The Killer Shrews (1959)

Article #730 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-15-2003
Posting Date: 8-12-2003
Directed by Ray Kellogg
Featuring James Best, Ingrid Goude, Ken Curtis

Several people are trapped on an island with giant poisonous killer shrews.

Those who consider this movie a landmark in campy badness dwell lovingly (and endlessly) on the fact that the monsters are dogs in shrew costumes. That they are I won’t deny, but if you make the decision to not let that fact bother you, it won’t; they are certainly more effective than the oversized buzzard in THE GIANT CLAW. There are other definite flaws; Ingrid Goude looks like she spends every shot largely concerned with how good she looks on the camera, and Baruch Lumet seems to be too swamped with his dialogue to project much emotion, but James Best gives a solid, strong performance, and the other actors do decent work. Some of the scenes are static and poorly paced; others are strong, exciting and well-edited. It makes strong use of music and sound throughout; in fact, the sounds that the shrews make are creepy enough to get under your skin. The strongest point of all is that the story is solid and has many points of interest, with an ending that is quite logical even if visually it looks a bit awkward and clumsy.

I do have to admit a personal fondness for one of the movie’s quirkiest touches; Gordon McLendon’s performance as Dr. Radford Baines is hardly what I would call great acting, but as a bizarre comic-relief variation of the absent-minded scientist, I’ve never seen anything else like it. I couldn’t help but notice two things about the character this time I watched the movie: a) he looks a little bit like a middle-aged Tommy Kirk, and b) he has some of the worst posture I’ve ever seen from any character in a movie. For some reason, I love it. Just don’t ask me why.

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