Beginning of the End (1957)

Something strange is going on in the town of Ludlow, Illinois. Namely that it’s been eaten by a swarm of big ass grasshoppers!

It takes a while for everyone to catch on to this fact and it’s only after our nosy reporter Audrey teams up with Peter Graves’ Dr. Wainwright does the mystery of what happened to Ludlow begin to be unraveled.

On her way to cover another story, Audrey happens upon the National Guard’s roadblock preventing people from going to where Ludlow used to be. After compromising her journalistic integrity in two seconds flat by agreeing to not report anything until the government says she can so that she can have access to the site, she tours the ruins of Ludlow.

After that’s finished, Audrey reflects that her life can be measured by the ruins she’s toured. Berlin after the war. Seoul after the police action. Gary, Indiana anytime. She’s clearly a world weary gal haunted by her past which is precisely why her military escort tries to take her out for drinks. You know – take the edge of the memories of all those houses with grasshopper teeth marks on them.

But she’s got no time for drinks! There’s a story here somewhere! If she can only figure out who was the cause of the radiation that is connected to everything that’s happening.

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Radiation? Who said anything about radiation? Why Audrey did you silly goose! I guess what you or I might call the gaping maw of a plot hole, Bert I. Gordon would call woman’s intuition. There’s no other way he’d be able to get Audrey together with Dr. Wainwright without this lucky guess.

Since she’s convinced radiation has something to do with the destruction, her boss tells her the only folks in the area working with radiation is an agricultural research facility, but surely that has nothing to do with it. As Dr. Wainwright says, they’re only working with isotopes. And if you can’t trust the word of an insect expert working with isotopes, who can you trust?

Dr. Wainwright’s lab is using the isotopes in an effort to grow gigantic tomatoes and strawberries. It’s really all quite harmless. Well, except for the radiation that rendered his lab assistant deaf and mute a year ago, but every workplace has its accidents, right?

It’s not like the guy died or grew an extra arm or anything. Besides, when he gets eaten by a giant grasshopper, we don’t even have to hear him scream while Dr. Wainwright acts like Audrey is holding him back from rescuing him.

Wainwright’s assistant didn’t die in vain though since we all know now that we are up against giant grasshoppers. You know, because we saw him get eaten by a giant grasshopper. Really, scientific investigation is all about that sort of observation and deduction.

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Wainwright deduces that some grasshoppers must have gotten into his research facility and eaten some of the junk that was making their tomatoes winners of three straight Illinois State Fair titles. Considering that his facility seemed to consist of an large shed with a dirt floor and doors that weren’t secure, I can’t imagine how stupid little bugs could circumvent all that security.

After the National Guard fails to stop the advance of the grasshoppers, Wainwright heads to Washington D.C. to talk with top Pentagon brass in an effort to get the regular army involved. This is the part of the bug movie all of us bug movie fans look forward to: the highlight reel.

The highlight reel is that piece of film all our bug-fighting heroes have access to on a moment’s notice that lays out how unstoppable this week’s monster insect is. Pooh-poohing by the military at the conclusion of the film should be expected and this time is no exception.

But just as Wainwright heads dejectedly for the door, he gets good news. The grasshoppers have broken through the National Guard lines and are destroying every town in their path on their way to the Windy City!

Once they’ve taken over Chicago, there’s two plans for stopping them. The first one involves dropping an A-Bomb on Chicago. While that may appeal to a lot of folks in places like St. Louis and Minneapolis, Wainwright is determined to find a less radioactive way to do things (ironic considering it was his radioactive fruit that started all this) and he comes up with a gimmick that involves him hooking a captured grasshopper up to a polygraph!

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Wainwright does so, not to establish whether the grasshopper is a Communist, but to find the right sound for the grasshopper’s mating call. Once he has it, Wainwright plans to use it lure all the grasshoppers into Lake Michigan where they will all drown. In a moment of pure manliness, Wainwright announces gravely, “I’ll be your Pied Piper!” He sure had the blonde hair for it!

There’s a lot of folks who take issue with this movie because of some perceived stinkiness of the special effects. Specifically, the fact that the grasshoppers look like regular old grasshoppers superimposed over things and that they appear to be crawling over pictures of buildings instead of the buildings themselves.

My answer to those uptight critics is ask them if they’ve ever seen a real life giant grasshopper invasion? No? Then how do you know it wouldn’t look like really chintzy special effects? Really, if people would just stop and think before they open up their dumbhole.

You won’t hear any complaints from me on this one. After watching it, I thought to myself, I don’t think there was anything that Bert I. Gordon (Earth Vs. The Spider, Attack Of The Puppet People) could have done better. This was pretty much the big grasshopper attack movie I had been hoping for. Don’t believe me? How many spider invasion movies have you seen? How many movies about bee attacks? There’s even been a couple about worms! Grasshoppers? No one’s bothered with them again. And Bert I. Gordon and his Beginning of the End is the reason.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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