The Killer Shrews (1959) Poster

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6/10
Fun, entertaining 1959 low budget B Horror movie.
Chuck Straub29 June 2004
The Killer Shrews is a low budget B horror movie from 1959. Are there problems with it? Does it seem simple and not as scary as modern horror films? Yes and yes, I just said it was a low budget B movie from 1959. Don't expect too much. Considering this, I've watched this movie several times over the years and find it to be a fun, suspenseful, and entertaining movie. I also believe it to be under rated and well worth viewing. Being under rated, it also is very reasonably priced. You just have to sit back, relax and enjoy it. This type of movie however could not stand up to a close examination. If it's taken too seriously or is put under a microscope, it just won't be able to stand the inspection.
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4/10
Not As Bad As All That
Wilber A Neil20 June 2005
Having seen any number of bad movies, I can state that this is significantly better than most of them, and even better in part than movies not considered bad at all. However, in those aspects in which this movie is bad it is not merely bad, it is awful.

We have the usual formula of two-fisted hero (James Best), damsel in distress (Swedish Ingrid Goude), the damsel's mad-scientist father (non-Swedish Baruch Lumet), and the villain (Ken Curtis). The formula in this case is less clichéd than usual. The hero is fairly articulate and the mad scientist is actually quite urbane, tossing off his creation of hundreds of giant, poisonous, man-eating shrews with the line "unusual experiments lead to unusual results". The dialog is competently written and the acting is above par (with the exception of the Swedish eye-candy, who is at least good eye candy).

The general concept is compact and dramatically efficient: a group of people are trapped first by a hurricane and then by an outside menace in a stronghold which gets less and less strong as time, ammunition and group cohesion all grow short.

However the execution is at times illogical. One problem is that the stronghold is made out of...adobe. On a rainswept island crawling with usable timber? The thrilling conclusion is also somewhat implausible.

The main reason for the film's abysmal reputation is the legendary and quite obvious use of ordinary dogs in bathmats to play the part of giant shrews. I suppose this just has to be overlooked.

As a sidelight, it is interesting to see Dukes of Hazard sheriff James Best tall and handsome as the hero, and it is apparent that producer/villain Ken Curtis labored long and hard in the trenches before gaining fame as Festus.
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10/10
Scared me in 1959 - still fun to watch today!!!
lilbroiii17 October 2006
This movie may seem hokey by today's standards: special effects, cgi, and all the things that make modern sci-fi/horror movies what they are. However that may be, I seem to remember seeing this movie for the first time,when it first came out in 1959, and let me tell you, it scared the bejesus out of me, as I watched through the crack between the theater seats in the row in front of me. I recently came across a 50 movie horror movie collection which, lo and behold, had in it "The Killer Shrews" and I promptly purchased it. I just finished watching the movie, and 47 years later, I still remember many different scenes like it was yesterday. That is the impression "The Killer Shrews made on my 10 year old self. Sure the shrew suits are primitive by today's standards, but in 1959 they were impressive let me tell you. Still fun to watch and reminisce.
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7/10
Better Than You'd Think
twanurit30 September 2002
The story is intriguing: a scientist experiments with rodents, who turn into giant mutants, running loose on a island of seven people, including his daughter. When their food supply runs out, the creatures turn cannibalistic. Ingrid Goude is good as the lone female, while James Best is best as a seaman who tangles with a drunkard (Ken Curtis) for her affections. But the romantic entanglements soon dissipate when the giant shrews, seeking food, start gnawing at the house of the islanders. This theme predates "The Birds" (1963), "Night of the Living Dead" (1968), even "Signs" (2002).If the monster costumes disappoint, the music, sound effects, performances, atmosphere and pacing more than compensate.
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Shrewd...but fun.
suspiria1023 January 2005
When will the doctors learn? On a desolate and exotic island a doctor with a heart of gold screws up and damn near destroys the world. Am I referring to Fulci's Zombie, no? How about that island with Marlon Brando? Nope, wrong again.

In the Killer Shrews this tome around on that deserted tropical island as seen a hundred times we have mutated shrews threatening to chomp down on our trapped scientists and a boat crew unlucky enough to be carting supplies to the island. Poisonous and hungry these shrews are gonna clean the island and suck the marrow from your bones…burp.

This fun little clichéd cheese fest moves along are a pretty quick pace. The acting is on par with the era, a bit over blown, but who cares. You have to love those shrew monsters. The effects are a bit *ahem* shrewd and laughable. Not to mention the long shots of the animals that appear to be dogs or maybe pigs dressed up in costumes, complete with tail. Good fun to be had by all with a hankering for b-grade sci-horror.
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8/10
Sadly overlooked by Academy Awards for Best Set Design...
james_cocos-snowboots29 August 2007
...Not that the Oscars are any indication of a film's greatness, and to prove that point this film was nominated for Worst Rodent Movie of All Time by the Golden Turkey Awards.

