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The Killer Shrews


Title: The Killer Shrews
Year Of Release: 1959
Running Time: 69 minutes
DVD Released By: Alpha Video
Directed By: Ray Kellogg
Writing Credits: Jay Simms

Starring: James Best, Ingrid Goude, Ken Curtis
Taglines:
1. All that was left after...
2. They had to eat 3 times their body weight each day... OR STARVE!
Alternate Titles:
The Attack of the Killer Shrews

Review Date: 9.26.05 (updated 1.1.10)

Shadow's Title: "Attack of the Dogs in Drag"

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 Killer Shrews (1959)

Killer Shrews

The Killer Shrews

The Killer Shrews (In Color)

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Killer Shrews  

DVD
The Killer Shrews

The Killer Shrews / The Giant Gila Monster (Colorized and Black & White Versions)

 

Characters
Thorne Sherman – This guy captains his own ship. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? Sadly, it isn’t any bigger than the S.S. Minnow and the only person he has to boss around is Rook. Basically he is a glorified grocery boy, delivering supplies out to Dr. Craigis on his island.
Rook Griswold – Doesn’t this guy look like he could have played the title role in that live action Fat Albert movie? Hey, hey, hey! He is Sherman’s sole crewman, though the two seem to share a close friendship rather than a bossy Captain/abused cabin boy dynamic. First to get eaten.
Dr. Marlowe Craigis – This guy hails from Sweden, but has come to this country to further his scientific work. Yeah right, we all know it was to keep his smokin’ hot daughter out of the Swedish porn industry! Inadverdently creates the killer shrews while trying to solve the overpopulation problem.
Ann Craigis – Doctor Craigis’ smokin’ hot daughter. She claims to be a zoologist. Hahahahaha! Yeah, right! That was a good one. Though to be honest, I wouldn’t mind playing a game of biology with her. She was engaged to Jerry, but dumped him and latched onto Thorne Sherman.
Jerry Farrell – This colossal loser is part of Doctor Craigis’ research team. What he does beyond whining, cowering, boozing it up and generally being a waste of skin is beyond me. He despises Sherman, probably because he recognizes that Sherman is more of a man than he'll ever be.
Dr. Radford Baines – This guy is devoted to his work. In fact, he can hardly think of anything else and walks around muttering things like "Hematoxic syndrome." He falls victim to a killer shrew, but lucky for him he isn’t torn to shreds like others. He just keels over from the poison. Played by Gordon McLendon, the Texas millionaire responsible for this mess.
Mario – Despite the Italian name, this guy is obviously Mexican. He is most likely a servant of some kind in the complex, though what his specific duties may be are never mentioned. He isn’t around much. Just long enough to say things like "Si, senor," " No, senor" and "Aaaahhhh!"
Killer Shrews – Normally only a few inches in size, this lot has been super sized and are now running amok, eating everything that moves. There are supposed to be hundreds roaming the island, but the most we ever see at once is a mere handful. Played by dogs in mops.

 

The Plot Hold your cursor over an image for a pop-up caption

The View: The MovieWe open up with a night time view of some woods and a cloudy sky. Yet again, we are dealing with a movie that starts off with a voiceover from an annoying narrator. Thankfully, this one will shut the hell up and keep quiet for the rest of the film, but for now he blathers on and says:

"Those who hunt by night will tell you that the wildest and most vicious of all animals is the tiny shrew. The shrew feeds only by the dark of the moon. He must eat his own body weight every few hours…or starve. And the shrew devours everything…bones, flesh, marrow…everything. In March, first in Alaska and then invading steadily Southward there were reports of a new species…The Giant Killer Shrew."

Cue lightning, film title and opening credits…and oh, yeah…gutbusting laughter from the audience. Those who hunt by night will tell us that the shrew is the most vicious animal? Uh…what, are they in competition with the shrews for game or something? Yeah, I hear hunters bitch all the time about the giant stag that was almost theirs before a vicious shrew came upon the scene and swiped the kill away from them. And by the dark of the moon? What the hell does he mean by that? The moon reflects light you idiot, not darkness. There is no such thing as moondark. Moonlight, yes. Moondark? Nope. And shrews only eat after hours, eh? Is that the opposite of the Gremlins where you can’t feed them after midnight? Only with shrews you cannot feed them before midnight? I wonder what happens if you do. Will they transform into something? My guess is, with their already vicious nature, they turn into sexually repressed and frustrated housewives. Gee, this movie isn’t even one minute old yet and it’s a laugh riot.

So the credits unfold. Then we fade in on a boat moving through the water. It's not a big boat, but it’s no dinghy either. It looks to be about the same size as your average boat owned by a middle class family. On board are Thorne Sherman, the vehicle’s owner, and his assistant Rook Griswold. They banter back and forth and we learn that they are quite a ways from shore, heading to an island, and there is a hurricane on the way. Sherman plans on anchoring the boat in a cove once they reach the island and then riding out the bad weather. Now, at this point the film wants us to accept that these two are way out at sea in their dinky boat, yet when we see the craft from a distance, the water is about as still as an aquaphobiac’s bath water. You’d expect the ocean to be rolling with waves, or at the very least look like the ocean, but it appears that the shots of the boat were filmed about ten feet off shore!

