There's a scene near the beginning in which reporter Peggy Castle visits Army headquarters. We watch her drive up to an office building, park the convertible, step out of it, walk up the steps, open the door, and walk through it. Cut.
Ordinary, yes, but what makes it interesting is that this is a B movie shot on a small budget and coming towards the end of the Big Bug cycle. A typical B director wouldn't bother shooting the scene. Suppose Peggy Castle tripped getting out of the car? Suppose she showed too much leg? Suppose the door to the building was stuck? They'd have to do a retake and that costs money. No, in a really cheap B movie, Peggy Castle would tell someone that she's going to Army headquarters, there would be a dissolve, and she'd be talking to a general.
By a commodius vicus of recirculation, all blockbusting A-budget action movies have reached the same tiptoptoloftical ergonomic peak as the cheap features of yesteryear. Somebody directing a thirty-million-dollar movie today wouldn't shoot that transitional scene either. Not because of budget constraints but because the fourteen-year-old brains in the audience might be bored by it, their attention span being limited to two seconds. They might squirm and fidget and throw JuJuBees at each other, and they might tell their friends the movie was dull. There are shekels involved at both ends of the business -- making and marketing.
I now step down off this orator's platform. Please keep the cameras rolling. Somebody give me a hand; I'm suffering from a crippling case of nostalgia. Thank you.
The movie itself follows such a familiar path that it's hardly worth detailing. An incident at an agricultural station involving locusts eating some radioactive material leads to the expected results. Giant bugs. Entomologist Peter Graves and his soon-to-be girlfriend, Peggy Castle, who lends an enchanting whistle to her sibilants, discover a horde of mammoth locusts who make loud noises like the giant ants in "Them". Naturally no one believes them. The National Guard slough their stories off with a chuckle. The doubtful general investigates and the locusts attack him and his men. He gets away with his life but it was a close call, I can tell you.
These gargantuan grasshoppers are interesting creatures. They're always shown in blown-up rear projection or other trickery because I suppose the budget might have allowed Peggy Castle to park her car but there wasn't room for both the car and even a disembodied locust head of the proper giant size. Peter Graves shows the military a movie of locusts while he describes how terrible they are. I didn't know they could be carnivorous, but I guess I can believe it because I've watched crickets eat flies, and a more disgusting sight you've never seen. I had no idea they could grow to the size of an earth mover though. I guess my high school biology teacher was lying when he taught us about book lungs.
Peter Graves, like his brother, James Arness, is likable enough -- tall and handsome. Peggy Castle is alluring but those 1957 hair styles did nobody any favors. I'm not sure Morris Ankrum ever missed a science-fiction movie. You'll recognize him at once. The director must have spent all his energy on that car-parking scene because the rest of the movie lacks any distinction. Oh, except for Graves' entomologist. The credits list him as "Doctor Ed Wainwright. That's apposite enough but everyone calls him "Mister Wainwright", a departure from the norm. Usually PhDs call each other "doctor" in these movies.
Does Dr. Wainwright manage to save Chicago from the plague of locusts, or does the Air Force have to bomb the city flat? The answer is they have to use the atomic bomb and destroy Chicago but it doesn't work and they have to go on to bomb New York City, Los Angeles, New Orleans, St. Louis, London, Moscow, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, and East Quoddy, Maine.
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