Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Monster That Challenged the World (1957)

Yep back in the 50's (or more specifically 1957 it seems) they made horror chillers using every kind of bug they could think of, not even the simple mollusk was able to avoid this fate. Yes a sea snail or sea slug I suppose, only these were of course giant prehistoric versions released by yet another pesky earthquake. To note, the films title is again ridiculous as the monster in question isn't actually a monster, its a mollusk as pointed out in the film, and it didn't challenge the world. The films alternative titles were also kinda dumb, 'The Kraken' which is surely an entirely different mythological beast and 'The Jagged Edge'? eh?

So anyway, do I detect a slight pattern in plots here? no no no no no...well yes, apparently so. As I already mentioned the sea beasties are released from their watery tombs by another earthquake, the beginning of all monster movies back then. Various military types are killed which triggers a big the military...again. Yep the good old US of A just loved their military back then, every monster that emerged from a crack caused by an earthquake, was dealt with by the military...after it attacks the military. Suffice to say this leads to the usual crack team of smartly dressed, slick haired chaps, a scientist type (this time a youngish one) and the obligatory attractive woman (this time with a young female child). Guess what follows?

I gotta be honest with this one, I found it pretty dull. For the most part this movie is purely dialog with little else happening. The cast go from room to room discussing stuff, from location to location looking at stuff, explaining scenarios to each other, lots of driving around and of course the other obligatory scene where everyone watches an old educational news film reel about their enemy and how it lives. In this case, the life of a snail and how it feeds.

On the other hand this is also one of the most atmospheric of the giant bug movies I've seen, along with 'The Black Scorpion'. This movie genuinely had some really solid creepy sequences, when they actually turned up, mainly underwater and the finale. The underwater sequences actually reminded me of Spielberg's 'Jaws' with very similar shots and ideas in general. The way we follow the divers around almost as if it was from the creatures perspective, the fact we actually see dead bodies with minor jump scares, and the way a female gets dragged under the waves. I can well see this movie really terrifying people back in the day for sure, especially when they uncover shrivelled up, skinless bodies exposing muscle and bulging eyes. Another really well directed scene is the finale where we the towering mollusk in a laboratory attacking the female lead. This sequence kinda reminded me of Cronenberg's 'The Fly' at the end, the creatures posture, the eyes, the claws the camera angles etc...

All this leads me to the creature itself, a simple yet large mechanical puppet. Now although this thing just looked like a giant slug, it did look very intimidating with its height and huge pincers. The two big round glaring eyes are also very unnerving and eerie, they gave off no emotion, just a cold blank stare, a pure carnivorous predator with one function. The slimy skin texture really boosted the creatures realistic appearance, you can't really see clearly but the black and white film does admittedly help cover any obvious rubber and seams. Overall its a terrific creature and very lifelike, accept for the exaggerated face I suppose, it didn't move much of course but the large puppet interacted very well with the actors.

Its just a shame that we don't really see too much of the giant mollusk, though what we do get is pretty epic and classic I reckon, definitely one of the top Hollywood creatures. You could say that they were hiding the beast as much as possible, building up the tension for the finale, but that theory doesn't really add up. On top of that the rest of the movie is pretty uninteresting frankly, things only become fun and engaging when the creature pops up. All the discussions between characters is a really limp affair and you couldn't really care a less.