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Friday, September 7, 2018

The Monster that Challenged the World (1957)




Friday is here and that means more fun from the fifties. Sure, everyone knows about the giant spiders, ants, and even grasshoppers that have threatened to wipe out humanity. But what about the snails? This one shows us how dangerous deep-sea snails could be if they were released from their long dormant state by an earthquake. Wait this menace wasn’t created by the A-Bomb?

The movie takes place near the Salton Sea where the military is testing out new parachutes. A small boat is sent out to pick up one of the men after a successful test and never returns. When our hero goes out to check on them he finds bodies drained of all fluid! No blood and no water left. But what could do such a thing? More bodies turn up and eventually they go diving only to find giant sea snails scooching around the bottom of the sea, which is really a giant Salt Lake. These apex predators need to be killed off before they use the local canals to escape in the ocean where they will destroy us all!

This is one of the better “B” movies of the decade and I mean that in the nicest way. This one follows the typical formula, which was well established by the time it was made. You have the military man hero, the love interest, the scientist who saves the day, and many others who mostly exist to get killed by the snails. But these characters are interesting and given some depth by the well written script and excellent cast. Tim Holt and Audrey Dalton are quite good in their roles as the hero and his love interest. She is given a bit of a backstory being a single mother who lost her husband in an accident. Doesn’t seem like a big deal but for a fifties flick that is more background than most of the female characters were given.

There are a couple issues that I will mention. The first is the rampant overacting. While I think our leads are good many of the supporting cast members chew up the scenery. There is one especially painful and funny bit with a character that is scared to death by the monster. That scream is probably the silliest thing I’ve ever heard in a monster movie ever. The other is the pacing. Towards the last third of the movie it slows down with date night and lots of driving around looking for the monsters. This picks up after a few minutes, but it does feel like some padding was added to stretch the runtime.

I love the monster in this one.
The creatures are the real star of the movie. They are one of those that appeared in so many magazines and books that even if you haven’t seen The Monster that Challenged the World you probably know what the monster looks like. I get that to today’s audience it might seem a bit cheesy looking, but I dig the giant rubber suit rolling across the set menacing the actors. It always surprises me how the movie doesn’t pull away from showing the victims of the creatures. We get to see a couple desiccated bodies drained of all their vital fluids. Again, not much to a modern audience but I’m sure it was horrifying to the kids at the drive-in back in the day.

This is another old monster movie that I’m going to recommend. Not on par with the best like Them! or Thing from Another World, but a good example of that second tier of Sci-Fi Horror from the fifties. Check it out.



© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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