Direction: Bert I. Gordon
Fred Freiberger and Lester Gorn
Bert I. Gordon
Music: Albert Glasse
Bert I. Gordon
Would you watch a movie called Attack of the Giant Grasshoppers? If you're a diehard giant monster fan, of course you would. But if you were Joe or Jill Average Moviegoer in 1957, the title might not sound appealing, so producer-director-SPFX supervisor Bert I. Gordon gave his big bug opus the far more dramatic title of Beginning of the End.
Now let's face it -- if you're familiar with Bert I. Gordon (a.k.a. "Mr. B.I.G."), you probably either love his films or hate them. Some of his movies are undeniably awful (1965's Village of the Giants), some are almost good (1958's Earth vs. The Spider), but most of them fall between these two extremes. Beginning of the End is an example of the latter.
In fact, the first half hour of this minor low-budgeter works up a lot of interest, competently weaving the mystery of a small Illinois town that is found destroyed with all its citizens missing. However, as soon as we discover that the culprits are amazingly large locusts, the suspense deflates and the remainder of the movie offers us Big Bug Movie retread.
While the acting and military staging are fine, the effects for the gargantuan grasshoppers are mostly unsatisfactory. Most of the time it's apparent that the humongous hoppers are simply being superimposed onto scenes in which they obviously aren't present. But the locusts' invasion of Chicago offers a few good scenes; one depicts locusts climbing up a building, one of them crashing through the apartment window of a screaming blond. Another nice scene depicts multiple locusts scaling a building wall as hero Peter Graves and his cohorts pepper them with machine gun fire from above.
Beginning of the End lacks the budget to become the Big Bug Epic it wants to be. We hear of locusts destroying towns and wiping out legions of soldiers, but we scarcely witness any of this rampage. The bugs' invasion of Chicago is likewise tepid, offering little more than a handful of shots of fleeing citizens and superimposed locusts. The notion of the U.S. government giving permission to atom-bomb Chicago to destroy the locusts is interesting, but of course it doesn't happen -- naturally, hero-scientist Peter Graves' idea to lure the big bugs into the big drink works in the nick of time.
Not a bad film, Beginning of the End is nevertheless fifties sci-fi/horror by the numbers. It's certainly worth seeing for its intriguing first third, and it's tempting to imagine all kinds of other explanations for the destruction of the small town and its inhabitants' disappearance. But here we find out that mammoth locusts ate them all. Not particularly scary, nor particularly believable -- ditto for the majority of the effects.
If you're a gung-ho Monster Kid, you'll probably like this one; plenty of boomers will nostalgically recall having caught this one on TV back in the sixties or seventies. But if you're a post-boomer, you'd be better off checking out 1954's Them! or 1955's Tarantula -- or 1961's Mothra for that matter.