Beginning of the End


1h 13m 1957

Brief Synopsis

A reporter attempts to thwart the attack of giant radioactive grasshoppers.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Jun 1957
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
AB-PT Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Republic Pictures Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 13m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

When police officers discover that the town of Ludlow, Illinois has been mysteriously wiped out, the Illinois National Guard cordons off the surrounding area. Renowned reporter Audrey Aimes is on her way to cover a story in the Ludlow vicinity, and after she is turned back at a roadblock, she drives to Guard headquarters to request permission to enter the area. At headquarters, Col. Tom Sturgeon makes Audrey promise to withhold her story pending government approval, then tells her that Ludlow has been destroyed and its 150 residents have vanished. Audrey notifies her editor in New York, who discovers that the Department of Agriculture has set up an experimental lab near Ludlow. Driving to the lab, Audrey meets deaf-mute scientist Frank Johnson and Dr. Ed Wainwright, the project director, who shows her the giant plants he has grown using radioactive feed. Later, after seeing the ravaged town and learning that a grain warehouse in the area met a similar fate three months earlier, Audrey asks Ed to take her to the warehouse. Frank accompanies them there, and points out that the ground is unusually barren. As Frank wanders around the site, a giant grasshopper appears and attacks him. Escaping the insect's clutches, Ed and Audrey speed to Guard headquarters to inform the colonel that giant grasshoppers have destroyed both the warehouse and the town. When Ed asserts that normal-sized grasshoppers must have entered his lab and ingested the radioactive plant food, turning them into giants, the colonel dismisses his account, but sends Capt. James Barton and some guardsmen to investigate. After Ed leads them to the spot in which Frank was devoured, the captain and his troops fan out into the woods. Soon, giant grasshoppers attack, sending the men scurrying back to their truck. Feeling responsible for the creation of a threat that "may mean the annihilation of man," Ed flies with Audrey to Washington, D.C. where he reports to a military committee that, although the insects are unable to fly, their powerful jaws and sharp teeth allow them to devour men. The military is content to have the Guard handle the situation until news comes that another town, just one hundred miles from Chicago, has been destroyed. Realizing that it is imperative to stop the grasshoppers before they reach Chicago, Gen. John Hanson calls in the armored and airborne divisions and flies back to Chicago with Ed and Audrey. When heavy artillery fire fails to halt the advance of the grasshoppers, people begin to panic in the streets of Chicago. As night falls and the temperature drops, the grasshoppers become immobile from the cold and huddle in alleyways. Knowing that they will start moving again once the sun rises, the general decides to evacuate the city and drop an atomic bomb at dawn. Desperate to avoid the desolation caused by an atomic bomb, Audrey suggests driving the grasshoppers into the lake where they will drown. Because the grasshoppers emit a high-pitched sound to rally for an attack, Ed decides to try to replicate the sound to lure them into the lake. Taking to the alleyways to capture one of the creatures, Ed and several soldiers trap a specimen and take it back to a building in which Ed has constructed a makeshift lab. After locking it in a cage, Ed exposes it to a series of sound frequencies, hoping to replicate its call. Hours later, the insect has still not reacted, and the general orders the bombers into the air. With only minutes remaining before dawn, Ed finally duplicates the correct frequency, causing the insect to rampage and break out of its cage. Ed shoots it with a machine gun, then notifies the general that he has replicated the grasshoppers' high-pitched drone. While an amplifier is erected on the tallest roof in Chicago, the general fits a boat with sound equipment and heads out onto the lake. When the temperature rises above sixty-eight, the grasshoppers begin to move, and heeding the call emanating from the amplifier, march toward it. Once the grasshoppers congregate downtown, the general activates the amplifier on this boat, luring the insects to their deaths in the water.

Photo Collections

Beginning of the End - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Bert I Gordon's Beginning of the End (1957), starring Peter Graves. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Jun 1957
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
AB-PT Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Republic Pictures Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 13m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Beginning of the End - SIZE DOES MATTER - The Films of Bert I. Gordon


Giant Grasshoppers Invade Chicago! Now that's the kind of newspaper headline that immediately grabs your attention and accurately sums up the plot and simple appeal of Beginning of the End (1957), Bert I. Gordon's tacky, no-budget attempt to duplicate the success of Them! (1954), the best movie ever made about mutant ants. Produced at the height of the science fiction movie boom in the late fifties when nuclear testing was constantly in the news, Gordon's film posits this "what-if" scenario; an agricultural lab accidentally breeds a new species of locusts through their experiments with radioactive isotopes and pretty soon the damn things become king-sized problems for the National Guard and the citizens of Illinois.

Like most of Gordon's fantasy films, Beginning of the End, now available as a special edition DVD from Image Entertainment, is obsessed with size, particularly extra large and beyond. With the notable exception of Attack of the Puppet People (1958), Gordon was firmly convinced that paying audiences wanted to see big, barn-sized monsters on the screen and most of his oeuvre reflects that from prehistoric beasts (King Dinosaur, 1955) to a bald, paranoid army colonel (The Amazing Colossal Man, 1957) to gargantuan teenagers (Village of the Giants, 1965) to the entire animal kingdom (The Food of the Gods, 1976). Talk about running a gimmick into the ground! Beginning of the End doesn't forge any new ground in the genre of giant, radioactive insect films but it does have two appealing leads - Peggie Castle and Peter Graves - who manage to find romance amid the constant onslaught of pesky, man-eating grasshoppers. It also features some notoriously bad special effects that begin to look like the work of some brilliant surrealist the more you stare at them. One of the more famous scenes - ask anyone who saw this on television as a child - is when the mutant grasshoppers are climbing up the side of a Chicago skyscraper and you can see that it's a photograph, not a model. It's particularly obvious when the critters reach the top of the building and continue climbing into the sky. In the new DVD edition of Beginning of the End, this favorite gaffe is missing and Glenn Erickson in his review of the film for DVD Savant explains why: "The appropriate matting enforced by the 16:9 enhancement crops away the film's main joke...Those mistakes must all have happened up near the top of the frame that the matting cuts off. After 40 years of open-matte TV viewing, we find out that Bert is innocent of that particular charge."

