Craig Stevens in The Deadly Mantis (1957)

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Nathan Juran Directs The Deadly Mantis

Martin Berkeley wrote the screenplay based on a story by producer William Alland. Nathan Juran (20 Million Miles to Earth, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, First Men in the Moon) directed while Irving Gertz and William Lava rendered the eerie music score.

Craig Stevens (Colonel Joe Parkman), William Hopper (Dr. Nedrick Jackson) and Alix Talton (Marge Blaine) head the cast. Other players include Donald Randolph (General Mark Ford), Pat Conway (Sergeant Pete Allen), Florenz Ames (Professor Anton Gunther), Paul Smith (Corporal), Phil Harvey (Lou), Floyd Simmons (Army Sergeant), Paul Campbell (Lieutenant Fred Pizar), Helen Jay (Mrs. Farley) and William A. Forester (Announcer).

Mara Corday and Rex Reason were originally considered for the starring roles.

The Deadly Mantis Filmed in Hollywood

A low-budget entry, The Deadly Mantis was filmed at Universal-International Pictures in Hollywood. Several papier-mache models of the giant mantis were constructed, including one standing 40 feet high, 200 feet long and boasting of a wingspan of 150 feet. An actual praying mantis was used in the Washington Monument scene, where the magnified bug is seen crawling up the famous landmark.

Producers employed stock military footage of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Antietam. Footage was also gleaned from Universal Pictures’ S.O.S. Eisberg (1933) and several U.S. Air Force promotional films, including SFP30, Guardians All and One Plane-One Bond.

The Deadly Mantis Movie Review

A seismic shift in the Arctic unearths a prehistoric praying mantis encased in ice. Now free of its frozen tomb, the giant insect embarks on a rampage, downing military aircraft and attacking remote radar installations. Investigating the matter is Colonel Joe Parkman, who discovers a strange hook-shaped appendage which he takes back to Washington for scientific study.

Once again, the Cold War and giant monsters collided, this time in 1957’s The Deadly Mantis. For those who grew up in the 1950s, violent death could conceivably come in only two ways: nuclear annihilation or ingestion by a prehistoric creature.

The Deadly Mantis almost comes across as an educational film. The first seven minutes are dedicated to a heroic report on America’s first-alert defense systems that guard against a sneak attack from the godless Soviet Union. For your convenience, recruiters are available in the lobby.

Once the stock footage subsides, The Deadly Mantis reverts to a generic 1950s science fiction flick: monster gains freedom, monster runs amok, monster is positively identified, monster is destroyed. Coupled with that of course is the obligatory romance angle, with the possibility of entomological holocaust serving as an aphrodisiac for lovebirds Craig Stevens and Alix Talton.

The picture’s special effects – rendered by an uncredited Fred Knoth – will provide sci-fi movie fans with plenty of thrills. Just don’t forget to pack a big butterfly net, an oversized glass jar and plenty of carbon tetrachloride.

The Deadly Mantis Release, Reviews, Trivia, DVD

  • The Deadly Mantis opened in Los Angeles on May 1, 1957.
  • “The Deadly Mantis is a standard variant on the 1950s atomic monster/giant bug film,” reports the Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review.
  • Future television stars: Craig Stevens starred as Peter Gunn (1958-61), William Hopper played private investigator Paul Drake on Perry Mason (1957-66) and Pat Conway starred as Sheriff Clay Hollister on Tombstone Territory (1957-60).
  • Deceased cast/crew members include Craig Stevens (1918-2000), William Hopper (1915-1970), Alix Talton (1919-1992), Donald Randolph (1906-1993), Pat Conway (1931-1981) and director Nathan Juran (1907-2002).
  • The Deadly Mantis is available on the Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection 1 & 2 DVD (Universal, 2008).

“I’m convinced that we’re dealing with a mantis in whose geological world the smallest insects were as large as man, and now failing to find those insects as food, well…it’s doing the best it can,” offers scientist William Hopper.

Yes, like feeding on man…

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