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Deadly Mantis, The

Entry updated 21 October 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1957). Universal-International Pictures. Produced by William Alland. Directed by Nathan Juran. Written by Martin Berkeley and Alland (uncredited). Cast includes William Hopper, Craig Stevens and Alix Talton. 79 minutes. Black and white.

A volcano erupts in the Southern Pacific, somehow causing a break-up of ice near the North Pole which frees a 200-foot-long prehistoric praying mantis (see Great and Small) from a state of Suspended Animation within the ice. Soon the insect makes its way south, attacking a DEW line (Distant Early Warning) radar station and devouring the men there. Further victims are the crew of an aeroplane downed by the mantis. US Air Force pilot Colonel Joe Parkman (Stevens) investigates and finds in the wreckage a five-foot long pointed object he can't identify. Shortly thereafter, the mantis attacks an Eskimo (Inuit) village and kills several villagers. Palaeontologist Ned Jackson (Hopper) examines the object Parkman recovered and declares it to be of insect origin, most likely from the Mantid family. He returns to an Arctic base with Marge Blaine (Talton), his photographer; before long the insect attacks the base, departing seemingly little harmed after a short but fierce fight.

To track the creature's southward progress the Ground Observer Corps – a civilian organization which scanned the skies for signs of Soviet attack until disbanded in 1958 – is enlisted. After the insect passes through Washington, District of Columbia – where it settles briefly on the Washington Monument – it is seen near New York. Attacked by jet aircraft, it lands for a time, destroying a train. When it flies again, Parkman goes after it and crashes his fighter plane into the insect while parachuting to the ground. The wounded mantis lands near the city and crawls into the Manhattan tunnel. Parkman leads a team armed with Poison gas which finishes off the rather unfortunate creature.

Appearing late in the 1950s cycle of giant-bug Monster Movies, The Deadly Mantis is an acceptable example of this subgenre of films, though nowhere near the quality of Them! (1954). A belated novelization is The Deadly Mantis (1982 chap) by Julian May writing as Ian Thorne. [GSt/DRL]


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