The Deadly Mantis
Starring: Craig Stevens, William Hopper, Alix Talton
DIR: Nathan Juran
The Blurb: A paleontologist teams up with the military to battle a huge praying mantis when it goes on the attack in metropolitan cities after being released from an Arctic iceberg.
We have spoilers.
Scene 01: We'll open our movie on a overlay of a world map. We pan in... slowly... slowly... to North America. We think we're headed toward the extreme north of Canada so we can get to the Arctic Circle... but no! We're faked out completely by a sudden swerve over the Atlantic (not really, of course, just the map's representation of the Atlantic Ocean). Just when we think, hmmm... Greenland? We're sudden diving south.
Instead of the Arctic, our focus is the Antarctic Circle. Oh, you fooled me, movie... well played, sir.
We focus in on a tiny circle on the map, just north of the ice pack. This represents a tiny, remote island.
Scene 02: We now leave our map in order to visit the actual island. Just in time for it to blow up real good.
We can see that there is a major volcanic eruption decimating this rocky little island.
We return to our map and the representation of the island on it. As we pull out, we're joined by the always unwelcomed Pompous Narrator. He informs us that for each reaction, there is always an opposite and equal reaction. As we hear the volcano rumblings in the background, our map view scrolls upward and upward.
Now, we've returned to the near-Arctic, as our map viewpoint settles on Greenland.
Scene 03: From there, we jump cut to the map's representation of the Arctic Circle. We hear more rumbling, but this isn't still the volcano - this time it is huge cliffs of ice crumbling into the sea below.
This action creates monstrous icebergs that drift off through the turbulent, icy waters. It's all terribly majestic in a stock-footage-ish way.
We focus/cut into one of these icebergs, where we see our title monster only 2min, 41sec into the film, so they're not being coy (of course, how could they be considering the title). He's not doing much right now, being entombed and all.
Insert Title/Generic Theme with lots of blaring horns and dramatic drum concussions
Scene 04: Cut to a radar dish circling 'round. A peppy tune plays as we see one of our men-in-uniform monitoring the radar feedback for any signs of intruders from those evil Ruskies. Alas, our Pompous Narrator has made a return to tell us all about how radar stations operate.
We return to our map briefly as our Narrator informs us about the Pine Tree Radar Fence, a stretch of stations that lie along the Canada/U.S. border region that is constantly scanning the pole for any signs of intrusion (as well as off of the East Coast into the Northern Atlantic).
North of this 'fence' is the Mid - Canada Radar Fence, extending our sight further northward. Finally, we have the Dew Line that watches the very top of the world for signs of sneak attack by those damned commies.
Commentary: Hey, it isn't my fault the Pompous Narrator is hanging around and eating up non-giant-bug-action time. If I'm getting a radar lesson, you're getting a radar lesson. And a school lesson, this will start to feel like....
Our Narrator, darling that he is, continues to give us a complete history of how supplies were delivered to the harsh extreme north in order to build these individual stations that comprise our defensive net, racing against weather and time limits to get them completed before ice locked out our ships.
History, history, building, leveling ground, laying piping... (school lesson, there will be a quiz later... well, if your reading this from 1957).
"The work continues day and night, around the clock, seven days a week" ... OKAY, WE GET IT!
Scene 05: Finally, the work is complete for base Red Eagle One. Our Narrator has more to say, however, so don't get too excited. Oh, he just wanted to let us know that the base is the nerve center for the Dew Line, in case we thought we were focusing on some random site for no purpose, apparently.
A large plane comes in and lands. It carries very important person, Col. Joe Parkman. He gets out and looks with a sense of pride, as he's greeted, at his new posting.
Scene 06: So, we leave him. And return to the Pompous Narrator.
We are flying over some mountain range covered with satellite stations (as in smaller radar stations feeding the Dew Line, not space satellites). The Narrator ensures that we understand we're in the middle of nowhere at an outpost.
Inside is two of our brave military men watching their scopes and listening to jazz music. One of our crewman spots a dot on the radar and calls over to his co-worker to take a look. When the scope swings back around, though, there isn't any blip to be seen. There is an odd noise though... a loud howling, buzzing sound.
One of the men exclaims that it's almost on top of them, but there is nothing on the radar scope, as we can see because we just stare and stare and stare at it.
Moments later, the door flies open and great clouds of wind driven snow blind our crewmen. Around them, the sound of shattering glass is heard and we see a piece of timber fall from the ceiling before everything is obscured in that blinding, white snow!
