BEGINNING OF THE END (1957)
Article #1661 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-1-2005
Posting Date: 2-28-2006
Directed by Bert I. Gordon
Featuring Peter Graves, Peggie Castle, Morris Ankrum
Chicago is threatened when grasshoppers eat radiated grain and grow to tremendous proportions.
At one point in this movie, Peter Graves tries to convince the military of the degree of the grasshopper threat by presenting a film of grasshoppers and giving a talk (this is SOP for big bug movies). He solemnly mentions at one point that grasshoppers attack humans. I can attest to the truth of this assertion. Let me now pass on to you my harrowing true life account of how I survived a grasshopper attack.
MY ENCOUNTER WITH THE GRASSHOPPER
“It was one of those summer days that seemed ideal for walking. Intent on trying to keep my weight down, I made my way to the nearest bike trail and began my walk. The grass on either side of the trail was teeming with insect life, and I would often see the little creatures making their way across the trail to feed on the tasty pickings on the other side.
“It was then that my path along the trail intersected the path of another traveller, but whereas I walked on foot, this one hopped. His goal was the other side of the trail, but my presence blocked his way. This was how it came to be that the grasshopper landed on the sleeve of my jacket.
“Our eyes met. We considered each other for a second. I thought to discourage my foe from continuing his attack by shaking my arm, but the grasshopper clung to me with tenacious determination. It was then that I knew that I was dealing with a grasshopper with great will.
“I considered brushing him off with my hand, but this would have involved invading his personal space, and even though this might have accomplished my immediate objective, my flouting of the Grasshopper Encounter Guidelines of the Geneva Convention would have clearly given the moral victory to my foe. Obviously, a more subtle form of strategy was needed.
“It was then that I realized that my best weapon of defense was patience. Sooner or later, the grasshopper would have to lessen his hold, and when that moment came, I would be able to go on my way unhampered. So I observed my foe for what seemed like eons, but was, in reality, a mere five seconds. At that time, the grasshopper leaped off, but not at my face as I expected, but across the trail to the other side. Obviously, I had intimidated him.
“I passed my way back down the path. To this day, we have never met again.”
Now, doesn’t that story make your blood curdle?
Well, it shouldn’t. The worst problem I’ve had with grasshoppers is they tend to stick to you when they hop. Sure, they can be a threat if you get ten thousand of them together and they eat your crops, but that’s hardly the same type of gut-level threat that you get from bees or poisonous spiders.
In short, grasshoppers are not scary. Though to some extent, I admire Bert I. Gordon’s ambitions in trying to make a big bug movie on a tiny budget, he ended up choosing an insect whose fear value was on the level of ladybugs, butterflies, potato bugs, inchworms and fuzzy caterpillars. Let’s face it; they don’t even have a fearsome face, and every time I see a close-up of one of their faces in this movie, I get the same doleful sense I get when I look at the face of a basset hound. Granted, given Gordon’s special effects techniques, I understand why he chose grasshoppers for his insects; they were probably fairly safe to handle. I even don’t mind the special effects of having the grasshoppers climb up pictures of buildings, which is actually a pretty clever low-budget special effect idea; he just should have made sure they didn’t step off onto the sky. No, the main problem is that the movie just failed to make the grasshoppers seem scary and frightening.
I will give Gordon credit for the title of the movie, though; if there’s one thing he learned from THEM, it was that a vague title would make the nature of the threat more of a mystery. On the other hand, maybe he realized that was the only way to effectively sell the movie; I don’t think he could have seriously called it ATTACK OF THE BIG HONKIN’ GRASSHOPPERS.