The Deadly Mantis (1957)
Once again, as the film begins we find that humans of the atomic age are doing what they do best in these movies – meddling, dagnabbit! This time their attention is turned to the Arctic, where the calving (no, not giving birth to a calf…the other meaning: “To break at an edge, so that a portion separates. Used of a glacier or iceberg.”) of an iceberg accidentally releases a giant, prehistoric Praying Mantis that has been trapped there in suspended animation, causing devastation as it attacks military outposts, devouring any humans it finds there. A top palaeontologist is brought in as an advisor by the military bigwigs to help bring the humongous insect down, as they fear its attacks are heading towards warmer, more densely populated climes, with New York and Washington being its possible targets. Can they hunt down and destroy the monstrous creature before it’s too late?
There’s not a lot to be said about The Deadly Mantis, since pretty much everything it has to offer had been done before (often better) in earlier offerings in the genre. It’s a largely by-the-numbers big bug affair, which pilfers heavily from Them! (1954), (plotwise using it almost as a template, in fact) but relocating the lion’s share of the action to colder climes, which is reminiscent of Howard Hawk’s The Thing from Another World (1951) and has a dash of the origin of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) thrown in for good measure.
It lacks the suspense of Them!, and the cast seems rather wooden and lacking chemistry all round, but it’s serviceable if unsurprising and the giant, prehistoric mantis effects are rubbery fun. So it’s not the top drawer of the big bug invasion, but it’s a nonetheless passable piece of hokum that will probably suit fans of the subgenre more than the casual viewer and would while away a rainy Saturday afternoon.
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