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The Monster That Challenged the World, 1957.

From the DVD case: Lt. John Twillinger thinks he’s seen it all until an earthquake under the Salton Sea unearths a horrifying nest of prehistoric killer crustaceans. Giant, terrifying, and with a hunger for human flesh, the beasts begin feeding on the locals, unleashing a shocking reign of murderous mollusk mayhem. Can Twillinger do anything to stop their spread? Or will the human race be forever left in the snails’ slimy wake? (1957, b&w)

Mark says: This movie focuses more on the human interest angle than most monster films do. There is a lot of drama, but the central focus is between Lt. Twillinger and a young secretary, Gail MacKenzie.

Lt. John “Twill” Twillinger (Tim Holt, primarily known for his western roles) is a naval officer who is “strictly by the book.” However, as the story unfolds, we get to know a more tender side. More on this later.

Gail MacKenzie (Audrey Dalton) is a naval secretary and widower, with a small child named Sandy (Mimi Gibson). The relationship between Twillinger and Gail, though blighted with a rocky start, develops slowly throughout the film.

Though I give Monster that Challenged the World credit for keeping the human element alive, I have to counter by stating that this same facet tends to cause the film to drag. After all, it’s the monsters that we really want to see.

The creatures themselves, giant slug-like animals with deadly pincers, are quite convincing. Less convincing are the “corpses” they leave behind. The “dried up” bodies are obvious mannequins, and not very good ones at that. All in all, though, the special effects are more than adequate for a movie of this budget.

The major flaw, in my estimation, is that even after seeing Twill’s softer side, I still don’t like him. He comes off as such a jerk at the outset that his character is tainted with a unlikable quality throughout the picture. As much as the story tries, it can not get me to care about this schmuck. And don’t even get me started on that annoying little girl.

But I’m being much more harsh than I intended. Monster that Challenged the World is a fine watch, and I especially enjoy Hans Conried in the role of Dr. Jess Rogers, a scientist who won’t put up with Twill’s bullying. This movie is littered with enjoyable characters. Watch for Milton Parsons playing the part of Lewis Clark Dobbs as a special treat.

I am also impressed with the humor this movie manages. It’s not the kind of humor that interferes with a good monster flick, but the variety that hits its mark and then allows the plot to progress. One of my favorite scenes is when the coroner offers Twill a sandwich that he has just pulled from a cadaver drawer. “It’s nice and cold,” he assures.

Overall, The Monster that Challenged the World gets a solid recommendation from me. It’s not my favorite giant, radioactive bug flick, but it’s definitely entertaining.

Directed by Arnold Laven.

Scene to watch for: In an attempt to identify the substance, Twillinger does everything but eat the “marine secretion” he finds on a deserted boat. Ick.

Line to listen for: “Science fact and science fiction are not the same, not in the least.”

Trivia: You may recognize the voice of Dr. Jess Rogers (Hans Conried) as the voice of Horton from the cartoon, Horton Hears A Who!

Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! out of 5.

IMDB Link

3 Comments

  1. mimi gibson appeared later in one episode of leave it to beaver. she had earned 1 million dollars by the time she was 18…but discovered at that time her stage mom had spent it all. she now works with paul peterson of the donna reed show fame for child actor rights.

  2. WOW, I haven’t seen this movie since I was a kid, and that was a loooooooong time ago. I’d love to see it again sometime. I was surprised to read your comment describing Tim Holt’s character as a “jerk,” though, Mark. Holt was so likable and sympathetic a dude in my all-time favorite film, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” that it’s hard picturing him any other way. I take your word for it, though. As I said, it’s been a loooooong time since I sat down with this one….

    • Actually, Tim Holt’s character is supposed to be a bit of a jerk, and so he does a good job! The problem is, he does the job so well, that when we’re supposed to have tender feelings for his character, we’re still peeved about his earlier behaviors! Great fun, though, and I would never criticize his performance in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. ;)


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