The Deadly Mantis (1957)
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A giant prehistoric mantis is awoken from a long sleep by atomic bomb testing in the North Pole. After going on the rampage in the frozen wastes and killing several people in the process, it heads first for Washington and then New York, where it is eventually gassed in Manhattan Tunnel.
The giant mantis in this movie looks quite impressive despite the low budget. The movie's cast is led by William Hopper (20 Million Miles to Earth). He and the others play good parts.
I found this movie quite enjoyable and is worth watching if you get the chance.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
To those of you who think this movie sucked, I suggest you view "Beginning of the End," another '50s era bug spectacular, this one featuring Peter Graves vs. a giant mutant grasshopper. I think after that you'd agree that the Mantis wasn't so bad.
As Giant Monster Movies usually go, I've only two personal favorites: Japan's "War of the Gargantuas" and this one served up in the late '50s by America's Universal Studios.
This lie (In real life, even prehistoric dragonflies didn't get half as large as this cinematic 'creation') is told effectively enough; for its time, it must have seemed infinitely impressive.
So if you felt you had to say anything about DM, say enough good things about it as well...
Serviceable special effects, especially when we get close-ups of the titular Praying Mantis, peeping in windows and a roar to match its size and density. The monster has a special aversion to planes, trains and automobiles (all the miniature vehicles and sets met with my own personal 'satisfaction' standards).
The overall production is marred slightly by the film's initial 'public service message,' warning us that atomic energy is bad (Duh!), and its piddling knowledge about North American ground control (yadda, yadda, so what!), the story's most interesting moments are repeatedly slowed down by long stretches of non-activity (through the use of time filling dialog and scenes that take you 'nowhere' in particular).
In short, this would have made a fascinating half-hour production, with non-stop original thrills (Case in Point: the filmmakers in this one resisted showing a hyper-destructive opportunity when, as the flying monster alights on the Washington Monument, it doesn't destroy it; my guess is, it needed to rest its wings).
I must point out one error in DM: Although Mantis is supposed to be migrating due south, why is he heading north, from Washington, D.C. to New York City?
I found the ending satisfactory (Watch for the modest, yet interesting false alarm!).
Starring are William Hopper, Craig Stevens, Alix Talton and Pat Conway.
Watching it today, there are three things of note.
The first is the military footage. The virtual budget of this was millions of dollars because of the military supplied footage. It was defense policy to let the Soviets know of our massive three-tiered air defense and there was an office to so publicize. The idea was to convince the Russians that an attack couldn't possibly work, that the thing really existed. That's why the Pentagon subsidized these things. The scripts were therefore friendly to military success at the end, too.
A solid third of this is from the department of defense, no model planes here.
Perry Mason, the detecting lawyer was a literary phenomenon when this was made, the books about him being outsold only by the Bible. And there was a very popular TeeVee show based on him. Perry's own detective was a guy played by the detective here. And his sidekick is a Della Street (the third member of the gang) lookalike. It was like having Indiana Jones appear. The effect is lost today but was quite something in the day.
The third remarkable thing is what scares us. What we fear in our imagination is largely defined by movies. And what movies use to frighten us is tightly constrained by what they can show. In the fifties, that was often disappearing or morphing things, guys in rubber suits and small things made big by trick photography. "Them" was probably the first giant bug movie, but it used real bugs. This is already a second generation, using stop motion.
The footage of Aleutians borrowed from an older film is great, really great.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
Okay lets be fair it is yeah one of those and you know the monster effect is actually quite acceptable. There are problems like certain moments fall dead, the begin is way to slow.. allot of stuff about Radar. And more Radar and more..
And yes stock footage allot, but the acting is good. The story is very acceptable. I can't call it bad it is enjoyable for its faults and its good part.
I would say it isn't as good as the thing from outer space 1951 I belief. But it has good moments, basic fun giant monster movie moments and isn't that what you want. To be entertained. It could do with cutting out some slower passages, it isn't as if these 50 movies really do allot with developing characters anyway. Some areas of this movie easily could be cut. But you know So you know popcorn time, I put it somewhere in the middle of the movies of that age. Not super great neither really bad just average.
So yes watch it!
This really isn't as bad as it sounds. True, "Tarantula" and "Them!" were much better, but at least this isn't as excruciating as "The Beginning of the End." As far as films about giant insects go, this one is pretty good, and it's interesting to note that the mantis did not become a huge monster due to radioactive mutation: it's just a dinosaur! And Ned is right there with an ant trapped in a globe of amber to explain it all, some 40+ years before Richard Attenborough spared no expense on Jurassic Park.