There are a pack of humongous starving shrews loose on a desolate island. A bunch of "scientists" travel to the island to be terrorized by the shrews.

Okay, so the dogs yowling because they have wet bathmats appended to their backs, and masks to their faces, are hilarious, I mean terrifying; the attempts made to conceal their caninity are also veeeery clever; Thorn Sherman is heroically disinterested; the music is horrifyingly melodramatic; hackneyed theories involving the shrews abound; and the method of escape is one of the most laughingly novel ever recorded on film. All of this, and the realization that these people spend most of the film living in paralyzing fear of the silliest monsters ever created make this film great.

The interior shots are filmed inside the greatest cabin ever. It is difficult to discern whether the walls are decorated with wallpaper, or are just supposed to be extremely filthy. The mantel features a haphazardly placed set of candle holders, a beer stein, a clock set horizontally on the edge, and all to emphasize the focal point of the room- a picture hanging above the mantel of horse legs beside a lake. The perfect, nay the only, setting for bloodthirsty shrews to terrorize scientists and their lackeys.

"It's alright, doctor, he just ripped my trousers. That's all." Never underestimate a killer shrew.
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7/10
James Best is the bright spot of this classic B-movie
knsevy10 October 2001
Okay, it's a bad movie. Laughably bad. Hideously bad. MST3K bad (and they DID, too...). It's the kind of bad that makes you wonder just what color of shoe polish the producer was drinking when he agreed to buy it. It's also LOADS of fun. I highly recommend anyone who likes campy old flicks to pick this up for the laughable screenplay. The characters aren't bad; in fact, they're the bright spot of the movie, more or less wasted on a sad production. The acting really wasn't too bad in this film, nor were the characterizations, themselves. James Best, as Captain Thorne Sherman (que macho, eh?), stands out as the best-acted of the troupe in his role as the freelance boat captain stranded on the island by a hurricane, and forced to rally the few inhabitants against the menace of the shrews. I'm not going to kid you; against, say, 'Citizen Kane' or 'The General', this movie won't even RATE. But in the annals of B-grade or worse thrillers, this is definitely a must-see.
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7/10
This Movie Has Legs
michaeldukey200025 November 2007
And if you're wondering what the above means it's an old school Hollywood term that means you can get a lot of mileage from something. If The producers only knew how much mileage this get it wouldn't have slipped so easily into the public domain. At any rate this and it's co-feature The Giant Gila Monster were both made back to back for a little under a hundred thousand dollars ( I think ) and by the time they were re-released and then sold to Chiller TV the two had grossed about a million dollars.Not too shabby for drive-in trash.

It's speculated that one of the reasons that Shrews and Gila Monster did so well was the relative uniqueness of the two critters. We had already tons of insects and giant people but people were just beginning to show interest in exotic animals from shows like Wild Kingdom and the like.

Seeing as how Gila Monsters were cantankerous and poisonous the Director decided to use the non lethal Mexican Beaded Lizard as a stand in and seeing as how giant shrews were in short supply they used Coon Hounds and Dalmations dressed in woolly coats with long rubber tails. Look closely and you can see spots on some of the legs.

One reason that Shrews is so much fun today is watching character actor James Best who would later go onto fame as the sheriff in Dukes Of Hazzard trying to keep his dignity alongside the wackiness.He has since said that this is the film he is least proud of.

The dog costumes are so bad that they are a joy to watch and I would gladly watch this a dozen more times than another bad CGI reptile or insect movie on the Sci-Fi CHannel.

Love it or hate it the film has a lot of spunk and it is memorable. Some have called it "one Of The Worst." I've seen practically every B horror and monster flick from the fifties and for this era I have to disagree. Try sitting through The Incredible Petrifed World or THe Cosmic Man and Killer Shrews will seem like Speed.

In the last couple of years the film has been colorized and has even shown up on Animal Planet for a Halloween Special where they compare real shrew behavior to the movie inaccuracies.

Like macaroni and cheese it ain't sophisticated but it's still comfort food.
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7/10
Danger, mutant shrews on the loose
Chris Gaskin7 April 2005
I've seen The Killer Shrews several times and despite the low budget and reading bad reviews, isn't that bad. It was released in the UK on VHS as part the Screamtime Video series, long deleted but luckily I own a copy.

A small group of people on a remote island are stranded there by a hurricane. One of this group is a scientist who been doing experiments on shrews and as a result, these have turned into giant mutant monsters and have escaped and are hungry. They start trying to get into the house and gradually, members of the group are killed and eaten until there are three survivors and these escape to the sea by using old barrels welded together. Not surprisingly, two of the survivors declare their love for each other at the end.

The giant shrews in this movie are actually dogs with shaggy coats and large teeth.

The Killer Shrews's cast is mostly made up of unknown B-movie actors including James Best, Ingrid Goude and Ken Curtis, who also produced.

