Many actors and others in the film business, hoping to try their hand at directing or producing, have turned to science fiction when starting out. Fantasy films, usually centering around costly special effects, may seem an unlikely choice for filmmakers strapped for funds, and often the results are dubious. We salute 10 who forged ahead, budget notwithstanding.

Twilight People

Ashley once ruled the drive-in roost as the top teen idol in B movies with titles like Hot Rod Gang and High School Caesar to his credit. He later emigrated to the Philippines where he teamed with exploitation director Eddie Romero. Twilight People, produced by Ashley, is the duo's take on the venerable Island of Dr. Moreau, featuring blaxploitation queen Pam Grier as the Panther Woman.

Dungeon of Harrow

Few filmmakers could have created so much from so little. The garish, atmospheric color schemes and literate script help to mask the production's amateurish aspects. And filling the mouths of inexperienced actors with florid gothic dialogue is nothing if not audacious. All in all, not bad for a guy who only stopped working on the script long enough to build the sets.

She Demons

Director, cinematographer and sometime producer Dick Cunha scrambled to crank out a fistful of the 50s' more memorable sleazy shockers. Once more, enthusiastic pretension played a part. If guys like Cunha hadn't the guts to dish up offbeat scenarios involving gigantic conquistadors, ambulatory rock men and sarong-wrapped mutants, the late show of our youth might have been a wasteland. She Demons, especially, is a melting pot of time-tested, B movie conventions: a desert island, a busty pin-up, mutilation, monsters, Nazis and a raving mad scientist! All this and Sen Yung, too!

The Killer Shrews, The Giant Gila Monster

Curtis is recognized today, of course, as Gunsmoke's wily Festus Haggen. But prior to his television success, his career was impressively diverse. Appearing in a number of John Ford westerns -- most notably The Searchers -- he'd also lent his sonorous singing voice to the Sons of the Pioneers, and popped up in Orson Welles' starkly haunting film version of Macbeth. Like any smart businessman, he recognized the quick-buck potential of drive-in horror fare and rapidly scraped together these classic quickies. Shrews in particular possesses a ragged charm with yapping dogs in false teeth and cast-off toupees portraying the famished titular menace.

The Beach Girls and the Monster

Hall was a popular matinee idol in the 1940s, co-starring with Maria Montez in a series of South Sea sarong-fests. Hoping to exploit the burgeoning 1960s surf movie craze, he fashioned this crudely conceived drive-in classic. Reams of surf footage and bouncing, bikini-clad sun bunnies add precious little spice to the proceedings.

Wizard of Mars

As was his way, Dave Hewitt (The Mighty Gorga) cast budgetary caution to the wind when he recast The Wizard of Oz as an epic sci fi allegory starring John Carradine. Employing meager yet ambitious effects to arguable advantage, this threadbare offering turned out to be perhaps Hewitt's best-known film.

The Slime People

Hutton was an up-and-coming, second-string lead with a showy role in Sam Fuller's classic war film The Steel Helmet (1951). By the end of the decade, he'd embraced sci fi, popping up in cheapies such as Man Without A Body, Invisible Invaders and others. In 1962, Hutton took the helm, directing The Slime People, the torpid, talky story of froggy invaders who spring from the earth's bowels. Billowing fog enshrouds the sets in an attempt to disguise the conspicuous lack of funding.

The Brain Eaters

Another Corman alum takes charge! Ed Nelson, who'd appeared in Corman's Teenage Caveman, Night of the Blood Beast and others, took advantage of the opportunities drive-in films provided for honing one's professional skills. Teaming with buddy Bruno Ve Sota, who directed, Nelson produced and starred in this cheap but grittily memorable shocker.

Invasion of the Star Creatures

Possibly the most prolific of Corman's erstwhile troupe, Ve Sota assumed the director's seat with mixed results. Female Jungle featured a fascinating cast -- Lawrence Tierney, John Carradine and Jayne Mansfield in her screen debut -- but Star Creatures, scripted by Corman crony Jonathan Haze, is the late night mainstay many remember best. This dismal enterprise features the forgettable comic team of Bob Ball and Frankie Ray defending the earth from a pair of voluptuous babes and a gang of giant carrots.

Lady Frankenstein

Welles was another member in good standing of Roger Corman's durable stock company and is perhaps remembered best as store owner Gravis Mushnick in the classic Little Shop of Horrors. The early 70s found Welles in Italy directing this exploitative curiosity. Joseph Cotten is on board for a good part of the ride as Doc Frankenstein, as is strong man Mickey Hargitay, once the husband of Jayne Mansfield.

"Can anything escape its venomed terror?"

"An avalanche of grisly horror!"
Fangs of the Living Dead

"Whata bad girl!"
Shanty Tramp

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