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Beginning of the End (1957)

 -  Sci-Fi  -  28 June 1957 (USA)
3.4
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Audrey Ames, an enterprising journalist, tries to get the scoop on giant grasshoppers accidentally created at the Illinois State experimental farm. She endeavors to save Chicago, despite a ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Dr. Ed Wainwright
...
Audrey Aimes
Morris Ankrum ...
Gen. John Hanson
Than Wyenn ...
Frank Johnson
Thomas Browne Henry ...
Col. Tom Sturgeon (as Thomas B. Henry)
Richard Benedict ...
Cpl. Mathias
James Seay ...
Capt. James Barton
John Close ...
Maj. Everett
Don C. Harvey ...
Guard at Lab
Larry J. Blake ...
Illinois Highway Patrolman
Eilene Janssen ...
Girl Teenager in Car
Hylton Socher ...
Frank - Soldier
...
Gen. John T. Short
Douglas Evans ...
Norman Taggart - News Editor
Paul Grant ...
Male Teenager in Car
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Storyline

Audrey Ames, an enterprising journalist, tries to get the scoop on giant grasshoppers accidentally created at the Illinois State experimental farm. She endeavors to save Chicago, despite a military cover-up. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The screen's first full-length science-fiction thriller with real live creatures! See more »

Genres:

Sci-Fi

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

28 June 1957 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Le début de la fin  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The National Guardsmen wear the insignia of the U.S. 33rd Infantry Division, which is indeed the designated unit of the Illinois National Guard. The soldiers in Chicago wear the insignia of the U.S. Fifth Army, which at the time was headquartered in Chicago, where the film takes place. See more »

Goofs

When at the destroyed warehouse Ed says that the ground is "completely barren" but they are kneeling among grass. See more »

Quotes

Gen. John T. Short: Dr. Wainright, you're a scientist, you know what grasshoppers can do. I'm a soldier, I know what guns can do.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Cinemassacre's Monster Madness: The Cyclops (2010) See more »

Soundtracks

Natural, Natural Baby
Words and Music by Lou Bartel & Harriet Kane
Sung by Lou Bartel & Chorus
An ABC - Paramount Record
See more »

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User Reviews

A retro warning about radiation and much, much more.
21 September 1998 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

BEGINNING OF THE END opens with a couple sharing a cozy moment in Lover's Lane. Seconds later they hear a strange noise, the girl looks up, she screams, and cut to the opening titles.

We find out that the couple was among the 150 now missing residents of Ludlow, Illinois. Reporter Audrey Ames (Peggy Castle) is driving through the area and is stopped by soldiers at a roadblock. Her curiosity piqued, she goes to visit Doctor Ed Wainright (Peter Graves) to get more information about a mysterious recent disaster at a nearby grain silo. Driving to the ruins of the silo with Ed's deaf mute assistant, they encounter giant grasshoppers which devour Ed's assistant.

The military is alerted. General Hanson (Morris Ankrum) sends troops to confirm that, yes, the giant grasshoppers are real- and real hungry.

Modern weapons can't stop them. The grasshoppers march on toward Chicago. Just when it seems as if all is lost and General Hanson must give the order to wipe Chicago off the map with an atom bomb, Ed discovers a way to use the high-pitched noise the giant insects create to lure them into the lake. Civilization is saved, and Ed and Audrey embrace as the last of the giant grasshoppers sink beneath the waves.

Starting with GODZILLA and THEM! in 1954, the 50's saw a vast menagerie of animals- and people too- that got way too big because man had tampered with the atom.

BEGINNING OF THE END represents a kind of movie making that audiences of the 90's don't know about. It was made for probably a tenth of one percent of the budget of STARSHIP TROOPERS or this summer's GODZILLA. The actors were not stars, although Peter Graves did go on to bigger and better things. Films like this had schooting schedules of a couple of weeks or so. Actors were expected to show up sober and on time and know their lines. What a remarkable idea.

Some actors like Morris Ankrum thrived in this world. In 1957 he was in eight feature films, and an episode of "Perry Mason" on television. His IFDb filmography lists 148 roles in a twenty-seven year period!

