Beginning of the End
Film: Beginning of the End
Director: Bert I. Gordon
Writer: Fred Freiberger and Lester Gorn
Starring: Peter Graves, Peggie Castle and Morris Ankrum
This film begins with a couple making out just off the road to Ludlow, Illinois. The woman looks out of the window, sees something and screams. A police officer comes down the road soon after and finds their vehicle. It has been destroyed. They find the man’s wallet, but no bodies. Later that night, Ludlow is destroyed as well.
We then see a woman driving down the road; she is played by Peggie Castle. She is stopped by a National Guard roadblock. She tells them that she is a member of the press, but they deny her access. She is actually a famous news writer. They lose track of her and sees what has happened to Ludlow. She tries to take a picture, but a guardsman finds her and removes her film. The camera is taken away as well.
She decides to see the man in charge; he is played by Thomas Browne Henry. This man is a colonel. She asks what happened and after agreeing that she will hold off on writing about it, they let her know. All they have is that city has been destroyed and nothing else. She asks Henry if she can go with him to check it out and he tells her not right now.
In her car she has a phone and she calls her editor. She tells him about her lead and about how she can’t release it yet. She asks if he can look up the plane that flew over Ludlow the previous night and to see if there is a nuclear testing facility in the area. She also returns to the roadblock to retrieve her camera as well. When there she gets a call from her editor who tells her that it was a commercial plane, so it wasn’t bombed. He does tell her of an agriculture lab that uses radioactivity as well. She decides to visit there.
She first meets a man who seems to be ignoring her, played by Than Wyenn. She ends up learning that he is deaf and mute from the radioactivity he works with. His co-worker is Peter Graves. They are using the radioactive isotopes to create larger fruit and vegetables to revolutionize farming. It does appear they have issues with bugs and things getting into the greenhouse.
Castle then gets a tour of Ludlow and takes all the pictures she wants. During this, she learns that there was a warehouse that met a similar fate to Ludlow. She enlists the aid of Graves and Wyenn to check it out. While there, Graves notices that all the grass is gone. This is not normal and is something that locusts do. We learn that the warehouse had wheat and it is all gone. It is then we see what is behind all of this, a giant grasshopper appears and eats Wyenn. Graves realizes that his research is behind what helped them grow.
At first no one believes them, but Graves takes Henry and some men into the forest and they are attacked as well. Graves tries to convince Henry that they need to call in the army, but he believes that his National Guard can stop them. Graves even goes to Washington D.C. where he meets with a general, played by Morris Ankrum about getting the army to help. He can’t convince them, until the grasshoppers break into Paxton.
The next place in their path is Chicago. Can they stop them before then? Is there a way to stop them? Can they be killed?
I personally am a pretty big fan of giant monster films. I like that this is not an insect you would think of being a menace. If you think about it though, locusts are devastating creatures and if you make them large, I could see them ending the world if not stopped. I thought the acting was a bit cheesy, which you got a lot of in the 1950s, but I thought it wasn’t all that bad despite that. I also love that nuclear and radioactivity was such a scary thing that many horror films from the era reflect that. We definitely see that in this film.
There are some issues with this one though. The first issue being that they filmed only a couple of shots of the grasshoppers and then constantly reused them. This was obvious. They also used a technique that ghosted the grasshoppers and so they are transparent which doesn’t make sense. There is a scene where a grasshopper is supposed to be an in cage, but clearly it is a screen that is projecting it there. The outside of a building that Graves and Castle is also a picture and has the grasshoppers climb on. I felt they could have done more to make this look more realistic. I give them credit for working with what they had.
With that said, this film is not all that good. I would only recommend this one if you are a big fan of 1950s horror films that involve normal things made giant by radioactivity. The acting is pretty good. The story and concept aren’t bad. The problem is the actual giant grasshoppers and the special effects are not all that well done. This is a film that you could laugh at with your friends or you need to have an open mind to get past the issues that we see on film.
My Rating: 4 out of 10