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END was one of those 1950s sci-fi quickies that briefly played the nation's drive ins and then were resurrected on TV a few years later, to play endlessly to fill time. Peter Graves is a scientist battling giant grasshoppers, which are shown climbing photos of the Chicago skyline and otherwise are poorly matted into some live action scenes, so they appear to be the ghosts of grasshoppers. I suspect some of the fightin' army sequences were also used in the same director's AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN and COLOSSAL BEAST, which used the same poor matte special effects. You know the scene in ATTACK OF THE 50-FOOT WOMAN where Alison Hayes picks up a photo of a car? That's the level of the special effects going on here. Minus the comely Ms. Hayes. Skip it. Even the MST3K version doesn't help much.
It looks like more than a couple of the many locusts filmed for this
B-movie were actually roasted, blown up, and drowned for the sake of
art. If so, they died in vain.
"Beginning Of The End" is a Bert I. Gordon film that shows why people remember Roger Corman so fondly. At least with Corman, there was some offbeat element, a sparkle of wit, to liven up the dullest package. Here, the exercise is so rote and bland, you might as well be watching window cleaners or traffic cops doing their daily chores.
Peggie Castle and Peter Graves were getting enough work in the 1950s that they didn't need to show up here. She's a reporter hot on the trail of a big story, of an Illinois town that mysteriously became a desolate ruin overnight. He is an entomologist with the Department of Agriculture who is using radiation to enlarge crops (kids, don't try this at home) and wonders if something else has grown, too.
Yes, as it turns out. Locusts.
Imagine locusts grown to 20 times the size of a man. Can you picture that? Good. It helps if you can do that for about 90 minutes, because the special effects in "The Beginning Of The End" are little help. The film features superimposed real bugs running over postcards and stock footage, like something you could have done with an ant farm and a Super 8 camera when you were 12. Nothing on screen really seems like anything you couldn't have made at home, not even back in the 1950s.
Graves and Castle aren't well integrated into the story. They spend an absurd amount of time playing odd sounds for captive bugs and staring at oscillators while the city of Chicago blows up around them. The Army, in their infinite wisdom, determines the only way to save the Windy City is to nuke it. Graves ponders another possibility. Locusts seem to like one particular kind of noise. What if that could be used against them?
I wish I could say "Beginning Of The End" is so hokey its fun. The problem is its not bad enough that way to be worthwhile. It's not "Eegah!" or "Robot Monster" where the incompetence gives you something to think about and enjoy. It's strictly by-the-numbers drive-in fodder way past its sell-by date. Graves is especially dull, raising his eyebrow once in a while so you know he's the same guy who delivered that great line about gladiators, but offering little else. Castle does the best here, even showing off the world's first-ever car phone while giving orders to her boss, but she's supercargo way too early.
Even the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang do little to make this worthwhile. Of course, by the time they got around to "Beginning Of The End," Mike Nelson had replaced Joel Hodgson and it was the beginning of the end for that show, too, but even in its glory days MST3K would have had little success skewering "Beginning Of The End." There's just nothing here to skewer.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
May I proceed!!?? If you review the "image Entertainment"/"Peter Rogers Organization" -"Special Edition, in the "commentary format of the movie; one of the daughters, of "Bert I Gordon", states that the movie was shot in "the valley"!! Do you really care what "Leonard" thinks??? I really enjoyed the movie then, and when I view it, from time to time, I still enjoy it!! "imdb", DO YOU AGREE?? In the commentary format of the movie, i enjoyed the "quirky" sense of humor, of the commentator! In the beginning, I rebelled against "commentaries", I saw them as an "intrusion", to be avoided!! Now my attitude is completely different. I look for them!! This is a damn good!! movie!!
