The Killer Shrews (1959)


(director: Ray Kellogg; screenwriter: Jay Simms; cinematographer: Wilfred M Cline; editor: Aaron Stell; music: Harry Bluestone/Emil Cadkin; cast: James Best (Thorne Sherman), Ingrid Goude (Ann Craigis), Ken Curtis (Jerry Farrell), Gordon McLendon (Dr. Radford Baines), Baruch Lumet (Dr. Marlowe Craigis), Judge Henry Dupree (Rook Griswold), Alfredo DeSoto (Mario); Runtime: 68; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Ken Curtis/Gordon McLendon; Alpha Video; 1959)

“If you get a few laughs from the bizarre acting and dumb story, that’s the most you can expect from this bad film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A dreadful monster sci-fi pic that was produced by former singing cowboy and Gunsmoke’s Festus, Ken Curtis, and the millionaire right-winger Gordon McLendon, owner of Mutual Radio Network and the owner of the biggest drive-in movie chain in the States. Special effects technician-turned-filmmaker Ray Kellogg (“My Dog, Buddy”/”The Giant Gila Monster”/”The Green Berets”) directs this silly piece of junk, while Jay Simms is the writer. If you get a few laughs from the bizarre acting and dumb story, that’s the most you can expect from this bad film.

New charter boat owner Thorne Sherman (James Best) and his black first mate Rook (Judge Henry Dupree), played in an embarrassingly stereotypical manner, get to a remote Texas island just before a hurricane to deliver supplies to Swedish-born research biologist Dr. Marlowe Craigis (Baruch Lumet, father of director Sidney Lumet). Also on the island are Craigis’s pretty daughter Ann (Ingrid Goude, Miss Universe of 1957), a zoologist, two researchers, Jerry Farrell (Ken Curtis, John Ford’s son-in-law, producer) and Radford Baines (Gordon McLendon, producer), and Mario (Alfredo DeSoto), their Hispanic cook. The scientists are concerned with overpopulation and have done experiments with the diminutive shrew to test their theories–they are trying to make humans twice as small as they already are. But their experiments have gone awry, as the shrews in one test group were mutated into giants weighing up to a hundred pounds (a slight miscalculation!). Jerry, the most disgusting human on that island and probably most others, while drunk, carelessly let those mutant shrews out of the cage, which led to their roaming the compound and eating everything they could. The mutants are also man-eaters, as they devour Rook who returned to the boat. The giant poisonous shrews are dogs in costumes with elongated plastic fangs. They are poisonous because they absorbed the rat poison traps Craigis set for them, and now one bite from them zaps you. Ann breaks off her engagement to Jerry after finally realizing the guy is a creep and falls for the rough talking captain even though he’s a cynical chowderhead who lacks any curiosity. This romance drives Jerry crazy with jealousy, which becomes the subplot.

The mutants have eaten all the animals and anything else on the island (they “devour everything” and are efficient scavenger that eat “even the bones, the marrow,” and they must eat 3 times their body weight every day) and so the starving animals now attack the humans who are trapped in their gated compound and can’t leave the island until the sea calms. Since they can’t kill the shrews off, the obnoxious gruff captain has the remaining island survivors tie together the large steel chemical drums to use as shields to allow them to walk under it as they slowly make their way to the boat with the dogs and their giant fangs gnawing at the peepholes. A panicky Jerry refuses to go with the group, and the fun moment is watching the turd get it from a bunch of attacking shrews.


REVIEWED ON 12/15/2007 GRADE: C-