If you're of a certain vintage, odds are you first got to know Tor via the ads for Don Post masks that appeared in the back pages of Famous Monsters magazine. As a kid, I knew the classic monsters, but what the heck was a Lobo? It was my father who recognized Tor Johnson's likeness as that of the Super Swedish Angel, a pro wrestler who'd appeared sporadically in films since 1934, often billed as, "Strong Man," "Weightlifter," "Wrestler," even "Torturer." Baby boomers have made the rotund ex-"rassler" something of a cult-film icon based largely on his desperate collaborations with Ed Wood. But Tor had been in the business for over two decades prior to his Wood work.

10. Ghost Catchers
I'm willing to bet that the majority of our readers do not recall the comedy team Olsen and Johnson. (C'mon, Hellzapoppin?) Their partnership was a long one but their movie success was spotty. While their peculiar brand of vaudeville does not date well, any film that features Olsen, Johnson, Lon Chaney, Leo Carrillo, Kirby Grant, Andy Devine, Martha O'Driscoll, Ella Mae Morse, Mel Torme, Morton Downey, future schlock-filmmaker, Jerry Warren AND Tor Johnson is B Monster material!

9. Alias The Champ
This obscure, 1949 detective potboiler revolves around the world of pro wrestling, which was poised at the time to take the nascent television industry by storm. Tor actually gets to play the Super Swedish Angel alongside the one and only Gorgeous George as -- the one and only Gorgeous George, the man who made outrageous glitz and cock-of-the-walk strutting hallmarks of the sport.

8. Behind Locked Doors
This early directing effort from the recently deceased Budd Boetticher (billed as Oscar at this stage in his career) is by turns goofy and effectively atmospheric. B-movie mainstay Richard Carslon takes up residence in an insane asylum in hopes of ferreting out a judge on the lam. Tor plays "The Champ," a hulking (needless to say) mute (probably needless to say) ex-wrestler. This film has been known alternately as Human Gorilla, perhaps a distributor's attempt to capitalize on Tor's imposing screen presence.

7. Abbott & Costello in the Foreign Legion
The title says it all. The boys (and isn't it charitable how, like The Three Stooges, they were referred to as "boys" even as they were qualifying for senior discounts?) find themselves in Algeria while searching for a pro wrestler they hope to promote. Before long, they're hijacked into desert duty and the sandy shenanigans commence. Tor is on hand as the hulking (that word again) Abou Ben.

6. Plan 9 From Outer Space/Night of the Ghouls
There'll be no Ed Wood bashing here. If you're looking for yet another diatribe castigating the eccentric filmmaker, maybe Harry Medved has a page you'll like. Plan 9 From Outer Space is not a very good movie. (Duh!) But if you think it's the worst movie ever made, then you need to see a LOT more movies. It does, however, mark one of the few times Tor gets to talk in a film. Let's just say that as a seasoned police inspector, convincing he ain't. In the sad, cheap, untenably talky Night of the Ghouls, kind of a sort of a sequel to Plan 9, characters, including Paul Marco's Kelton, make vague references to events that occurred in Plan 9, but Tor reprises his Lobo role from Bride of the Monster. It's as though Wood wasn't really sure which film he was following up on.

5. The Beast of Yucca Flats

Fascinating in that "car accident" sorta way, but sad simultaneously. Tor was so obese at this point in his life, a team of stagehands tugging ropes were required to hoist him up and down sand dunes. The non sequitur packed voice-over narration plays like a ransom note, as though someone snipped a sentence here, a word there, threw them all up in the air and then pasted them onto the page: "A man runs. Someone shoots at him. Progress."

4. The Lemon Drop Kid
Certainly the best movie Tor was ever in. Based on a Damon Runyon story, Bob Hope stars as a racetrack hustler in debt up to his soon-to-be-broken kneecaps. The winning cast includes Marilyn Maxwell, Lloyd Nolan, William Frawley and among Hope's entourage, Tor as -- who else? -- The Super Swedish Angel. It's genuinely touching to see the big lug dressed up as Santa. The film introduced the classic X-mas ditty Silver Bells. It's curious that television doesn't run it more often during the holidays. (Tor as Santa? How ridiculous! That would be like casting Whoopi Goldberg as ... Hey, wait a minute ... )

3. The Unearthly
From the sublime to -- the opposite of sublime. You don't need the Maltin guide to tell you this one's a stinker, and I'll be darned if I know why I enjoy it so much. It could be Allison Hayes, Sally Todd or that six-foot-four-inch sugar-cured ham, John Carradine. In spite of the crappy trappings, Carradine plugs along, chomping away at the scenery as though it were his last meal. Tor plays Lobo, who this time is not-quite-mute. In fact, the film's best line is his: "Time for go to bed!"

2. Bride of the Monster
Probably the best film made by cult-movie whipping boy Ed Wood. It's cheap, it's bad and it is great fun, due mostly to Bela's bravado. Surely Lugosi was aware of the depths to which his career had sunk, but notwithstanding, his heart and soul is on the screen for all to see. He gives Wood's fractured, childlike dialogue a resonance and pathos it most certainly does not deserve. This is Tor's initial appearance as Lobo, the mute, lumbering and supposedly love-struck lab assistant who turns on his master.

1. The Black Sleep
Certainly the best HORROR movie Tor ever appeared in -- and no, he does NOT play Lobo. His name is Curry, one of Dr. Basil Rathbone's ill-fated guinea pigs. In fact, the crazed medico has created a basement full of failed experiments in his attempts to perfect a brain operation that could revive his comatose spouse. This Aubrey Schenck, Howard Koch shocker was directed by B-movie vet Reginald LeBorg. It's atmospheric, fitfully scary, sometimes shocking and boasts a terrific cast, including Akim Tamiroff, Herbert Rudley, Lon Chaney and Lugosi. This time around, Chaney, Lugosi and Tor are ALL mute. Fortunately for viewers who are uncomfortable with awkward silences, John Carradine is on hand as a deranged, bellowing, religious zealot.

"We cannot be responsible if you never sleep again!"
Blood Mania

"From out of space came hordes of green monsters!"
Invaders From Mars

"The coolest monster shindig of chicks and chills!"
The Beach Girls and the Monster

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