This movie is worth looking at, despite its low budget.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
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8/10
The best film about killer shrews ever!
BA_Harrison20 October 2010
James Best (Rosco P. Coltrane from TV's The Dukes of Hazzard) plays Thorne Sherman, captain of a boat delivering supplies to a group of scientists working on a remote island. When a hurricane whips up, Sherman is forced to wait out the storm at the boffins' abode, which is laid siege during the night by a pack of over-sized man-eating mutant shrews, the unfortunate result of the scientists' experiments.

With the possible exception of the giant rabbits from cult classic Night of the Lepus, shrews have got to be the most ridiculous choice ever for a killer animal in a cheesy B-movie horror film, even if they are over-sized, poisonous shrews. It's this patently ridiculous concept, along with the terrible realisation of the creatures themselves (dogs dressed in rodent costumes and a manky model shrew head for close-ups) and some cheesy dialogue, that helps make The Killer Shrews one of the most entertaining 50s monster movies I've seen.

But although it is undoubtedly good for a laugh, believe it or not there is more to the film than just scientific hogwash, doggies in disguise, and clumsy conversation: the film's basic siege set-up proves to be extremely effective (so much so that it most likely provided inspiration for George Romero's Night Of The Living Dead), Best puts in a pretty good performance as the film's hero, and director Ray Kellogg somehow manages a fair amount of tension and one or two decent scares, the shrew in the kitchen being an absolute corker!

7.5 out of 10, rounded up to 8 for Thorne's ingenious escape plan, the likes of which wouldn't have been out of place in an episode of The A-Team.
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6/10
Yes, it's silly; but can you look past that?
billshattner26 April 2007
Sigh.....what can one say about this relic from the early era of sci-fi films? Well, I suppose no discussion of this movie can begin without a clear denunciation of the supposed shrews. As Servo, Crow, and Joel are keen to point out, the alleged antagonists of this film are nothing other than dogs with shaggy rugs thrown on their backs. The farther the film progresses, the more this becomes evident. Indeed, if one is looking for real horror, suspense, or even semi-believable mock-science, this film is not the place.

But wait, I say; to quickly dismiss this film as total refuse would be doing it a slight disservice. The reason for this asterisk is the simple fact that despite its technological and prop deficiencies, the movie demonstrates a hardy attempt at character development, and succeeds, in a way. James Best is convincing as the rough-around-the-edges, no-nonsense Captain Sherman, and despite the slimy nature of his character, Ken Curtis (who also produced the film) plays his part well. Furthermore, the character Griswold is jovial and light-hearted, albeit a bit unlucky;) And, if you can manage to work through the incoherency of some of the lines, the dialogue is half-decent; in some scenes, I'd even say it's good (particularly one of the scenes where Captain Sherman talks to Ann, the daughter of one of the doctors). Also, the alcohol switch Jerry pulls on Thorne in one particular scene is truly cinematic comedy, and I am convinced that it was intentional. I don't mean to offer a false pretense; this is not a great film, and in truth, most film-goers likely couldn't make it through the entire movie without falling asleep. However, from someone who enjoys film, and is willing to accept movies on their own terms (at least to a point; I have seen Hobgoblins, after all.....*shudder*), I confidently state that this movie has some redeemable qualities, if only the extra effort is made to see them. Oh, and please: don't copy the drinking habits of the people in this film; your liver will thank you for it.
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8/10
Wonderful little film!
azcowboysingr11 December 2005
This film is a wonderful example of how to make a decent movie without spending millions of $$. I found the plot creditable, the acting better than most crap made this days, & James Best (one of my favorite actors) excellent in the lead role The 1950's was a decade when many fine sci-fi, horror films were made on shoestring budgets. I remember those films with great fondness & "Killer Shrews" is one of my favorites. While the special effects are nothing compared to what can be done these days, the "shrews" were very believable monsters. Watch this movie with the lights off on a stormy night with a full bowl of popcorn & Pepsi Cola. Oh, & your best girl snuggled under your arm. What's that noise? Is something scratching at the walls out there?
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10/10
Unique amongst horror flicks
monte petersen15 January 2008
The Killer Shrews is a must see end of the 1950's classic. It is unique among horror movies all to itself. The movie runs in high suspense the entire length of the film. The howling wind, lightening, and music are beautifully done for the soundtrack. The Shrew monsters are believable, and not cheaply appearing as monsters too often are in other flicks of that era. Some reader comments on this forum suggest that the Shrews are collie dogs, well maybe they are, but it certainly is not obvious. The shrews were filmed in a very creative and professional way to make them believable. Some moviegoers only enjoy modern computer graphic action movies, and those types will never be satisfied with the artistically crafted creations that preceded this current age in time. Personally, I prefer non-computer graphic generated movies. Ken Curtis renowned as Festus in the TV series Gunsmoke, produced and starred in this movie. He did an excellent job as supporting actor, and had some action packed fights with the lead actor James Best, with Best employing some of his other profession in this film having been a Black Belt in karate in real life. I give the movie a ten out of ten rating based on its originality and non-stop action.
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Better than you might think
horrorfilmx19 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of those movies that scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. I watched it again last night (it's amazing how many user reviews a movie acquires once it becomes part of those public domain boxed sets, by the way) and was pleasantly surprised how well it holds up. Sure, it looks like a cheap movie from the fifties, possibly because is IS a cheap movie from the fifties, but it takes great pains to build up a genuinely genuinely scary atmosphere and feeling of real menace. It also had one or two shots that actually made me jump, something not many modern horror movies can claim.

