I know you’re all going to laugh at me but…I really did have high hopes for The Deadly Mantis. Back when I was a kid, I discovered a treasure trove in the children’s section of my library. They were picture books of horror movies. I can picture them: square books, orange covers, glossy pages with lots of pictures, and the library had a bunch of them. I never checked them out, as they were short and I was a fast reader even then. I know they had Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolfman, and the 1982 The Thing remake. And? The Deadly Mantis. And believe you me…those kids books made the Deadly Mantis look friggin’ cool. I’ve scoured the internet as best I can for these books, and can find no evidence they ever existed—I take it back! I just did one final, desperate Google search, and there they were! I could own this copy of The Deadly Mantis new for only $298.14! Anyway I digress. The book, or maybe it was my eight year old brain, made the idea of a giant praying mantis seem scary and awesome.
Look at this thing? It would make a great movie monster!
Sadly, the motion picture from 1957 did not. As a horror fan, I want to willingly suspend my disbelief. I can pretend that subzero temperatures won’t kill an insect, that it could somehow reanimate in the arctic even though it’s cold blooded, never mind the science between things that big supporting their own body weight (there’s a reason whales live in the ocean.) I don’t need good effects, good characters, a compelling story…but I need at least one of those elements to keep me interested. The Deadly Mantis had none of those things.
We’re shown in the opening credits that we’re dealing with a mantis. It bleeds every drop of tension from the characters trying to figure out what the monster is. There’s actually a scene where characters debate what it might look like as it’s peeking in the window behind them. This movie comes across as an advertisement for radar systems we have in place in Canada to prevent sneak attacks from over the North Pole. There is oodles of stock footage of airplanes and aircraft carriers, and internet research tells me that frequently the planes taking off are not the planes shown flying in the next scene (sue me, I was mostly focusing on knitting by this point.)
The soundtrack of this film was another high point (by which I mean low point.) Whenever the mantis was near, even it seemed, when it was walking, someone put a microphone near a bee colony. And that’s the sound of a deadly mantis. The movie compared the sound to “the droning of bombers.” It sounded more like an irritated housefly banging against a light. Also, the mantis roared like a lion. (When it flew it looked X-Tra stoopid:)
I should have skipped this version and simply watched MST3K’s Deadly Mantis. But I didn’t, as that didn’t seem true to the nature of this experiment.
Also…internet research suggests there WAS NO Monster Series book of The Thing. Huh.
I’ll leave you with a link of a praying mantis nabbing a hummingbird.
And a praying mantis doing jazz hands: