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Not Rated
Copyright 1959 Hollywood Pictures Corporation
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 21 June 2008

The Characters:  

  • Thorne Sherman - James Best! He is a skilled boat captain and handy with a welder, but his real passion is impersonating Elvis.
  • Ann Craigis - She really needs to learn to relax. I am sure that trying to cook, clean, and raise her and Sherman's rugrats will lower her stress level. Women love that kind of stuff.
  • Dr. Craigis - He wants to achieve two scientific breakthroughs. The first is solving world hunger; the second is creating the perfect martini. He is pretty close to realizing the latter goal.
  • Jerry Farrell - Angry alcoholic who is a terrible shot. He could hit a barn door, but anything inside the barn would be safe. Ends up as shrew chow.
  • Dr. Baines - Nerdy assistant to Dr. Craigis whose last thoughts were, "Must...adhere to...scientific method. Rosebud..."
  • Mario - Hired hand. He dies after being bitten by a giant shrew (it sucks to be the hired hand).
  • Rook - Slightly overweight sailor who made the mistake of wearing Milk-Bone underwear and bacon aftershave. Et.
  • The Killer Shrews - Giant shrews (which are not rodents, but of the family Soricidae) created by a genetic experiment gone wrong. They look suspiciously like dogs wearing carpet remnants!

Buy It!

The Plot: 

This is an excellent piece of vintage schlock for fans of classic b-movies. Genetic fiddling accidentally creates a few hundred DOGS WEARING CARPET REMNANTS that get loose on a private island! Okay, so the creatures are supposed to be giant shrews. It does not matter what they are supposed to be, because any rational person can easily recognize them for what they are: dogs with scary masks (getting the canines to wear those without tearing them off must have been a feat) and ratty clumps of carpet on them. To this day, if my wife and I are driving down the highway and see an old rug or piece of carpet on the shoulder, we remark how sad it is that a killer shrew was run over while trying to cross the road.

People traveling in cars with us rarely understand what we are laughing about.

A hurricane or tropical storm is loose in the Gulf of Mexico as Capt. Sherman and Rook approach a private island. The boat is loaded with supplies for Dr. Craigis, which were apparently so important that Thorne was willing to make the trip. Seeing that the weather is deteriorating rapidly, the captain decides to anchor the boat in a sheltered cove to ride out the storm.

However, when Thorne and Rook go ashore, they meet Dr. Craigis, Jerry, and Ann, and can tell that something is wrong. One clue is that both Ann and Jerry seem worried; another is that Jerry is tightly gripping a double barrel shotgun. It is a private island in the Gulf of Mexico; why in the heck does Jerry need a shotgun? The only reason I could think of was feral dogs running loose (I was almost right).

The island's residents get very agitated when Thorne tells them that a storm is coming, and that the boat cannot leave until it has passed. Dr. Craigis wants Ann to go back to the mainland with the sailors. Captain Sherman is invited to Dr. Craigis' home on the island, leaving Rook to secure the boat alone. The place where the scientists live looks like "Fort Redneck!" Even better than that is what goes on inside. The most striking piece of furniture in the Château Craigis is a well stocked bar. Before long, everybody is drinking martinis and scotch and sodas.

Friends, this is a drinking movie. These people can drink; I cannot keep pace with them! Holy cow! They must make their martinis a gallon at a time, because somebody is always "freshening" the drinks, or going to the bar for a refill, or asking who wants more alcohol.

Dr. Craigis' research involves genetic manipulation, specifically to help alleviate world hunger by reducing the size of the average human and extending their lifespan. He wants to fill the world with eternal vegetarian midgets! I bet they would be drunken eternal vegetarian midgets! This man has got to be the coolest scientist I have ever heard of in my entire life. Even more impressive than that Hawking fellow who raps about black holes and stuff. In any case, if anyone knows of a scientist conducting experiments to create drunken eternal vegetarian midgets, please tell me. I want to help by donating money. Even if I have to sell blood, hair, or other replenishable parts of my body to get the cash.