And for all those geniuses who are just bursting with pride because they figured out the monsters were dogs in suits, let me just mention two things: (1) The film makers were clever enough to shoot the monsters so you never actually get a close look at them, and some of the quick cuts and long shots are very effective indeed. They may BE dogs in suits but they never really LOOK LIKE dogs in suits. And (2) (BIG SPOILER COMING): You know that Wookie in STAR WARS? He was just a big guy in a suit. The Ewoks? Little guys in suits. That robot? British guy in a suit. I'll bet you thought they were all real, didn't you? Well, they're not. Now I've just ruined the movie for you AND proved I'm smarter than George Lucas, because I saw through his clever ruse and figured out they were just GUYS IN SUITS.

And another thing: There ain't no Santa Claus. There, I've just ruined Christmas for you too.
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7/10
The taming of the Shrews
sol23 June 2004
****SPOILERS**** With their little beady eyes and murderous poison-tipped fangs flashing a wolf-pack of some 200 to 300 giant killer shrews have overrun an almost deserted island off the US Atlantic coast devouring everything on it in order to stay alive and not starve to death. These killer shrews were a experiment in world population control that went wrong by Dr. Mio Craigis, Bruch Lumet, and his colleague Dr. Baines, Gordon McLendod, who were on he island with Dr. Craigis' gorgeous daughter Ann, Ingrid Goude, and the doctors assistant, Jerry, Ken Curtis, and the handyman Mario, Alfredo De Soto. It was Jerry who while in a drunken stupor left the cages of the shrews open for them to escape and multiply in the wild and become the deadly threat that they are now. Jerry also became the shrews main course for lunch the next afternoon.

In the middle of all this the skipper Capt. Thorne Sherman, James Best, and his good friend and 1st as well as only mate "Rook" Judge Henry Dupree come ashore to bring the monthly supply of food and medicine for the island staff not knowing just what their in for. Trying to keep the news of the deadly shrews from them, the skipper an his mate, "Rook" is later killed and eaten by a gang of shrews as he went back to bring the supplies ashore.

With the skipper now taking charge he and the people on the island try to hold off the deadly shrews as they devour everything alive on the island as they plan to keep the shrews outside their compound long enough for them to cannibalize each other until their all destroyed before devouring them, but the deadly shrews have other planes.

Fairly good horror thriller with the skipper saving the day as well as the island survivors, Dr. Craigis & Ann, as well as in the end getting the girl Ann and planing with her to re-populate the earth. In spite of the acute food shortage that Ann's father Dr. Craigis was trying to alleviate. Even though many people and critics made fun of the killer shrews looking like dogs wearing badly moth-eaten fur coats they were as real and as terrifying as Hollywood could make them look back then, 1959. The movies ending was both tense as well as exciting as the skipper the doctor and the girl escaped with steel drums turned over on them and tied together to protect them from the shrews. As they slowly trekked from the island compound to the sea and then swam to the skippers boat to freedom and safety.

Gordon McLendon easily stole the show as the absentminded Dr. Baines who you sometime needed sub-titles to understand his babbling all kinds of scientific lingo that nobody in the theater audience, as well as almost every one in the movie cast, could understand. Baines was so focused on his work that when Mario died from a killer shrew bite he excitedly said that isn't it wonderful that the poison that we put out as bait to kill the shrews was absorbed in their systems and has now become part of their natural chemistry! WHAT A NUT!!! Also later when Dr. Baines was attacked and bitten by a charging killer shrew he goes to his typewriter and typed out the symptoms of the poison from the bite that would eventually kill him up until the moment that he expired!
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A bad movie but the basic idea is not as silly as it sounds.
This is one of my favorite all time schlocky movies from the fifties. The shrews themselves look like...well what they are, collies (or is it greyhounds?) in fur coats. The acting ranges from good (James Best, Ken Curtis) to non-existent (Ingrid Goude, Gorden McLendon.) The dialogue is lame. The editing bad and music poorly inserted; ominous music plays when James Best goes to wash his hands! That being said, I have to take exception with those that say giant shrews are a silly idea. Shrews are primitive mammals with high metabolism rates. They consume their own weight in food every couple of hours. They are known to attack animals larger than themselves. At least one species is mildly poisonous. The great naturalist Roger Carras, in his book, DANGEROUS TO MAN, in the chapter on poisonous mammals and montremes, states that shrews the size of collies would wreck unthinkable ecological havoc. Now you just learned something new.
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3/10
Hilariously bad!
FlickMan30 September 2003
I won't recount the plot - such as it is - of this campy classic, because several others have already done so. I'll just give a couple of reasons why it's SOOOO bad that it's hilarious ... which makes it good, or at least entertaining, in a perverse way. First, the "shrews" are quite obviously dogs wearing mop-like wigs and/or bathmats. Easily the worst "monsters" ever put on film. Second, it's clear that Ray Kellogg was on such a tight budget that they weren't going to waste film with reshoots no matter HOW badly a scene went. At one point, one of the actors obviously forgot his lines, so Ingrid Goude prompts him on-camera, saying "Aren't you wondering about my strange accent?" Truly a great moment in cheesy movie history!

