This review is dedicated to Dani Thrillhouse, one of the site’s biggest supporters and a dedicated warrior for cult/horror cinema.
Plot: A deep eruption has caused a massive glacier to collapse and in the process, a long encapsulated threat is unleashed. As the ice breaks free and melts, a colossal mantis is able to exit suspended animation and once again walk the earth. This is a real concern, since giant monsters such as the mantis have been extinct for millions of years, making this one an invader no one could be prepared to face. After the mantis attacks some military outposts and even planes, the government rolls into action and dispatches expert paleontologist Dr. Jackson (William Hopper) and as soon he uncovers a huge claw, he knows trouble is imminent. Jackson is able to deduce what has happened, but with the mantis headed toward more populated locations, the focus shifts to a plan on how to fend off his horrific beast. But can even the might of the military stand up to this kind of long dormant threat?
Entertainment Value: If you like old school sci/fi, giant monsters, and stock footage, you need to see The Deadly Mantis, as few movies have woven a tapestry of recycled content on par with this motion picture. A lot of movies have leaned on stock footage over the years, especially to capture the kind of moments that would be expensive to recreate, but few go to the lengths seen here. Of course, this will be bad news for some viewers, but b movie fans often embrace shameless corner cutting like this, so there is some appeal to how brazen the approach is. Beyond the overload of reused footage, The Deadly Mantis offers a solid, fun b movie ride that has a great monster and of course, a good amount of campiness to go around. The main draw is likely going to be the mantis itself and the film’s special effects, both of which deliver solid entertainment, especially given the low budget circumstances involved. Not as flashy or large in scale as some of its peers, but there is still some fun here and for fans of old school monster movies or b movies in general, The Deadly Mantis is recommended.
This is not the kind of movie most people watch to see believable or award winning tier performances, so the blend of wooden, overly dramatic, and over the top efforts here add a lot to the entertainment. William Hopper plays our obligatory scientific presence and while not as colorful or outlandish as some science types in these movies, he is fine and tries to keep a straight face through his lines. Craig Stevens is our noble hero and much like Hopper, he as wooden as a tree, but that kind of stilted turn makes sense in this kind of movie, I think. And to be honest, I appreciate wooden performances as they’re in the spirit of the material and since The Deadly Mantis doesn’t exactly give them gold to work with, that is the case here. The most colorful of the prominent efforts belongs to Alix Talton, who dials up her performance a little and adds some much needed spark to the cast. The ensemble also includes Pat Conway, while genre veteran Nathan Juran served in the director’s chair.
The Disc: Scream Factory has released The Deadly Mantis on Blu-ray with a new 2k scan of original film elements, resulting in a solid looking treatment that renders previous incarnations obsolete. The image is quite clean and clear, with good detail and while not as eye popping as some restorations, a welcome improvement. The extras include an audio commentary led by genre expert Tom Weaver, the full MST3K episode that features The Deadly Mantis, still photos, and the film’s trailer.