Since The Monster That Challenged The World was made in the 1950s, the titular monster is an enlarged beast in the tradition of every other supersized household pest of the era (spiders, ants, grasshoppers, women) and is after gals in bathing suits.
That isn’t strictly its plan, but that’s how it kind of plays out in this remarkably unremarkable monster rampage movie starring a washed up star of grade Z cowboy movies and a monster that alternately looks like a caterpillar with pincers or a big lumpy piece of dog turd, depending on the angle. At least it didn’t look like a snail since, you know, that’s what it really was.
The prologue goes on way too long as you would anticipate in a movie about really boring monsters, so you get to see a sailor test out a parachute for the Navy by jumping out of a plane over the Salton Sea. He and another sailor are killed by the monster while a third no doubt becomes the base joke when he dies of fright.
Middle-aged go-getter Lieutenant Commander Twillinger is on the case, barking out orders and being snotty to scientists who he’s delivered a white gooey sample to that he recovered from the boat that was attacked. The scientists determine that the mysterious stuff is a common marine secretion, which sounds a lot like what happens when you let some little kid into the pool without his Pampers on.
Along with the scientists at the lab, there is also the hot widowed mother named Gail. Her husband Tom was killed in a flying accident and now she spends her days making eyes at all the crabby old Navy guys in charge of catching monsters.
Twillinger organizes a bunch of sailor types to go and check this dang monster out. A couple of guys dive down and there are some really tense moments where tense stuff happens like the divers reading the depth they’re swimming at.
They find lots of nifty stuff down in the depths. You’ve got your big, white, egg-sac type thing that turns out to be some type of egg, you’ve got dead sailors down there that have the tell-tale marks of a snail attack all over them, and you have a big monster lurking around, eating sailors and guarding eggs.
The sailors get attacked by the thing and once you see the monster, you realize how difficult it must be to build a really big snail that doesn’t look like a lump of crap. This thing, like all snails, has big, nasty pincers and two big eyes that aren’t on stalks.
Back on shore, Gail uses her friend’s grief over the loss of her husband as an excuse to open up to Twill about her own cruddy life. Twill is middle-aged and recognizes that even though he’s battling the most horrific sea monster ever seen in a California lake, this is a prime opportunity to look sensitive and get all over some of that widowed behind!
Next is the portion of the movie where they show educational films about snails and how vicious they really are because they eat worms. The theory is that there was probably an earthquake that opened up a really big hole into somewhere where there were some big snails from olden times when animals where a lot more monstrous (the Monsterozoic Era) and were prone to seek out and attack humans.
It may sound crazy, but the scientist that advances this theory points out that he got the idea from an article in Life magazine where there were some really old shrimp that woke up when there was a flood!
The rest of the movie was a rather boring attempt to stop the snails from escaping from the lake and getting into some irrigation canals. This involved consulting old maps for the location of an unknown underground river and watching a lot of people hustle and bustle in the office keeping track of which part of the canal system had checked in with their monster updates.
Twill leads a team of two to the underwater lair of these snails and blows them all up, but the movie doesn’t end there, because there’s a situation back at the lab involving the egg they’ve kept in case they kill all the monsters before the end of the movie and need to pad things out a little more.
Gail’s little brat thaws the thing out somehow (nice security Twill) and it attacks them before Twill returns to save them by throwing beakers at it, spraying a fire extinguisher at it, and getting some MPs to shoot it.
Bland and forgettable, the film wasn’t able to keep up much in the way of suspense, what with everyone running back and forth to the lab, headquarters, and a cozy little eatery in Mexicali. If you have time for a dinner date in the middle of giant monster crisis, then there ain’t no crisis. At the very most, you should be eating sandwiches and drinking stale coffee while on a stake out.
The major problem though is that the monster I’m supposed to be sweating my balls off over is an overgrown snail! Even worse, all I have to do is poke it in the eye and it goes crying back to its secret underwater hideout!
They should have just called this movie, The Monster That Challenged The World And Got Its Ass Whupped By A Middle-Aged Guy With A Pointy Stick.
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