Scene 07: Sometime later, a jet has been dispatched because of the radio silence from the outpost. The pilot, Kane, reports into Red Eagle One. The pilot reports that the station, 'Weather Four', has been damaged. He can see that the roof has caved in.
Pilot Kane requests units to be dispatched for possible injuries.
Commentary: Bad, bad line reading from pilot in regards to somebody being injured... or worse!!!
Col. Parkman takes his time walking out to the radio man and asks him to contact Weather Four station. There is no response, as the jet pilot already informed him. He tells radioman to keep trying. We watch and are unsurprised that there is again, no response.
Finally Parkman orders his plane ready.
Commentary: There was a roof collapse and your men are in the Arctic. Do you think your first response should have been to alert your search and rescue personnel and begin to ready your base hospital to receive possible exposure victims? Hah, you're wrong! Instead, what you should always do is waste precious minutes trying to contact the unresponsive outpost and then you should order your plane ready for flight so you can make a personal inspection tour. To our 1957 readers, please be sure to make note of this, it will be on the Quiz, even though it wasn't relayed by the Pompous Narrator.
Scene 08: Our hero goes up to the remote outpost to find out what happened. He does not bring search and rescue. He does not bring a medical staff. What he and his pilot find is an entire wall of the base missing. Of the two men, there is no sign.
From appearances, it appears that something might have crashed into the 'shack', but there is no sign that it may have been a plane. They do find a peculiar pair of skid marks in the snow approaching the destroyed building.
Scene 09: Later, back at Red Eagle One, there is more hot 'n heavy radar dish action. There is some more discussion of Weather Four's tragedy. On the radar scope, an usually shaped blip appears on radar. Colonel Parkman orders a red alert status.
Jets are scrambled to investigate the intermittent signal.
The pilots find nothing and request new vectors, but the tower has to admit the signal has vanished. They're recalled.
Commentary: Which, yes, would make this scene a time waster. It is literally being used to insert stock footage of travelogue scenes of snowy mountains and plains and to show the airport tower guy, who appears to possibly be stock footage himself. The dialog of him interacting with the pilots sounds like it's a post-dub job, and it feels off but I'm not sure why. I can't tell if the voice is off-sync with his lip movements or if there is just something artificial to the ear, as would be true if he is in fact a stock footage man.... I can't be sure either way, but I can tell that this scene was inserted for padding. And because this movie has a weird radar-fetish.
Scene 10: We cut to our personnel transport plane, who had delivered Parkman to the airbase. The pilot and co-pilot are relatively bored looking, due to the routine they've probably followed tens of dozens of times before. Over the scene, however, we can hear the droning-buzz-of-closing-doom.
The plane suddenly rocks to and fro *cough*violently*cough* (We only get to see the tiny cockpit set rocked by stagehands)
From the rear of a plane, a man with a bloody head wound suddenly falls into the cockpit from the rear into the co-pilot's lap. We close in on his wound....
Scene 11: And, we cut to the jet squadron being scrambled again.
Commentary: WAIT! That's it?! We have an attack on a personnel plane, vicious enough to leave at least one man critically injured and we get no shot of the damaged plane? No model bug hovering over the transport? No screams of terror? Even the co-pilot seems pretty sanguine about a body flopping into his lap. What a wasted attack scene!
The jets spot the downed transport crashed into the snowy landscape below. With 'Sugar Pie' reporting into Red Eagle One, the Colonel again grabs his pilot, Lt. Pizer, and goes out to the scene to survey the wreckage.
Scene 12: The two men find the wreckage pattern and mysterious tracks that are very much like those at Weather Four. And like at that location, there isn't any signs of the men.
Commentary: I will say that the set designer did a good job with this wreckage and giving the actors crap to walk through. But there is a stage hand who is taking particular delight in throwing handsful of fake snow at Craig Stevens. He's actually doing less to set an ambiance of the snowy wastes of the wreckage and is doing more to distract from the scene, because it's kind of funny at how these clumps of "snow" are bombarding Parkman from just off screen.
As we get an overhead look at the huge hole punched into the roof of the plane, and we see Parkman and Pizer sifting wreckage, we also see a huge spiked claw descend and enter the existing hole.
It isn't attached to anything, though. It had apparently been lodged in the skin of the plane and their fumbling around caused it to slip loose.
