The Deadly Mantis (1957)

The Deadly Mantis PosterIf you’ve ever sat through Son of Godzilla or Godzilla: Final Wars and wished that all the Godzilla garbage was excised so that the focus could be on Kamacuras, The Deadly Mantis is a dream come true!

Kamacuras was of course the giant flying praying mantis who made cameo appearances in both of those Godzilla outings. And while the Japanese always instantly know the name of whatever giant monster has decided to leave his apartment on Monster Island for a day trip of romp and stomp on the mainland (“Good gravy! It’s Manda, the giant snake god of the depths!”), we Americans never seem to name our monsters beyond some physical description. Thus we have frequently found ourselves battling Mole People, Alligator People, Magnetic Monsters and Monolith Monsters.

In this case though, I would wager that Deadly Mantis doesn’t care all that much, since Deadly Mantis is a pretty cool name in and of itself. It sounds like a kung fu name and there isn’t any monster that’s going to shy away from having a kung fu name.

Besides, Deadly Mantis lives up to his name eating military pilots, causing train wrecks, and throwing buses around. He also has a really rad super power that causes him to sound like a roaring jet whenever he flies. He loses style points on his flying technique though since he doesn’t exhibit much in the way of maneuverability. (When rockets are fired at him, he moves ever so slightly, but you aren’t sure if that’s just not because the special effects guy’s arm got tired of holding Deadly Mantis in position.)

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One of the reasons I like these giant bug movies from the 1950s (aside from a total lack of taste) is because of all the science I pick up from them. Why, in this movie alone the narrator told us that for every action there is a reaction and demonstrated this by showing how an explosion down by Antarctica could cause Deadly Mantis to get busted out of his icy prison up in the arctic. Heck, that makes sense. What the hell was wrong with my high school science teachers that they skipped over that unit?

I also learned all about how bugs have exoskeletons, but that was strictly remedial because I seem to recall learning something about that in Tarantula (or was it Earth Vs. The Spider?). Still, with the propensity these creepy crawlies have of growing to monstrous size, some review work is always welcome.

I also learned that insects lack red blood cells. This is very important to know because when examining a giant bloody claw, this fact lets you rule in or out a giant bug as the source of your problem. Once again, my high school fell down on the job and neglected to teach that. It’s a wonder these giant bugs haven’t taken over our ignorant asses by now.

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But this movie’s educational value doesn’t apply solely to monster insect attacks. You also get a very detailed explanation of the country’s vast early warning radar system. This involves maps with arrows and zones and emphasizes that the various radars we have set up is a way to guard against a “sneak attack.” Well, except a sneak attack by Deadly Mantis. Thank God the commies didn’t strap their nukes to Deadly Mantis or we’d all be taking glow-in-the-dark craps!

Sure, the radars detected something once in awhile, but by the time we figured out it was Deadly Mantis, several people had already been wiped out and the military had to engage the services of a paleontologist named Nedrick. When you have to go and play the Nedrick card, you’ve already lost.

I also wasn’t too inspired by Nedrick since he seemed fond of bragging about how a lot of what a paleontologist does is guesswork. Deadly Mantis wasn’t doing too much guessing when he was peeking Nedrick’s gal pal photographer and smashing up the military base they were staying at.

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Somehow everyone figures out that Deadly Mantis is headed south back to the tropics where he was most at home ten gazillion years ago before he got frozen. I figured at this point that the movie was about over since we could just let Deadly Mantis fly down to the rainforest and that we’d eventually kill him off once we got done destroying his rainforest.

But there would be no appeasement from 1950s America! Not when Deadly Mantis has flipped us the giant bug equivalent of the bird by climbing all over the Washington Monument! You just know he left his insect love slime all over it!

Clearly this symbolic buggering of our nation can not go unanswered! A plan as devious as Deadly Mantis himself is hatched whereby the military crashes a jet into Deadly Mantis, forcing Deadly Mantis to hide out in the Manhattan Tunnel. Filling the tunnel with smoke for cover (and suitable monster hunting atmosphere no doubt), the military goes in with their chem bombs and gas Deadly Mantis until he gives up the ghost for good and croaks. Hearty laughs are had by all when the late lamented Deadly Mantis has a muscle contraction and almost whacks Ned’s lady friend in the head.

Truly, the king of all giant mantis movies, The Deadly Mantis is only marred by the failure to include a scene of a giant female mantis biting the head off of her giant male mantis mate after they’re done doing the nasty.

© 2014 MonsterHunter

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