Starring: Craig Stevens, William Hopper, Alix Talton
Written by: Martin Berkeley (screenplay), William Alland (story)
Directed by: Nathan Juran
Original Year of Release: 1957
Distributor: Scream Factory
Run Time: 1h 19min
I missed seeing The Deadly Mantis a few years ago at a little thing called Blobfest in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, a festival in celebration of the 1958 B-Movie, The Blob. That particular year they doubled featured The Blob with numerous giant bug movies. When Scream Factory announced the film was getting a 2K scan of the original film elements, I knew my chance had come again to see this giant bug movie.
To my surprise, Atomic Bombs and Nuclear Power do not bring the featured Mantis to life. In fact, the narrator, Marvin Miller, talks about chain reactions in the world. So it came as a complete shock that a volcano in the Atlantic Ocean had unearthed the Mantis from his Arctic slumber. What follows and runs throughout the film is a great combination of military stock footage, miniatures, and B-Movie acting that one cannot help but marvel at. The craft that it took to put it all together is a great feat in film making, one that has become a lost art. If you truly love movies and I mean truly love them, you'll notice numerous similarities here to Joe Dante's Matinee (1993). In fact, I recommend watching Matinee first and you will probably get a greater appreciation for The Deadly Mantis. Why? Outside of the occasional chuckle at the giant Mantis roaring like King Kong or when it is flying through the air at supersonic speed, the story is beyond predictable. We have a scientist, who is the military's key to stopping something they cannot destroy, we have the leader of the military forces, who has to woo the girl and save the day, and the girl, aka damsel in distress, a reporter, who gets a little more involved than logic should dictate. All these characters are blocks that fit into the B-Movie pegs but are still easily relatable. This type of film is a whole genre unto itself. There are times that it shines brightly (Them! (1954)) and there are times when it is just a carbon copy of the last one with less luster.
So why watch The Deadly Mantis then? It is still fun and a great gateway horror movie for the kids; especially those fascinated by bugs. It is also the window into what life was like during the Cold War that many people do not remember. Mantis' first 10 minutes break down the North American defenses in case the Soviet Union ever attacked us from over the Arctic Circle. Let us also enjoy the press conference in which the military tells the people of the United States that a giant Praying Mantis is coming. All this and more will you enjoy and marvel at as you watch The Deadly Mantis.
Again, Scream Factory delivers more fun on a movie that most people would only watch once and forget about. We have an audio commentary by film historians to dive deeper in the Mantis as well as another episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 to enjoy this giant bug movie all over again.
- NEW 2K Scan of the original film elements
- NEW Audio Commentary with film historians Tom Weaver and David Schecter
- Mystery Science Theatre 3000 episode “The Deadly Mantis” (02/22/97)
- Theatrical Trailer
- Still Gallery