Definitely worth a look.
The film focuses on the efforts of three people to bring the mantis down, fighter pilot Craig Stevens, paleontologist William Hopper, and photojournalist Alix Talton. Of course a little romance gets going between Stevens and Talton while Hopper is strictly business.
You have to wonder though what ancient prehistoric earth might have been life if indeed insects got that big and were flying around at supersonic speeds. Maybe they're what killed the dinosaur.
Other than the special effects to create The Deadly Mantis that were done at a major studio being Universal, the film itself is a no frills affair even with a small romantic interlude. The Deadly Mantis is in keeping with a great tradition of Universal horror classics.
You know the plot - strange disappearances and damage are happening, big bug shows up to cause havoc, then finally perishes in the big city (New York). It does have a lot of the clichés you'd expect in a flick like this; military guys and scientists having meetings on what is going on, screaming girl, military guys whose jaws drop at the sight of a woman (along with the 'wolf whistle') and more. But really, in this case, it's all actually pretty interesting, even scenes where there's a good deal of chatting.
The girl is pretty, and she ends up with this lame military guy seemingly out of nowhere, whereas beforehand she seemed pretty interested in her partner, the guy who figured out it was a giant mantis doing all the mysterious damage. They had some good flirting scenes early on so her changing interests so easily seemed a bit odd.
And the Mantis itself - despite the cheesy video cover, the Mantis is actually *very* cool looking and just kinda pops up at one point out of some ice, then it's action all the way. The FX are pretty darn good for the time, especially when the Mantis flies and attacks various vehicles. And the roar is killer - this is one of the best monster roars in any movie. And the music is pretty spectacular, always laying strong emphasis on the happenings on screen.
After various attacks, the Mantis makes its way to New York City, and is smart enough not to go in the subway so he takes a car tunnel instead. One reviewer asked about a possible missing scene as we never actually see the Mantis enter the tunnel - it's the same on the DVD release. My guess is that they never filmed it. Truthfully, the Mantis never really does much in NYC, if anything at all - but my guess is probably that's because of budget restraints, because really, every scene with the Mantis is darn good, why else would they seem to skimp.
If you are fan of this stuff and have never watched The Deadly Mantis yet, you won't regret it. BUT - if you get the DVD (part of a great set of old sci-fi movies), don't watch the trailer first! It shows way too much!
Memorable giant-monster film from the golden era of monster flicks. The Deadly Mantis starts off slowly with a kind of documentary about the nations defense system, but picks up with the introduction of its title character! The films plot escalates steadily to an atmospheric show-down in the Lincoln Tunnel. The monster FX aren't half bad, especially considering the time of the film. The cast is also fairly decent.
So all around, The Deadly Mantis is an enjoyable watch for those who like the monster movies of the '50's.
** 1/2 out of ****
I have a special fondness for this film because (a) it and I are of the same vintage, and (b) it's still as scary and silly as it was when I first saw it at about age 10. Marvel at the motherlode of movie cliches! Thrill to the pseudo-newsreel coverage of brave new radars! See Eskimos madly paddling their canoes! See macho stock footage of the brave U.S. Air Force! See the beautiful woman turn "grown" men into drooling fools! See the beautiful women shriek their pretty heads off! See bewildered brass battle the bodacious bug! See styrofoam insect body parts! Hear the scary music and the scary insect drone! Watch the big bug defy the silly humans and their futile weapons! Watch the obligatory shallow romance materialize out of nowhere! Watch the flat acting that, yes, you *could* have done better!
Despite its pervasive cheesiness, previous reviewers are right: The Deadly Mantis is really too good for MST3K. Uninvite Joel and the bots when you watch this one. The story holds together, and shows 1950s American fears and bravado as well as most productions of the day. The mantis is big enough -- and yes, deadly enough -- to scare ya real good. (They scare me plenty when they're normal size.) But in the end, when it's trapped and dying, you can still muster some pity for a creature that, after all, was only trying to survive.
This is no classic. It *is* a piece of cheese. But by God, it's lovable cheese.