It's for science.

As the evening progresses, Ann continues to be jumpy; just about anything startles her. It is not until Capt. Sherman insists on leaving that she completely flips her wig. The young lady grabs a revolver and threatens to shoot Thorne if he tries to open the gate! Talk about high maintenance. Finally, Anne tells the bewildered sailor what is going on. Dr. Craigis made a fateful decision when he picked a test animal for his genetic longevity experiments. Instead of using mice, like any sane researcher, Ann's father selected shrews. During the genetic tampering, something happened and a batch of giant shrews were created, and Jerry screwed up by leaving the cage open (he was drunk, go figure). Now there are hundreds of giant shrews outside, and they have eaten every scrap of food on the island. The only source of protein left is the people.

Around now, the drinking kicks into overdrive, and major friction develops between Jerry and Thorne. Much of the conflict is born from the fact that Ann had been engaged to Jerry, until she realized he was an alcoholic moron. With Captain Sherman on deck, Ann begins to seriously consider dating a sailor. Okay, that is enough with the romantic minefield; what I really want to talk about is the drinking. Characters start snatching drinks from each other. We see Thorne engaged in a heated conversation with Dr. Craigis when Jerry walks up, takes Thorne's glass, quaffs the contents, then returns the empty highball to the captain's hand. Hahaha! This sort of behavior continues even after Jerry and Thorne have had a few violent disagreements.

I do not know about you, but somebody trying to steal my drink is grounds for a serious butt-whuppin', no matter who they are. My wife's grandmother almost learned that the hard way.

The storm knocks a shutter loose and a killer shrew hides in the basement. Thorne and Mario fix the shutter and go after the big critter, but the shrew gets the drop on them and bites Mario's leg. Check this out: Thorne slaps a tourniquet on the leg and winds it tight using the barrel of his revolver! Every time he puts another twist in the tourniquet the barrel points at either the injured man's head or part of the sailor's anatomy. I was just waiting for a loud bang (and then Thorne would need a tourniquet too, or Mario wouldn't need one anymore).

Too bad for Mario that the tourniquet doesn't help. When the scientists first attempted to deal with the shrews, they left out poison bait. Instead of dying, the voracious creatures absorbed the toxins, thus becoming giant, poisonous killer shrews. Funny, some shrews are poisonous anyway, but I guess Craigis made one good decision when he picked shrews for his experiments by avoiding those.

Does anybody remember Rook? Yeah, poor old Rook, left alone on the beach to tie up the boat. He encounters a pack of killer shrews and tries to escape by climbing up a tree that is obviously too weak to support a man of Rook's size. When the bough breaks, the Rook will fall; and the shrews will be waiting, to eat everything except his belt and shoes. That is all Thorne finds when he goes looking for his friend.

Back at Fort Redneck (that's Craigis' house), the place is starting to look like a shrew buffet. Killer shrews are digging through the plaster walls! Jerry is also coming apart so badly that he climbs up onto the roof and refuses to come down. Luckily, Thorne has a great idea: build a tank. Not exactly a true tank, but a protective shell made from four large drums lashed together, with viewports cut through the steel. By using the tank as a mobile bunker Thorne, Dr. Craigis, and Ann are able to make it to the beach and swim to the boat. Stupid Jerry stays behind on the roof; when he finally does come down to dash to the beach, the shrews get him.

Though Ann claims that there are two or three hundred killer shrews, we never see more than ten or so. The creatures congregate outside the house's tall wooden fence on more than one occasion. If Thorne and the others really wanted to improve the odds, they could have stood on a pile of crates and picked off quite a few shrews with the pistols and shotgun. The captain is the only one who should have been armed with a gun anyway. Every shot fired by Jerry was a complete waste of ammo (Jerry is one of those shooters who would be more dangerous if he used the pistol as a club).

