• Deadly Mantis (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: March 19th, 2019.
    Director: Nathan Juran
    Cast: Craig Stevens, Alix Talton, Donald Randolph, Pat Conway, Florenz Ames, William Hopper
    Year: 1957
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    The Deadly Mantis – Movie Review:

    “This was the day that engulfed the world in terror!”

    When a volcano on the opposite side of the globe erupts, it sends seismic waves to the North Pole where they crack open a giant iceberg and free a previously dormant gigantic preying mantis from its previous slumber! When the monster attacks a weather station, pilots for an anti-Soviet operation in the area witness the site. Subsequently, a search party is sent out to investigate but it mysteriously crashes and none of the crew is found – however, a giant ‘bone’ of some sort is. When it’s brought back to Professor Anton Gunther (Florenz Ames) who fails to positively identify what it may have come from.

    To help out, General Mark Ford (Donald Randolph) calls in Washington D.C. based paleontologist Doctor Nedrick Johnson (William Hopper) to make his way to the North Pole. Soon enough, Johnson and Marge Blaine (Alix Talton), a magazine reporter who also happens to be his main squeeze, make the trip. Shortly after their arrival, they and Colonel Joe Parkman (Craig Stevens) learn that another attack has taken place, this time targeting an Inuit village! When Johnson is able to positively identify the ‘bone’ as a part from a giant praying mantis everyone thinks he’s nuts – until the creature shows up and attacks the base! And after that? Well, it heads south, looking for warmer weather… the kind that they have in the Southern United States, a journey that will take the creature straight through the heart of Washington D.C.!

    Filled to the brim with obvious stock footage and ropey but enjoyable effects work, this one is pretty goofy but plenty fun. Anytime that the actual giant mantis is running around destroying things, the movie is gold, and once that bug makes its way to D.C. and runs rampant, it goes from gold to platinum. In between those scenes? Well, we get the aforementioned stock footage that fails in its attempt to give the movie a bigger scope than it would have had otherwise, and lots of footage of the different human characters expressing varying degrees of concern.

    The acting is fine. Not great, but fine. Craig Stevens is a decent leading man, he’s cool looking and he has enough charisma to work in the part. William Hopper is also decent enough here, not as cool and not as charismatic, but still decent. Alix Talton is interesting looking – attractive in a unique way and, thankfully, a decent actress on top of that. Her character is pretty disposable but that’s not her fault, simply the fault of a lazy script. Still, she makes the part her own.

    The plot comes secondary here, characters are introduced and kind of just forgotten about, a romantic element is thrown into the mix but never goes anywhere. But it doesn’t matter, because there’s a giant praying mantis about to lay siege to the nation’s capital – that’s what we signed up for, and for the most part, on that level at least, the movie delivers even if it does take a while to get there.

    The Deadly Mantis – Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Factory brings The Deadly Mantis to Blu-ray taken from “a new 2k scan of original film elements” and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. The AVC encoded 1080p transfer is a good one, showing nice detail, depth and texture. The enhanced clarity also makes the stock footage inserts look a bit more obvious than they have in the past, but that’s how it goes sometimes. Overall though, this is solid. Black levels are good, contrast is fine and we get nice clean whites. There are no problems with compression issues and the image is free of noise reduction and edge enhancement problems. Quite a nice upgrade over the old DVD edition that was included in the second volume of Universal’s The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection series.

    The DTS-HD Mono track on the disc is also of good quality. Dialogue is clean and clear, levels are nicely balanced and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion worth complaining about. Optional English subtitles are provided.

    Extras start off with a new audio commentary with Film Historians Tom Weaver with appearances from David Schecter and Larry Blamire at times. This one takes awhile to get going, there’s very little here for the first ten-minutes or so, but once we get past that, Weaver is his typically thorough self, covering information about the cast and crew, stock footage inserts, location work, script changes, and quite a bit more.

    The disc also includes the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 episode from February 22nd, 1997 where the film gets riffed on by the show’s cast (it’s a decent episode), the movie’s original theatrical trailer, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    The Deadly Mantis – The Final Word:

    If goofy, low budget sci-fi monster movies from the fifties are your bag, then The Deadly Mantis should prove entertaining enough. If it isn’t necessarily good, it is pretty fun – giant bugs are always cool and some of the effects work used in this one is neat. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray gives this one a nice high definition presentation and throws in some extras too. Lots of fun to be had here – recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Deadly Mantis Blu-ray screen caps!