Rated "straight" this movie gets about 2 points on a ten-point scale, just above the all- time stinkers like Plan 9 and Manos: Hands of Fate. As unintentional comedy, however, it's pretty entertaining and might rate 5/10.
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7/10
Killer shrews!!!
Tom van der Esch30 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I couldn't believe the title when I saw it...

Killer shrews!?

I've seen a lot of black-and-white horror movies. And I have to say that Killer Shrews entertained me a lot!

It's a really nice, under-appreciated gem, if you want my honest opinion. It's a nice, wacky story about some scientists on an island who created a giant breed of shrews. The critters escape and now pose a threat to them.

The acting is decent enough. There are some memorable scenes and lines. The music works; it's nothing outstanding, just basic music used in tons of these movies. The effects are... silly. But I have to admit that once or twice, I was scared. And that's a real compliment to the visual effects staff. They really tried to make these creatures look menacing and raged with hunger.

The Killer Shrews is an enjoyable movie that I can recommend to any fan of this genre.

7 out of 10 shrews.. ehh stars!
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7/10
I do feel compelled enough to give this a marginally positive review
TheUnknown837-115 March 2008
Just the title of the film "The Killer Shrews" was enough to convince me that this was going to be a bad film. Being prepared for it being bad did not shape my judgment on the movie, nor did it shape my judgment when I saw its cinema brother "The Giant Gila Monster" another low-budget black-and-white flick with horrible special effects, bad acting, a weak storyline, and preposterous moments. Both were directed by Ray Kellogg and both have gone on to be considered cult classics for being so cheap. While I did feel that "The Giant Gila Monster" was tedious and really uninteresting, I do feel compelled to praise "The Giant Shrews" for being, although very cheap and ridiculous, fun and entertaining. Even though the movie is very, VERY bad, there is something about it that I found entertaining in a silly way. It's not scary or freaky, but I did not laugh as much as I expected, nor did I yawn as much as I expected.

The special effects on this film are even worse than those used in "The Giant Gila Monster". The 'killer shrews' are a combination of two things: coon dogs covered unconvincingly in animal skins, and goofy-looking puppets with four-inch plastic fangs coming out of their nearly immobile jaws. Neither effect was anything to be proud of, yet for some reason they do appear compelling enough given the nature of the film they're being utilized in. Thankfully, they did not use the live-action dogs as much I was thinking they would, that would have totally thrown it all off and destroyed any entertainment value.

The plot is just as preposterous. Some scientists on a remote island decide that they can save the world from overpopulation by drastically decreasing our physical size so we won't consume our resources so much. They experiment on shrews, a species they admit is dangerous (when they're hungry) and for some reason, make them bigger instead of smaller. With a hurricane approaching, their only hope is to leave the island so that the shrews will eat each other and then starve to death and thus, the world will be saved. From start to finish, the storyline is laughable, yet I did not pan it so much as I was watching it. I just accepted it for what it was an even though it was totally unbelievable, I didn't bother myself so much with thinking about how absurd it was.

The special effects are bad, the plot is bad, the acting is bad, the music is okay given the movie's style, and overall, "The Killer Shrews" is undeniably a very bad movie. Yet, for some reason, I did find myself liking it and not because it was so ludicrously stupid and dumb, it was for some reason I do not understand. But this definitely stands over the contemporary low-budget monster flicks with fake CGI monsters and even blander casts and plot conventions.
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10/10
A great movie, especially considering it was made in 1959
sfulk292314 September 2006
Imagine, if you will, a nine year old seeing this movie in 1959, when its special effects were par for the day, or maybe even better. That was me.

I walked a mile and a half with my big brother, and when we got to the movie theater we looked at the posters for ten minutes or more before we got up the courage to see "Killer Shrew" instead of the kiddie movie we had told our parents we were going to see.

This movie, Attack of the Killer Shrews, almost scared the sh** out of me. I had nightmares about it for weeks, and still think of it as one of the scariest times of my life. I'd love to see it again. I looked for it a few years ago, to purchase, and at that time it wasn't available. I think I'll try again.

Do yourself a favor...try to watch it without laughing at the special effects. SUSPEND DISBELIEF (that's what going to the movies is all about, anyway). Remember, this movie was made in 1959.

