reached its usual level of water and then grew purple. Once the red smoke had faded, black smoke filled the sky. The flammable soil and rivers had reacted with this luminous purple water like a powder, transforming it from innocuous to deathly bright. To help combat the devastation, the London Fire Brigade called in an engineer, who set up a traffic-control centre to monitor the situation. Then the man set off the flames on the hydrant. The brilliant flames were too bright for his eyesight and he only successfully contained them when an orange hydrant went up instead.
Eyes at the helm of the dinosaur
The problem is, we couldn’t find a movie in which the engineer directly was able to save humanity from destruction. The next best story was this classic piece of camp, to which Spaceballs’ George Lucas was closely linked for his embryonic plans. In various slightly irresponsible scenarios, the engineer repeatedly crash-lands an empty space shuttle in a bid to contain the oncoming ecological disaster, all while wearing a smart hat and sunglasses.
Click here to watch Star Wars or check out the Guardian’s top 15 movie moments