I like this movie because it had some good ideas, like the makeshift tank, but what I love about it is the killer shrews and the drinking. Watching an actor scream in mortal terror at a coon hound wearing carpet remnants is hilarious, especially when the disguised pooch is doing the "happy dog" (the dogs probably got belly rubs and treats after every scene). As for the drinking, well, I would not recommend trying to keep up with the cast. Remember, some things we see in the movies should not be attempted at home. Drinking a gallon martini is one of those things. Of course, so is killing a vampire with a cue stick, but there were no vampires in this film, nor was a pool table evident.

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • On the road of life there are small mammals that can breed faster than you can say "Zub zub" or "Zoom zoom", or whatever the heck it was that kid used to say that made people want to buy cars.
  • Shrews do not understand the concept of Tupperware.
  • Fathers are always happy to indulge their daughter's alcoholism.
  • Hispanic men call everyone "señor."
  • If you are fat and need to climb a tree, make sure it's not a sapling.
  • Knowing the difference between a wash basin and a chamber pot can be critical.
  • Mister Ed was eaten by giant shrews.
  • Under the right circumstance, rotting carrion is romantic.
  • Keep your friends close, and your enemies directly in front of you.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 6 mins - I know what you are thinking, and that is "Why do they need a privacy fence on a remote island?"
  • 7 mins - Drink!
  • 8 mins - "Thank God you arrived. We are almost out of olives..."
  • 12 mins - Drink!
  • 16 mins - Drink!
  • 28 mins - Snarl! Bark! Growl! (The funny thing is, I'm not talking about the dogs, er, shrews.)
  • 30 mins - He is trying to figure out how to catch them Duke Boys.
  • 31 mins - Drink!
  • 32 mins - Drink!
  • 32 mins - Take it easy on the alcohol, people. Twenty year scotch takes two decades to make, and you people are going through it entirely too fast!
  • 38 mins - Imagine, if you can, that wall without the picture. Plain, no?
  • 40 mins - Is that kanji?
  • 45 mins - Yay! We've created giant, poisonous shrews! Whoopie!
  • 56 mins - Drink!
  • 57 mins - Just watching these people is getting me drunk.
  • 68 mins - I have done the math three times and still come to the conclusion that there will be 0 shrews left on the island. Dr. Craigis, could you check my solution? 1 shrew that is dead of starvation = 0 shrews. Did I forget to carry a 1 or something?


  • Narrator: "The wildest and most vicious of animals is the tiny shrew. The shrew feeds only by the dark of the moon. He must eat his own body weight every few hours, or starve; and the shrew devours everything - bones, flesh, marrow, everything. In March, first in Alaska, and then invading steadily southward, there were reports of a new species: the giant, killer shrew!"
  • Dr. Craigis: "In twenty four hours there will be one shrew left on the island, and he'll be dead of starvation. An excellent example of overpopulation."

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note killershrews1.wav Anne "I know, but I'm not saying you created them, Jerry. I am saying that because of your drunken stupidity in leaving the cage door open, you created the horrible situation that now exists."
Jerry: "Look Ann, this is a mistake any one of us might have made. I'm getting a little sick of being called an irresponsible drunk. Now, believe me I am."
Green Music Note killershrews2.wav Rook gets et.
Green Music Note killershrews3.wav Thorne: "'Shrew' must be the common name for those cute little animals."
Ann: "Cute! That's the last word you can use to describe those little monsters. They're the most horrible animals on the face of the Earth. As Father told you, they breed within three weeks after birth; their life span is one year."
Thorne: "Yeah, I know what your father told me, but what's that got to do with me opening that gate?"
Ann: "There are two or three hundred giant shrews out there, monsters weighing between fifty and a hundred pounds!"
Green Music Note killershrews4.wav Dr. Baines: "What happened out there?"
Thorne: "Oh, nothing much. Jerry just tried to kill me twice in the last five minutes."

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clipkillershrews1.mpg - 3.7m
Oh no, it's a dog wearing a rug!

Notice that, in keeping with the rest of the film, right after the shrew bursts in and is shot to death, Jerry chugs a glass of something more than 80 proof.

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