The Deadly Mantis


1h 18m 1957
The Deadly Mantis

Brief Synopsis

A prehistoric praying mantis wreaks havoc on the Eastern seaboard.

Film Details

Genre
Thriller
Sci-Fi
Release Date
May 1957
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 1 May 1957
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co., Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 18m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Black and White

Synopsis

In the South Seas, a volcano explodes, eventually causing North Pole icebergs to shift. Below the melting polar ice caps, a 200-foot-long praying mantis, trapped in the ice for centuries, begins to stir. Soon after, the military personnel at Red Eagle One, a military station in northern Canada that monitors information gathered from a nearby radar line, realize that the men at one of their outposts are not responding to calls. Commanding officer Col. Joe Parkman drives there to investigate, and finds the post destroyed, its men disappeared and giant slashes left in the snow outside. When a blip on the outpost's radar screen is soon sighted, Joe sends his pilots out, and one is attacked. Joe searches the wreckage, and this time, in addition to the huge slashes, finds a five-foot-long pointed object in the snow. He then takes it to General Mark Ford at the Continental Air Defense Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Ford gathers top scientists, including Professor Anton Gunther, to examine the object, but after they fail to identify it, Gunther recommends calling in Dr. Nedrick Jackson, a paleontologist at the Museum of Natural History. When Ned receives the call from Ford, he is helping museum magazine editor Marge Blaine plan her next issue, and later dodges her questions as she begs him for a big scoop. Later, after examining the object, Ned quickly recognizes it as a torn-off spur from an insect's legs, and soon guesses, from evidence that the creature ate human flesh, that it must be a gigantic praying mantis. Meanwhile, in the Arctic, the people of an Eskimo village spot the mantis in the sky, and although they hurry to their boats to escape, it swoops down and kills several men. Ned is sent to Red Eagle One to investigate further, and upon leaving, discovers that Marge has finagled permission to accompany him as his photographer. They reach the base, where all the men, including Joe, are smitten by Marge's beauty. That night, Marge and Joe join Ned in his office and discuss the creature, not realizing that it is drawing close to the office window. Marge suddenly catches sight of it and screams, and the bug attacks the building. Although the full unit opens fire on the mantis, it is unscathed and moves away only after planes encircle it. Hours later, the base remains on red alert, but they finally hear that the bug has attacked a boat in the Canadian sea, which means, Ned calculates, that it is flying at a speed of 200 miles an hour. Ford calls a press conference to announce the bug's existence, and asks the Civilian Ground Observer Corps to track its whereabouts. Over the next few days, Ned, Marge and Joe tirelessly track the bug's progress, with the help of military and civilian onlookers. Late one night, Joe drives Marge home, stopping briefly to ask for, and receive, a kiss. They are distracted by a report of a nearby train wreck, and although they assume it to be a fluke accident, soon after, a woman leaving a bus sees the mantis, and all emergency personnel are put on alert. The mantis is then sighted in Washington, D.C., atop the Washington Monument. Joe is one of the pilots who bravely attempt to drive the bug toward the sea, but a dense fog throws him off course, and he flies directly into the mantis. As the wounded mantis drops to the ground and crawls into the Manhattan Tunnel, Joe safely parachutes to the ground. Ford heads a team that seals off the tunnel, filling it with smoke to provide cover for Joe and his special unit of men, who enter the tunnel armed with chemical bombs. They creep past wrecked cars until suddenly the bug appears in the fog only a few yards ahead of them. They shoot at it, but it lumbers on, forcing them backward. The mantis seems immune to the ammunition until, only feet from the tunnel entrance, Joe throws a grenade in its face, and it collapses, dead. Later, Ford, Ned, Joe and Marge enter the tunnel to examine the bug. Marge photographs its face while the men walk around its side, but Joe suddenly sees the mantis' arm move, and runs to protect Marge. Although Ned explains that the bug's movement was merely an automatic reflex, Joe takes the opportunity to pull Marge into an embrace.

Film Details

Genre
Thriller
Sci-Fi
Release Date
May 1957
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 1 May 1957
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co., Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 18m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Black and White

Articles

The Deadly Mantis


The 1950s brought the monster movie into the atomic age with a roar that Hollywood heard all the way from Japan, where Godzilla (1954) crawled out of the ocean to rampage through Tokyo. In the U.S., prehistorical creatures were revived by atomic tests in such films as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), and insects and arachnids were supersized from radiation in Them! (1954) and Tarantula (1955). The Deadly Mantis (1957) combines the two with a prehistoric insect of gargantuan proportions released from its glacier prison in the North Pole and travels south to warmer climes and easier foraging. This carnivorous insect preys upon humans.

