Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: The Deadly Mantis

I thought I'd seen nearly all of these movies, but Svengoolie keeps coming up with ones that I hadn't, or at least don't remember. Obviously, my cultural education was severely lacking in some respects. THE DEADLY MANTIS is from 1957, and as giant bug movies go, it's not bad.

It starts from a pretty ridiculous premise, though. A volcano erupts in Antarctica, and somehow that thaws out a giant prehistoric praying mantis frozen in the Arctic. Okay, we'll go with that, I guess. The mantis destroys an isolated radar station manned by the Air Force, which brings it to the attention of our stalwart hero, a colonel played by Craig Stevens. Yep, Peter Gunn his own self. But that not all. The scientist called in by the Air Force to help figure everything out is played by none other than William Hopper, best known as Paul Drake on PERRY MASON. So we have two iconic private eyes fighting a giant praying mantis. Yeah, I'll watch that. There's also a spunky gal reporter involved, but I thought she was kind of annoying.

The movie takes a documentary-like approach to a lot of the scenes, and that works pretty well. The mantis itself doesn't appear on-screen until well into the film, which is probably good. In some shots it appears fairly scary (well, it would have scared me when I was ten years old, which is how I try to approach movies like this), but in others it just looks fake and silly.

The odd thing is, as the movie goes on, I started to feel sorry for the mantis. I don't know if this was intentional or not, but the final scenes kind of tug at the ol' heartstrings, and I found myself not liking the human characters as much. I don't really think the filmmakers were trying to make any sort of statement, but looking at it from that angle, it's kind of a powerful ending.

Anyway, I'm glad I finally saw THE DEADLY MANTIS. It's not a great film, by any means, but I enjoyed it.


Richard R. said...

I often find myself pulling for the "monster" in these films, but they always die. The biggest example for me is KING KONG which I can no longer even watch. Why couldn't they just take him back to the island and leave him alone? But no, we humans have to kill instead. Pfui.

Charles Gramlich said...

I actually saw this way back as a teenager on something in our area called "Boo Theater." Don't remember a lot about it but I kind of have a fondness for it.

Cap'n Bob said...

I saw it in the theater as a kid, maybe the drive-in, but as usual I don't remember much about it.

Daniel Stumpf said...

What I recall is that the first 20 minutes or so is about 90% stock footage from old Civil Defense PSAs that were playing on TV at the time.

Still, it's a pretty good Monster and the leading lady seems to be channeling Eve Arden.

Todd Mason said...

Always have liked mantids.

Andy said...

When you get down to it, a lot of the monsters in these movies are just wild animals that are freaking out because they're not in their preferred habitat. They can't help it if some puny humans get stomped on or if they eat them because they need food. So yeah, it's sad when they die simply for behaving according to their nature.