I have a hard time determining which is the worst of the worst here. There was a LOT of good talent wasted on this piece. It is difficult to determine which movie had the worst special effects, "Beginning Of The End," or "The Crawling Eye." I saw this movie when it was brand new in 1957. It was supposed to be a sci-fi thriller, which of course, it didn't achieve status on either of those counts. Peter Graves did MANY fine movies and TV series like "Mission Impossible." His brother James Arness, had the longest running TV cowboy series with "Gunsmoke." I truly believe that ALL of "Beginning Of The End," should maybe have stayed on the cutting room floor.
Beginning with marching band music, Beginning of the End gives us a Chicago overrun with giant grasshoppers, and only Peter Graves can stop them! Filled with really low budget monster effects, you really get a sense of it when you see the grasshoppers crawling on a postcard of the Chicago skyline. Not much else to say about this one, except that it's safer to watch it on the Satellite of Love with Mike, Tom and Crow.
Bert I. Gordon liked big things. His parents must've known, because they made sure his initials spelled out a specific word. This is the first one I've ever seen, and it's nothing short of hilarious. The army stock footage, the grasshoppers superimposed onto the film (as opposed to that "phony" stop-motion stuff), Peter Graves, Morris Ankrum, and Tom Browne Henry all in one film, and Gordon still has room to put mountains into Illinois. This has got to be the typical big bug film - and, supposedly, this is one of Robert Zemeckis's favorite films! If you have a chance, watch it on MST3K (Mystery Science Theater to non-fans.)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this movie when I was in High School back in 2000 or 2001. I got the VHS for Christmas. Which it was The Director's Cut in Pan & Scan Full Screen 1.33:1 released on Rhino Home Video. It wasn't all that I expected I just expected a lot of buildings to be toppled by The Giant Grasshoppers. Like in other 50's Sci-Fi Giant Creature Features. Otherwise the movie is great. Another cautionary tale about the effects of radiation on a living life form. This film actually seems like a deliberate Spin-Off of Warner Bros. "Them!" (1954) except this was done on a lower budget for AB-PT Pictures. Also instead of having James Arness in the lead here we have his brother Peter Arness known as Peter Graves in the Film & T.V. World. I actually think this film is better then Them! even though that film had a bigger budget also won the academy award for Best Special Effects. Last it was a top grossing 50's Sci-Fi Film. I actually think Mr. B.I.G.'s little Sci-Fi Cult Film is much better. Mainly because the giant creatures make their way into the city & terrorize the population. The film takes place in Chicago. Ed Wainwright (Graves) is an Entomologist working an Illonois Department Of Argiculture Experimental Station. Experimenting with radioactive plant food. With large Tomatos, Strawberries & others. Some Grasshopper / Locusts accidentally get into their lab & eat some of the radioactive plant food & grow into 8 to 50 foot monsters. The town of Ludlow is completely demolished & know one knows why. The local National Guard has the road blocked off. Beautiful Audrey Ames played greatly by Peggie Castle is the leading lady here. Her character here works for The National Wire Service & is looking for a story runs then into a road block. Other familiar faces here Morris Ankrum famous character actor was in a lot of 50's Sci-Fi Films. He was usually playing a Military Character. Also Thomas B. Henry famous for a good bit of 50's Sci-Fi. James Seay also a familiar face which I have seen before in a few films & not just 50's Sci-Fi. Hank Patterson has a brief scene here, he also appeared in Jack Arnold's 1955 Sci-Fi-Thriller "Tarantula". Plus Patterson was in Bert. I. Gordon's other Sci-Fi- Thriller A.I.P.'s "Earth vs. The Spider" released in 1958. He also had a small appearance as a Janitor in Gordon's "Attack Of The Puppet People" also from A.I.P. released in '58. But Hank Patterson's real claim to fame was in the 60's & 70's with the spin-off of The Beverly Hillbillies Show "Green Acres" which he played Mr. Ziffle. Back to the movie here. Castle's character Ames eventually finds clues to what might have caused the destruction to Ludlow which actually is a real town in Illnois. Which