Produced by William Alland, the man who brought Universal's legacy of science fiction and monster movies into the atomic era of the 1950s with such classics as It Came from Outer Space (1953), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), and This Island Earth (1955), The Deadly Mantis came at the tail end of the giant insect fad. Alland's original treatment was inspired by the giant ant hit Them!. Martin Berkeley, a veteran of Alland's Tarantula (1955) and Revenge of the Creature (1955), scripted. Rex Reason, the star of Alland's This Island Earth, was originally cast as the hero but he turned down the role. "I knew that the monster would be the star, and I knew I was worth a little more than just to support a praying mantis," he explained in an interview years later.

Craig Stevens (TV's suave Peter Gunn) takes the lead, playing the Air Force Colonel who follows the mysterious radar readings to Arctic military outposts and Eskimo villages left in ruins by some unidentified threat that leaves enigmatic tracks behind. William Hopper (private detective Paul Drake in TV's Perry Mason) is the paleontologist who works for a Smithsonian-like institution and identifies the only physical remnant left behind by the creature, the tip of what could be a giant claw the size of a small child, as something from the insect world, specifically a mantis. "In all the kingdom of the living, there is no more deadly or voracious creature than the deadly mantis," he explains with great gravity. Former Miss Georgia Alix Talton is the institution publicist and photographer who sees a scoop in this story and heads north to investigate the scene of the attacks with the scientist and is romanced by Stevens as they track the buzzing creature to New York and Washington D.C.

The Deadly Mantis was made on a much smaller scale than Universal's previous monster movies. Stock footage of arctic radar stations and military bases and scenes of Eskimos fleeing a native fishing village (repurposed from the 1933 film S.O.S. Iceberg) fill out much of the first act, and the rest of the film was shot quickly and inexpensively on a 14-day shooting schedule. A marionette-like model was created for the attack sequences but the most vivid image of the creature comes from an actual live mantis crawling up a tiny model of the Washington Monument, a scene so well-lit and photographed that it belies its true scale.

Producer William Alland began as an actor for and assistant to Orson Welles, first with the Mercury Company in New York on stage and on the radio, and then in the movies, playing the reporter in Citizen Kane (1941) in front of the camera and serving behind the scenes as Welles's assistant on Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), and Macbeth (1948). It proved to be an excellent training ground in practical filmmaking for his years producing films for Universal.

Austrian-born filmmaker Nathan Juran was an Oscar-winning art director (for John Ford's How Green Was My Valley, 1941) before he graduated to the director's chair, turning out low budget westerns and crime films before Alland drafted him for The Deadly Mantis. It sent Juran's career in a new direction. He went on to make such minor classics of fantastic cinema as 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958), and First Men in the Moon (1964), as well as the notorious cult movies The Brain from Planet Arous (1957) and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958), both of which he signed as Nathan Hertz. He also went on to helm episodes of such cult TV shows as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel, Lost in Space, and Land of the Giants.

Sources:
Introducing the Deadly Mantis, Genevieve Rajewski. Rosen Publishing Group, 2007.
"Move Over, Godzilla! Killer Bugs, Babes, and Beasts in 1950s Drive-in Cinema," Mark A. Vieira. Bright Lights Film Journal, May 12, 2014.
Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, Bill Warren. McFarland & Company, 2010.
IMDb