Commentary: Except, because of the way the director chose to film the scene, it looks far less like it dislodged and fell forward through the hole in the roof and more like somebody just off camera slowly lowered it through the hole so it wouldn't hit the actors in the head. What should have been a shock scene, with us remaining inside the plane with the men, then seeing the giant claw spur coming down through the roof before we realize it isn't the giant bug, is completely ruined by the director's choice. Unfortunate. This movie could certainly have used some jump-shocks.
Scene 13: Back at base, the unknown object from the wreckage is causing a stir. It's decided that this will have to be sourced to CONAD for identification.
Scene 14: What is CONAD, you ask? I wondered the same thing. And then I regretted asking, as the Pompous Narrator has returned to tell us all about it.
"Continental Air Defense Command" in Colorado Springs. This is the central point for all of those radar shields to the north that are protecting the North American continent (I told you, a radar fetish).
Commentary: Oh, for f---'s sake, Narrator, shut up.
"The Continental Air Defense Command in Colorado Springs. The focal point of the supersonic shield that guards the North American continent. A shield that could mean the difference between life and death for millions of Americans." (Because, as we're all aware, nobody cares about those millions of Canadian lives.)
"These are hot phones! Using them, it takes only 15 seconds to talk to Alaska. 10 seconds to alert Newfoundland. 5 seconds to contact [Dew?]. 3 seconds to contact the Pentagon command post."
We hear a ring on the Pentagon phone. The phone is answered by a full fledged General. He is told that 'Arctic Command' has delivered a package and is preparing to fly out immediately.
Scene 15: His destination is Washington, D.C. where the claw spur has been rushed for investigation. When General Ford arrives, he enters a conference room where the spur is lying on a table. At the table are a varied group of old, white scientists. The General apologizes for rushing them into making a determination of what they may be dealing with... he doesn't apologize for forcing them to try to run tests from a conference room with no lab equipment in order to make this determination.
They've apparently been able to determine that the spur was part of a living creature, but haven't been able to identify it. Since all they have with them is their eyes and a slide rule, I guess that isn't a shock.
General Ford isn't pleased that they've been able to tell him plenty about what they don't know, but given him little to go on. He states that the spur (or hook, as they call it) wasn't part of the cargo, so it must have come aboard the plane post-crash (no one corrects him that it could have come aboard during the crash because we mustn't suspect that the plane was brought down by a giant animal attack, yet).
Commentary: This brings me up to a fatal flaw of this entire story. Now, I'm a pretty easy going guy when it comes to setting aside 'real world practicalities' for movie-magic. I'll buy the whole giant bug premise, even though it wouldn't be able to support it's own weight without a skeleton and certainly would never be able to get enough lift to fly. I'll overlook the fact that a real world mantis spends much of its time not flying, but sitting to conserve energy while this gigantic creature is practicing anti-Darwinism by wasting precious energy flying to and fro without any regards to its calorie requirements. But what I really cannot understand is WHY this story just had to take place in the Arctic Circle?!
What in the hell made somebody think that a giant bug would last longer than five minutes in subzero temperatures?! (I have the exact same problem with giant reptiles being freed from ice and then traveling around the tundra unaffected by the extreme cold.) There seems to be not one whit of reasoning why this script just had to include both a giant insect and an Arctic location. I personally think the location was chosen because of someone's fascination with our radar technology and the entire radar defense industry and the monster details came later, but the entire choice of this particular monster to gigantify and include in this particular location strikes me as a really off-the-wall combination to choose.
The particular reason this strikes me is that when we see the Deadly Mantis, it has ZERO modification to deal with the ultra-cold weather. It isn't particularly well-insulated. It isn't making a rush southward because it is being driven away from the cold environment (although it will be traveling so it can impact a good old American city). It isn't a prehistoric bug with some sort of hair or fur or pixie-dust or something to explain its immunity to the cold. It just isn't bothered, so why did it have to be a giant bug? Or conversely, why did the giant bug have to hang around in the Arctic location?
These two things... giant insect and Arctic ... just don't mesh together. I'm left perplexed and the DVD set (The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection) doesn't come with commentaries.
But, back to the story: The General is appalled that the scientists are suggesting that the hook could have come from a creature as yet unknown (because giant clawed monsters would only be known to scientific experts, and ergo, they should already know all about what the spur belongs to). He wants answers as to how he's supposed to investigate an unknown life form.
The lead science guy (and the only one with lines) suggests unknown-giant spur-producing-animal expert, Dr. Ned Jackson to start investigating the case.
