From the video case: Earth becomes an unholy breeding ground for a swarm of giant man-eating locusts that devour everything and everyone in sight. Conventional weapons are no match for the colossal carnivores whose steel jaws crush soldiers like walnuts. Man is hopelessly outnumbered. As a last ditch effort, military strategists dispatch a B-52 bomber carrying an atomic bomb. Chicago will be turned into a nuclear wasteland unless a brilliant entomologist (Peter Graves) can come up with an alternative in time. (1957, b&w)
Mark says: After the success of 1954’s Them! (giant ants), filmmakers were anxious to produce the next lucrative giant insect/animal picture. Over the course of years, several creatures were given the growth treatment with varying degrees of success, including: a praying mantis, a tarantula, a spider, scorpions, leeches, and crabs.
But only director/producer Bert I. Gordon (The Amazing Colossal Man, Empire of the Ants) could come up with insects as non-threatening as monster grasshoppers. That’s right, grasshoppers. It would not be until 1972’s Night of the Lepus, featuring gargantuan bunny rabbits, that a less menacing behemoth would hit the big screen.
Beginning of the End is your standard radioactive giant bug flick, kicked up a notch by the ultra-serious acting of Peter Graves (Killers from Space, It Conquered the World). Graves plays his role so straight that it gives the already ridiculous premise an added element of absurdity.
Peggie Castle (Bury Me Dead) stars as photographic journalist and love interest, Audrey Aimes. You’ll also recognize B-movie veterans Morris Ankrum (Earth vs the Flying Saucers, Kronos) as Gen. Hanson, and Thomas Browne Henry (The Brain from Planet Arous) in the role of Col. Tom Sturgeon.
Laughable special effects and dialog make Beginning of the End a camp favorite.
See my screencaps here.
Scene to watch for: Grasshoppers sliding off postcards of Chicago buildings.
Line to listen for: “You can’t drop an atom bomb on Chicago!”
Bonus: Badmovies.org not only features stills from the movie, but audio and video clips as well.
Special Note: The DVD commentary with film historian, Bruce Kimmel, and Bert I. Gordon’s wife (Flora) and daughter (Susan) is not that interesting. The most entertaining part of the commentary is listening to Mr. Kimmel croon over how hot Peggie Castle is. Susan Gordon also has a few stories of what it was like to be cast in some of her father’s films.
Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! out of 5.