clues lead to Graves and The Department of Argiculture. Which she persuades Entomologist (Graves) to accompany her to a Grain Elevator which was all destroyed before the town Ludlow. Also Frank a botanist & deaf mute working with Wainwright (Graves) comes along too. When they get there talking a bit & the ground isn't teaming without any insect or animal life it is all barren. Wainwright (Graves) knows something has scared everything away. Ames (Castle) goes back to her Camera for some shots. A loud high pitched screeching noise begins. Then they turned around emerging from the hillside is a Gigantic Grasshopper-Locust. Which it kills & devours Frank the deaf mute botanist. Ames & Wainwright drive off in a hurry. Don't wanna say much more anyone that seen the movie knows. For those that didn't 50's Sci-Fi Buffs check it out. Bert Gordon did the Special effects also Produced & Directed the film too. The effects are pretty good which real grasshoppers are used in the film. Rear screen projection. Which has the grasshoppers on a blank frame of film stuck over another frame of film which has a city with extras running away acting as if something is chasing them. Also other shots similar were used. Also model buildings & things were used with the Grasshoppers crawling all over them. The finale shots use a photo the Wrigley Building with the Grasshoppers crawling up it. Pretty innovative for the 50's but Stop-Motion Animation is much better. You Can't always use that technique either though so. I got the Special Edition DVD last year which Image Entertainment released The Theatrical Version for the first time in Widescreen 1.66:1. The Peter Rodgers also had The Original Camera Negative it looks beautiful fully intact & restored. Looks the way it did on it's 1957 theatrical running. The DVD also contains a great Audio Commentary with Bert's daughter Susan Gordon also ex-wife Flora Lang & some fan named Bruce Kimmal. Very entertaining interesting commentary with a lot of stuff discussed about the film the effects, locations used in filming also much more is discussed in detail. Just was puzzled when I first got the DVD last year why Bert himself wasn't on the commentary track. I recently heard was was busy at the time & couldn't take part. Last year in June of 2006 Mr. Godron was at Monsterbash which is held in Western Pennsylvania every year I met him got him to autograph my DVD Insert for this movie. It was cool meeting him just not what I expected. His second appearance in 2007 he was much better & I really enjoyed talking to him also got some photos with him also his daughter Susan. Anyway die-hard 50's Sci-Fi Fanatics will like this if u haven't seen it check it out. Grab a copy of the Image Entertainment DVD Special Edition. Just was mad that it was missing The Original Theatrical Trailer.
Typical giant bug movie. Nuclear fallout turns regular grasshoppers
into truck-sized killing machines. Scientist Ed Wainwright (Peter
Graves) tries to figure out how to stop the over-sized insects (the
solution may or may not be nuking Chicago), while reporter Audrey Ames
(Peggie Castle) investigates the whole thing and falls for Ed. As
expected, the whole thing is quite laughable (somehow, Illinois has
California-style hills), although Audrey is actually pretty hot.
If you really want to watch this movie, then watch the "MST3K" version. Mike, Servo and Crow really have some fun with this one, as you might imagine.
Okay, my vacation from reviewing has officially come to an end here
because a "Mystery Science Theater 3000" cheesy sci-fi flick has
finally entered the Bottom 100!!!!! Yay!!!!! And it's called "The
Beginning of the End!!!!!" YEAH!!!!!
It's a movie about giant mutant grasshoppers that came about from an experiment gone wrong (?) and they crawl up buildings (or in this case, small grasshoppers crawling up postcards of skyscrapers and stuff like that!) LOL look for the words "NEW YORK" or something - Anyway, now I want to talk Richard Dreyfuss style and "pretend" to see what he "thinks" of this movie:
"Arrgh.....Two-hundred-grasshoppers-entarr-the-movie-set; only-twelve-yes-count-em-t-w- e-l-v-e-grasshoppers-remain-after-shootin!!!!!" LOL I like "Master of Disguise!"
While Rhino pulled the MST3K DVD due to some sort of copyright mishap, "The Beginning of the End," like the DVD cover suggested, is nothing but cheese from start - to finish!!!!!
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