This Page

has moved to a new address:


Sorry for the inconvenience…

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service

This Page

has moved to a new address:


Sorry for the inconvenience…

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
The Nostalgic Attic: Late-night Frights: The Monster That Challenged The World (1957)

29 May 2014

Late-night Frights: The Monster That Challenged The World (1957)

"From the instant they're born, they're hungry!"

I had so much fun revisiting the Godzilla series recently, that I've decided to include classic creature features here on the blog. I can't see too many complaining; most of us were reared on this stuff, so it's definitely fitting. And hey, the more monsters the better, right?

Things kick off with an earthquake opening up a crevice at the bottom of the Salton Sea lake, in California. Shortly after some parachute training takes place on the lake, but the rescue boat sent to pick the men up discover nothing but some floating parachutes. A diver hops into the water, looking for the men. He doesn't return to the surface. Something begins to rise from the water, and the remaining man on the boat screams in terror...

 Unable to get in touch with the rescue boat, Commander John Twillinger (Tim Holt) takes another boat out to see what happened. He discovers the man dead on the deck, apparently of a heart attack. Finding a strange, white slime on the side of the boat, he takes a sample. Suddenly one of the bodies of the men floats to the surface; completely drained of fluids and shrivelled up. Back at the base lab, Dr Jess Rogers (Hans Conried) starts his analysis on both the victims and the slime. Twillinger finds time to get to know the recently widowed Gail (Audrey Dalton) a little bit better, in between her typing out reports. 

Meanwhile, the teenage Jody heads out to the beach for a midnight rendezvous with her boyfriend. They decide to take a swim in the lake, and strip to their bathing suits. When her boyfriend hits the water, he dives down, but doesn't resurface. The girl heads out to where he was, but something grabs her foot. She is dragged screaming under the water. The next morning, Twillinger is called out by the sheriff to assist in the investigation of the missing swimmers. More of the white slime is discovered on the rocks nearby the discarded clothes of the youths...

They decide they need to dive down to see just what is going on at this newly opened crevice. The divers discover something that resembles a large, white egg. They float it up to the boat above and store it on board. Before they re-surface, they find the remains of Jody, shrivelled up like the previous victims. Suddenly the men are attacked by a huge, lurking creature, which proceeds to attack the boat, but not before it kills one of the divers. Soon the creatures move into the canal systems off the lake, and it becomes a game of cat-and-mouse as the authorities try to stop the it attacking. The egg is placed in an incubation tank, but Gail's cute kid doesn't realise that she shouldn't fiddle with the controls on it. Soon another creature is loose, but this time in the lab. Will Twillinger be able to stop the creatures? Will he save Gail and her daughter?

The Monster That Challenged The World isn't the best 50's monster film you will see, but it is definitely a good one. The script is quite pacy, with not many moments wasted on unnecessary drama. Tension builds nicely in many scenes, with the best moments coming before the monster strikes. The 'night swim' is especially atmospheric, and you can definitely see the influence on a much more popular shark film that came out nearly 20 years later. The climax is truly terrific, though, and really piles the horror on as the monster is loose in the lab, trying to kill Gail and her daughter. Once again, I was reminded of another film in this climatic moment; Aliens (The scene where Ripley and Newt arrive on the platform to discover Bishop has left without them. The dialogue that follows in that scene seems fairly close to what happens here). 

What makes these scenes work so well in the climax is down to the effects. It's exceptionally well executed, considering the hulking animatronics needed to make it work. It really does help sell the horror at the end, as the creature is truly repulsive in the way a man in a suit just couldn't be. There are also a few other ghoulish moments such as the drained corpses that show up; I can imagine they got a few shrieks in the day. We get the usual 'radiation' fears too, which are par-for-the-course. They aren't played as heavily as usual, though, but they are lurking in the background, with geiger counters appearing in a few scenes.

The acting is ok across the board. Tim Holt makes an odd leading man, but I guess he fits the 'military guy' role fairly well. Irish-born Audrey Dalton does just fine as woman in distress, and Mimi Gibson is good as her daughter. Hans Conried also shines as the matter-of-fact doctor. He has a great, hard face for playing stern characters. Special mention should be made of Milton Parsons who plays the town historian, he truly milks every line he has. The film was directed by Arnold Laven, who had a huge career in TV in the 60's and 70's. He was a veteran B picture director, and he managed to craft a great little monster movie here.

The Monster That Challenged The World is perfect late night entertainment, if you are looking for some old fashioned thrills. It has one of the finest creatures from the period, and a great climax to the picture. Did I mention the wonderfully atmospheric titles? It's a great start to a fun 80 minutes. 

Labels: , ,


At 29 May 2014 at 11:32 , Blogger Craig Edwards said...

It's a small gem for sure. The fact that the creature is an early animatronic specimen just adds to the fun. It's neat to see the normally comedic Conreid playing it straight - and the use of real locations (instead of the usual fake small town or mythical military base) gives the movie more solidity. I'm all for more monsters here - and hey - it is your blog - do what you want!

At 29 May 2014 at 11:37 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Thanks Craig! The monster is what tips this one over for me; I was blown away by the animatronics. Conreid was great, the man has such an expressive face.

At 29 May 2014 at 19:14 , Blogger Alvin Brickrock said...

I love this film. It has a great creepy atmosphere (I've been to the Salton Sea and it IS a creepy place) and as Craig mentioned is helped immensely by not being set bound. The part with the two divers discovering the creatures lair scared the crap out of me as a kid. Excellent write-up !

At 30 May 2014 at 00:50 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

It does seem like an odd place, so no wonder they opted to film on location. I could definitely imagine a few scenes in this terrifying me as a kid. Even as an adult my imagination can run wild. Thanks for stopping by, Dick.

At 30 May 2014 at 02:26 , Blogger Wes M said...

Excellent selection John, this one looks like it’s worth seeking out. I might be vaguely aware of the tile from flicking thru the Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film but I’ve never seen this, so thanks for including the trailer – it looks like a lean, mean creature extravaganza. Worth mentioning that I have a bit of a bug phobia, so even a b-movie bastardization like the earwig-like creature seen in The Monster That Challenged the World can get under my skin (Creepshow’s final segment "They're Creeping Up on You!" is positively horrifying for me!). Funnily enough I thought of Aliens as well - when you mentioned one of the characters finding some slime on the boat – I immediately thought of the scene where Spunkmeyer (appropriately named in this context) finds the slime on the ramp of the drop-ship – there’s something about slime that announces in no uncertain terms that things are about to go to hell in a hand basket. I like the shot in the trailer of a great tendril of slime drooling from the monster – a nice touch… I’ve got a bunch of film documentaries jostling for position this weekend but for ages now I’ve been meaning to catch Caltiki, the Riccardo Freda/Mario Bava monster movie from 1959, and this post has given it a leg-up up on the schedule. And I need to see City of the Dead as well - so many films so little time !

At 30 May 2014 at 07:52 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Wes, you poor chap, I can imagine there are plenty of films that literally would have your skin crawling. I have a natural fear of insects, so even watching something like Temple of Doom is enough to set me off - I can't imagine how that film must make you feel!

I think you would like this one, as there definitely are nods to it in much bigger films. I've never seen Caltiki, so I would be interested to hear your thoughts on it! City of the Dead is great, it's right up your alley!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home