Probably the most significant aspect of the special edition DVD of Beginning of the End is the stunningly beautiful transfer. If only all B-movies on DVD could look this great! The black and white cinematography is so crisp and clear; obviously they had a pristine source print to work with. As for the extra features, there is a still gallery and a loose, running commentary between director/genre enthusiast Bruce Kimmel and Gordon's ex-wife Flora and their daughter Susan, who appeared in several of her father's films. Unfortunately, Flora's memory of the making of Beginning of the End is pretty fuzzy except for a few anecdotes. Likewise, Susan, who was only a small child at the time, doesn't have much to add either, except for a bizarre story about the stunt grasshoppers used (or should we say, killed?) for the film. For the most part, the commentary provides a rambling but amusing overview of Gordon's work (Picture Mommy Dead, 1966, The Mad Bomber, 1972, and other films are discussed) with occasional detours into Kimmel's particular obsession with Peggie Castle; at one point he speculates on which male characters in the film are lusting after her.

For more information about Beginning of the End, visit Image Entertainment. To order Beginning of the End, go to TCM Shopping.

by Jeff Stafford
Beginning Of The End - Size Does Matter - The Films Of Bert I. Gordon

Beginning of the End - SIZE DOES MATTER - The Films of Bert I. Gordon

Giant Grasshoppers Invade Chicago! Now that's the kind of newspaper headline that immediately grabs your attention and accurately sums up the plot and simple appeal of Beginning of the End (1957), Bert I. Gordon's tacky, no-budget attempt to duplicate the success of Them! (1954), the best movie ever made about mutant ants. Produced at the height of the science fiction movie boom in the late fifties when nuclear testing was constantly in the news, Gordon's film posits this "what-if" scenario; an agricultural lab accidentally breeds a new species of locusts through their experiments with radioactive isotopes and pretty soon the damn things become king-sized problems for the National Guard and the citizens of Illinois. Like most of Gordon's fantasy films, Beginning of the End, now available as a special edition DVD from Image Entertainment, is obsessed with size, particularly extra large and beyond. With the notable exception of Attack of the Puppet People (1958), Gordon was firmly convinced that paying audiences wanted to see big, barn-sized monsters on the screen and most of his oeuvre reflects that from prehistoric beasts (King Dinosaur, 1955) to a bald, paranoid army colonel (The Amazing Colossal Man, 1957) to gargantuan teenagers (Village of the Giants, 1965) to the entire animal kingdom (The Food of the Gods, 1976). Talk about running a gimmick into the ground! Beginning of the End doesn't forge any new ground in the genre of giant, radioactive insect films but it does have two appealing leads - Peggie Castle and Peter Graves - who manage to find romance amid the constant onslaught of pesky, man-eating grasshoppers. It also features some notoriously bad special effects that begin to look like the work of some brilliant surrealist the more you stare at them. One of the more famous scenes - ask anyone who saw this on television as a child - is when the mutant grasshoppers are climbing up the side of a Chicago skyscraper and you can see that it's a photograph, not a model. It's particularly obvious when the critters reach the top of the building and continue climbing into the sky. In the new DVD edition of Beginning of the End, this favorite gaffe is missing and Glenn Erickson in his review of the film for DVD Savant explains why: "The appropriate matting enforced by the 16:9 enhancement crops away the film's main joke...Those mistakes must all have happened up near the top of the frame that the matting cuts off. After 40 years of open-matte TV viewing, we find out that Bert is innocent of that particular charge." Probably the most significant aspect of the special edition DVD of Beginning of the End is the stunningly beautiful transfer. If only all B-movies on DVD could look this great! The black and white cinematography is so crisp and clear; obviously they had a pristine source print to work with. As for the extra features, there is a still gallery and a loose, running commentary between director/genre enthusiast Bruce Kimmel and Gordon's ex-wife Flora and their daughter Susan, who appeared in several of her father's films. Unfortunately, Flora's memory of the making of Beginning of the End is pretty fuzzy except for a few anecdotes. Likewise, Susan, who was only a small child at the time, doesn't have much to add either, except for a bizarre story about the stunt grasshoppers used (or should we say, killed?) for the film. For the most part, the commentary provides a rambling but amusing overview of Gordon's work (Picture Mommy Dead, 1966, The Mad Bomber, 1972, and other films are discussed) with occasional detours into Kimmel's particular obsession with Peggie Castle; at one point he speculates on which male characters in the film are lusting after her. For more information about Beginning of the End, visit Image Entertainment. To order Beginning of the End, go to TCM Shopping. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Beginning of the End marked the first production by AB-PT Pictures Corp., a subsidiary of the American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres organization. According to an American Cinematographer article, producer-director Bert I. Gordon had to locate a wingless variety of grasshoppers that could not fly or hop so that they could not escape during filming. He imported 200 from Texas, and at the end of production only twelve were still alive. The scene in which the grasshoppers swarm the high-rise building in Chicago was created by placing the grasshoppers on a large photo cutout of a building. The Variety review misspells Peggie Castle's name as "Peggy" and incorrectly credits Pierre Watkin as "Taggert." Modern sources add Kirk Alyn, Bill Baldwin, Sr., James Douglas, Lyle Latell, Dennis Moore, Zon Murray, Ralph Sanford and Bert Stevens to the cast.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer June 1957

Released in United States Summer June 1957