Beginning of the End (review by Doug Smith)
Wheeee, another movie about big-ass, mutant insects! This time, it’s gigantic grasshoppers that climb all over Chicago landmark postcards. Packed with bad special effects, horrible music, grainy film and Peter Graves, this is everything a fifties sci-fi film should be and everything a good movie shouldn’t be. Again, we have to wonder just what the hell people were on in the fifties, as this film was quite successful at the box office.
Peter Graves, who could take Jon Voight down with one hand tied behind his back, plays Dr. Ed Wainwright, the scientist who’s basically responsible for the grasshoppers mutating to gigantic sizes. Peggie “White” Castle plays Audrey Aimes, who’s a perfect example of just why the woman’s movement needed to happen. And then there’s some military guys who are just really, really white in that oh-so-fifties way, portrayed by Morris Ankrum, Thomas Browne Henry, and James Seay.
The movie starts out with a young couple making out in a car. Yeah, that’s my idea of comfort. To hell with a blanket on the ground, let’s just get it on in the front seat of a Buick! In the midst of their make-out session, the woman screams and the screen goes black. So THAT’S why they say you’ll always remember the first time.
The next day, it’s discovered that the town of Ludlow has been completely destroyed, by some unknown and powerful thing. The military is, of course, called in, and they promptly find out they can’t do much of anything, kind of like the whole, present day scenario with Saddam Hussein.
Meanwhile, hard hitting, investigative journalist, Audrey Aimes is driving through the mountains of Central Illinois and comes across the military’s roadblock. She tries to use her womanly charms to get the army guys to tell her everything, but the only thing she succeeds at doing is getting her camera taken away from her. Defeated, she turns her immense boat of a car around and heads back the way she came. However, she’s not one to give up easily, so she heads on over to the army base, where they’re busy interrogating people like Mr. Ziffel and very mannish women. This time, she somehow manages to get the whole story out of the soldiers. Unlike many of today’s journalists, though, she blatantly ignores the public’s right to know and agrees to keep everything secret.
Audrey decides to do her own little investigation because, again, she’s a hard hitting, investigative journalist. She discovers that the Department of Agriculture has a research facility in the area so she pays them a visit. There she meets Frank and Dr. Wainwright. Notice we never learn unimportant characters’ last names. Anyway, Frankie and Eddie are growing some gigantic tomatoes, with the help of radiation. Yeah, that’s just what I want in the produce section of my grocery store. “Excuse me, sir, but the tomatoes are glowing…”
Frank, Ed and Audrey go on a tour of the destruction of Ludlow. Audrey snaps picture after picture because, need I remind you, she’s a hard hitting, investigative journalist. They take a little break and, while Audrey is infatuated with Ed’s smugness, Frank goes off to do a little exploring on his own … and gets attacked by a grasshopper. Poor Frank’s first and last word was, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!!!” And, Audrey Aimes, who’s one heckuva hard hitting, investigative journalist, neglects to TAKE A FRIGGIN’ PICTURE!
The grasshoppers came to chew grass and kick ass, and they’re all outta grass! They continue on their rampage and eventually get to the windy city itself, Chicago. Like that’s really any big loss.
Like I said earlier, if you’re looking for a cheese-fest, you’ve found it. However, if you’re looking for hard hitting drama, non-stop action and endless intrigue, you’re definitely renting the wrong movie. I give it one yak, on the purely critical level, but about three yaks on the “oh, what the hell” level.