Commentary: He doesn't do as I would... suggest that the 'hook' be moved from a conference room to an actual laboratory where we could do more tests than a slide rule is capable of. But, then, I didn't make it to a science degree, so what do I know. Lyz Kingsley could tell us about he wonderous powers of the slide rule in better detail.
Scene 16: We cut to some institute or another.
We cut not to Dr. Jackson, but to Marge Blaine. Her job at the institute appears to involve marketing and publicity as she's involved in a monthly magazine. Doctor Jackson's recent work is apparently scheduled to be featured and she has stopped by to discuss what she's doing, when the phone rings interrupting.
It is the Pentagon summoning him over. We waste a lot of time with him curiously wondering what it's all about, while completely ignoring Marge's presence until she asks him if everything is alright. He's mysterious, she's ... you know what, it doesn't matter. The music suggests this is cutsey, but it isn't.
Scene 17: Ned reports to the conference room. The slide rule has been joined by another piece of highly scientific equipment... the giant magnifying glass.
During his inspection, Ned is able to confirm that the hook isn't bone, but some sort of cartilidge-like structure. The General complains that they don't seem to be making much progress by inspecting the object in a conference room without any scientific equipment. A brainwave threatens to blip, but Ned short circuits it by disagreeing they're not making progress. He tells him that without a skeleton (which he concludes completely based on this one mysterious object) they can eliminate entire classes of animals as the owner.
He is also able to indentify muscle impressions on the outgrowth, which all of the other scientists (not having the glass) missed.
Process of elimination leads to the conclusion that an insect is a likely source for the protrusion.
Scene 18: Arriving back at the Institute, Ned is distracted and deep in thought. Something that raises eyebrows as he's usually so friendly to everyone.
Ned is apparently so moody because the papers have just revealed the tragedy that happened way north with the airforce losses. It takes no time for Marge to put two and two together and she tries to get Ned to open up about the story. Her interests are as a possible magazine article on something that doesn't involve fossils.
He admits that the Pentagon didn't tell him the information was restricted and sets about describing what the airforce found at the last accident site. Marge immediately states that it looks like the spur from a cricket or grasshopper leg. Dr. Jackson points out that neither of these are man-eaters, but the accidents involve five missing men. He also tells her that if what they recovered is a spur, it would mean an insect bigger than any previous animal on Earth. She skeptically asks if he's sure he's alright.
Commentary: I must call bullshit on the Pentagon not ordering Dr. Jackson to keep his mouth shut. They'd have restricted this information just as a matter of course. I also find it highly unlikely that they would provide front page headlines about the mysteries going on at their Arctic bases. It would've been reported, I think if at all, as 'mechanical failures' or 'weather related accidents' for as long as they could get away with it. Or, I'm just cynical.
Ned mentions to Marge that near the plane crash was a set of skid marks, as if whatever caused the wreck came in for a landing. Before she can respond, the scientist running blood tests calls and reports that Ned was correct in his deduction. The blood had no red corpuscles, pointing toward the spur coming from an insect.
Scene 18: Later, old scientist guy is meeting with Jackson in his office. Marge is allowed to be there, too, for no reason. Ned shows the other scientist an 'ant' (looks more like a large beetle to me) in amber. He basically relates the unchanging nature of insect life over millennia that the other scientist would already know.
Ned Jackson turns into an ass at this point, arguing that the study of paleontology encompasses all of existence (No, that would be Physicists or Mathematicians) and also arguing that it is theoretically possible for a life form to be flash frozen and put in a state of suspended animation. Marge and old scientist remain skeptical. Ned sounds angry and annoyed at being questioned.
There is far more discussion which is entirely too long and drawn out to come to the conclusion that a meat eating, grasshopper type insect would be a mantis... a prehistoric Deadly Mantis, even. Of course, how such a gigantic insect would be flash frozen fast enough to avoid death is skated over (HAH! See what I did there... flash frozen/skated over... oh, never mind - my brilliance is so unappreciated).
Commentary: It is right about here that my number one thing on "The Bad" list is going to be pacing. Even taking into account that the audience has information that they don't, it is still taking them much too long to reach the conclusions necessary to move the story forward. And, for being a Giant Deadly Mantis, this thing sure does know how to stay out of the way... in the Arctic Circle... with limited food... and no protection or adaptation to resist the cold....
Blah, blah, argue, reluctant agreement anything is possible, blah-blah.
Scene 19: Cut to Arctic natives hearing the roaring buzzing sound above them and looking up in fear and amazement at whatever it is that we don't see, but can guess the identity of.
