Starring: Craig Stevens, William Hopper, Alix Talton, Donald Randolph, Pat Conway, Florenz Ames, Paul Smith, Phil Harvey, Floyd Simmons
Review: A paleontologist (William Hopper) teams up with the military, lead by Col. Joe Parkman (Craig Stevens), to battle a huge praying mantis when it goes on the attack in metropolitan cities after being released from an Arctic iceberg.
The Deadly Mantis is classic '50s Sci-Fi that's as shocking as it is silly. It seems like the filmmakers took a look at all of the big bug movies that were out at the time and had to make a quick grab for the mantis before a competitor scooped it up and turned out their feature. This movie is ludicrous, laughable, and a delight to watch!
The biggest surprise during the 79 minute run-time is just how much stock footage was used to tell this story. Every single time there is a plane, battleship, establishing scenery shots, radar towers, the military doing military things is all stock footage. I wonder what the exact percentage would be, but if I had to make a guess I'd say it's 60/40, new footage to stock footage.
The mantis itself looks quite impressive...until it has to move its head, body, or arms. Then it looks quite silly. But in the Atomic '50s giant bugs were all the rage, even the mantis here is actually prehistoric, but I digress.
The main cast are all playing it straight and really try to sell the preposterous premise. William Hopper and Alix Talton don't really have too much to do, but the true highlight is a pre-Peter Gunn, Craig Stevens. What's kind of odd is the lead characters aren't the main focus of the story, it's all about the mantis. The trio of dependable actors are just there to deal with the monstrous mantis and that's about it. There is a little romance between Talton and Stevens, but it seems to be there just to give them something to do when there's no mantis around or stock footage to use at that point in the story.
The Deadly Mantis is a strange cult classic, that's still a classic to fans of these monumental monster movies!
Fun Fact: During the movie, the Air Force sends out a message to members of the Ground Observer Corps asking for help in spotting the mantis. This was a real group that existed at least since World War Two. It was comprised of regular citizens who received basic training in spotting and identifying aircraft, but was discontinued in 1959.