Tuesday, October 09, 2007

31 Days of Halloween - Day 9 - Movie 2

I haven't seen "The Deadly Mantis" (1957) since I was a kid, and was really looking forward to seeing it again. Happily, I enjoyed it. Again, this is not the cream of the crop in giant bug movies, and despite a generic cast, this movie managed to be pretty entertaining. Plus, you get to learn a lot about the radar defense system of the 1950s.

The plot structure is very similar to "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms," only instead of a dinosaur being awakened from suspended animation in the arctic and making its way south, it's a giant preying mantis. The mantis, which looks really good when it's walking around on the ground, and not so great when it's flying leaves a trail of destruction as the military tries to catch up with it, assisted by a paleontologist and a reporter for the magazine of the Museum of Natural History. The Mantis is finally cornered in a car tunnel leading into Manhattan, and for once, the scientist does not end up with the girl; the Colonel does. That's not a spoiler. This is not "The Philadelphia Story," it's a big bug movie.

Unlike other movies of this type, where suspense is attempted by not showing the creature for a good portion of the movie, here it's actually effective. Those first two attacks are really well orchestrated. The mantis' reveal is not so memorable. There is a pretty humorous scene that leads into the main characters' first sighting of the mantis, though, which makes up for it.

William Alland who came up with the story, and served as producer, also produced most of Universal's other science fiction films of the 1950s, including the "Creature from the Black Lagoon" trilogy. The director, Nathan Juran, has a similarly impressive list of credits from this same period, having directed movies such as "20 Million Miles to Earth," "The Brain from Planet Arous," "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman," and "7th Voyage of Sinbad."

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