For some reason, the horrific buzzing sound above their heads and whatever they're seeing that so amazes them causes the village men to leap into their sea canoes and paddle out into the ocean. One must assume that they're abandoning the village because of whatever is heading their way, but on the water we only see men, which seems awfully cowardly.
Commentary: Again, we need some judicious editing. This scene also goes on way too long and we see men rushing to their canoes and paddling like mad... and more men rushing to canoes and more paddling, and more canoes, and more paddling... ai.
Lone guy dawdles in getting his canoe and retreating to the sea, so gets himself eaten. Also, we find out that Giant Deadly Mantises make roaring sounds, despite having no vocal chords.
Scene 20: Cut to the Pentagon press corps. One of the reporters helpfully holds a paper so we can see the latest headline about the Eskimos (in Greenland) being terrorized. For some reason, the General and Dr. Jackson have to pass through the throng of reporters to make an exit so they can mobbed for answers, which they refuse to give.
Outside of the office where the reporters are crammed, the General shakes Ned's hand and wishes him good luck.
Scene 21: Ned is packing his office briefcase to make a trip north. Among the items he thinks will be helpful is the book with the very tiniest article on the Praying Mantis and what appears to be small rulers. Yes, that should be all he needs.
Marge is with him. When they exit his office, her bags are waiting. She mentions that she gave General Ford a call and asked that Ned be allowed to bring his 'photographer' along on the trip.
Scene 22: We rejoin the Red Eagle One facility as Ned and Marge arrive. Naturally all of the men fall all over themselves embarrassingly because A WOMAN has arrived.
Scene 23: More plane shots, as the Colonel escorts Ned and Marge to the site of one of the attacks. What the don't know is that our monster is nearby in a crevasse and has spotted them.
Scene 24: At the plane wreckage, where the claw was found, our three heroes look around. Our scientist is interested in the treadmarks of our insect. They spend, literally, 45 seconds on site.
Back to plane flying footage.
We get a quick, but unnecessary, shot of skid marks near the crevasse where we knew the mantis was ducking from the weather.
Scene 25: Back at the base that evening, there is a general festive mood with more jazz music playing to celebrate the fact that a woman is in residence. Two guys in particular seem to be having a gay old time jitterbugging or whatever they're doing on the dance floor. Of course, everyone immediately turns eyes on Marge the moment she makes her entrance.
Please notice one of the dancers, while everyone is grinning like fools in Marge's direction, has his hands on the hips of the guy in front of him and keeps tugging him back into him.
Commentary: ... not that I want to inject a 'Celluloid Closet' moment into this picture, or anything, but if this is supposed to be a general 'crowd around a gawk' moment, which I believe it is, I do think that one guy pulling another backward against him by his hips is rather noticeable. You might want to watch the hands, Sir... or, you know, not. The guy doesn't seem annoyed or anything.
Scene 26: Nighttime outer shot of the base. Deadly Mantis creeps his way up on them.
Meanwhile, inside, Ned is making notes from that entymology encyclopedia.
Bug Face stares at base... dramatic sting-music blares.
Repeat as Mantis closes the distance and Ned plays, obliviously, with his slide rule.
Inside, Marge and Colonel Parkman join Ned in his office. Mantis continues to creep.
Marge wanders by second story window, and there is Giant Insect, looking in at her. Like all Cinematic People (I include the race of TV People in this) she has no peripheral vision and doesn't notice that she's walking right by a giant insect face.
Marge finally happens to glance out the window, as Ned is pontificating to the Colonel on what he believes their problem is. She screams, as expected.
Mantis finally gets to clawing at building roof to get at food source.
There is a condition red called and a mass scramble to try to get fighter pilots to their jets to chase off the attacking Mantis.
Commentary: I'll give the movie points again for the some fine model work, both the Mantis itself and its attack on the building. I also say that the director did a good job with the attack sequence here both in generating some excitement and showing the building coming down as our stars try to flee to safety.
The sound guy, alas, gets negative points. Again, the Deadly Mantis is roaring its generic, library sound effect roars (I know I've heard this roar multiple times from differing monsters through the years) when obviously a Mantis, no matter how big, should not be roaring at all.
Battle ensues between the base personnel and the Deadly Mantis....
Radio Guy with a machine gun and flame-thrower guy manage to drive it back into the air....
Commentary: And, I must take one of those effects points back for the buzzing insect effect. I appreciate the effort with the rapid buzzing wings and all, but it doesn't look so good.
Scene 27: The following morning, more jets flying footage.
