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Monday, April 12, 2010

The Monster That Challenged the World (1957) review


Tim Holt (John Twillinger), Audrey Dalton (Gail Mackenzie)

Directed by Arnold Laven

An earthquake under the Salton Sea unleashes a slimy horror that threatens the lives of anyone living near the California coast. A nest of the massive mollusks is discovered and the military attempt to thwart the undersea menace. One of the eggs is taken back to a research facility for study where the creature soon and unexpectedly hatches.

One of the mutant mollusk eggs is brought aboard to be taken back for study

One of the best ever titles for a monster movie is also wholly deceptive. With a title like THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD, those words evoke images of a beast of Godzilla proportions trampling world cities and taking on the might of worlds military forces. A shame none of that happens over the course of the movies 84 minute running time.

The main characters get their first glimpse of the underwater monsters

But that's not to say television director, Arnold Laven's movie is no good, far from it. It just doesn't deliver on the blaring moniker it's saddled with. Still, it's a damn cool title for a monster movie. The film has all the earmarks of a classic creature feature of the 50's. The relationship between the male and female leads isn't very interesting. Tim Holt comes off like he'd be better suited in a cowboy outfit and riding a horse as opposed to battling oversized mutant mollusks. Taking a gander at his resume, it's filled with numerous old fashioned western features.

But one doesn't watch a movie like this for its performances, you watch it for the monsters and Laven's movie has some impressive ones, especially the hydraulically controlled monster that challenges the little girl at the end. Publicity stills were released that featured creature action not seen in the finished movie. These stills were popularly featured in such publications as Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. There's also a bit of gore in this movie including some grim looking corpses and bloody violence perpetrated on the creatures.

My how things have changed since 1957 in women's swimming attire

There are also some genuinely creepy moments throughout including the eerie opening of the movie and a scene where two lovers go for a late night swim. These scenes call attention to Spielberg's killer shark movie nearly two decades away. There's also a startling scene where two divers are attacked by the monsters and one of them has his head separated from his torso.

The ending wherein one of the monsters hatches from an egg taken to a military research station and assaults the lead actresses daughter is tense and well done. It's just a shame the rest of the movie doesn't have enough of these to go around. Still, it's an above average monster flick for fans who have a fondness for B/W science fiction-horror movies the likes of which they just don't make anymore.

This review is representative of the MGM DVD. It is also out on a double feature DVD paired with IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (1958).


I Like Horror Movies said...

Havent seen this one yet but I will give it a go when it makes itself available to me. On the other hand, I will be finishing RADON tonight!

venoms5 said...

RODAN is an awesome movie, Carl. One of my favorites of Japanese science fiction/monster movies. It was one of the few that truly captured the element of horror. The ending still kind of brings tears to my eyes. It used to come on television all the time either during the day, or late at night. I wore out the old VHS tape of it.

Shaun Anderson [The Celluloid Highway] said...

We both note the similarities between this and Spielberg's JAWS Brian - it also has beach closures, and disgruntled local businessmen. A very good review sir!

venoms5 said...

So we did! I just re-read it and we both notate some of the same things as you said! Incidentally, scenes from this movie turn up in Dante's PIRANHA (1978).

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