Monsters!

Nobody's star shines forever and this is never truer than in Hollywood where fame and fortune are fleeting and today's celebrities are tomorrow's panel game contestants. For every Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lopez or Gene Hackman there are a dozen Ted Crumpleperks, Shannon Felchingdrome-Cheesburys or Walter Tonkers. Who? Exactly. Consigned to the has-been file, these twilight people exist in the world of daytime talk shows, straight-to-DVD family dramas and 'info-mercials'.

But it's not just human actors that the world has forgotten about. The twin worlds of horror and science-fiction have produced the most extraordinary creations and many of these have fallen by the wayside. Whatever happened to the Creature from the Black Lagoon following the movie that catapulted it to international stardom? And what of The Blob? So much promise, such a towering performance - and yet it was co-star Steve McQueen who was plucked from obscurity, while The Blob eventually died a penniless, alcoholic wreck just two years later.

The real problem is that sci-fi monsters are so readily typecast. It is still relatively easy for a human actor who has made his or her name in one field to cross over to another genre or medium. But the sad truth is if you're twelve feet high, covered in green scales and you've got more than the usual number of heads, the chances are you're going to be quite limited in the choice of work you're offered.

Robbie the Robot

Robbie the Robot takes Broadway by Storm

Of course, some monsters have managed to adapt quite easily. Take, for example, the case of Robbie the Robot, the charismatic star of classic science-fiction epic Forbidden Planet. Initially work was quite plentiful for Robbie, with frequent cameo roles in a number of exciting TV projects, plus lucrative personal appearances and several high-profile advertising campaigns. Many viewers remember his periodic appearances on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show where he always proved to be a witty and popular guest. However, by the mid-eighties the phone had stopped ringing, the offers had stopped coming in and it looked like Robbie's career was over.

But Robbie the Robot was not ready to retire just yet. There was showbiz in his blood and the thrill of performance still pounded in his heart... Or rather, there was showbiz in his oil and the thrill of performance still pounded in his sump. Whereas some performers in his position might be content to slip into retirement - emerging every now and then to promote an autobiography or two - Robbie worked hard to forge a second career as a song and dance man. When he eventually broke the box office with his record breaking Broadway production of A Chorus Line, it was the culmination of a lifelong ambition. In fact, it was an emotional time for the whole cast. Co-star Millicent Swain has particularly vivid memories of the closing night. "Robbie had me in tears," she said. "He stood on my foot."

Gort

Gort scrapes through to a disappointing third place at the Sydney Olympics

During the sixties and seventies, many sci-fi monsters followed Robbie's example and moved into other genres. For instance, some of the Morlocks from George Pal's much loved version of The Time Machine subsequently turned up in Bonanza, where they were given the opportunity to do all their own stunts. Meanwhile, that weird chap from This Island Earth hosted his own talk show and proved remarkably successful at scaring the living fertiliser out of the majority of his guests. But perhaps the most notable success story concerns those loveable monkeys from Planet of the Apes who initially found work in the TV version of the hit movie. When the series ended they went on to star in a sitcom, which followed the crazy antics of the wacky simians as they attempted to dominate the planet and enslave mankind, crushing all human opposition beneath the ruthless, iron paw of monkeykind. The show was cancelled halfway through its first season, although it did provide a launch pad for the career of John Ritter, who played the comedy neighbour.

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