Commentary: The 'planes flying' is becoming almost as much of a fetish as the radar motif.
In the central office of Red Eagle One, everyone waits for news from the fighters that they've spotted the insect. Coffee is served... and it ISN'T by Marge!! In fact, she's actually served!
Scene 28: Though valiant, the jets can't find anything because their target has already moved off. Over the Atlantic, and flying under radar through dense fog, the Deadly Mantis skims.
Commentary: You know, I'm going to give the film back its effect point. The flying insect prop isn't the best looking, but they really put the effort in. They made sure its legs were tucked under it, and the wings are buzzing, rather than static ... it was ambitious, and I can appreciate that.
The giant insect comes across a fishing boat and a doomed crew all ready for eating.
Scene 29: Later that day, our base is contacted by the Canadians with a report that they may have spotted the giant bug on their scopes for a brief moment. They're thanked, but the Colonel doesn't bother asking for any coordinates of the contact, so....
There is a quick analysis of the report, and along with the former series of attacks, it points to the insect heading due south. Ned believes the mantis will detect the warm air of the gulf stream soon and then veer for South America. In the meanwhile, a call comes in from CONAD. They inform Parkman that they also detected the signal passing near Newfoundland. Our three stars grab their gear to head back toward Washington, D.C.
Scene 30: Mantis flies over ocean. Newpaper headline reports the Giant Mantis has been spotted near Maine. The spotting of the insect near Bangor for some reason causes New Orleans to call a curfew...? Okay.
A Congressman calls the whole mantis situation a hoax and demands an investigation into the matter (I want to make a snarky comment, but this isn't the place for politics).
We fade away from superimposed newspaper headlines onto a radio host, who introduces General Ford for a briefing of civil defense forces sponsored by CONAD.
Commentary: You know, I like that the script returns to mentioning previously introduced organizations and locations. It really gives an overall sense of care in the script (despite the general problem of having an insect spend the bulk of the movie in the Arctic Circle) in terms of consistency and continuity. A site of an attack isn't forgotten the moment after it occurred and the people involved, even those not the stars, are seen and heard from throughout the picture. I'm really quite happy about that, and it shouldn't be something that you'd necessarily even notice but it happens so rarely like this.
General Ford's first order of business is to dispute the Congressman referred to in the earlier headline. Second, he introduces Colonel Parkman, who sets about updating the public on the menace. Cut to good, decent Americans sitting in their living rooms being ready to defend the homeland from this invader.
Commentary: OW! We have an insertion shot of Colonel Parkman on a TV set as a family watches. The entire room is bouncing around horribly... just as badly as I complained about the back-projection being in She-Wolf of London. These folks are sitting in a major earthquake, but they don't seem to be noticing, so engrossed are they by Colonel Parkman's briefing.
Next up is Ned's introduction, as he shows off the spur to the public.
Commentary: None of this needed to be shown to us. We're already on board. While the movie public needed this briefing, for us this is all more time wasting and again leads to that pacing issue making it onto The Bad list. They really needed to cut a lot of this out and throw in a bit more attacks, or come up with a subplot of some sort (though I dread saying that, since it would more than likely be a damned love triangle).
Public gets their mission... wordily... let's move on:
Scene 31: Patriotic men wander the Eastern Seaboard looking for signs of the monster. Stock footage of naval vessels at sea looking. More close ups of radar dishes.
The mantis flies over the Eastern U.S. and a carrier launches its navy fighters after it. Lots of jets in formation-porn.
They finally engage the mantis in aerial battle. The jets fire some missiles (horrible effect) and report the insect is down, though they can't confirm the kill because of the low cloud cover. They return to base, leaving it for ground troops to follow up on confirming its dead, or to finish it off. We see that the mantis, in fact, is not dead and it hasn't been knocked to the ground either.
Scene 32: In a command room, reports come in of possible sightings and Ned mentions another one coming in, as if they've been chasing false leads all day.
In fact, they have. Marge has come up with a plan to receive unusual occurrences across the country and to plot them on a map. Perhaps there will be a cluster that could mean a pattern and that may point to where the giant insect has ended up. Ned and Marge or joined by Ford and Parkman, where they point out it is after midnight. Parkman insists on taking Marge home for the night.
Scene 33: Marge naps on Parkman's shoulder as he drives through a blanketing fog. She snaps awake when the music is interrupted by a new report of a train wreck through a 'freak accident'. The site of the accident is only a few miles from the road their on, so Parkman agrees they'll check it out.
