From the video case:
This menacing insect kills everything in it’s path while scientist work feverishly to stop it. Craig Stevenson stars as as the commander in charge of of putting an end to this beastly insect with William Hopper (The Bad Seed, 20 Million Miles to Earth) as the paleontologist and Alix Talton (The Man Who Knew Too Much) as his assistant, a photojournalist, assigned to help in this battle between man and mantis! (1957, b&w)
This movie is an educational experience. First, we are treated to a basic law of physics: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This is used to explain how the mantis is released from his Arctic sleep. Apparently, volcanic activity near the Antarctic Circle causes ice caps to melt at the North Pole where our giant mantis has been frozen since prehistoric times. This is one of the few giant bug movies that does not use nuclear testing/radiation as its explanation for gigantism.
Even more educational, and entertaining to this reviewer, is the drawn out explanation of what must have been a mysterious technology at the time: RADAR. The narrator, who speaks exactly like those narrators from educational films of the era, explains patiently why radar is so important to our national defense. Others may find this prologue unnecessary and tedious, but I find it adds to the nostalgic flavor of the film. If nothing else, it provides the viewer with a sense of comfort to know that we are protected from a sneak attack by route of the North Pole.
The special effects by Clifford Stine (Tarantula) are not as horrendous as you might imagine and at some points are very well done. The insect looks peculiar while in flight, and at times is an obvious puppet, but there are a few scenes where it is almost believable. Of course, a constantly foggy set helps the cause.
Though this movie is predictable and relies heavily on stock footage, it does get points for special effects and entertainment value. The lessons in physics and radar are worth something, too. There are other films of the genre that are better (Them!, comes to mind) but this is a fine watch.
The Deadly Mantis was produced by William Alland and directed by Nathan Juran, aka Nathan Hertz (Attack of the 50 Ft Woman, The Brain from Planet Arous).
Scene to watch for: The mantis, sightseeing in Washington D.C, visits the Washington Memorial Monument.
Line to listen for: “In all the kingdom of the living, there is no more deadly or voracious creature than the Praying Mantis.”
FYI: This movie is also known as The Giant Mantis and The Incredible Praying Mantis.
Bonus: Find some great stills from this movie by clicking here.
Mark’s rating: ! ! ! out of 5.