The Killer Shrews (1959) – By Duane L. Martin

If you’re a fan of classic b-movies then you’ve either seen or know about The Killer Shrews.  What are Shrews?  It’s some kind of a rodent that has to eat it’s own body weight every so often because of its high metabolism or it dies.  How do they get to be giants?  Some idiot scientist out on an island with his brainless daughter and his two assistants, one an alcoholic jerk and the other a biology nerd, accidentally make them that way when they’re trying to come up with a way to actually shrink them down to half size so they can live longer and eat less.  Yeah, that worked out well, didn’t it?  Oh, but it gets better.  See, in an effort to kill the giant ones they accidentally created, they created the most virulent poison known to man and tried to poison them, only it didn’t kill them.  Somehow they assimilated it into their salivary glands and now if you even get a scratch from one of their teeth you end up dead in less than a minute.

Enter Thorne Sherman and his assistant that I didn’t even bother to remember the name of because I knew he was going to end up dead anyway.  Thorne owns a ship that’s transporting supplies to the island.  That’s simple enough, right?  No, actually it’s not.  See, there’s a hurricane about to blow through there, and as such he gets stuck on the island, staying at the house while his assistant works to secure the boat.  Over the course of the evening it all comes out about the Shrews, and as the srews (who are actually dogs dressed up in costumes) try to dig their way through the walls to get to their next meal, the inhabitants of the island, led by the heroic sea captain must try to escape back to the ship before it’s too late.

You know, Thorne Sherman looked really familiar to me, so before I started this review I looked him up to see who he was.  Once I found out, it became totally clear why he looked so familiar.  He was played by James Best, who also played Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard.

As for the movie itself, I’ve never seen so much stupidity thrown into one film as they threw into this one.  The amount of illogic and just sheer brainlessness is mind numbing.  See, when they got to the island, the scientist, his alcoholic assistant and his daughter came out to meet them because shrews are nocturnal and sleep during the day…or they’re supposed to anyway.  Didn’t seem to work that way at the end of the movie, but whatever.  Anyway, I’m sitting there thinking to myself…hey, there’s a boat.  There’s the guy that runs the boat.  You yourself said that once the food was gone the shrews would eat each other until the last one died of starvation a day after.  Here’s a thought…get the hell off the island for a few days!  Duh!  Do they do that?  No!  The daughter invites Thorne back to the house and asks him to stay for dinner.  Sure, why the hell not, right?

Seriously, this film will have you shaking your head numerous times, especially the end sequence.  The thing is, it’s all so stupid that it’s actually fun.  The shrews themselves are a combination of dogs in costume and some puppets that they made for the close up shots, like when they get killed or when they’re trying to dig their way through the walls of the house.  The puppets look like dead animals that were taxidermied by Chuck Testa.  If you don’t know the name, look him up on YouTube.  The commercial is hilarious.  Anyway, the dogs in the costumes are far cooler looking, but I’m guessing they’re not as detailed, which is why they don’t do too awful many close up shots of them from the front.

All in all this is a stupid, but fun film that was lovingly restored by those wizards at Film Chest Media Group.  This is far and away the cleanest, best looking and best sounding copy of this film available.  So if you like 50s b-movie cheese and you enjoy shaking your head at characters who make brainless decisions, than you really need to add this one to your collection.