The Deadly Mantis (1957)

*. Say you’re a moviegoer with simple, even childish tastes. You know what you like and what you like is a good giant-bug movie. So you’re all in when you see an ad for The Deadly Mantis.
*. I think you’d still be likely to be disappointed. The problem here is not the story, which is as disposable as always in such films. Apparently a volcano in the southern hemisphere causes some ice to thaw at the North Pole, releasing the giant mantis. The army and the scientific establishment are called in. You know the drill.
*. And the appearance of the mantis isn’t all that bad. Clifford Stine was in charge of the effects and he does well enough with what he had to work with. They actually built a 200-foot long papier-mâché mantis for some of the shots. It’s not that impressive because it doesn’t move very much and looks ridiculous when flying, but it’s passable. In the final battle in the Manhattan Tunnel it’s even a bit impressive.
*. The real problem here is with the huge amount of footage they’ve shoehorned in from other sources. Some of it is stock footage but a lot of it also comes from other movies. Most of it consists of scenes of the U.S. military in action, but there’s also an Inuit village that is presumably being attacked by the mantis. There’s so much of this material that you start to feel that the movie is a collage put together in the editing room. It also underlines the fact that there’s virtually no real story here to follow. All you’re really doing is following the mantis, which seems to be buzzing all over the place geographically. Originally he’s supposed to be going due south, but he winds up in Washington and then heads back up to New York City.
*. About the only thing I found interesting was the treatment of the “female woman,” as the lovestruck airmen at the DEW base call Marge Blaine (Alix Talton). She’s the obligatory babe appearing in all these movies, whose main purpose is to scream and be rescued. But, and this is a quality she shares with most of her B-movie, creature-feature peers, she’s also a genuine professional woman. In this case a journalist. She doesn’t like being swept off her feet at the end, but, what the hell, she’d like to marry that nice Col. Parkman anyway. You can have your cake and eat it too. Or at least it seemed that way in the ’50s.

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