Release Date: June 25th, 1959 (USA)
Directed by: Ray Kellogg
Written by: Jay Simms
Music by: Harry Bluestone, Emil Cadkin
Cast: James Best, Ingrid Goude, Ken Curtis, Gordon McLendon, Baruch Lumet, “Judge” Henry Dupree
McLendon-Radio Pictures, 69 Minutes
Not many films are as bad as The Killer Shrews. In fact, it is so bad that it has been featured on a lot of shows that riff really bad movies. It has appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and This Movie Sucks! It was also filmed back-to-back with The Giant Gila Monster, which I consider to be worse. Ray Kellogg directed both films but somehow, the latter was not in anyway an improvement.
The worst (and best) thing about this movie is the shrews. To create the man-eating creatures, the director used coonhounds covered in what looks like torn up rugs and cut up Halloween masks. For closeups of the creatures, they used hand puppets.
The directing was pretty awful, as well. The actors came off as dry and uninteresting. Most of the people in the film just sit or stand in the same place for long periods of time to the point that they look uncomfortable. There is just a lot of pointless talking in this movie and the action is minimal. When there is action, it just looks like feeding time at the greyhound track. The shrews aren’t menacing and look more like they are playing and having a ball running around with the actors.
The lead is James Best, who is best known as Rosco P. Coltrane from Dukes of Hazzard. While I liked Best’s work in Hazzard and in some of the western shows I saw him in, it is hard to take him seriously in this. He’s dressed like a skipper, he’s running from coonhounds having fun and he’s Rosco P. Coltrane. At least he was a good sport and came back for an unnecessary sequel to this picture in 2012.
Despite this being an incredibly flawed film, it was considered to be one of the most successful and profitable “regional films” of its day. It was rare for these types of pictures to lock down international distribution but The Killer Shrews did.
As bad as it is, I don’t hate this picture and it isn’t unwatchable. In fact, I do give it a watch every couple of years when I’ve got nothing to do and just over an hour to kill. But that’s the best part about this film, it is only 69 minutes.