Enjoy!
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9/10
"Killer" Childhood Nightmares Turned Into Finely Aged "Cheese"...
carlso639 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Anyone over the age of 35 will remember seeing many movies like this back in the Golden Days of independent TV stations, like WPIX and WNEW (channels 11 and 5) in the NY Metro Area. Along with the independents came various 'Horror' or 'SciFi' themed shows such as WPIX's "Chiller Theater" - complete with Claymation hand, spooky music, and the groaning voice moaning out "...Chhhhhhiiiiillllleeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!", and WNEW's "Creature Features" - starring a fellow dubbed "The Creep", who actually looked more like a typical 70's Vegas singer than any kind of 'ghoul'... Well, anyway, for those of us in that age bracket movies like "The Killer Shrews" take us back to a time when a movie didn't have be filled with tons of gore or overflowing with over-the-top violence to scare you... and, let me tell you, as cheesy as "Shrews" appears to me now as a 40-something, this movie absolutely scared the CRAP out of me when I was a 10 year-old! Picture a bunch of kids, sitting in front of a 19 inch B&W TV, down in the musty old basement, no other lights on, watching a movie with scary "doggie-shrews" that HIDE UNDER BASEMENT STAIRS, just waiting to EAT YOU! Now throw in vivid 10 year old imaginations, a few creaking floorboards, shadows generated by the television, maybe a little wind howling outside... well, you get the picture. Fast forward a few decades. Channel surfing one night, I happen to discover a local PBS station has a "Friday night SciFi Movie" slot scheduled for 9 every Friday. And - as luck would have it - this Friday's feature is "The Killer Shrews"!!! So, it was with great anticipation that I watched this flick again for the first time in probably 25 or 30 years,with my 11 year old daughter - who, I am proud to say, apparently inherited Dad's "SciFi" gene. On to the movie itself...

Well, for starters the film itself is grainy and a little dark at times. The black and white looks more like shades of gray. Definitely not a high dollar flick, that's for sure. The human characters of the movie are so stereotypically 1950s it's not even funny. The cast features 1 Black guy; 1 Latino guy; 1 German professor-type,with a blonde bombshell Swedish sounding daughter(?); a Drunk; and the 'Hero' guy - who turns out is Roscoe P. Coltrane from "The Dukes Of Hazzard" TV show !!! Before the movie is into the first 5 minutes you just know the Black and Latino guys are gonna be shrew-bait; you can just see the lack of depth or dimension in their characters. The Black guy is basically Steppin Fetchit as a sailor; the Latino fares a little better as a nerdy scientist - but his character is as dry as Melba toast! (and, worse off, you can't understand a word he says... picture Speedy Gonzales as an intellectual!) And - sure enough - these 2 are the first to die! Then there is the "Drunk", played by "Festus" from "Gunsmoke". He is just a JERK throughout the entire movie; you find yourself rooting for the shrews to chomp him to bits! Actually, it is kinda funny just how much drinking and smoking goes on throughout the movie by ALL the main characters; you would think the movie was bankrolled by Marlboro or Jack Daniels... The soundtrack is actually very good for a movie of this caliber. Suspenseful, well-timed with the action, downright eerie at times. The plot isn't too bad either, as 50s SciFi goes. Boat sails into island to deliver supplies to local scientists. Said scientists have accidentally unleashed radioactively mutated giant shrews (with poison fangs, no less!) onto said island. There is a hurricane approaching, so boat can't leave. Giant shrews have eaten everything else on the island, now look to humans as next meal. Black guy bites it (screaming "Lordy, Lordy! Help me, Lordy!" as he gets eaten alive)... Latino guy gets only a glancing scratch from a shrew that managed to eat its way THROUGH the compounds adobe walls, then hide in the basement - but the scratch proves fatal due to the aforementioned poison fangs! Eventually, only Papa Scientist, Blondie, Hero and Drunk are left as the shrews eat through various walls and doors in the house - finally forcing them into a small, fenced courtyard. With nowhere else to go, Hero gets idea. Ties together empty 55 gallon steel drums that just happened to be stored in the courtyard, uses these as a sort of armored transport to get back to the coast (shrews apparently can't swim). Drunk is totally jealous of Hero by now (of course Blondie dumped Drunk for Hero) and the two men duke it out for the umpteenth time in the movie. Drunk decides he's not going in armored tank; Drunk climbs roof and starts shooting at shrews - who by now have busted into the courtyard! Hero, Papa Scientist and Blondie scramble away towards the beach in their steel drum contraption - all the while shrews trying to get into the drums for a little snack! (This part was actually still a little scary today in the "....BOOO!..." kind of way, as shrew fangs, slobber and heads dart around the barrels desperately trying to get in. Switch back to Drunk, who, for no other reason then stupidity, decides to leave the relative safety of the rooftop and make a run for it...Now, everybody in every SciFi movie should already know... if you run, you are a GONER. Of course, Drunk is no exception - the ravenous shrews feast on his gin-soaked carcass as the other 3 finally hit the beach and swim out to safety... Film ends with a little prophetic ramble from Papa Scientist, oddly coupled with Hero basically announcing to Papa he wants to impregnate Blondie(?!)

