The Monster That Challenged the World (1957) – By Duane L. Martin

 

Everything’s been peaceful around the Salton Sea, and Lt. John Twillinger (Tim Holt) has been settling into his new job there nicely.  That is of course until an underwater earthquake exposes a cave where some long hibernating eggs have been waiting to hatch.  What comes out of them is more terrifying than any of them could have ever imagined.  Giant, prehistoric sea snails emerged and began attacking their prey both in the water and on land, draining the blood completely out of them and then leaving only an empty husk behind that’s covered with some sort of a white goo.  Can the lieutenant figure out what’s been causing all the deaths and figure out a way to stop it before all the new ones that are hatching escape into a canal system that will lead them inland?  You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

For me, this movie has always stood out amongst its peers in the classic monster genre, because hands down the monsters in this film look better than any monster I’ve ever seen in any other film from this era.  They look better, move better and instill the viewer with a sense of tension goes beyond anything you’d normally feel in these types of films.  You can tell how much work and how much care went into creating the monster, and that in and of itself takes the film to a whole other level.

The other thing that kicks this film up a notch is the acting, which is generally quite good.  The dialogue is well delivered and doesn’t come off as though it’s being recited.  There’s more of a naturalness to it than you find in some of these types of films, and because of that it pulls the viewer into the story more.  When there’s a monster around and you can’t see it, you still feel the tension because you’re involved with the characters, which is a direct result of the quality of the acting.

Something else this film has going for it is that unlike many films, it actually has a reasonable premise.  The monsters emerge in a way that makes sense, and there’s a real danger of them escaping through the canal system, which also makes sense and adds tremendously to the tension of the film as the characters try to stop them before they can spread out into the world.

I will say the cover art on this new blu-ray release from Kino Lorber is a bit misleading though.  The artwork (not their creation) makes it look like some sort of a giant millipede or something that’s way bigger than the tallest skyscrapers as it tears through a city, destroying everything in sight.  In fact, this particular film has a far wider variety of posters than most films, which is a bit odd in and of itself.  It’s also odd that so many of them give a misleading impression of what the monster actually is.  In truth, these are prehistoric mollusks resembling some sort of a mutated snail with a lot of short legs that run down the length of the body.  They’re only about maybe nine or ten feet tall at the most when they’re fully extended and sitting upright.  They were also only out of the water and actually moving around on land in two scenes that I can think of.  It does extend its body up out of the water at different points, and the one that hatches in the lab and tears the lab apart is on land, though it didn’t get there on its own.  It was brought in as an egg to be studied, so I’m not sure that counts.  The long and the short of it is that they can exist outside of the water, but they don’t come out on their own very often.

Aside from the destruction of the lab, one of the more spectacular scenes in the film is when one of the creatures gets crushed by a closing lock in one of the canals.  That particular scene went far and above anything you’d expect to see in one of these films, and I was honestly quite surprised they did it.  I’m glad they did though, because the effect was spectacular.

This new release from Kino Lorber has excellent sound and audio quality, and includes audio commentary by film historian Tom Weaver and the film’s original theatrical trailer as special features.

This film, at least in my opinion, is one of the best monster films of the 1950s monster film era.  There was a lot of great stuff made during this era, and a lot of cheesy nonsense as well, but this film is far and away one of the best.  Do yourself a favor and add this one to your collection and watch it on some dark night when the house is all quiet.  Trust me, you won’t be sorry.

If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can check out its page on the Kino Lorber website here: http://www.kinolorber.com/video.php?id=2079