During the late 1950s and early ’60s, Hoover Dam and Lake Mead served as the filming locations for two cult-favorite horror movies. “The Amazing Colossal Man” and “Scream of the Butterfly” were filmed less than 15 minutes from Boulder City, which served as a popular place for the respective film crews to stop, eat and gas up.
“The Amazing Colossal Man” (1957) starred Glenn Langan. Langan was well-known for his work on Broadway before playing the role of Lt. Col. Glenn Manning for this movie. “The Amazing Colossal Man” started out to be a promising thriller in theory, but it was quickly muted by a less-than-stellar script.
The movie is about a plutonium bomb planted in the Nevada desert that turns Langan’s character into an irate giant. Of course, a plutonium bomb detonating in the Nevada desert couldn’t lead to anything other than a chain of ridiculous events and even more inconceivable, almost laughable, twists and turns.
Langan’s character is not only caught in the atomic blast, but he then starts to uncontrollably grow in size. Remember, the atomic blast only seemed to impact Langan’s character, which adds to this movie’s charm. When Langan’s character finally realizes he can’t stop growing, he walks a path of destruction through the famed Las Vegas Strip before ending up at Hoover Dam.
One of Langan’s finer moments is when his character is caught peeping in on a female inside her hotel room at the Riviera. Of course, he smashes in her window — which is easily the next logical step for someone who just survived an atomic blast! Then, as the character grows to over 60 feet tall, he smashes up the Silver Slipper and the Tropicana before moving onto the Sands hotel, where he tosses a convertible into a crowd of innocent bystanders.
With the military now shooting at him, Langan destroys the Vegas Vic sign and heads toward what was called the Boulder Dam aka Hoover Dam. A standoff happens, the military fires aggressively, and the colossal man falls into the Colorado River where he drowns. Tragically, the antidote to shrink him back to normal size arrives minutes too late.
While “The Amazing Colossal Man” is a great piece of offbeat cinematic and Las Vegas history, the role ended up typecasting Langan. The actor only booked two more bit movie roles later on in his life, one in “Mutiny From Outer Space” (1965) and the other in “The Andromeda Strain” (1971). Langan went on to become a successful real estate investor.
The other cult classic filmed close to Boulder City is “Scream of the Butterfly” (1965), which was shot primarily at Lake Mead. The movie starred Argentinean actress Nélida Lobato as Marla Williams. The film’s director, Eber Lobato, was Nélida’s husband. This was a movie that has since paved the way for directors like Eli Roth (“Knock Knock” 2016), who knowingly and repeatedly exploit the sexuality of their otherwise uncastable actress wives in order to sell movie tickets.
On the surface, “Scream of the Butterfly” has a very basic plot. Nélida’s character is a psychopath who marries a rich man with the sole intention to have him murdered by her equally money-hungry boyfriend. For this movie, the murder has to look like a boating accident. As the plot thickens, “Scream of the Butterfly” starts to explore the underbelly of sex, obsession and greed. The style of this film pays strong homage to the fashion of film noir, honoring great minds like Orson Welles and Fritz Lang.
The use of Nélida Lobato’s character’s sexual identity during the movie’s storm scene leaves little, if anything, to the imagination. However, it is cinematically crafted with class and leads up to a truly unpredictable ending.
I believe “Scream of the Butterfly” was a movie ahead of its time. The use of seedy backroom legal deals and raw, human desire complements the undervalued acting in this film. And unlike “The Amazing Colossal Man,” “Scream of the Butterfly” is horrifying because of the script’s believability and the plot’s possibility.
As a side note, Jim Morrison (The Doors) loved this film so much that he incorporated its title into the song “When the Music’s Over.”
Tanya Vece is an entertainment and music writer who resides and volunteers in Boulder City. You can follow her adventures on Instagram @holly woodwriter.