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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Steve's Church-less Movie Of The Week: Giant Bug Edition, Part 2 ...

Had so much fun with that last crapburger that I decided to continue the giant bug theme with another classic Universal giant monster movie.


Yoinked from wikipedia, ad ...

"The Deadly Mantis is a 1957 science fiction film produced by William Alland for Universal-International Pictures. It was directed by Nathan Juran from a screenplay by Martin Berkeley, and starred Craig Stevens, William Hopper, Alix Talton, and Pat Conway. It was filmed in black and white and runs for 79 minutes. It follows the pattern Universal set two years earlier with another one of it's giant monster movies, 1955's Tarantula.

In the film, an insect grows to Brobdingnagian proportions because of nuclear or atomic radiation. William Hopper (AKA Paul Drake from Perry Mason) is a noted entomologist sent to an army base at the North Pole to investigate. He brings along his photographer lady friend, she falls in love with the guy in charge of the army base, and they all get attacked by said giant--and deadly--mantis. For some reason, when insects get enormous, they also have some sort of vendetta against humans.

Bert I. Gordon could, and indeed did on several occasions, do better than this. The movie begins with the camera clumsily panning around a giant wall-map of the world (we can tell it’s 'the world' because a caption in the South Pacific helpfully tells us so), coming to rest on a tiny island just above the Antarctic circle just long enough for a narrator (whom we will come to know very well before this is over) to intone, 'For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.' Then, the screen fills with stock footage of a volcanic eruption, followed by a return to the big map, a pan up to the Arctic, and more stock footage, this time of icebergs being formed.

Presumably, the formation of those icebergs is the equal reaction to that volcanic eruption’s action, and presumably it is also opposite because it occurs at the opposite pole. Somehow, I don’t think that’s quite what Newton was talking about. Anyway, next up is a close-up on a praying mantis, frozen in what appears to be a perfectly ordinary (if slightly larger than usual) ice cube, with The Deadly Mantis superimposed on the image in big block capitals. I hope that was a good enough explanation for you of the genesis of our monster, because that’s all you’re going to get.

And now for some more stock footage. In fact, we are about to embark on an utterly incredible seven solid minutes of uninterrupted stock footage while our narrator educates us about the value, placement, and construction of the three 'radar fences' that keep vigilant and unceasing watch over the skies above Canada, protecting the American people (except those in Alaska and Hawaii) from nuclear attack by the treacherous forces of international communism. For the next seven minutes, we will thrill to the heroic story of the brave and selfless men who flew to the inhospitable arctic wastes and stayed there for an entire spring and summer to erect this ever-watchful safeguard of our precious freedoms, toiling ceaselessly for the sake of their wives and families thousands of miles to the... ah, skip it. You get the point.

So why, you may ask, do we need a seven-minute stock-footage crash-course on Cold-War electronic early-warning systems? Because those radar fences are about to do a job slightly different from the one for which they were designed, and warn the Free World of attack, not by vast armadas of Tu-95s, but rather by a single colossal bug.

The heavy load of narration and stock footage that this movie must lug around is probably more than any could bear without damage, and the film’s almost complete lack of concern for the hows and whys of its story doesn’t help matters any. It is also hobbled by extraneous scenes, extraneous characters, and a general lack of urgency. The damn thing is only 78 minutes long, for God’s sake, but it seems to take at least three times that because so little of that time is spent moving the plot along. But it has a really cool, really crappy monster, and ultimately, that’s all that matters.

Also amusing the extent to which The Deadly Mantis is a commercial for the Civilian Observer Corps, the volunteer organization whose job it was to monitor the skies for Russian bombers on their days off. A huge amount of the movie’s stock footage concerns the activities of this bunch, as they hang around on the roofs and balconies of buildings, scanning the horizons for any sign of a praying mantis 150 feet long. In fact, the film’s producers even took the trouble to thank the COC for its cooperation (and for all the stock footage, without which they might actually have had to spend some money on this turkey).

All in all, you’re probably better off with Bert I. Gordon and AIP, but The Deadly Mantis is not completely devoid of charm."

... AND NOW, Steve and this blog are both PROUD to once again present today's Church-less Movie of the Week in its entirety absolutely FREE!

But first lets go over a few ground rules. Absolutely no talking is allowed in this or any Galindo Theaters locations. Any and all talkers will be fingered mercilessly. No cell phones or African-American berries going off in the theater. And NO TEXTING.

And be sure to dim your headlights (where applicable).

Oh, and remember ...

Enjoy the show, y'all!

And that's about it.

Wind clan out.

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