Giant mantis. Oh my. For the first time on Blu-ray, Universal International’s THE DEADLY MANTIS has been resurrected. This 1957 black and white film has been re-released through Shout Factory in never before seen high definition. The plot is everything you would expect: a deadly mantis is on the loose causing havoc across the globe. Will humans be able to disrupt it’s killing streak before it’s too late?
THE DEADLY MANTIS delivers on the construction of a badass, fully realized, giant, retro monster. The mantis is the major highlight of this film. Appearing in several settings across the globe, viewers observe the mantis wreaking havoc and leaving a path of destruction in its wake. Beautiful shots of the mantis looming above cities, peering into windows, and frightening humans are the major highlights of the film. The mantis is shot from different angles with different models which are of note. In particular, viewers see (and hear) the mantis fly from location to location which leaves a lasting impression. Given the age of the film and lack of contemporary special effects, the threat of the mantis does not come through as profound as it may have when it was initially released. Although THE DEADLY MANTIS would not be considered “scary” by contemporary standards, it is suspenseful and entertaining. Despite the “deadly” threat of the mantis, there appears to be a lack of gore and overt destruction to human life in the film. Viewers may be left hungry for more depictions of the deadly mantis in the act.
Additionally, the apparent differences in the production and writing of the film compared with contemporary media is a highlight. First, the production appeared to use a significant amount of stock footage. In particular, there is a clip that appears to be shot significantly different than the rest of the film. The clip depicts the movement of canoes, dogs and people with a unique time signature. It’s difficult to explain but it was a compelling montage as the clip appeared to be shot with a different style and at a different speed than the rest of the film. In addition, the film utilized a high amount of military and plane footage to suggest plot themes surrounding the notorious nature of the mantis. The, often rough, transitions between the use of stock film adds a particular style to the feature that feels campy. The high level of military presence included in the imagery and writing make the film seem to have a pro-military agenda. The writing of the film centers around themes of the government protecting the public with a state of the art “radar fence” and “super-sonic shield” from the deadly mantis. Given the film was released in 1957, the very beginning of the Vietnam War, THE DEADLY MANTIS may have subconsciously monopolized on the unconscious collective desire to feel secure and protected by the government.
Overall, THE DEADLY MANTIS prevails as a quirky, black and white, monster film. Throughout the film, monster lovers will be likely hooked in anticipation of the mantis’ appearances. With over sixty years since its initial release, the film can be appreciated on deeper levels especially by individuals with a fondness for the classics. THE DEADLY MANTIS is available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory and can be purchased HERE.