When a small Illinois town vanishes off the map in a single night, Intrepid Reporter
Audrey Aimes (Peggie Castle) swoops in smelling a scoop. Denied this, she begins investigating the goings on, leading her to Dr. Ed Wainwright (Peter Graves
), who has developed a greenhouse full of atomic-sized fruits and vegetablesnote
— which the local insect population keeps breaking into.
Continuing the investigation, Audrey and Peter eventually discover the culprit: LOCUSTS! BIG ONES!! Irradiated by the good doctor's atomic plants, the local locust population has been transformed into a Nigh Invulnerable
swarm of eight-foot-plus bugs of DOOM!
The giant bugs begin chowing down on (postcards of
) the Illinois countryside and work their way toward Chicago
while Dr. Wainwright tries to figure out how to stop them.
For the Mystery Science Theater 3000
version, please go to the episode recap page
Beginning Of The End provides examples of:
- Artistic License - Geography: The locust swarm goes from Rantoul to Chicago ... by way of Peoria (making a substantial detour to the west, for those who don't have a map of Illinois handy).
- Also, the infamous "suburbs of Paxton." Paxton, Illinois, is a small rural town (population slightly under 4,500 as of 2010) which has never had suburbs.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Actually, the script mentions that the Big Bugs come in various sizes, in an effort to cover the lousy compositing work.
- Auto Erotica: The couple in the Cold Open only manage to get to first base before they're killed off though.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: The locusts, of course.
- California Doubling: There are no mountain ranges in Illinois.
- Chickification: Audrey Aimes goes from Intrepid Reporter in the first half of the movie to Neutral Female in the latter half.
- Follow the Leader: clearly inspired by Them!, the big-bug film of The Fifties.
- Godzilla Threshold: The Army is willing to nuke Chicago to stop the locusts.
- More Dakka: When Wainwright gets his hands on a military submachinegun.
- The Mountains of Illinois: The Trope Namer!
- Police Are Useless: Audrey invokes this to justify her continued investigation into things: "The sheriff thinks in terms of 'crime and publicity'. You're a scientist; you think in terms of 'cause and effect'; maybe you'll see something the sheriff missed."
- Real Life Writes the Plot: A rather creepy example, as we see fewer and fewer locusts onscreen at once as the film goes on, as they had started eating each other.
- Retirony: "You know, I'm 37 years old, and I've just realized how much I've taken life for granted."
- The Speechless: Deaf/mute Frank.
- Title Drop: "Annihilation... the beginning of the end."
- You Have to Believe Me: played hilariously straight even as Dr. Wainwright intones, "You know I'm not given to hysteria and you've got to listen to me with an open mind!"
- It doesn't help that Audrey fails to take a photograph of the giant locust when she has the chance.
- At least Ed gets in the one response most others in his situation never think of: "Won't you at least check it out? Or have you found an answer?"