Artful Conceptions #1: Monsters Carrying Chicks

Ever notice that almost every single horror or science fiction movie poster from the 1930's through the 1960's had an image of a monster/robot carrying a woman? It started with King Kong (or at least was popularized by it) and lasted another thirty or so years.  I don't get it, really, and it's something I've wondered about for a long time. 

I understand this is just the standard "damsel in distress" or "woman in peril" element, common in the horror/sci-fi genres.  What I wonder about is why that particular facet of the film is what was chosen to lure movie audiences for over 40 years.

And it's not limited to movie posters. It's also prevalent in books, pulp magazines, comic books, etc. in that era dealing with the horror/sci-fi genres.

Not surprisingly, I'm by no means the first to notice this. There's numerous articles on the subject. TV Tropes has an excellent little article which basically calls it "the visual equivalent of foreplay".  A Man Out of Time also has a post dealing with it, as does the Turner Classic Movies blog Movie Morlocks.

What is really perplexing is how illogical the very concept is.  I can understand a vampire, but why would a giant gorilla give damn about a human female? I don't see too many dogs or Komodo dragons lusting after our women. So, are we to believe The Creature from the Black Lagoon was wanting to get it on with a human female? Interesting thought.

Then again, this is the age old "Beauty and the Beast" scenario.  The hulking brute, more animal than man, with his female captive, beautiful and helpless - it's an image that has been around forever. So, I guess we shouldn't be surprised to find it in modern cinema.

The sociological images site has an article which attempts to answer it, although it sounds a lot like psychobabble to me. In fact, nothing I've read really satisfied me.  So, I guess the moral to the story is: Gilligan is once again over-analyzing everything, and should just let it go.  As Freud once said: "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

For more retro images of this interesting phenomenon, click the "read more" option below if you're reading the Retrospace home page.  But beware, this is pretty image heavy.  I was trying to drive my point home, so there's a lot of images. I guess you could say I got a little carried away (insert canned laugh track here).

The  SFW Starlet Showcase has a pretty good poster gallery on this subject. Also, see an article at Retrocrush; the "Monsters Holding Babes" article. The Bela Lugosi poster below is from a "monster carrying women" movie poster gallery from Harvard University (!).


  1. Great images and an interesting post. After reading this, I realized that you never see the newer, slasher villains do this. Jason, Michael, Freddy... they aren't there to grab a dame. They just want to kill, male & female alike. Freddy may be suggestive sometimes, but he never acts on it.

    Weird, I just never thought about that difference before. Hmmm....

  2. I think the earliest monster-carrying-girl poster was THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, though I may be mistaken.

    Typically, monsters carry girls because
    (a) the monster wants them
    (b) the person who controls the monster wants them
    (c) the monster is rescuing them (rare, though the Tobor & Tales of the Zombie posters are examples of same)

    It's a power fantasy, absolute control over a victim. The only way to make it more operfect would be for the victim to be tied up and hypnotized as well.

  3. Well, how else are you supposed to get a girl somewhere else when she's fainted?

  4. Isn't it just about boobs? I mean, look at those posters again, and notice that the woman is almost always scantily clad, and that position seems to lend itself to thrust-out breasts.

  5. May I recommend you amend this post to include the scene(s) in Lost Skeleton of Cadavra?! Truly classic examples! No woman on screen has ever nailed it like Fay Masterson.

  6. wings - Really good point. Not a whole lot of carrying being done by Freddie, Jason, Michael and the gang. Interesting.

    buzz- "power fantasy" may very well be the answer.... or is it a sexual thing? Or both? Deep stuff here.

    retrohound - Hmmm. It's a convient means to take victim from A to B. Not a very exciting theory, to be sure... but having Dracula transport his victims via wheelbarrow would look pretty stupid. You may be onto something.

    frank- I'm liking the "boob theory" too. I mean, isn't almost every movie aimed specifically at the male gender in some way just about boobs?

    kate- I haven't seen that movie. Isn't it a modern parody/tribute to those B&W B movies of the 50's? I need to check it out.

  7. I thought the same thing frank did, but when I saw the Gorilla at Large image, I realized there may be more to it than just teh boobies...

  8. nah, it's about the "other" taking our women. It's designed to make us men get protective and horny at the same time. They're takin' our wimmin!

    Horror movies play on the morality of the time, right? So these older posters (and parody like Lost Skeleton) play on racism, American male nuclear family fatherhood and being the protective, dominant male. The newer slasher films started playing to teenagers and sexual morals rather than family morals, which is why the bad girl gets killed, since the old movies only had good girls who get kidnapped.

  9. What, no Forbidden Planet? http://posterwire.com/wp-content/images/forbidden_planet.jpg

    Back in the heyday of X-Files, Gillian Anderson did a photoshoot that included her being carried by a monster, but she was conscious, unlike most of those ladies. http://gilliananderson.ws/gallery/rs/97rs

  10. You forgot one... Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal!

  11. Wonderful post and awesome images. I agree this theme in monster movies makes no logistical sense, but what a fun image with endless variations. Any red-blooded American male who fails to appreciate such images, I would consider a difficult person to trust. Ha!