In the film, the viewer witnesses a volcanic eruption that takes place near Antarctica, while our narrator intones the ominous words of Isaac Newton's Third Law of Motion: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." And, implausibly enough, this blowup near the South Pole soon triggers an earthquake near the North Pole, almost 7,900 miles away (!), which releases.... Anyway, cut to the intrepid men working at the polar DEW line, where odd events soon begin to transpire. Colonel Joe Parkman (Craig Stevens) investigates the demolition of a weather station, the downing of a C-47, and some very odd tracks in the snow. Before long, noted paleontologist Nedrick (!) Jackson (William Hopper, who many viewers will recall from his roles in "The Bad Seed" and "20 Million Miles to Earth") and museum reporter Marge Blaine (Alix Talton; a great screamer, as it turns out) join the colonel near the North Pole to join in the investigation, and Jackson isn't long in getting to the bottom of things, declaring "In all the kingdom of the living, there is no more deadly or voracious creature...than the praying mantis!"
Of all the giant-monster films mentioned above, "The Deadly Mantis" is most reminiscent of "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms," the granddaddy of them all and, in my humble opinion, the greatest dinosaur movie ever made. Like the 1953 film, it too opens in documentarylike fashion and with a dry, scientific narration. The monster in both films is first observed as a radar blip near the North Pole, and both pictures feature discussions regarding the thawed-out mammoth remains that had recently been discovered in Siberia. In both films, our prehistoric creature attacks a fishing trawler off the Canadian coast and is ultimately destroyed near a NYC landmark (Manhattan Beach in the former; in the depths of the "Manhattan Tunnel" in the latter). But whereas "Beast" had boasted the truly awesome stop-motion FX of the late Ray Harryhausen, "Mantis" had to make do with FX of a lesser-calibre, more traditional kind. Still, the creature looks impressive enough on the ground, if a tad silly while in flight. The film contains at least four memorable sequences: our first glimpse of the creature, from below, as it towers over a bunch of fleeing Greenlanders, who swarm away in kayaks out to sea; the creature's attack on the DEW station, repulsed by both rifle fire and flamethrower; the mantis' ascent of the Washington Monument; and finally, that Manhattan Tunnel windup, as Parkman and his men toss "3RG chemical mines" at the mantis in an already densely foggy environment. (This denouement might bring to mind the storm drain finale in "Them!") For once, the use of stock footage is well integrated; the footage used is crisp and clean and actually looks as though it had been shot for the film in question. Surprisingly, the first 1/3 of "The Deadly Mantis," before we even get a glimpse of our monster, might be the film's best section (an "Arctic tour de force," according to the "Maltin Classic Movie Guide"), slowly building suspense in an intelligent manner against its snowbound backdrop. The picture has been surprisingly well directed by Nathan Juran, although perhaps it is unfair of me to use the word "surprisingly"; Juran, after all, would go on to helm such cult favorites as "20 Million Miles to Earth" (released just one month later), "The Brain From Planet Arous," "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman," "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad" AND "First Men in the Moon" (those last two WOULD benefit from Harryhausen's participation). "TDM" also features a love triangle of sorts--seemingly obligatory in many of these '50s sci-fi films--that is a tad surprising, as pretty Marge does NOT wind up with the guy you might be expecting. In all, a satisfying, nicely realized and intelligent monster movie, and perfect fare for viewing with your 8-year-old nephew, of course.
Further good news regarding "The Deadly Mantis" is that it comes to us today as part of Universal Studios' Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection, and is presented via a pristine-looking print. On the same DVD disc can be found the film "The Land Unknown," another B&W sci-fi outing from 1957 that also (strangely enough) clocks in at precisely 78 minutes and showcases prehistoric monsters in a polar setting. A perfect double feature, both films come highly recommended by this viewer, an admitted sucker for 1950s sci-fi. And speaking of that decade, back in the 1950s and '60s, I am old enough to recall, a NYC urban legend had it that there was a $1,000 fine for killing any praying mantis. Well, I'm sorry to report, baby boomers, that this popular myth just had no basis in reality, beneficial as these harmless, little insects might be. "Beneficial," "harmless" and "little"...three words, surely, that would NOT describe our "deadly mantis"....
The praying mantis makes for an effective antagonist in this formulaic but still likable and enjoyable movie. It's unleashed from a frozen tomb in the Arctic and goes on the expected rampage, steadily making its way South towards a more tropical climate. Identifying the beast is eminent paleontologist Nedrick Jackson (William Hopper), and hoping to destroy it are Colonel Joe Parkman (Craig Stevens) and General Mark Ford (Donald Randolph).
