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Film / The Deadly Mantis

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The Deadly Mantis is a 1956 American film concerning the then-popular mutation and animation of a giant beast, usually prehistoric. In this case, the beast is the eponymous mantis, loosed in the opening sequence of the movie, where it proceeds to destroy many things, progressively eating more people, until an ace pilot accidentally rams the mantis with his jet, forcing it to the ground and kills it. Interwoven into this tale is a romantic subplot involving the photographer Miss Blake and Colonel Joe Parkman, the Ace.

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.


The Deadly Mantis contains the following tropes:

  • The Ace: Colonel Joe. He does screw up when he loses sight of the mantis and then collides with it, but it does force the mantis to the ground.
  • All Men Are Perverts: The entire Arctic base moons over moderately attractive Marge. Justified in that they've been isolated for months and they're even at a hop dancing with each other.
  • Artistic License – Biology: "Every known species of animal has a bony skeleton." What?!note 
    • For the record, no, deer flies can't fly as fast as a jet. note 
    • In addition, the mantis is constantly depicted as roaring, even though insects don't have vocal cords, throats, or even lungs.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Prehistoric this time, rather than atomic.
  • Butterfly of Doom: Mentioned in the opening spiel as the cause for the Deadly Mantis' parole on ice —- then it is shown to be a volcano.
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  • Cassandra Truth: Marge asks Nedrick why the Pentagon wants him. He tells her that they want him to study an old bone they found in the Arctic. She thinks he's being evasive — then finds out he was telling the truth.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Zig-zagged; the beginning of the film follows Col. Joe as he investigates a couple of "incidents" caused by the Deadly Mantis; then the focus shifts to museum curator Nedrick Jackson, who appears to take over the lead role... right up until he, Miss Blake and Col. Joe return from the Arctic to track the big bug in New York City, at which time Col. Joe hops back into the driver's seat.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Played with the twist that the monster does appear at the very beginning of the film, but there's a lot of scenes in offices later.
  • Dirty Coward: One of the tribesmen abandons another that's trapped when the mantis attacks.
  • Flight: Despite its large size, the mantis can fly with its wings.
  • Info Dump: There are lengthy narrations about map locations and the early warning radar picket lines.
  • Kaiju: The giant mantis.
  • Misplaced Accent: Why does a Canadian Air Force officer have a "Tally Ho!" British accent?[[note]]There are many Brit-accented Canadians taking after the old colonial power, but this probably wasn't what they were going for.
  • Slaying Mantis: The title says it all.
  • Stock Footage: The assembly of North American early warning radar picket lines, which ultimately have nothing to do with the plot other than to establish the location.
  • Stock Sound Effect: The roars of the mantis, especially the "MMMUROOOAAAARRROOOOOAAAAARRR" bellow, went on to be the roars of many giant beasts, including Bruce #4 in Jaws: The Revenge.
  • You Need to Get Laid: The entire Arctic base, in fact.
  • Your Size May Vary: The mantis changes from hundreds of feet long, like the established size when Parkman compares it to the C-47(around 300+ feet long compared to the 95 foot wingspan of the C-47) to less than 100 when on the Washington Monument and in the Manhattan tunnel.


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