Beginning of the End is a 1957 American science fiction horror film directed and produced by Bert I. Gordon (Empire of the Ants; The Food of the Gods; The Cyclops; et al) from a screenplay by Fred Freiberger (The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms) and Lester Gorn. The movie stars Peter Graves, Peggie Castle and Morris Ankrum.
The production was a direct outcome of the success of giant ant movie Them! (1954). The film is generally recognized for its “atrocious” special effects and considered to be one of the most poorly written and acted science fiction motion pictures of the 1950s.
The typical ‘monster movie’ score was by Albert Glasser who composed over 200 soundtracks during his long career.
An agricultural scientist (Peter Graves) who has successfully grown gigantic vegetables using radiation. Unfortunately, the vegetables are then eaten by locusts (the swarming phase of short-horned grasshoppers), which grow to gigantic size and attack the nearby city of Chicago.
Newspaper photojournalist Audrey Aimes (Peggy Castle) accidentally stumbles upon Ludlow, a small town in Illinois, which has been inexplicably destroyed. All 150 people in the town are missing, and the evidence indicates they are dead. Incredibly, the local fields are also barren, as if a swarm of locusts had eaten all the crops.
Aimes suspects that the military is covering something up, and travels to a nearby United States Department of Agriculture experimental farm to learn what creature might have caused the agricultural destruction. She meets Doctor Ed Wainwright (Graves), who is experimenting with radiation as a means of growing gigantic fruits and vegetables to end world hunger. Doctor Wainwright reports that there have been a number of mysterious incidents nearby, and that locusts have eaten all the radioactive wheat stored in a nearby grain silo…
“Peter Graves, the future host of Unsolved Mysteries, takes melodramatic performance to a new level. He is awesome. Despite being made as something to neck to at the Drive In, Beginning of the End is above average in terms of pure enjoyability. Of course the enjoyability doesn’t come from anything intentional. It really is a triple-super-cheese-deluxe with extra cheese.” Splatter Shack
“Risible in every department with special effects that would be truly unbelievable – except that they really do exist on film.” Alan Frank, The Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Handbook, Batsford, 1982
” …watch closely when the locusts are seen climbing up the side of the building in which Wainwright’s laboratory is located. Note the jarring difference in dimensionality between the quite substantial locusts and the curiously flat-looking building. That’s right, this amazing shot was created by having the bugs crawl around on a photograph of the building!” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
“Beginning of the End is your standard radioactive giant bug flick, kicked up a notch by the ultra-serious acting of Peter Graves (Killers from Space, It Conquered the World). Graves plays his role so straight that it gives the already ridiculous premise an added element of absurdity.” Exclamation Mark
Cast and characters:
- Peter Graves as Doctor Ed Wainwright
- Peggie Castle as Audrey Aimes
- Morris Ankrum as General John Hanson
- Than Wyenn as Frank Johnson
- Thomas Browne Henry [as Thomas B. Henry] as Colonel Sturgeon
- Richard Benedict as Corporal Mathias
- James Seay as Captain James Barton