Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Killer Shrews

I love James Best. Being from the South, I admire the folks who made it in Hollywood from my neck of the woods. Best has a wonderful story. How fate brought him to the Universal Studios after touring with a theater group, and the Western offering him countless parts. I absolutely love Best in his Twilight Zone appearances which utilized his particular brand of folksy charm and Southern voice. The Killer Shrews (1959) is notorious in bad film cult circles but actually beloved surprisingly for reasons many consider worthy of shame.

God, it had a slop-bucket production and plot. The first two victims are Best's shipmate (who is African-American) and the house's caretaker (who is Hispanic) his boat was bringing a manifest of goods to... noticeable and glaring, Henry Dupree (Best's first mate) climbs up a leafless tree as the coondogs in "shrew costume" claw the wood awaiting for his fall, begging and pleading for rescue with no help in sight. He falls to his doom as his shriek went out as the "killer shrews" pounce.


Ken Curtis, of Gunsmoke fame, helped produce this bad boy and co-starred as Jerry, a real creep who loved booze and instigating drama. So you have Swedish model, Ingrid Goude, as a zoologist and daughter of the film's chief scientific mind, Russian actor Baruch Lumet (director Sidney's pops). Gordon McClendon is a deep-voiced associate scientist to Lumet. The shrews were experimented on in the research for a serum that will, get this, "shrink humans so that the smaller world population will demand less global resources"! Shrews mutated into ravenous flesh-hungry monsters, set free accidentally by Curtis during a drunken stupor! Oh and toxins in their saliva cause near instantaneous death at first bite!

Curtis is Goude's estranged fiancee, and their acrimony leads her into the arms of Best. It doesn't take very long, either! So much to enjoy with this daffy movie! I myself had trouble getting through the strong accents, focusing too intensely on the dialogue when what you hear isn't exactly worth such attention.

But I'm honest, I had no problem getting through it because it is a creature feature of it era, an era that just sits well with me. The bunch trapped in a home protected somewhat by a protective fencing as the shrews try to get at them, on an island, with only a skipper's boat as escape is a familiar skeletal outline and all that is left are how the characters and their reactions to the danger as the organs and flesh.

Curtis is a nuisance who tries to kill Best multiple times. His decision to stay behind on the roof as the survivors build a makeshift armour shield of protection out of barrels is laughable and stupid. He's his own foil. The shrews are grotesque enough, the close-up puppets certainly look unpleasant, and the cautious distance shots of them are carefully staged to hopefully avoid noticeable attributes to what they actually were...dogs disguised. The rep of the film remains. This will always remain on worst film lists. But just the same that very reason continues the film's relevancy. You want to suffer through it just to see if it is as rotten as reputed. I think this one is a stinker, but not Coleman Francis awful. That's something, right?

**

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Battlestar Galactica - And So It Begins

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Bmate

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Ms45 w

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Alonzo, the Armless.

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Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969)

Glen: We'd like to speak to the Townsends, please.

The Butler: They are not available till after sunset.

Bw5

Bw5

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Mad Love 1935

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