|THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD
|Copyright 1957 Gramercy Pictures
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 13 January 2008 (updated)
- Commander Twillinger - Such a workaholic that he is only attracted to female GS employees on the base. "You mean I can date you and not leave my office? Hooray!"
- Gail - Shy widow with a young daughter who just happens to be a secretary on base. Courting a single mother with a young daughter is a lot of work. Anything that keeps him from relaxing is attractive to Twillinger, so Gail becomes dating prospect numero uno.
- Sandy - She likes bunnies. Great, that is sure to help her mom find another husband.
- Dr. Rogers - He is a magnet for large, water-dwelling predators. If a crocodile is not after him, then it is a shark. If no sharks are available, God gets creative and starts throwing very large, very scary snails into the mix.
- Mr. Dobbs - The creepy town records clerk.
- Dr. Johns - Natural selection favors the fastest swimmers. This diver will survive and breed.
- Johnson & Sanders - A pair of sailors assigned duties aboard the base's retrieval boat for waterlogged parachutists. Johnson is chomped and his buddy dies of fright.
- Jody and Morty - Two lovers who take a swim and get chomped.
- The Monsters that Challenged the World - Prehistoric gastropods that hatched from eggs hidden in an underwater cavern. To make them even more intimidating, the creatures excrete radioactive slime. Not only are they twelve-foot-long snails that suck out your blood, but you could get cancer!
|The setting for this movie is the Salton Sea and the surrounding area, along with the Naval Air Facility in El Centro, California. To provide a bit of background, the Salton Sea is a saltwater lake that was accidentally created in the early 1900's; the Naval Air Facility was, at the time of this movie, the home of the Naval Test Parachute Team. For a plot, we have the usual "earthquake unleashes prehistoric horror" (in this case, mollusks) deal. Once you put all of it together, what you have is the U.S. Navy battling giant snails in the middle of a desert. Pretty wild, eh?
Side thought: being a parachute tester sounds dicey. If it works, you marvel at the wonders of science. If it doesn't work, you spend two or three minutes screaming before hitting the water at one hundred and twenty miles an hour. Water is not soft at that velocity. It is softer than concrete, but you know what I mean.
A parachute test takes place over the Salton Sea as the film begins. The recovery boat contacts the jump plane to confirm they have visual contact, then the two sailors follow the parachutist's descent all the way to splashdown. Unfortunately, once they arrive at the floating parachute, the test jumper is nowhere to be found. Then, the shore radio operator loses contact with the recovery crew. He immediately contacts Commander Twillinger. Why the Naval Intelligence Officer is notified mystifies me; a SAR team or even the Base Security Officer would appear to be better choices. Maybe those other personnel had gone. Since Twillinger never goes home, everybody just calls him when something happens.
Not to split off on a tangent, but why do sailors wear identification (dog) tags? Those are made of aluminum and they sink. Members of the Navy should wear a fishing bobber tied to a hundred feet of line. That way, after a ship sinks, you could find the spot - there would be a whole bunch of little bobbers in the water. To make identification easy, the bobbers could be inscribed with the service member's name.
I've been campaigning for this change for a long time, though most of the Naval personnel I tell seem to be opposed.
Locating the missing boat is simple and Twillinger discovers one of the sailors, though the man has died of fright. The hasty search even turns up the missing parachutist, but something is strange: the body is hideously shriveled. Even more of a mystery is the thick, sticky substance that covers the gunwales of the stricken boat. Faced with a deadly enigma, Twillinger coordinates the military's response with that of the local sheriff's office. The Salton Sea is off limits to swimmers for the time being. Twillinger also delivers a sample of the mystery mucus to Dr. Rogers at the base laboratory. During his brief visit, the Commander meets Gail and Sandy.
Meanwhile, a young woman and her sailor of the moment go swimming at night and get et. See, the cool thing about the inland sea is that it is safe. There are not any sharks, jellyfish, or stuff like that. About the only thing you might encounter is a sidewinder that became lost and wandered out of Death Valley, and it certainly will not be in the water. The introduction of huge, man-eating snails is completely unfair to the victims in this film. Not that nature cares about fairness, but quite a few humans are fixated on it (liberals, mostly).