All in all, a great example of finely aged 50s SciFi "cheese"... I highly recommend it! (so does my daughter)
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5/10
Not bad. James Best is underrated.
jeremy331 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I have seen James Best in a few roles, and he is a great actor. I even liked him in the Dukes of Hazzard. He was hilarious. In this role, he is the exact opposite of Roscoe P Coltrane. He is a very rational, mature man, who essential saves everybody from their insanity. The movie starts with Best and an unknown black guy arriving on this island. I have to think about Dave Chappel or some other black comedian. You know that black character is going to be bumped off first. That's what happened. I guess that was 1959. The actors in the movie are really good. I can't believe that the bad guy is Festus Parker. He looks totally different than his TV show character. While the movie is silly, at least it is suspenseful. I don't know why people are so upset about the shrews looking like dogs. It was 1959, not 2006. It didn't seem to bother me. One thing that was interesting was the island not being tropical. It looked like an island in a temperate region. The trees were deciduous. I suspect it was filmed in an island off New York. James Best though is a really good actor. He holds one's attention and has a lot of presence. Now 80, he is an acting coach in Hollywood.
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It's A B-Movie. What Do You Expect?
pv7198915 June 2002
Let's face it folks. B movies were to the 50s and 60s what straight-to-video is to us today. Low budgets, thin plots, just enough action and suspense to get people to look and spend enough money so the producers get a little profit. Plus, it's a way for producers, directors and actors (most of whom couldn't in the door at a major studio) to pay the rent and build up their resumes. For us, the viewer, it must have some appeal because we all seem to be watching the entire film so we can rip it to pieces.

That said, let's get to ripping this one.

First of all, keep in mind that the director is Ray Kellogg, who also did "The Giant Gila Monster" and "The Green Berets" (if that's not a diverse resume, nothing is). The producer was Ken Curtis (Festus from "Gunsmoke"). He had always wanted to make a movie and John Ford, for whom Curtis had made films like "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," "The Searchers" and "The Horse Soldiers," encouraged him to go for it. Unfortunately, Ken couldn't coach Ford into directing it.

Next up...the plot. It concerns seven people trapped on a remote island during a hurricane. In addition to the people, we have a few hundred shrews (although we never see more than a dozen or so) about the size of full-grown dogs. Science strikes again. The movie then proceeds to show how the seven trapped people try to survive a few hundred hungry shrews trying to get at them.

It seems a cadre of scientists trying to figure out a way to increase the human life span experiment on some shrews, which are normally the size of a man's thumb. Shrews have a speedy metabolism and can be ready to reproduce in less than a month. Also, they have to eat three times their own bodyweight every day or starve. Somehow, the scientists mess up a batch of shrews, which grow to enormous size. Clearly, Ken Curtis was trying to borrow from "Tarantula" and "Them" with the premise, but not bothering to explain how the shrews grew a thousand-fold really hurts the plot. Somehow, they also add in that the shrews now have poison in their saliva, thanks to ingesting poisoned food set out as a trap (figure that one out).

The shrews escape thanks to a boozed-up scientist played by Curtis. Being the producer, he certainly could have made himself the leading man, but he wisely chose to be the villain. If you saw him in "The Searchers" or "Gunsmoke," you'd realize he's not exactly leading man material. Now, the shrews have multiplied and have eaten up all the food on the island. Except, of course, for the people.

The movie starts off too slowly. A boat captain played by James Best (yes, Roscoe P. Coltrane from "The Dukes of Hazzard") and his engineer (Judge Henry Dupree, a minor jazz player of the time) arrive at the island to bring supplies. They meet a professor (Baruch Lumet, veteran Broadway actor and father of director Sidney Lumet), his nubile Swedish daughter (Ingrid Goude, Miss Sweden 1957) and a shotgun-toting Ken Curtis. When Best tells them he's not leaving because of the approaching hurricane, they all get nervous. We then have to watch them act scared and try not to reveal the shrews to Best. During this time, they manage to drink up half the alcohol in sight.

Only when the shrews finally show up and start picking off people does the action pick up. Curtis shows what kind of a coward he is and we almost wish he'd get fed to the shrews. I won't spoil the ending except to say it involves some ingenuity and a makeshift tank, perhaps the most unique lifesaver in the history of horror/science fiction.

The movie ultimately succeeds best with the actors. Curtis, of course, cut his teeth with the legendary John Ford. James Best is very good, although he admitted later to only doing the movie as a favor to his friend Curtis. Baruch Lumet shows off his stage presence. Gordon McLendon as Radford is a little annoying and stiff, but he plays his death scene pretty well. Alfredo DeSoto as the caretaker makes the most of his time, even goes down fighting. Of course, being the lone Hispanic in the film, he's as good as dead anyway. Ingrid Goude is one hot babe, but she can't act, but she's European and that's what counted to Kellogg (he used a French actress who couldn't act in "Giant Gila Monster").

