Clint Eastwood is a living legend. However, the beloved director and actor started out acting in a famous Universal Monster movie. Before Eastwood became a household name in iconic Westerns like The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, he was under a modest contract with Universal-International. This led the Dirty Harry star to his first, uncredited film role.
Universal has a rich tradition of horror films dating back to the silent period with Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera. Over the decades, their horror characters shifted to address the times. 1930s audiences responded to more gothic characters such as Dracula and Frankenstein. However, the 1950s ushered in the atomic age, and monsters rooted in science fiction took hold of theatergoers. 1954’s The Creature from the Black Lagoon straddled both eras. The film depicted heroic scientists attempting to capture a missing link between the sea and the land, the amphibious Gill-man. Designed by Millicent Patrick, the costume for Gill-man, with his scales and menacing, webbed claws, holds up to this day. Director Jack Arnold also had the project filmed in 3-D, further cementing its 50s pedigree.
Revenge of the Creature was the 1955 follow-up, also directed by Arnold. Though the film isn’t as well regarded as its predecessor, it is notable for Clint Eastwood’s screen debut. Not only is it the gruff actor’s first film appearance, he’s playing against type. The squinty-eyed tough guy plays a nerdy lab assistant named Jennings. In his only scene, he complains to the film’s lead (John Agar) that their cat has eaten a lab rat. However, as the comical scene unfolds, it’s revealed that Jennings simply forgot the rat was in his coat pocket.
Clint Eastwood Appeared in another Universal Monster Movie Classic
Eastwood would make one more monster movie appearance for Universal-International. The part he plays is much more in the mold of his future screen persona. 1955’s Tarantula!, also directed by Jack Arnold and starring John Agar is a more traditional atomic age monster flick. The film deals with a lab experiment, in this a tarantula, getting loose. It grows to a massive size, attacking the local populace. Eventually, the Air Force is called in to deal with the monstrous threat.
As you may have guessed, this is where Clint Eastwood’s part comes into the film. Once again he is uncredited, playing a fighter pilot with a mission to terminate the giant arachnid (spoiler: he fails). Sadly, Eastwood’s face is mostly covered with a flight mask. However, his iconic squint is there in all of its glory.
Though Clint Eastwood’s appearances in these films are brief, monster fans everywhere remember them. Among these fans is acclaimed director Robert Zemeckis. When he helmed the Western-themed Back to the Future III, he included many Eastwood images. In one scene, Doc Brown is coaching Marty McFly about how to act when he goes back in time to the old west. The scene takes place in front of a 1950s movie theater. Eagle-eyed viewers will note posters for Revenge of the Creature and Tarantula adorning the theater.
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