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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

31 Days of Horror: The Monster That Challenged The World


The Monster That Challenged The World has got everything I love about 1950's Creature Features: creepy monsters that look better than they have any right to; an uptight, by-the-book hero, usually a high-ranking member of the American military, who, as the film progresses, exposes his gooey center; a precocious child who mucks everything up; brassy dames in 50's-style bathing suits; shotgun-toting old coots; and all manner of sciencey mumbo jumbo.  I also enjoy it when characters are continuously smoking cigarettes, but that doesn't happen much in The Monster That Challenged The World.  In fact, the hero's love interest actually turns down a cigarette when it's offered to her.  If that's not the height of late-50's rudeness, I don't know what is.

Lack of chain-smoking aside, The Monster That Challenged The World, is a fun little monster flick.  An earthquake upsets the natural balance in the Salton Sea, a totally real saltwater lake located in California, opening up previously sealed caves on the lake's floor and releasing a huge, radioactive mollusk that looks more than a little like a giant log of human feces with razor-sharp pincers and bug eyes.  The killer mollusk kills and drains the blood of  some Navy dudes and Spring Break is officially ruined.

The movie is worth watching for this guy's ridiculous "screams" of "terror" alone

Lieutenant Commander John "Twill" Twillinger, Sheriff Josh Peters, and Dr. Jess Rogers, who has the nerve to tell a room full of top military officials without any trace of irony that the creature they are up against is, in fact, the Kraken of ancient mythology, do everything they can to stop the killer mollusks from taking over the world (i.e. Southern California), but not before the creatures kill two lovers sharing a late night swim, a pair of deputies who might be twins but probably aren't, and an ornery old geezer who don't believe in no such thing as monsters or whatnot.  There's also the killer mollusk baby who hatches in Dr. Rogers' lab, eats a cage-walls' worth of laboratory rabbits, and pulls a Jack Torrance on Twill's girlfriend and her snotty little daughter.  Don't worry, they survive, thanks to some quick thinking on Twill's part.  Upon finding them cornered in the lab, Twill finds the closest items at hand and goes to town on the giant, bloodthirsty mollusk.  First, he throws four or five glass beakers at the monster's head.  Then he sprays liberally it with a fire extinguisher, before returning shortly to the beaker throwing that didn't really accomplish anything the first time.  

Oh, yeah: there's an axe on the wall.  It's not hidden behind, like, a coat rack or a photograph of the laboratory staff at last year's base picnic or anything.  It's right there in plain sight.  A big old axe.  Twill sees it too.  Looks right at.  Acknowledges it.  Then  picks up some beakers and starts chucking 'em.  He never once touches that axe.  WHY WOULDN'T HE JUST PICK UP THE AXE?!?

The weirdest part of The Monster That Challenged The World, besides the fact that the titular monsters look like poop logs, is its title.  None of the monsters are given the chance to challenge anybody, let alone the whole world, to anything.  The giant mollusks never make it out of Southern California.  Dr. Rogers mentions at some point that if they were allowed to escape the Salton Sea area, the mollusks could pose a significant threat to the world at large, but no one ever seems too concerned about it, so, you know, whatever.


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