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DEADLY MANTIS, THE (director: Nathan Juran; screenwriters: from a story by William Alland/Martin Berkeley; cinematographer: Ellis W. Carter; editor: Chester Schaeffer; cast: Craig Stevens (Col. Joe Parkman), William Hopper (Dr. Ned Jackson), Alix Talton (Marge Blaine), Don Randolph (Gen. Mark Ford), Patrick Conway (Sgt. Pete Allen), Florenz Ames (Prof. Anton Gunther), Paul L. Smith (Corporal); Runtime: 79; Universal-International; 1957)
“The military use smoke and chemical bombs (maybe they contained Raid) to kill it, as the film mercifully ends.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

What could you say about a bad flick like this one, except it was somehow watchable despite wooden acting, trite dialogue, an obligatory half-hearted romance, unconvincing special effects, and a weak story. For those who enjoy bad movies, this is a good one to catch. It’s a B-horror flick from the 1950s, which compares the monster to what threatened America’s security at the time–the Atomic bomb and the Red Menace. The film makes it clear that we have nothing to fear, as our military and civilian brains could handle any problem. In this case it’s an oversized praying mantis becoming unfrozen as a volcano erupts in the Arctic and after millions of years is now making humans vanish because it is devouring them, as it heads south to where it feels more comfortable. The film was produced by William Alland, and he also wrote the story. He was a member of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater.

After the deadly flesh eating mantis has attacked several people in a remote Arctic region, Col. Joe Parkman (Craig Stevens) calls for help. A weather shack has been crushed and two occupants have vanished, as General Ford (Randolph) in Washington DC is perplexed by all the explanations he has heard about the mystery and takes Prof. Gunther’s advice to contact a paleontologist at the Museum of Natural History, Dr. Ned Jackson (Hopper). He discovers that we are dealing with a creature we didn’t know existed, an oversized praying mantis.

The general sends Ned to the Arctic for further tests, and the museum’s attractive journalist-photographer, Marge Blaine (Alix Talton), manages to convince the general that she’s also needed there. When they meet Colonel Parkman’s Air Force unit, the men living in isolation gulp so hard at the sight of Marge that they can’t speak and Parkman falls in love with her right on the spot. It must be okay with Ned, because the handsome guy is as happy as a bug in a rug just looking for the giant bug and is unconcerned by the romance developing.

The bug is finally trapped in the Manhattan Tunnel, somewhere between New Jersey and NYC. The military use smoke and chemical bombs (maybe they contained Raid!) to kill it, as the film mercifully ends.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”