The 1950s was a decade of b horror flicks- cheaply made movies meant to be shown at the drive-in, giving teenagers the creeps while they necked in the front seat of their cars.
Among some of the most popular b horror flicks of the time were ones featuring ginormous, monster insects, usually the mutated results of atomic testing, natural mutations, or (in some cases,) alien intervention.
Not only is the acting in these movies over dramatic, some of these flicks are just downright ridiculous- but oh, so fun to watch!
Below is a list of the top 5 worse insect horror films from the ‘50s (admit it- you’ve seen at least one of them on late night cable TV at some point in your life! It’s ok… your secret is safe with me.)
5. THEM! (1954)
A couple of months ago in the desert of New Mexico, gigantic ants were discovered. These ants…are mutations ranging in size from nine to twelve feet in length. They have made their way to Los Angels where they have established a nest. It isn’t know how many of these monsters were hatched. It could be just a few, or maybe thousands.
This movie is actually ranked as one of the top monster insect horror films, but I’m including it on this list because it doesn’t matter if Fess Parker (Davy Crocket) is in it, this movie is still ridiculous. The movie begins with Police Sgt. Ben Peterson and his partner finding a kid wandering through the New Mexico desert; this somehow leads to the discovery that giant ants are attacking the locals. Ben swiftly teams up with FBI agent Robert Graham and Dr. Harold Medford (as well as his daughter, Dr. Patricia “Pat” Medford)- because local police sergeants always work hand in hand with the FBI and doctors well versed in the workings of science to solve giant mutant insect cases!
Dr. Harold Medford concludes that atomic testing in 1945 caused the mutation of the ants. They succeed in destroying the giant ant colony in the desert- but wait! OH, NO! Two queen ants have flown off to start huge underground colonies in Los Angeles. After one mother reports two of her children missing, the Bug Busting team enlists the help of the U.S. army to conquer the ants… but will they get there before it’s too late?
4. The Deadly Mantis (1957)
In all the kingdom of the living, there is no more deadly or voracious creature than the Preying Mantis.
This is a movie that has had me in stitches since I first saw a clip from it back in middle school. A huge, prehistoric mantis thaws and escapes from the Arctic ice it’s been captured in since prehistoric times (volcanic eruptions tend to do that), only to discover that the large, man-sized insects of yesteryear that it used to feast upon have been replaced by… well, man.
So what does it do? It feeds, of course! First starting with the U.S. military stationed in the Arctic, then quickly working its way down South, there is no stopping this Mantis! It walks, it runs- it FLIES!!! Perhaps the scariest (and most ridiculous) part of this movie is the close-ups of the Mantis’ giant, paper mache head! Or perhaps it’s the little, fluttering wings that propel it through the sky. There’s no doubt about it- The Deadly Mantis is horrifying- at least its existence on film is!
3. Beginning of the End (1957)
We may be witnessing the beginning of an era that’ll mean the complete annihilation of man.
Giant grasshoppers invade Chicago after eating radioactive grain. A journalist tries to uncover the truth of what is happening, despite the obstacle of a military cover up. Thousands of people panic, fleeing in fear instead of carrying through with the planned evacuation… meanwhile, the military stands by with an atom bomb! Will the monster locusts indeed be… the beginning of the end? The stock footage of the grasshoppers spliced together with the rest of the movie may have been great effects back in the ‘50s, but looks nothing short of ridiculous now. Learn more at www.betarazzi.com
2. Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)
It had regular arms on it like a man! Its head was sort of different lookin’. It had suckers on ‘em. Like one of ‘em octopuses things. … Ya’ll laugh if you want! But that thing isn’t nothin’ ol’ nature put out there!
A local moonshine swilling poacher catches sight of some ginormous creatures in the swamp, but nobody believes him until he’s found dying of sucker wounds. Then a couple are forced into the swamp waters by an estranged husband, promptly getting abducted by giant leeches. More characters die or disappear, prompting locals to get involved – and discovering that there are huge, mutant leeches living in underground caves beneath the local swamp.
This movie can hardly qualify for a movie at all- at a little over an hour, there are TV shows that run about the same time length as it. Bad acting, bad costumes, and a bad plot make for an amusing time. The leeches, while bizarre looking, are somewhat creepy… just not in a way that can be taken seriously.
1. The Black Scorpion (1957)
Ordinarily I’ve got nothing against moonlit nights, but I’ll be glad to get by this one.
At number one we have the 1957 black and white horror flick The Black Scorpion. Not only is this movie absurd, with the typical over-acting and lame-yet-outrageous plot, (GIANT SCORPIONS escaping to the surface of the earth after a volcanic eruption!) the effects are among the worse. The close-ups of the scorpions are enough to make the viewer laugh out loud, if not topple in a fit of giggles from their seat.
The military photo of a giant scorpion near Mexico City after the main character (a professor of sorts) and his partners collapse the volcano entrance/exit with dynamite (you know, trapping the gigantean scorpions beneath the earth’s surface – only to later learn that they have escaped into underground tunnels and are headed directly toward Mexico City,) is – well, ludicrous. Seriously- it looks like they took a picture of a toy scorpion on top of an existing photo of the Mexican landscape. It doesn’t even look like it’s part of the photo – but then most of the movie has that effect.
The best part of the movie is when a mob of scorpions derail a train and wreaks havoc amongst the wreckage. They didn’t even use real footage of a train – both the scorpions and the train appear to be filmed entirely using stop-motion animation.
The largest scorpion wipes out the rest of the scorpions, then makes its way to Mexico City, inciting the declaration of martial law (announced in typical ‘50s horror movie public broadcast fashion.) The epic stop-motion battle between the lone scorpion and a fleet of army tanks in what appears to be a football stadium makes for an amusing ending. The close-ups of the dead scorpion is so comical, it’s anticlimactic.
So there you have it, the top 5 worst monster insects from the 1950s (and quite possibly of all time.)These movies are all in public domain now and can be viewed for free on Youtube.
All of these movies range from 1 hour to 1 ½ hours. Do yourself a favor and check one out the next time you’re in for a scare, a good laugh, or both!