Aspinall (1955)

Aspinall reflects on his destruction

Hollywood special effects maestro Joe Abrahams was a contemporary of the great Ray Harryhausen. While Harryhausen perfected the technique of stop-motion animation using miniatures, Abrahams preferred to use spectacular full-size models in his films. These included a giant squid for Nero's Honeymoon, conjoined cows in Hillbilly Picnic and most famously, the 30ft teddy bear in the fantasy film Aspinall.

Aspinall is the story of a teddy bear who gets lost in a science fair after being separated from his owner, Nicky. In true B-movie tradition, the cuddly toy falls into a vat of growth hormone and ends up enormous. Predictable devastation occurs when Aspinall the teddy rampages around San Francisco, but what makes the film unique is the characterisation of the bear. While most movie monsters are barely able to string together a coherent sentence while flattening state troopers underfoot, Aspinall is a rich and complex character. After throwing a businessman and his car into the sea, he is wracked with guilt and tries to make amends to the man's widow. The scene is genuinely touching. It's reminiscent of The Iron Man - a melancholy giant emoting at the world as he destroys it - but predates the Ted Hughes poem by over a decade.

The film has been banned in America since 1977 when it was discovered that the lifelike motion of the giant bear prop was created by the movements of four real brown bears chained to the limbs inside.

Anubis (1991)

Harold Heischel as Anubis

Anubis Dans Modernes Des Temps (renamed Anubis for the UK and USA) ranks amongst the very best efforts of recent French magical realist cinema. In it, the ancient Egyptian god of the underworld is inadvertently transported to modern day France by a lonely museum curator, Margot Lisse (Anne Detrin).

Despite his unnatural powers and terrifying appearance, Anubis is keen to adapt to modern life. His attempts to come to terms with a world in which technology has triumphed over magic are beautifully played. What could easily have become another predictable take on the story of Faust is given a refreshing twist as the ancient god gets caught up in Margot's struggle to make contact with her estranged children, who are living with her drunken ex-husband (Alain Berol).

Director Phillipe Fredonne had very definite ideas about how the character of Anubis should look. The beautiful latex and fibreglass mask worn by actor Harold Heischel who played Anubis was constructed by Hollywood effects veteran Douglas Arthurs - the man responsible for the bears in Grizzly Nights. Special tear ducts were fitted, rigged up to tubes allowing the ancient god to cry on cue - a technique used to memorable effect in the film's moving finale.

The 50 Guises of Kitty Blanchard (1962)

Detail from poster

This quirky, good-natured western directed by George Beymer is little discussed these days but well worth a view when it crops up on television every few years. Along with Cat Ballou, it is one of the earliest proto-feminist westerns, notable for the virtuoso performance from Laura McCarthy in the title role.

Kitty Blanchard (McCarthy) is a struggling young actress trying to make ends meet in a run-down town in Deadstead Valley, California. Famed as the 'Girl with 50 Faces', her act consists of a series of remarkable facial impersonations, notably including the 'frightened but curious woman', 'the sad Indian child' and Caliban from The Tempest. When the Parker Gang begin to extort money from the townspeople, Kitty devises a plan to fight back, utilising her unique gift for mimicry and characterisation. A one-woman Magnificent Seven, she not only saves the day, but also acts as surrogate mother and role model to an orphaned girl (Diane Lyons).

Sigourney Weaver and Jodie Foster have both praised the film for its engaging heroine - perhaps they too saw a role model in the girl with fifty faces.