Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The Killer Shrews (1959)

This movie was filmed back to back with the tiresome The Giant Gila Monster, which just goes to show that even incompetents can luck into making a decent film once in a while.  Or I guess - if you're feeling generous - that anyone can have a bad day.

Because despite its obvious cheapness - most notably in the action scenes where the 'giant killer shrews' are clearly dogs in stringy-looking costumes - this is actually a pretty well put together little movie.  If you're not the sort of person who enjoys a 'creature feature', it's not about to convert you to the oeuvre.  But if you are, it's a solid one.

Compared to some such flicks (Night of the Lepus, I am looking at you), this film even has the advantage of starting with an animal that - scaled way, way up - might come across as threatening.  I mean sure, real life shrews aren't very scary ... but they weigh at most 100 grams (3 ounces for you poor benighted Imperial measurement people), whereas these ones are the size of a Doberman.  Which would be scary enough in a creature that normally eats double its own weight in meat every day, but the movie also gives these guys a poisonous bite as an added bennie, because why not?

The plot is standard monster movie fare: genetic experiments in an isolated location lead to a group of people besieged together by the menace outside their doors, their tempers fraying as rivalries emerge and they try to survive.  It doesn't take long before we've already met the two-fisted hero, the woman he's going to fall for, his embittered rival and the mad scientist.  You could make a 'creature feature' bingo card for this flick and be a winner inside about ten minutes.

Low production values and derivative plot aside, what makes The Killer Shrews a watchable example of the genre is that the script gets things done with a minimum of fuss.  There's a plausible (even laudable) motive for mad scientist's experiments; a straight-forward explanation for why they can't simply flee or call in the authorities, and so on.  Even their final escape plan has a kind of pleasingly 'low-key' feel to it.

By no means a great film, but a solid one within its niche and worth checking out if you're a part of its market.

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