By Sean Axmaker
The Deadly Mantis

The Deadly Mantis

The 1950s brought the monster movie into the atomic age with a roar that Hollywood heard all the way from Japan, where Godzilla (1954) crawled out of the ocean to rampage through Tokyo. In the U.S., prehistorical creatures were revived by atomic tests in such films as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), and insects and arachnids were supersized from radiation in Them! (1954) and Tarantula (1955). The Deadly Mantis (1957) combines the two with a prehistoric insect of gargantuan proportions released from its glacier prison in the North Pole and travels south to warmer climes and easier foraging. This carnivorous insect preys upon humans. Produced by William Alland, the man who brought Universal's legacy of science fiction and monster movies into the atomic era of the 1950s with such classics as It Came from Outer Space (1953), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), and This Island Earth (1955), The Deadly Mantis came at the tail end of the giant insect fad. Alland's original treatment was inspired by the giant ant hit Them!. Martin Berkeley, a veteran of Alland's Tarantula (1955) and Revenge of the Creature (1955), scripted. Rex Reason, the star of Alland's This Island Earth, was originally cast as the hero but he turned down the role. "I knew that the monster would be the star, and I knew I was worth a little more than just to support a praying mantis," he explained in an interview years later. Craig Stevens (TV's suave Peter Gunn) takes the lead, playing the Air Force Colonel who follows the mysterious radar readings to Arctic military outposts and Eskimo villages left in ruins by some unidentified threat that leaves enigmatic tracks behind. William Hopper (private detective Paul Drake in TV's Perry Mason) is the paleontologist who works for a Smithsonian-like institution and identifies the only physical remnant left behind by the creature, the tip of what could be a giant claw the size of a small child, as something from the insect world, specifically a mantis. "In all the kingdom of the living, there is no more deadly or voracious creature than the deadly mantis," he explains with great gravity. Former Miss Georgia Alix Talton is the institution publicist and photographer who sees a scoop in this story and heads north to investigate the scene of the attacks with the scientist and is romanced by Stevens as they track the buzzing creature to New York and Washington D.C. The Deadly Mantis was made on a much smaller scale than Universal's previous monster movies. Stock footage of arctic radar stations and military bases and scenes of Eskimos fleeing a native fishing village (repurposed from the 1933 film S.O.S. Iceberg) fill out much of the first act, and the rest of the film was shot quickly and inexpensively on a 14-day shooting schedule. A marionette-like model was created for the attack sequences but the most vivid image of the creature comes from an actual live mantis crawling up a tiny model of the Washington Monument, a scene so well-lit and photographed that it belies its true scale. Producer William Alland began as an actor for and assistant to Orson Welles, first with the Mercury Company in New York on stage and on the radio, and then in the movies, playing the reporter in Citizen Kane (1941) in front of the camera and serving behind the scenes as Welles's assistant on Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), and Macbeth (1948). It proved to be an excellent training ground in practical filmmaking for his years producing films for Universal. Austrian-born filmmaker Nathan Juran was an Oscar-winning art director (for John Ford's How Green Was My Valley, 1941) before he graduated to the director's chair, turning out low budget westerns and crime films before Alland drafted him for The Deadly Mantis. It sent Juran's career in a new direction. He went on to make such minor classics of fantastic cinema as 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958), and First Men in the Moon (1964), as well as the notorious cult movies The Brain from Planet Arous (1957) and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958), both of which he signed as Nathan Hertz. He also went on to helm episodes of such cult TV shows as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel, Lost in Space, and Land of the Giants. Sources: Introducing the Deadly Mantis, Genevieve Rajewski. Rosen Publishing Group, 2007. "Move Over, Godzilla! Killer Bugs, Babes, and Beasts in 1950s Drive-in Cinema," Mark A. Vieira. Bright Lights Film Journal, May 12, 2014. Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, Bill Warren. McFarland & Company, 2010. IMDb By Sean Axmaker

Quotes

Trivia

The stock footage of the aircraft carrier is the USS Antietam, CV-36.

Notes

The end credits contain the following written statement: "We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the Ground Observer Corps." The film begins with a lengthy voice-over narration describing the radar "fences" throughout North America that serve as a distant warning system for the American and Canadian military. The construction of the farthest radar system, known as the Dew Line, is shown, using archival footage. A similar voice-over later describes CONAD and the radar it uses as "the shield that could mean the difference between life and death for all Americans." According to a May 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, Universal originally considered Mara Corday and Rex Reason to co-star in the film.
       Studio press materials reveal the following details about the creation of the film's special effects: One papier-maché model of the mantis was built for the picture, measuring 200 feet long and 40 feet high, with a wingspan of 150 feet. It was fitted with a hydraulic system to raise its legs. Two smaller models, one six feet long and the other one foot long, were also constructed for use in walking and flying scenes. For the scene in which the bug climbs the Washington Monument, close-up shots of a real mantis were used. According to modern sources, the footage of an Eskimo village included in the film was taken from the 1933 Universal film S.O.S Iceberg, which was directed by Tay Garnett and starred Rod LaRoque (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). Modern sources also identify some stock footage used in the film as being drawn from Air Force short films, including Guardians All, One Plane-One Bond and SFP308.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States on Video June 30, 1993

Released in United States Spring May 1957

Released in United States Spring May 1957

Released in United States on Video June 30, 1993