There is an obligatory dose of romantic material here, as Joe strikes up some chemistry with Neds' associate Marge Blaine (Alix Talton), a magazine editor looking for a big story, but it doesn't really ever intrude on the action too much. Just like many other genre films of the period, "The Deadly Mantis" goes for a semi-documentary style, educating the audience on the radar fences spread throughout Canada, and the short lived Ground Observer Corps, a real life group of citizens that had been instructed on how to spot and identify various forms of aircraft.
The result is quite a bit of talk, although there is still enough good praying mantis action to make the movie diverting. The special effects are mostly pretty decent, with the rampaging insect coming off as formidable enough, and definitely not easy to take down. The story is also not without a sense of humour, as we see Joes' fellow servicemen going gaga over the attractive Marge seeing as how they encounter members of the opposite sex so infrequently.
The efficient direction is by Nathan Juran, a busy filmmaker of the period whose other credits include "20 Million Miles to Earth", "The Brain from Planet Arous", "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman", and "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad".
All things considered, "The Deadly Mantis" offers up a fair amount of fun, for fans of this kind of thing.
Seven out of 10.
This third movie from the era (I think third?), as you can clearly tell, is all about the exploits of a giant Praying Mantis, cos they look scary right! A volcano erupts (as they frequently do in these films) which in turn causes the Polar region to shift and break apart, which in turn releases a giant Mantis that had been trapped in the ice for millions of years. Cue the Mantis running around and eating lots of stereotypical military types until it can be trapped and killed with extreme, yet polite, prejudice.
Now, far be it for me to take the p*ss too much, but...holy tentacles this was a fun flick! Yes that's right, you thought I was gonna sh*t all over it didn't you, well hold on. OK so the plot is ridiculous and virtually a carbon copy of every other big bug movie ever made. A natural disaster releases the monster bug or its the result of some kind of experiment, either or. From there on its the simple process of watching a predictable trio of, a good looking bloke, an attractive female and an old intelligent scientist type, discussing tactics to destroy the bug whilst others get eaten. Then eventually they manage to succeed but not before many innocent faceless people have perished, everyone's a winner.
The film initially starts out like a documentary for schools or some kind of news reel. It goes on for for at least 5/6 minutes about the military and how they are building this base in northern Canada with all these early warning barriers that cross the entire country. Its all your typical Cold war malarkey, in case the Ruskies attack via the Poles. But this intro goes on and on, I started to wonder if I had the right thing playing. Anyway the big question is of course how the hell did a giant Mantis get trapped in ice (or whatever it was before it was ice), at the Poles (where ever it was before it was the Poles), and manage to survive for millions of years. Although, I guess a bigger question would be, how the hell did a Mantis get to be giant in the first place.
The main attraction of this movie is of course the giant Mantis and the way the effects team created it. Overall its a bloody good rubber bug puppet and model combination, it actually looks like a genuinely real Mantis of epic proportions with all the correct details and shape. More importantly it looks quite scary and intimidating, it does actually lend some genuine scary atmosphere to the proceedings when it lurks in the background. A lot of that is down to the correct shape of the insect with its long, thin, pointy, jagged, sharp looking legs, the eerie sound it makes, and those two big silver emotionless eyes. The short sequences of the bug flying are also well realised, the only downside with this, and much like all giant bug movies, the bug roars like a flippin' dinosaur, or Godzilla. The best sequence on show has to be the quick scene where the Mantis climbs up the Washington Monument, that actually looks really good all things considered.
The movie takes on a very King Kong-esque approach as the Mantis eventually makes it way to New York, after fighting off some jet fighters along the way (ahem! copyright). To avoid a complete rip- off the big bug ends up crawling into the Manhattan Tunnel to recover, this in fact leads to a sequence where a group of blokes go in after the bug all dressed up in biohazard type suits. This one scene actually reminded me of many modern sci-fi movies. A group of characters all suited up in special outfits, creeping down a dark space with flashlights, all culminating in the heroic final group pose shot when they find the creature. This whole sequence was probably the slickest in the movie and gave it some real gravitas. Alas the ending lets everything down with such a weak clichéd display of male chauvinism as the male lead virtually bullies the female into kissing him...right next to the huge dead bug. Its like they just killed it, and that turned them on (or him), sadistic tendencies.
As always plenty of good and bad to be found, the small Eskimo village sequence is probably the daftest and most amusing. And I still can't work out how no one thinks to shoot this thing in the eyes, it has two huge silver eyes, shoot those surely, pretty sure that would stop it straight away. Anyway despite the odd little expected flaws this is still a solid bug flick and easily one of the best in my opinion.