Friday, March 29, 2019

THE DEADLY MANTIS (1957) (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)


Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 79 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with optional English Subtitles 
Video: B&W 1080P HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Nathan Juron 
Cast: Craig Stevens, Alix TaltonFlorenz Ames, Donald Randolph

Synopsis: What’s worse than a horde of locusts? A gigantic man-eating praying mantis, released from a million years of deep, frozen sleep and ready to claw its way to world domination! This menacing insect kills everything in its path while scientists and military men work feverishly to stop it. Craig Stevens (Abbott And Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde) stars as the commander in charge of putting an end to this beastly insect with William Hopper (20 Million Miles To Earth) as the paleontologist and Alix Talton (The Man Who Knew Too Much) as his beautiful assistant, a photojournalist, assigned to help in this epic battle between man and mantis!

From a very early age I've always loved me some atomic-age creature features and this mantis versus man slice of 50's schlock ranks high among them on purely a nostalgic level, having watched it multiple times on my grannies TV as a kid. When a volcanic eruption frees a 200-foot long praying mantis from it's ice age imprisonment inside a block of arctic ice the creature sets out on a destructive rampage. First destroying a U.S. military outpost in the arctic, and then downing an Air Force cargo plane. Inspecting the wreckage the military discover a large claw of some sort, unable to identify it they take to a paleontologist who identifies it as belonging to a praying mantis of unusually large size.

This atomic-age big-bug movie didn't hold up quite as well as I remember from when I was still in the single-digits, but I still had fun with it. There's just something about these silly giant bug movies from the 50s that appeals to me, and the mantis here is well crafted and cool-looking. What drags the movie down is the copious amounts of cruddy-looking stock footage of fighter jets scrambling - there's just so much of it - this 79-minute movie is probably only about 60-minutes worth of actual film and 20-minutes of stock footage all told! 

That aside the film has some awesome creature effects and the final battle which happens on the East Coast is awesome. The final showdown happening inside the Manhattan Tunnel that was still very satisfying, with scientists and military men taking down the giant-sized insect armed with flamethrowers! Other earlier highlights include the bug emerging from the fog to attack a city bus, and the mantis destroying a research lab in the arctic.

Audio/Video: Atomic-age, big-bug film The Deadly Mantis debuts on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, presenting the film in 1080p HD widescreen (1.85:1). Advertised as a new 2K scan from original film elements, probably a release print, it looks reasonably solid. The black and white cinematography looks pleasing in HD, the abundance of stock footage sourced stuff is in poor shape with chunkier grain, but overall the image is fine looking with good contrast and texture throughout.

Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 that does the job, the track manages the audio and score nicely without distortion, optional English subtitles are provided. 

Extras on this include a new audio commentary from film historian Tom Weaver who is very open about how bad the film is, but offers some fun insights and observations about the production. There's also an episode of MST3K covering the film, plus a trailer for the film and a gallery of promotional images and movie posters, and this creature feature has some great looking movie posters! 

The single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve artwork featuring the original movie poster on the a-side, plus a cool looking landscape framed artwork on the reverse, though it's not reversible, but it is cool looking. The disc itself features features a sepia tone image of actress Alix Talton caught in mid-scream. 

Special Features:
- NEW 2K Scan of the original film elements
- NEW Audio Commentary with film historian Tom Weaver
 - Mystery Science Theatre 3000 episode “The Deadly Mantis” (02/22/97)(92 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 
- Still Gallery (8 min) 

The Deadly Mantis (1957) is a fun 50's big-bug movie from Universal, and Scream Factory have done good work bringing it to Blu-ray with some cool extras. If you're a fan of this sort of atomic-age schlock this is a no-brainer, add this to your collection straight away!