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Film / The Deadly Mantis

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The Deadly Mantis is a 1956 American Science Fiction monster movie directed by Nathan Juran, one of the many films of that era concerning the mutation and animation of a giant beast, usually prehistoric.

In this case, the beast is the eponymous mantis, which is freed from beneath the Arctic ice caps by a volcanic eruption in the opening sequence and proceeds to destroy many things while progressively eating more people, until ace USAF pilot Colonel Joe Parkman (Craig Stevens) accidentally rams the mantis with his jet, forcing it to the ground and killing it. Interwoven into the story is a romantic subplot involving Parkman and magazine editor Marge Blaine (Alix Talton).

Not to be confused with the 70s kung fu film which occasionally goes by Deadly Mantis in foreign releases.

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.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The monster is a 150-foot-long insect.
  • 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.
  • 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, Marge 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 who'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 mantis is big enough to rip into the upper stories of buildings and be immune to small arms fire.
  • Misplaced Accent: Why does a Canadian Air Force officer have a "Tally Ho!" British accent? note 
  • Monster in the Ice: The mantis starts out buried in an iceberg until a volcanic eruption causes the ice to break apart and melt, freeing it.
  • 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. Promotional materials even had a drawing of the mantis holding aloft the >1000 ft long Queen Elizabeth II passenger liner in its forelimbs, which would make the beast thousands of feet long and more massive than any Toho kaiju.