TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE DEADLY MANTIS (1957)

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THE DEADLY MANTIS (1957)

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Giant insect movies were quite popular in the 50s and The Deadly Mantis is among the best. While many of the giant pests were the result of atomic testing, this six legged critter is a prehistoric insect melted out of the polar ice caps by the effects of an erupting volcano. Once free, the hungry beast snacks on military personnel and Eskimo natives on it’s way to warmer climates. The giant insect is pursued by scientists and the military as it stops for snacks in Canada, Maryland, Washington D.C. and even battles the U. S. Air Force over Newark, N.J.! This all leading to a finale confrontation in the Big Apple inside the Lincoln Tunnel (dubbed The Manhattan Tunnel for the film).

Fun flick is directed by Nathan H. Juran, who also directed classics like 20 Million Miles to Earth and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, from a story and script by William Alland and Martin Berkeley. Juran takes the material very seriously, as does his cast, and it helps make the silly scenario very entertaining. The pace is brisk, with a lot of action, the traditional romantic sub-plot and the usual drama and humor, evenly mixed by Juran. There are some cheesy SPFX and stock footage as the military wages war on the mantis, but there is also a very impressive animatronic mantis puppet that is very effective when mixed with miniatures and given a monstrous roar by the sound FX folks. The acting is decent for this kind of movie and that helps the cheesy dialogue and silly science work well enough to keep us from laughing at the wrong times…though we nostalgically now do anyway.

This is one of the best giant bug movies from this era. A Universal picture, The Deadly Mantis takes it’s silly subject very seriously and is surprisingly well made, probably the result of being a major studio film. The cast take the material as seriously as the director and it maintains the illusion that we should be concerned about a massive prehistoric insect eating it’s way across the United States. A fun and very entertaining 50s science fiction epic. Charming cast includes, William Hopper as the handsome Dr. Ned Jackson, Craig Stevens as smooth military officer Col. Joe Parkman and Alix Talton as sexy journalist/photographer/love interest Marge Blaine.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) mantis.

 

 

 

 

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SATURDAY MATINEE: THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1973)

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Going to try a new column to be rotated with my Saturday Night Double Features simply called Saturday Matinee. While all theaters still have matinee showings, when I was a kid, many theaters like the Fairview Cinema in Fairview, N.J. used to play old movies as children’s matinees on Saturday afternoons in the early 70s. It was a one time early showing of a more kid friendly film and my mom or grandfather used to take us. It got us out of the house and when we were old enough to go by ourselves, afforded my mom 90 minutes of quiet shopping time in the nearby stores. So this column will look at more lighter toned genre films that would certainly have fit at such a matinee or possibly been one I actually saw such as this 1973 fantasy adventure! Enjoy!

 

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THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1973)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

15 Years after 7th Voyage, Ray Harryhausen returned to the world of the Persian sea captain with The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad. A chance encounter with a strange creature leaves Sinbad (John Philip Law) in possession of a gold amulet that is being pursued by dark prince, Koura (future Dr. Who, Tom Baker) as when joined with it’s other parts, it can give the bearer unlimited power. The pursuit of the final piece brings Sinbad to a mysterious island and in the company of a beautiful slave girl (legendary genre hottie, Caroline Munro) who may be key to the proceedings. Along the way there are the numerous Harryhausen critters to complicate the voyage and the usual magic and derring-do.

Director Gordon Hessler doesn’t bring the fun as well as Nathan Juran did in 7th Voyage and he also doesn’t give the film the lively pace that flick had either but, it is still an enjoyable fantasy adventure and the cast do take their parts serious enough to make them believable even if Law can’t really work the Middle Eastern accent that he tries to imbue the heroic captain with. The stop-motion creature effects… billed here as Dynarama… are typical Harryhausen quality, although the designs aren’t as memorable as the cyclops or dragon from the last film… the standouts being the centaur and the griffin featured at the climax and Koura’s flying spy. The rest of the FX are fine for the time period but, are a tad cheesy by today’s hi-tech standards… though I still find them very charming.

All in all, it is an entertaining adventure yarn and filled with nostalgic charm at this point, though, not quite the classic that 7th is. Obviously when I saw this film as a 9 year old it was the best thing ever…till the next movie came along. Also has an uncredited cameo by Jaws and Black Sunday actor Robert Shaw as The Oracle Of All Knowledge.

Followed by one more film, Sindbad And The Eye Of The Tiger in 1977 which was a sadly disappointing and weak installment that was unfortunately the last time Harryhausen would revisit the character. There was talk of a rumored Sinbad On Mars but, that film never materialized and Harryhausen would end his legendary career with Clash Of The Titans in 1981.

3 sexy slave girls.

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