It’s time for a classic monster film. The Deadly Mantis may have been mostly forgotten by the average moviegoer which is a shame. It’s actually a pretty solid monster film. It’s a very “by the numbers” film as it doesn’t really do anything unique. It handles everything rather well though so the execution is on point. The film is also rather short so there’s not a lot of unnecessary padding or filler scenes and the film just stays focused the whole time.
A U.S. army base is mysteriously destroyed in an instant. The staff and generals have no idea what is going on. The only clue that they can find is a large spike in what is otherwise a completely abandoned pile of rubble. There are no bodies so they discount the possibility of an enemy nation. The local scientists suggest that it is some kind of animal, but don’t dare speculate further. They call in the world’s leading expert on just about everything, Mr. Nedrick. He quickly deduces that this isn’t just any old animal, but it’s the Praying Mantis. Now that they know what it is…how can they defeat it? Nedrick claims that the Praying Mantis is the strongest animal in all of creation. I don’t think anyone actually bought that though.
Despite being an expert, I have to say that it took Nedrick a little too long to realize that the animal would have to be huge. A reporter had to point out that they should scale the spike down and then Nedrick went to work. Isn’t it obvious that the animal would have to be huge if it destroyed a whole installation in an instant? I don’t know about these “experts” sometimes. Nedrick’s a pretty decent character though. He’s certainly all business and got to the bottom of things right away when he arrived. He brings along the reporter Marge although it wasn’t really his choice.
Unfortunately, the army base wasn’t ready for Marge and this is probably the only part of the film where you’ll cringe. Apparently these army guys haven’t seen a lady in ages so they forgot how to talk to them. What follows are some minutes of stammering and staring as they make fools of themselves. There’s also a random romance plot with an army driver that just comes out of left field. I don’t really know what the film was going for with this, but at least this left Nedrick out of the action so he could keep working.
As for the actual monster, the Praying Mantis was pretty cool. It’s unknown how he hid from the army after each attack since he is so huge, but I guess that goes to show how creative he was. The Mantis could fly at pretty solid speeds and picked off quite a few of the humans. It’s slow, but eating a human who won’t even move has got to be pretty easy. People kept tripping and then panicking from there. I do hope that everyone would put up a better fight if a giant monster ever showed up. I can’t say that I have high expectations though. People do like to panic.
This film’s really old so the writing was pretty good. It was definitely nice to see how cordial and formal people were back in the day. Everyone acts as if they are a professional and the army seems more straightforward than in the modern films where they are always corrupt. There’s never really a sense of danger in this film so if it was trying to be a horror than it failed. However, it does work well as a slice of life film where the characters are talking and reasoning things out. It’s a bit of a stretch when they discuss the Praying Mantis’ origin, but I’ll take it I suppose. It’s not as if the premise is all that realistic right? I do wish that the Mantis could have been a little stronger though. He was taken out rather easily by the government and certainly wasn’t the next Godzilla.
Also, I have to question how slow the first army base was. The Mantis didn’t leave a single remain of the people there right? No clothes, signals, or anything. So that means that none of the guys put up a fight since no pieces of clothing were left and they were all swallowed whole. Why didn’t they try to radio someone when they saw a blip on their radar? I won’t say that they should have called for help after the attack since the wires were probably cut, but it’s iffy. Also, surely at least one human could have escaped the monster’s presence. There are a few stretches of logic here, but nothing that should get in the way of enjoying this film. If anything, it shows that the film wanted you to take the monster seriously.
Overall, The Deadly Mantis is a fun film and I’d recommend it. There’s not much to it, but you’ll get some classic monster destruction scenes and a pretty good main cast as well. There’s even a jump scare at the end which is perfectly random, but you can’t fault the film for trying to be a little flashy now can you? It’s just doing it’s best to keep you engaged with the film right up to the end. Since every animal is getting a giant version of themselves, I want a film about a giant Dog, but one who was actually a house pet and just started to grow. He’s a nice dog, but doesn’t realize that his size is endangering the world. The government has to find a way to keep him happy or t he planet will blow up. That’d be a pretty good plot if you ask me.