Hah! I fit liberals, jellyfish, and the hazards of premarital sex into a single paragraph! Rush Limbaugh, eat your heart out.
Naval divers try to figure out what is going on under the surface of the Salton Sea and discover a previously undiscovered deep trench. They descend into the trench and recover a giant egg case (it looks like a plastic bag). One of the monsters sees the humans abduct junior. Though scientists say that snails do not care for their young, it immediately grabs a diver. The other man, Dr. Johns, flees to the surface but barely has time to gasp out a warning to Twillinger and the crew before the giant snail surfaces. The Navy fights off the killer gastropod with sharp sticks. Now the men know what they are up against. They also have an egg for Dr. Rogers to study at his leisure; the monster cannot hatch, providing the egg is maintained in a vat of chilled water.
You know, after ascending that quickly from a hundred and twenty feet below, Dr. Johns should have been screaming in agony and clutching at his knees. The snail might not get you, but the bends will.
Once the threat is identified, actually killing the monsters is not a big deal. The problem is finding all of them. Around the Salton Sea is a complex network of irrigation canals. Dr. Rogers envisions a terrifying future, should the dangerous gastropods escape into the ocean. Mankind might not be capable of surviving an onslaught of these prehistoric monsters.
Even if our race survives, what about the vegetables? Those snails have to eat something. Won't somebody think of the vegetables?
The scientist's angst about an army of giant snails emerging from the ocean to decimate a modern city is hilarious to me. I am certain that a few citizens with rifles or shotguns (let alone a bazooka) could kill hundreds of the monsters. Besides, large marine predators, such as sharks and sperm whales, would probably appreciate the new variety in their diet. The only problem would be the radioactivity concentrating in the higher predators. My goodness, can you imagine how much more terrifying the shark in "Jaws" would have been, had it been radioactive? What about a nuclear Moby Dick?
Trying to patrol miles of canals and survey thousands of ponds is a losing proposition. The monsters leave their secret lair every night to forage for food (meaning people). As a last resort, Commander Twillinger visits the County Records office (a sign identifies the place as a museum; it does not look like a museum to me). The gamble pays off. Yes, Twillinger and the others are subjected to Mr. Dobbs' spooky behavior, but they locate an underground river that leads them right to the slimy predators' nest. The pond is quickly turned into a mollusk massacre. As a species, the monsters are no more - except the dormant egg at the laboratory.
Do you get the idea that Mr. Dobbs is a scary weirdo? I hope so. With the monsters gone, if people continue to disappear, the police should detain Dobbs. I am certain he sleeps in the same bed as his mother's rotting corpse and drinks kitten blood for breakfast.
Wait a minute, there is still one unhatched monster left and, because little girls and bunnies are often a catalyst for Armageddon, Sandy causes the egg to hatch. Maybe I should explain. In Dr. Rogers' laboratory there are a bunch of rabbits in cages. The little girl talks to them while her mommy is at work. Sandy gets worried that the room is too cold for her furry friends, so she turns up the temperature on the vat of water with the egg in it. The monster hatches, dines on the rabbits, and then chases Gail and her kid into a cleaning closet.
What takes place when Twillinger returns to the lab and finds the monster breaking down the closet door to get at Gail and her daughter is an endearing moment in b-movie history. Since he is unarmed, the Commander casts about for a weapon. He turns around and looks right at a BIG RED FIRE AXE on the wall. He definitely sees it; we, the audience, see it; a blind man could see it. The obvious course of events is that the hero will grab the axe and commence with mollusk hacking mayhem. HOWEVER, when Twillinger runs to the back of the room, he grabs a fire extinguisher! What in the HECK?
If you ever encounter a man-eating gastropod the size of a horse, I recommend choosing the axe over the fire extinguisher. If you don't want to take my advice, fine. Have fun putting the snail out. I will kill it with the axe, since it will be distracted (eating you).
