Giant Bug vs. Enormous Bug

The Deadly Mantis

There is only one thing The Deadly Mantis (1957) has over the almost identical Them! (1954), a nuclear monster movie hailed by the American Film Institute as one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time: The bug looks cooler. Yeah, I said it.

The Deadly Mantis

The giant ants in Them! look like someone stuck pipe cleaners into a couple of potatoes and spray-painted ’em with Rust-oleum™. The giant mantis in The Deadly Mantis looks exactly like a mantis, all alien-esque, spindly and icky. (While we’re on the subject, The Outer Limits Zanti Misfits (1963) look more like what ants are supposed to look like minus the big bulging eyeballs, though I’ve seen a few of those things crawling around just after last call.)

The Zanti Misfits

Taking the page-by-page format of the “giant insects eat civilization” right out of the Them! playbook, the title 200 foot-long Mantidae (biology name) was de-iced after a volcano thawed it from its icy cube in the North Pole. (I didn’t know they had active volcanoes in the North Pole. Snowball fights, yes; but lava?)

The Deadly Mantis

The military stationed up there (building a massive early detection network) sustains severe preliminary damage as the mantis feeds itself on mess hall chow (servicemen). Then it flys south, theorized to be heading to South America where I here it’s warmer than the North Pole and more suitable for getting an all-around tan. (Note to self: Use that tanning salon coupon before it expires.)

The Deadly Mantis

On its way for a vacation, the mantis buzzes Washington, D.C., and takes a poop rest on the Washington Monument, totally mocking visiting hours. Jets are dispatched, but the launched missiles rarely connect with their exoskeleton target. (Note to the city down below: the air force was just trying to help, man – get over it.)

The Deadly Mantis

One heroic pilot accidentally rams his jet into the bug due to London-grade fog that seems to be covering the entire East Coast, ejecting before ka-BOOM! The mantis hits the ground and crawls into the Manhattan Tunnel, mimicking the giants ants that took up homeless camp residence in the vast Los Angeles drainage tunnels and mocking New York Port Authority’s toll charges. The bail-out pilot leads the charge into the tunnel, armed with chemical gas can bombs, and throws it right onto the face of mantis. In your face, deadly mantis!

The Deadly Mantis

But for all its plagiarized similarities to Them!, The Deadly Mantis has two very funny scenes. One is with a bunch of military guys jailhouse rockin’ each other in the rec room as there are no dames around at the North Pole, and the other where a scientist and a dame (visiting journalist covering the story) and a military dude are theorizing how big the monster is, guessing that it’s probably over six-feet tall. This while the mantis is right outside their window and rising up over three stories. I just about crapped sno-cones over that one.

In conclusion, while the sci-fi sorta classic The Deadly Mantis looks good, it isn’t as good as Them!

P.S. For more big bug fun, watch 1957’s Beginning of the End – it features REAL giant grasshoppers. Those things goon me out for some reason.

Beginning of the End

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