Also known as: The Giant Mantis, The Incredible Praying Mantis (alternate titles)
Release Date: May 1st, 1957 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Nathan H. Juran
Written by: Martin Berkeley, William Alland
Music by: Irving Gerts (uncredited), William Lava (uncredited)
Cast: Craig Stevens, William Hopper, Alix Talton, Pat Conway
Universal-International Pictures, 78 Minutes
“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 that it can.” – Dr. Ned Jackson
I have a soft spot for The Deadly Mantis and it is also one of the few films that was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 that I don’t mind watching without the riffing of Mike and the ‘Bots. It’s actually decent for what it is and it’s better than most of the 1950s American giant monster movies.
Atomic Age films are a lot of fun though. There’s something cool about ’50s B-movies dealing with atomic fears, giant creatures and science run amok.
In this one, we get something special. It’s not just about a big ass bug smashing cities, this creature takes flight and has some big aerial battles with military fighter jets. In some ways, it kind of reminds me of Rodan from Japan, which came out a year earlier.
Now the acting leaves a lot to be desired and the direction and writing aren’t too great but this film is still pretty ambitious when looked at beside other films like it from the same era.
It’s got some good, action packed sequences and even if it has some dull science-y moments, it moves at a good pace.
The effects are also decent for what they are. I liked the scene where the mantis attacks the arctic lab, as well as the scenes where it takes flight.
While far from the best horror film of the 1950s, it’s definitely in the upper echelon of American Atomic Age thrillers.
Pairs well with: Tarantula!, The Black Scorpion and The Giant Claw.