Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


BEGINNING OF THE END (1957). Director: Bert I. Gordon.

Reporter Audrey Aimes (Peggie Castle) is surprised to learn that the town of Ludlow has been wiped out overnight and all of its 150 inhabitants have disappeared. [Nobody ever suggests a tornado might be responsible even though that is what the damage resembles in stock footage.] No, in a grotesque development Audrey learns that irradiated food worked on by entomologist Ed Wainwright (Peter Graves) has been accidentally eaten by grasshoppers and has turned them into humongous giants that have devoured everyone in town [bones included]! Before long General Hanson (Morris Ankrum) and Colonel Sturgeon (Thomas B. Henry) are leading a desperate battle against the ravenous plague of locusts as Wainwright tries to come up with the solution to destroying them. The climax has Wainwright and Aimes working in a skyscraper in Chicago as the grasshoppers converge en masse ... This is a cheap but entertaining entry in the "big bug" cycle, zippily directed by Gordon, and not badly acted by the enthusiastic cast. Beginning of the End is fast-paced fun but it's not a classic a la Them, its obvious model, nor is it as good as Tarantula. [Gordon also directed Earth vs. The Spider, among many others.]

NOTE: There is a scene in this movie when the Army first encounters the giant grasshoppers but find they are more than they can manage. As a truck pulls away from the forest where the mutants are congregated, one grasshopper suddenly rushes after the truck and nearly catches up with it. However, on the only DVD of this picture currently available, there is a fade out just before the monster appears, stripping the movie of one of its more exciting sequences. Reportedly, the DVD has cut three minutes of footage from the movie. This makes absolutely no sense. The whole point of DVDs with their special features and widescreen format is to show the complete movie as it was intended to be seen. It could be argued that some cuts tighten the movie or remove bad FX work, but fans of this genre want to see the whole movie as it was originally presented, no matter how good the video quality. [ For more on this and similar films see Creature Features: Nature Turned Nasty in the Movies.]

Verdict: Movie: **1/2. DVD: *1/2.


Neil A Russell said...

I'd say it's a childhood thing that I love these Bert Gordon movies so much, but I didn't really start to appreciate them until a few years ago (second childhood perhaps?)
I can't believe someone thought it would be an improvement to cut footage from this flick, as you said; the point of a DVD is to have ALL the footage included.
At any rate, some of the best stuff in this movie has the bugs climbing "buildings" but upon close inspection it's very obvious that the buildings are just photographs and at some points the grasshoppers climb off the image.
Even though they can be cheesy, Gordon movies have a determined charm about them, you can just feel the energy he put into even the worst ones.

William said...

I couldn't have summed up the basic appeal of "Mr. BIG"'s movies any better than you did, Neil. Oddly, his movies took a dip in quality when he stayed away from the giant bugs and animals. Hard to believe Gordon once directed no less than Orson Welles in a movie! Anyway, my favorite of his will always be the Cyclops. Thanks for your comments!