Review: The Killer Shrews (1959)

Next off my list of unwatched movies…

Written by Jay Simms
Directed by Ray Kellogg
Starring James Best, Ingrid Goude, Ken Curtis, Gordon McLendon, Baruch Lumet, Judge Henry Dupree, Alfredo de Soto
Released June 25, 1959 (Dallas, TX)
RT 69 min.
Home Video Public Domain
Classic Horrors rating =  7 (out of 10)

MV5BZTg0ZjEzOTEtZjkwYy00ZDI2LTgwM2ItYWY3N2EyZDE3MGI2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjE5MjUyOTM@._V1_

WHY I’VE NEVER SEEN IT

The reputation of The Killer Shrews precedes it.  For the longest time, there were other movies I’d choose to watch over it, strictly because I wasn’t in the mood for a “bad” movie.

WHY I FINALLY WATCHED IT

One day I was tired of passing it in my Amazon Prime queue and, since it was only just over an hour long, I decided to press the “Play” button on my remote control.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT

I learned another lesson. Little did I expect that the legendary cheapness of the movie I had come to expect as its weak point, was actually its strong point.  I really liked The Killer Shrews.  I mean, I liked it a lot.  Something has happened to me in the last couple of years… movies I used to avoid because I’d heard they were awful, have turned out to be real treats.  Take The Atomic Brain (1963) and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964), for example. When I say I like them, it’s not ironically.  I genuinely enjoy them and they won’t be one-time viewings.

The production design, if that’s what you want to call it, is indeed bottom of the barrel, but it’s perplexingly charming.  The whole production feels like a vintage television show or a filmed stage play.  In fact, The Killer Shrews would make a great stage play with one set, the interior of the “compound” where a group of people take refuge from mutated shrews during a hurricane.  The only indication that there’s a storm is the noise, repeating unnaturally on the soundtrack.  The building doesn’t quiver one inch in what is supposed to be torrential rain and wind.

The Killers Shrews is neither embarrassed nor afraid to stay on task.  Adding a hurricane on top of the threat of the shrews is one thing, but then having the people waddle toward the beach under a makeshift barrel-tank is simply inspired.  The characters’ willingness to do whatever it takes to get things done mirrors the creators’ willingness to get their crazy ideas on film.  Yes, the threatening beasts are often hand puppets or dogs with costumes, but, again, it’s all so innocent and charming that you reach a point where you accept it as real.

This was the first screenplay by Jay Simms, who would at the same time write The Giant Gila Monster, and three years later, The Creation of the Humanoids and Panic in Year Zero!, all movies that also offer pleasures of their own.  There’s some decent character development resulting from the talky bulk of the movie.  The actors, including James Best (The Dukes of Hazzard) as the hero, Thorne Sherman, are just as good as they need to be. That is to say, they’re either not very good or they’re not well directed; but, they’re as perfect as everything else in The Killer Shrews.

BONUS!

Check out my review of Return of the Killer Shrews here.

maxresdefault-2

ABOUT THE COUNTDOWN

We all have them… stacks of movies we’ve purchased, but never watched; or, movies on the DVR, filling them to capacity.  This year for the annual Countdown to Halloween, I’m going to make a dent in my “stack,” watching one movie a day for the month of October that I’ve never seen, then writing about it.

Well, I’m going to cheat a little.  Assisting me this year are a number of “guest bloggers” that I’ve invited to participate by commandeering classichorrors.club for a day.  These are all people whose blogs I read, whose podcasts I enjoy, and/or whose existence I simply appreciate.  It’s an experiment, but I hope you’ll enjoy reading some new perspectives.

Of course, bloggers everywhere are participating in their own Countdowns, so be sure to click here to find other “Cryptkeepers” on their Countdowns to Halloween!

TOMORROW

Jon Kitley and Corpse Eaters (1974)!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s