Beginning of the End

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Beginning of the End

Post  BoG on Sat Mar 06, 2010 8:51 pm

Mr. B.i.G. continues his quest to show audiences all things really large: this begins with the standard necking couple in a car at night out in some rural area; they are rudely interrupted - by what, we dunno. Two state troopers find the wrecked auto; one of them is dispatched to another problem area and finds that an entire town has been wiped out. The next morning, a persistent female reporter (Peggy Castle) is blocked from entering the area by the national guard. Her investigation soon leads her to a local government agricultural agency led by a scientist played by Peter Graves. He's developed giant-sized vegetables and fruit via radioactivity; the problem, as many of us may guess by this point, is that some kind of insect lifeform may have gotten to these giant tomatoes and strawberries.
The giant perpetrators are locusts - similar to grasshoppers. Graves later describes them as 8 feet tall and each as strong as 10 men. Bert Gordon, who handled all the main chores here, including the FX, naturally followed the template of Them! (1954) for some of this. It begins as a mystery; later, troops hear the noise these insects make, heralding the approach of the giant bugs; the giant bugs can't fly like real locusts and move along much like the giant ants. But, Gordon used real locusts for his FX shots, superimposing them over army battle footage and then placing them on photographs of buildings. Some of this works surprisingly well, other shots are embarrassing - it's hit-or-miss. Later, Graves shows some film of real locusts to the generals in Washington D.C., much like the scene in Them!  about real ants. Gordon also got by with showing no FX in crucial scenes: the wrecked town in the first act is not shown - the reporter gapes at what she sees but the audience doesn't see it. But later, we do see wreckage superimposed over her taking photos, which looks like tornado damage.
Gordon's script is the same hit-or-miss style: some of it is almost documentary-style and professional; but, Gordon belabors one trope way too much - the officer in charge of the national guard scoffs at Graves' and Castle's tale of giant locusts; however, even after he's seen the giant creatures, he regards them as a minor threat, ignoring the scientist's warnings. Then, the general in D.C. also humors Graves as if the scientist is brain-damaged, even though they are aware of the threat by this time. Gordon's story also includes a deaf mute character in a brief role - for no apparent reason. Gordon's skill was at making some of this picture seem bigger than the $250,000 production that it was, such as large crowd scenes in Chicago (shot by a 2nd unit), where the climactic action takes place. It's interesting in that an early scene has Graves remarking on what insects may have been affected by the giant veggies; after locusts, he mentions beetles, a seeming set-up for a sequel. BoG's Score: 5 out of 10
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