The special effects in BEGINNING OF THE END are modest. The best shots of the monsters use sort of a shadow box effect. Way upstage is a background, then the grasshoppers which are seen in a sort of a frame (trees or, in four instances, a window) and then people downstage.

Shots of the creatures attacking skyscrapers were done by letting live grasshoppers crawl over photographs of tall buildings. Sometimes they would crawl off the part showing the building and be walking on the sky, but not too often.

Scenes in which monsters come into the frame with live actors don't work well at all, although at the time I don't think a major studio could have done that much better.

Far more effective is the use of sound. The grasshoppers make a high-pitched noise when they are about to attack. In the military's first encounter with the creatures, there's a point in the action where the musical score stops and all we hear is the creatures, gunfire, and shouts and screams as soldiers fall to the attacking insects.

Later, when Chicago is about to be attacked, a tv reporter is describing the sound when all at once it is heard as the monsters begin their assault.

The film is very short (an hour and thirteen minutes) and so its structure is that of two acts instead of three. Much of the action happens offscreen, conveyed by exposition. The destruction of three cities between Ludlow and Chicago is handled by means of a telegram. People who had been near Ludlow or had communication with the town are interviewed.

In one of those scenes a character named Dave tells of having visited his daughter and her husband in Ludlow and leaving after watching the news. Dave is played by veteran character Hank Patterson, who played Fred Ziffel on "Green Acres" and "Petticoat Junction" for many years.

When we first see Audrey she's driving her convertible with the top down; her hair is perfect. It's good to be the leading lady. She's a reporter who had covered the conflict in Korea, and is treated with considerable respect by the military men. Her full skirt and crisp white blouse with upturned collar look great, and a wide belt accents her small waistline. Had the film run longer, a romance probably would have developed between her and Ed.

But as the story progresses, we see her becoming more passive. When she and Ed make their escape from the site of the ruined silo, Ed is the one driving- even though it's Audrey's car. When the grasshoppers attack the lab in Chicago, it's Ed who picks up a gun in two seperate instances. Remarkably, although tanks couldn't harm the creatures in the field near Ludlow, Ed kills at least two at close range with a machine gun. It's good to be the leading man.

Audrey isn't presented as being a shrinking violet or a homebody. Here's a professional woman who has a wide background of experiences. But she becomes so passive in Ed's presence that it's amazing to think that it would be only a little over two decades before audiences would see the character of Ripley in Ridley Scott's ALIEN, who most forcefully takes control of the situation when those around her fail, or the two vengeful survivors who enforce bloody retribution in Charles Kaufman's MOTHER'S DAY. Those characters aren't the daughters of female characters from the 50's; they're the great, great, great grand-daughters.

Strangely enough for this genre, there aren't many other important woman in this film. At the close of the first attack on Chicago a young woman wearing a towel is brushing her hair when a grasshopper crashes through the bedroom window and, presumably, devours her. The young lady in lover's lane is barely on screen long enough to scream. These are the only two overtly sexual characters, and we see what happens to them in a matter of seconds.

The other women are background fuctionaries= telephone operator, Red Cross worker, etc. Audrey is lucky in that she's the only woman whose character has a name.

So on the surface, the message of BEGINNING OF THE END is about messing with nature and splitting atoms when they should be left alone. Yeah, yeah. But there's also a subtext about having sexual thoughts of any kind (five seconds later you're eaten alive by a giant grasshopper) and how a woman should stay in her place. The people who wrote this definitely don't agree that a woman's place is in the House...and in the Senate too. The film's sexual politics are way more outdated than its special effects.

When I first saw BEGINNING OF THE END, I was in junior high school and thought it was neat as could be. I remember seeing it at least twice. Even with the critters climbing on the sky. Hey, we figured this was a power the radiation had given them. Maybe its sexual politics and conformism went over my head then, or maybe I'm superimposing them because I took one too many film classes at University of Houston. As the ads for LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT reminded us, "Keep telling yourself, It's only a movie......"

Parents' note: This was long before the ratings code. Small children might be upset by it. It's in black and white and probably wouldn't hold their interest, and there aren't severed limbs or mangled corpses: it probably wouldn't upset any child ten or older. I was eleven when I saw it (twice) on the big screen and it didn't do me any noticable damage.

On a five scale, Pops gives BEGINNING OF THE END 3.5 isotopes.


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