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In this one, a giant preying mantis from prehistoric times is suddenly thawed out in the Arctic Circle. This entry in the giant insect threat of fifties cinema is in many ways a generic, prototypical effort. It copies quite a bit from earlier features, namely THEM! (54), TARANTULA (55) and IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (55) - this last is not a giant insect, but THE DEADLY MANTIS has a very similar beginning, featuring a long-winded explanation of our radar defense network, in documentary fashion. The film it copies most, in fact, is IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955): it's got the same set-up with the 3 main characters of 2 guys and a lady - the military hero is played by Craig Stevens, while the scientist hero is William Hopper (from 20 MILLION LIES TO EARTH). They form a familiar triangle, a benign 'let's get along' trinity. Then the plot copies elements from THEM!, as if it's a murder mystery in the icy north, when the hero (Craig Stevens) finds a wrecked base but no bodies of military personnel. The difference is, in THEM! it really did come across like a mystery; in this one, the audience has already been shown the giant creature as it was thawing.
A later moment copies a famous scene from TARANTULA, when the female lead (Alix Talton) walks in front of a large window through which we can see the huge insect. She and the two guys in the room are oblivious to the creature's presence for several moments as the tension builds. To the film's credit, the giant threat does come across as very tough and dangerous. At the midpoint, a couple of soldiers attack the monster with a flamethrower and a machine gun; this only annoys it. There's one innovative moment even later - a nice attempt at spooky doings: a lone woman exits a bus on a foggy evening and we think that she must be the next victim; but, the giant monster doesn't concern itself with such small morsels - it goes after the bus and all the other passengers.
But, such moments are very few in this film. Most of the story drags; this is especially bad in the final act, when things should have picked up, but there are innumerable shots of the flying giant insect, emitting its annoying droning noise, as the military makes strategy. Somehow, the giant mantis gets "mortally wounded" (in the words of other hero William Hopper - the primary hero, Stevens, used the unorthodox method of crashing his jet into the creature) by one of the military jets and, in the climax, seeks refuge in New York's Brooklyn Tunnel. This final sequence again copies the final act of THEM!. Finally, I've always found it extra hard to buy into the huge size of the insect (as large as the largest dinosaurs); I can understand a prehistoric insect the size of a car, but not much bigger than that. BoG's Score: 6 out of 10
Giant Insect Trivia: THE FOLLOW-UP BY UNIVERSAL STUDIOS TO THEIR TARANTULA (1955) FILM
...FEATURED AS AN EPISODE OF MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 IN 1997
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