The only part I hated was Dupree as Rook, the engineer. He's black and plays the part with that irritating, stereotypical Stepin Fetchit routine that persevered in Hollywood until Sidney Poitier and Woody Strode came along. Being the only black guy in a science fiction film, he has the word "corpse" stamped on his head before the opening credits roll. In Stepin Fetchit-style roles, as played by Fetchit and guys like Mantan Moreland in the Charlie Chan movies, he talked ignorantly, walked jolly and, when in trouble, froze in place, acted stupid and cried out "Oh, Lordy!" Well, Dupree gets chased by the shrews, climbs up a low tree and cries out "Oh, Captain!" repeatedly with a stupid look on his face.

Of course, the downer for the film is the special effects. I don't think even Universal Studious could have come up with something resembling a giant shrew. Here, with a thin budget, the shrews are nothing but dogs with some fake hair and clay masks with wooden teeth painted white. For close-ups, you can tell someone offscreen is using a wooden head on the end of a stick. Amazingly, Kellogg's gila monster looked more real.

Still, the visual effects are good. The film was shot in the middle of White Rock Lake in Dallas, but the camera does a good job of not showing the opposing shoreline and making it look like the island is really in the middle of nowhere. The island was rented and they could only film on the backside of it, but since most of the action takes place either at the compound everyone's trapped in or along the path to the water, it doesn't hurt.

But, like I said at the beginning. It's a grade B movie and you're just supposed to have fun with it, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Hey, it beats big budget bombs like "Glitter" and "The Mod Squad."
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6/10
Far from great but mildly entertaining.
Snake-6666 December 2003
In this cheesy b-movie horror yarn, sailor Thorne Sherman (James Best) finds himself delivering supplies to a small group of scientists who are conducting experiments into the prevention of overpopulation. After taking something of an interest in the beautiful but apprehensive Ann (Ingrid Goude – Miss Universe 1957) he accompanies the group back to their home where he meets the rest of the team and has a pleasant drink. With a hurricane imminent, Thorne wishes to travel back to his boat but it is only when the otherwise timid Ann points a gun at him that he decides to stay, and in turn, learns the shocking truth of what the experiments have unleashed upon the island.

Far from great but still mildly entertaining, ‘The Killer Shrews', was the directorial debut of regular special effects artist Ray Kellogg who created effects (some photographic) for more than eighty movies during the Forties and Fifties. Interestingly, the special effects work in ‘The Killer Shrews' left quite a lot to be desired and one has to question just how much input Ray had on the final results. In something of a stark contrast to the effects present in other Fifties creature features such as ‘Them!' (1954), there is a distinct requirement for a great deal more imagination to see the creatures (mutated shrews) as anything more than what they actually were. One can easily be forgiven for finding amusement in seeing dogs (collies I believe) jumping up walls while wearing somewhat silly rubber masks and what appear to be mop-heads. Close up shots of the mutated shrews show the viewer a remarkably cheap looking puppet. However, the movie relies more on the implication that the shrews may be near or inside the building rather than overexposing the viewer to imagery of the shrews. In that respect, the movie works.

Removing the poor effects from consideration for a while, the movie itself plays out nicely. Although the first fifteen minutes of this relatively short film move slowly it is not long before a fairly interesting, multi-narrative film. While the shrews take precedence in the film there is an interesting and on-going clash between Thorne and Jerry (Ken Curtis). In fact, in some ways one could argue that ‘The Killer Shrews' plays out as an early draft of George A. Romero's ‘Night of the Living Dead' (1968). The rather wonderful, ominous musical scoring help to create something of a foreboding atmosphere which, unfortunately, Ray Kellogg's direction fails to capitalise on. Without condemning the direction as bad, there were moments when a stronger director would have been able to turn a potentially unnerving scene into an exhilarating thrill-ride. Sadly, Kellogg's direction was awfully basic and while the potential was there throughout the movie, Kellogg failed to capitalise and regrettably kept ‘The Killer Shrews' in something of a stalemate. Unfortunately, the often wonderful musical score occasionally added to the continual moments of absurdity that were present throughout the movie and generated laughs rather than fear.

Jay Simms, who wrote a number of similar films, was responsible for the somewhat impressive screenplay which, despite featuring sporadic moments of incoherence, was the foremost reason that ‘The Killer Shrews' worked in any way. One would suggest that a more experienced director may have been able to make something more of ‘The Killer Shrews' but as it stands; the movie is still enjoyable for one watch. ‘The Killer Shrews' features generally credible and effective acting performances and a fairly interesting and entertaining story. It sadly lacks in the effects and direction departments. Fifties monster-movie fans should probably check it out although the movie does border on ludicrous. This one is apparently quite popular amongst fans of `bad' films. My rating for ‘The Killer Shrews' – 6/10.
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