The CO2 dispensing safety equipment is not an effective snail killer. Once the fire extinguisher is empty, Twillinger looks terrified. He rips a steam hose away from the floor and sprays the monster in the face! Okay, that is pretty effective. I also admire the fact that once the snail is dead, dinner is served. Eight hundred pounds (how it got that big by eating a few rabbits is never explained) of freshly steamed snail sounds a bit daunting, even to a person who loves escargot.
You know, once Gail and Twillinger's relationship reached the point that he regularly stayed overnight, I bet he got real tired of Gail's kid waking up at 3 AM because she was having a nightmare. A little girl screaming, "It ate the bunnies! It ate ALL the bunnies! MOMMMMYYYY!" is not conducive to a good night's sleep.
|Things I Learned From This Movie:|| |
- The base Naval Intelligence Officer is in charge of investigating missing boats.
- If something appears to be a snot-like substance, do not stick your hand in it to verify that it is a snot-like substance.
- Cigarette cases can be used as field-expedient specimen containers.
- Coroners rarely own refrigerators.
- One piece bathing suits and neck scarves used to be the bomb.
- Eggs, no matter the origin, cannot hatch at 38 degrees and below.
- Scientists believe that the mythical Kraken was actually a giant snail.
- Amputation is the only way to not hurt the ones we love.
- Snails are not your friend.
- 2 mins - It is the military; people are going to die. Oh, it is the Navy; lots of people are going to die.
- 14 mins - This impatient man is playing with a ladybug?
- 22 mins - It looks like you found your seaman...
- 30 mins - That underwater radio system is amazing.
- 42 mins - What sort of nasty European porn is this?
- 46 mins - "Gentleman, I am going to brief the Joint Chiefs of Staff about giant snails. Before you go to bed tonight, I'd appreciate it if you said a prayer for my career."
- 53 mins - Why in the heck are you sticking your hand inside that man's shirt? Ugh, now it is covered with...forget I asked.
- 65 mins - Even if the lock operator thinks the sound is those kids, he is so old and crotchety that I would still expect him to bring the shotgun.
- 71 mins - Dream Whip or laundry detergent?
- 72 mins - "I'm sheathed in rubber from head to toe. How do you like me now?"
- 81 mins - Get the axe! No, the axe! Not the fire extinguisher, you moron.
- Dr Rogers: "Now, we've crippled, we may have killed, this giant creature. To make sure it's dead, we're first going to saturate the entire area with depth charges, but our most important job is to find all its eggs. Now, once they're located, Dr. Johns will make a quick survey of them, and then they must be totally destroyed. Commander Twillinger will be in charge of the underwater demolition."
| ||Audio clips in wav format||SOUNDS||Starving actors speak out|| |
||Dr. Rogers: "Lieutenant said there was something unnatural about the condition of one of the bodies." |
Twillinger: "There was; it was shriveled."
Dr. Roger: "Shriveled? Well, sometimes seawater does strange things to human flesh."
Twillinger: "In this case, I don't think so."
||Sheriff: "What could cause a stroke in a man that young?" |
Coroner: "Well, as far as we know, in that age group, only two things could cause a stroke: violent anger or fear."
Twillinger: "Well, you can rule out anger."
Coroner: "In my opinion, the man you found on the boat was literally scared to death."
||General: "Is there any danger that the egg might hatch?" |
Rogers: "Oh no, the temperature is just low enough to keep it from hatching. As long as this knob is set so that the temperature remains constant, there will be no problem."
||Twillinger talks to Mr. Dobbs. Mr. Dobbs is one creepy dude.
| ||Click for a larger image||IMAGES||Scenes from the movie|| |
| ||Watch a scene||VIDEO||MPEG video files|| |
|Watch in amazement as Twillinger ignores the prominent red axe and grabs something full of carbon dioxide instead. Fear my fire extinguisher, evil snail!
| ||Leave a comment||EXTRAS||Buy the movie|| |
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