‘All that was left after…’
The Killer Shrews is a 1959 American science-fiction horror feature film directed by Ray Kellogg. It was filmed near Dallas, Texas, back-to-back with The Giant Gila Monster by producers Ken Curtis and Gordon McLendon.
Special effects were provided by first-time director Kellogg, who served as the head of Twentieth Century-Fox’s special effects department throughout most of the 1950s. Close-ups of the shrews were filmed using hand puppets, and for the wider shots, coonhounds (hunting dogs) were costumed as the shrews. According to a Variety review, the film cost $123,000 to produce.
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A sequel, Return of the Killer Shrews, was produced in 2012, again starring Best as Thorne Sherman. The length of time between the original film’s release and the sequel’s release (over fifty-four years) is one of the longest between film sequels in history.
Thorne Sherman and his first mate Griswold deliver supplies to a group on a remote island. The group, consisting of a scientist named Marlowe Cragis, his research assistant Radford Baines, the scientist’s daughter Ann, her fianceé Jerry Farrell, and a servant named Mario, meet the captain and his first mate and advise them to stay with them in a house because a hurricane is approaching.
On the island, a doctor works to make humans half-size. This, apparently, will reduce world hunger as smaller humans would presumably eat less. Unfortunately, his experiments have also created some giant, venomous shrews.
“The “shrews” in this film are actually dogs that have been dressed in what looks like shredded afghan rugs with prosthetic heads strapped on. The close-ups are classic puppet heads with ridiculous fangs and plastic-like eyes but don’t be fooled. While that might sound ridiculous (and honestly it is) they are still freaking scary looking and if one of those things popped up in a dark room… I shudder” Forgotten Flix
“Hiding beneath the bargain-basement special effects is an extremely economical, shockingly suspenseful movie, with unexpectedly complex characters, a fast-moving, engaging story, and quite a bit of imagination. Neither Craigis nor Baines is the stereotypical mad movie scientist, nor is Sherman the stereotypical two-fisted 50’s hero…” Scott Ashlin, 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
“There’s such a wonderful sense of ineptitude to Ray Kellog’s direction that this is fun to watch.” John Stanley, Creature Features
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“The Killer Shrews is full of ideas. The character of Jerry is a true jerk, and you can’t wait to see him get gobbled up by the shrews. Ann is likable, shown as both smart and a typical horror film lady of yesteryear that needs some assistance from the male lead. Captain Thorne is not acted as well as the supporting cast, but he still keeps up believability. The shots of the shrews trying to break into the house keep the captive theme alive.” Oh, the Horror!
” …if they fell back on the cliché of killing off the black guy early on (another, less welcome aspect that horror movies to come would embrace) then the way they get out of their chewy shelter was an innovative one. Of course, it was amusing to make jokes about this, but for what it was, it was fair.” The Spinning Image
A new colourized version was released alongside The Giant Gila Monster as a double feature by Legend Films.
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Cast and characters:
- James Best as Captain Thorne Sherman
- Ingrid Goude as Ann Cragis
- Ken Curtis as Jerry Farrell
- Gordon McLendon as Doctor Radford Baines
- Baruch Lumet as Doctor Marlowe Cragis
- “Judge” Henry Dupree as First Mate Rook Griswold
- Alfred DeSoto as Mario