Scene 34: At the site, they find nothing suggesting that this was anything but an accident as emergency personnel are all over the area (and there are an awful lot of spectators for this being after midnight on some minor road crossing). They turn to return to Parkman's car.
As they're pulling the car around to return to their way to Marge's home, we see a giant insect footprint in the soft ground near the tracks, but it is hidden by the dense fog.
Scene 35: At a light, Parkman pulls out his moves. Marge points out the light turned green, but Parkman points out how dangerous it is to drive in such a thick fog, reminding her of the train accident they just left. He kisses her in that clenched lips way of the 1950s.
She puts him off, telling him they should get going.
Scene 36: In a nearby town, a woman is dropped off at a bus station, complaining about all of the strange things that have been happening in the area lately (that we haven't heard about, excepting the train wreck). The bus driver smilingly tells her that there is nothing to worry about, and to be careful out in the fog, thereby dooming her.
Oops! I was wrong! Lucky Lady is lucky. Instead, as the bus heads away, the Mantis is in the fog waiting for it. It attacks, knocking and dragging the bus and doomed driver off of the road as woman screams and Deadly Mantis makes that ridiculous roaring sound (You know what, I think I recognize this roar as the sound that The Munsters' pet, Spot, made from under the stairs ... or is this King Kong's roar?).
Scene 37: In the car, Parkman and Blaine hear a report of the bus accident. The radio jockey describes it as 'currently unexplained' but goes on to report that it is the seventh accident to happen in the last 24 hours. Parkman does an immediate U-turn to go to the site of the latest incident.
Scene 38: There, lucky lady is weeping as she's led away by the police for her statement. The police report to Parkman that is looks as if something picked up the bus and smashed it back down. He also reports that there was no bodies found around the wreckage.
As the Colonel and Marge are wondering what it all means, there is a radio announcement that the monster has been spotted over Washington, D.C.
They make an immediate exit to get there.
Scene 39: Around the capitol, though the terrain looks entirely wrong, stock footage soldiers mobilize from their ... field tents?! ... to defend the city.
The bug buzzes by (horrible, horrible effect). It lands itself on the Washington monument and scales it as men on the top floor cower in horror as they watch it out of the window.
It does more of that stupid roaring noise.
Scene 40: Andrews Air Force Base. With the Mantis more than obviously going public, again fighters are scrambled. (Yes, more military plane-porn. Somebody really loved their military jets. I don't think as much as their radar dishes, but it's a close call at this point.)
POV of runway. Scenes of jets lifting off. Scenes of jets in air.
I think I recognize Parkman as a jet flyer?!
Yes... tower control recognizes that a Colonel can apparently hop in a fighter jet if he wants....
Commentary: Now, my first thought was, "What are they going to do, missile the Washington Monument?", because I'll be honest, would have been kind of cool. I mean, it would have shocked the crap out of 1957 audience, that the American military would destroy a national monument like that, and I didn't think they could possibly. But, still - it would have come as a shock if they'd had the balls. But, no....
The Mantis has returned to the air, having rested up at the Monument, I guess. I mean there was really no reason for it to land atop it in the first place, except as a respite.
Commentary: No. No, way. But, yes... they manage to squeeze in some more radar action. It's truly amazing. If there was any many hot, shirtless men in this movie as radar action, my head (both of them) would have exploded by now. Since I'm not as enamored though... "OH, for Crikey's Sake, let's film something else already!"
Scene 41: Cut back to command central, where Ford, Blaine and Jackson are all looking at a board apprehenively.
Commentary: The point, in movie, seems to be to drive it out to sea - but for the audience it is dull. We should be with the monster right now - not with the protagonists acting passively!
Scene 42: We cut from Ford telling the guns to fire at anything not identified as friendly to the mantis flying and being shot upon. (Yawn)
Commentary: Oh, wait! Thank goodness, we're subjected to more radar screen action. Because that makes it all worthwhile.
Oh, for MY sake, let's move on... Why did I kind of like this movie?!
Scene 43: Our military again loses sight over Baltimore of the monster because of cloud cover....
The Deadly Mantis has... again... dropped below radar. General Ford puts confidence in the ground spotters, which leads to scenes of random public trying to spot (in morning light, whereas the Mantis was flying at night... continuity or time-passing - I'm not interested enough to decide).
A random couple spot the thing in the air.
Scene 44: Information is relayed (oh, night again) and jets (flight porn) are sent. We are now over Newark, NJ.
Commentary: Colonel Parkman dives to fire on it....
Whatever - would you hurry this along?!
