The Deadly Mantis Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Nathan Juran
Written by Martin Berkeley
1957, 79 minutes, Not Rated
Released on March 19th, 2019
Craig Stevens as Col. Joe Parkman
William Hopper as Dr. Nedrick Jackson
Alix Talton as Marge Blaine
Donald Randolph as Maj. Gen. Mark Ford
Pat Conway as Sgt. Pete Allen
Florenz Ames as Prof. Anton Gunther
Phil Harvey as Lou
When a volcanic eruption near Antarctica triggers a reaction in the Arctic Circle, a prehistoric giant praying mantis is freed from its icy tomb and wreaks havoc upon modern civilization. Following the disappearance of the crew at a northernmost radar station off the coast of Canada, the US military sends a rescue team to find out what happened. The men are missing, but there are strange tracks discovered in the snow nearby. Soon after, a cargo plane goes down not far from the site and the tracks are present here too. Part of a giant talon is discovered in the wreckage, but the crew is nowhere to be found. Col. Joe Parkman is at a loss for answers and contacts paleontologist Dr. Nedrick Jackson in Washington for assistance. Ned teams up with Marge Blaine, his beautiful photographer assistant, and they make their way north to the base.
Dr. Jackson studies the talon fragment and determines that it came from a giant prehistoric mantis and before doubt can spread, the monster attacks the military installation. Radar tracks the beast as it flies south towards Washington D.C. where it terrorizes tourists before moving back up the eastern seaboard to cause further damage. Anti-aircraft guns and a squad of jets attack the creature to little effect. The mantis makes its way to New York City where it causes more panic and the stage is set for a final showdown with the army. Can the scientists discover a weakness in the creature or find some other means to stop it or will it continue to bring horrors from the sky?
In the 1950s, monster movies were quite popular and giant insects became a subgenre of their own. With hits like Them! (1954) and Tarantula (1955) thrilling audiences, the studios continued to mine the territory for the next “big” thing. In 1957, Universal Pictures concocted The Deadly Mantis, written by Martin Berkeley (Revenge of the Creature) and directed by Nathan Juran (20 Million Miles to Earth). The plot follows the template already firmly in place with the military seeking assistance from the world of science to stop an invading menace. The scientist always has a lovely assistant who usually ends up in peril and in need of rescue during the grand finale.
The cast is made up of your typical 1950s heroic types. Square-jawed Craig Stevens (Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde) stars as Col. Joe Parkman, the man determined to save the world from giant insect attacks. William Hopper (The Bad Seed) is the brains of the operation as Dr. Nedrick Jackson. He explains things clearly for younger viewers and takes the material seriously. Alix Talton (The Man Who Knew Too Much) plays the love interest/assistant Marge Blaine as a modern woman capable of standing up for herself and getting what she wants in pursuit of a good story. The real star of the picture is the giant bug. It looks pretty cool and moves around a bit, waving its arms and bobbing its head as it attacks. The iconic scene in this picture features the mantis landing on the Washington Monument and climbing up the obelisk.
The Deadly Mantis is a throwaway B-movie that sets out to do nothing more than thrill audiences and in that it succeeds. By 1957, the studios were hip to the use of stock footage to add production value and pad the running time. This picture includes an absurd amount of the material, starting with the first six minutes of exposition. Once we are introduced to our principal cast and setting, recycled stock shots appear throughout the movie suggesting that if removed the running time would be closer to the one-hour mark. Padding aside, the film is a guilty pleasure that frequently played on late-night television for years. It is far from good, but remains entertaining.
Video and Audio:
The original camera negative has been given a 2K restoration and the results are rather impressive. The picture arrives in its native 1.85:1 aspect ratio and really shines with detail long absent from previous releases. The downside of this new transfer is the noticeably inferior condition of the stock footage, as dirt and scratches have never been clearer.
A DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono delivers a respectable track that gets the job done without knocking your socks off. The audio is clean and free from hiss or other distortion.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Film historian Tom Weaver knows this movie is garbage and does little to defend it in his audio commentary. He provides quite a bit of information regarding the production and laments the over-abundance of stock footage padding. His comments are frequently humorous, making this an entertaining track worth checking out.
The gang at Mystery Science Theatre 3000 took aim at The Deadly Mantis in 1997 and that episode appears here in its entirety.
The original theatrical trailer has been included.
A still gallery plays as a slideshow (8 minutes) featuring publicity photos, lobby cards and international poster art.
This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.