Killer Shrews, The

Tagged: Film

Film (1959; vt Attack of the Killer Shrews). Hollywood Pictures Corporation/McLendon-Radio Pictures Distributing Corporation. Produced by Gordon McLendon and Ken Curtis. Directed by Ray Kellogg. Written by Jay Simms from his original story. Cast includes James Best, Ken Curtis, Alfredo DeSoto, "Judge" Henry Dupree, Ingrid Goulde, Baruch Lumet and Gordon McLendon. 69 minutes. Black and white.

Private cargo sailor Thorne Shipman (Best) and his first mate (Griswold) deliver supplies to an isolated Island as a hurricane approaches. The small group on the island consists of Scientist Marlowe Craigis (Lumet), his daughter Ann (Goulde), research assistant Radford Baines (McLendon), Ann's fianceé Jerry (Curtis) and servant Mario (DeSoto). Professor Craigis urges Shipman to depart despite the oncoming storm; he refuses to go, and posts Griswold at the dock to guard the vessel. It proves that Craigis has been working on a serum which he hoped would reduce humans to half-size (see Miniaturization) in order to both reduce the need for food and help prevent Overpopulation. Unfortunately the shrews used for experimentation have instead grown into Mutants each about the size of a large dog, which make nightly attacks. Griswold is killed almost immediately by the creatures, who shortly start breaking into the island compound through its basement. Mario is bitten and soon dies from the shrews' poisonous saliva, which Dr Baines determines has grown stronger as their size increased. Baines is bitten by a second shrew which digs into the house, and likewise dies. Meanwhile romantic feelings have developed between Shipman and Ann Craigis (Goulde), leading to conflict with Jerry. The shrews attack en masse, chewing through the compound's walls; Shipman comes up with the idea of using old oil barrels to make improvised armour. Thus protected, he, Professor Craigis and Ann manage to reach the ship and safety. Jerry opts to stay behind; he is pursued and apparently killed by the voracious animals as the others depart. Craigis predicts that the creatures will now soon destroy themselves, having eliminated all other prey on the island.

The Killer Shrews was co-feature to The Giant Gila Monster (1959), filmed at the same time with financial backing from McLendon. Together they grossed over a million US dollars US, with on an investment of roughly $200,000 for both features. Neither is particularly well made, although Shrews is marginally better. The shrews were actually dogs wearing shaggy carpet as their fur, along with enlarged fangs. Actor Ken Curtis was best known for his role from 1959 onward as Deputy-Sheriff Festus Haggen on the long-running Western television series Gunsmoke (1955-1975). [GSt]

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