"No, I won't," says movie.
Scene 45: So, Parkman dives into the Mantis and has to eject, which the music claims is exciting. (Maybe, if Parkman hadn't run into it.)
The Mantis dives into the midst of another city, New York I believe.
Scene 46: Cut just outside the Manhattan Tunnel entrance. The entrance has been blocked off as smoke drifts out from tarps over it. There is a large gathered crowd. Extra voiceover lets us know that the insect has taken refuge inside it and that their are rumors that the fighter pilot who'd brought it down went in after it.
Ford arrives on the scene to consult with the local fire chief. The smoke within the tunnel is actually man made, and the reason they've blocked the entrance(s) with wet tarpaulins is to hold this smoke in place to sedate the creature huddling somewhere deep within.
Parkman and Jackson arrive to consult with Ford. Parkman reports that he and some men had been able to find the monster about a 1/4 mile in, but they didn't engage it yet. There is concern that a pitched battle in the tunnel could lead to a puncture in the walls surrounding it. Because Joe's report puts it below the waterline, any such damage would cause flooding back up the tunnels.
Ford gives it thought, but sends Parkman in to finish it off, as Ned believes it has been critically wounded.
Scene 47: The men make there way deeper into the tunnel under the cover of smoke. They carry a few mines of toxic gas.
Within they find the remains of crushed cars without their occupants. There are noises of more cars being wrecked by the injured bug. It gives off that stupid screech-roar (which doesn't echo in the tunnel at all).
Sneaking, sneaking, bug-roar, bug-roar....
The giant insect closes in on them from the smoke and they open fire with their rifles as they read to throw their gas grenades (they don't look like mines at all, even though that it what they called them... in fact they look like small gas cans).
Grenade one is thrown, but the Mantis keeps advancing through the hail of gunfire. The men retreat, then try the second grenade. At first, it appears that the plan will fail, but finally with some roaring, the bug starts looking dazed... it collapses.
Scene 48: At some point later, after the smoke has been released from the tunnel, Parkman, Jackson and Blaine all return to inspect the carcass along with Ford and the Police Chief.
The men are led to the point where the insect and his plane collided, while on the other side of the bug body, Marge is preparing her camera for pictures. We notice that one of the giant forearms is still moving weakly.
Joe notices just in time to yell a warning to her, then pick her up and dash away with her. It was a false alarm, we're assurred by Jackson, who claims it was an auto-reflex mechanism and the monster really is dead. Marge gathers herself to continue her pictures, but Joe playfully holds the camera away from her so he can resume his wooing her.
Joe tosses the camera to Ned so he can smooch with Marge....
The Good: I like the job they did with the transport plane wreckage set that Parkman investigates. I also like the prop design for the giant mantis head/body/forearms.
The attack on the Arctic Station was handled well.
The Bad: The pacing and padding issue is a real problem. We have too much flying back and forth footage and far too much set up narration. The number of times we jump to a radar dish on slow spin or a radar screen with the circling line is ridiculous. This is especially true in the early portions of the film. The 'news conference/everyone watch the skies' scene is also a slow go.
The model bug used to swoop down into cities is badly done... especially its coming in for a landing into New York.
The conference room as artifact storage location, rather than an actual laboratory was a really odd choice, and it can't hide how much it doesn't belong because the director keeps putting scientists in it to discuss their tests and to inspect the spur. It's just all wrong.
The bug-roar is also wrong, wrong, wrong for this type of monster. Another bad choice.
Other Thoughts: I find the chosen venue for a large part of this picture to be completely at odds with the monster itself. For being a giant insect of the tropical variety, it sure does spend a lot of time chilling out (HAH!) in the Arctic Circle. Once we get the insect on the movie, the movie's setting makes much more sense in that way, but it takes its own sweet time about it.
The Score: This is another movie that I want to like more than I can. It keeps drawing out scenes needlessly, inserting stock footage, burying me in planes and radar dishes and radar screens and in general, slowing things down to a crawl just when they start getting momentum. I don't find any of the cast to be actively annoying (though Jackson is wearying when he's proposing his giant insect theory) so that certainly helps. The giant bug model work isn't badly done, as long as its on the ground causing mayhem. It there had just been some judicious editing and another pass for the script to flesh things out, so we wouldn't have to keep returning to radar screen action, this would have won my heart (Giant Monster? I'm already starting on your side!).
But, I must sadly report that too much of it is repetitive and dull and must give it only a 2.75 stars out of 5 (three stars being average).