A couple hours pass by and Sherman spots the island through his binoculars. Some more idiot dialog informs us that the island is owned by a Dr. Marlowe Craigis and that the Skipper and his big Little Buddy here have a crate to deliver with the Doc’s name on it. Sherman wants to wait and deliver the package after the storm has passed so the two find the cove mentioned earlier and secure the boat. Then they hop aboard their dinghy and row to shore. Once there, they notice three people emerging from some nearby trees and go to meet them.

Before any words are said, Sherman manages to eye the lone woman up and down. The hot blonde returns his lustful stare. An older man then steps forward and introduces himself as Dr. Marlowe Craigis. He asks about a Captain Ferguson, who normally makes this run, but Sherman doesn’t know anything about him. Craigis now asks if Sherman was able to fill his order, to which he answers with an affirmative. So…Sherman is nothing more that a glorified grocery boy! Sure, he is the Captain of his own boat, but he is a maritime grocery boy! HAHAHA!

While all this conversation is taking place, Sherman notices the third person in Craigis’ group, who happens to be openly brandishing a rifle. Craigis then tells Sherman that he has a passenger for him on his return trip – his daughter Ann. He yanks Ann over and introduces her to Sherman. The Captain is all smiles and comments on how nice it will be to have her on board for the return trip. I’m sure he is just dying to show her his "captain’s log." Alas, he informs her that he won’t be leaving that night. In fact, he doesn’t even plan on unloading, as the weight of the supplies will help stabilize the boat during the approaching storm. This bit of news garners concerned looks from Doctor Craigis as well as his gun-toting companion, who has yet to say a word.

Sherman walks over to Mr. NRA and asks if he is expecting an invasion. Mr. NRA answers, "Yes. Animals." Sherman then starts heading in the direction from which Doctor Craigis’ group came. This no doubt is his subtle way of saying, "I’m not going back to the boat yet and I want to see your digs." Rook decides to return to the boat and Sherman warns him to bring a gun if he comes ashore later. Then he tromps on through the woods, Craigis, Ann and Mr. NRA forced to follow him.

They eventually arrive at Craigis’ complex, which looks like nothing more than an average suburban house shot strategically from certain angles to give the illusion it is sitting all by itself among some trees. Sherman notices a small radio tower and asks why everyone reacted with surprise when he mentioned a storm. They should have heard about it over the radio. Craigis says that they have been out of touch with the mainland for over a week. Sherman asks if the it can be fixed. Mr. NRA says that it is "totally out of commission." Wait one damn minute here…just what in blazes is "it?" Sherman doesn’t even know what the hell is broken! Whatever "it" is, whether it is a component within the radio, the tower itself or just one of the knobs…it's busted up something bad. Craigis now introduces Sherman to his assistant, Mr. Jerry Farrell AKA Mr. NRA. WTF? Craigis waits until now to make the introductions? What was he waiting for? Musical accompaniment?

The area around the entrance is fenced in, with a pretty tall wooden fence…I’d say about ten feet or so. This will be of considerable aid to these people later in the movie. The door to the complex opens and a somewhat chubby Latino man is framed in the doorway. Perhaps framed is a bad way to put it, as this guy is about ready to bust the damn doorframe. Ann suggests to her father that Sherman might enjoy a drink. Craigis invites the Captain to join them for a cocktail and Sherman admits to never having turned down a drink before now, so way change? "Fine," Craigis replies. "In that case we’ll have martinis." The Doc doesn’t seem super thrilled about the notion, but he then asks the fat guy at the door, Mario, to go mix the drinks. Then they all enter the complex, which is surrounded by a high wooden fence. Farrell shuts the gate behind them and Sherman takes all this in, a look on his face that reveals he is no doubt wondering just what the heck is going on around this place. Did I mention the tall fence?

Now we see Sherman, Craigis and Ann gathered around a mini bar and drinking away. You had better get accustomed to seeing the room they are in, cuz it will be featured heavily in this flick. Sherman asks if Craigis has everything he needs on the island. The Doctor explains that they are self-sufficient. They have cows for fresh milk, chickens for fresh eggs and even have some saddle horses (in case the chickens want to go for a ride, no doubt.) Sherman comments on how lonely the island is, giving Ann another creepy and lustful look as he says it. Ann decides to bug out and claims she needs to go change. Doctor Craigis tries to explain that his daughter is a little worried because they won’t be leaving until the next day, but Sherman notes that something else seems to be bothering her. Well, duh. It’s YOU, you lusting perv!

A door opens and a man wearing glasses and looking over some papers comes hobbling in. Seriously, this guy seems to be favoring one leg. He approaches a table with a typewriter on it, and then he kind of crouches and hovers his ass over the chair and begins to type! He doesn’t bother sitting all the way down, but just stands there, bent at an awkward angle. Craigis calls to the man, a Doctor Radford Baines, several times but this guy is really absorbed in what he is doing. He finally tells the Doctor he will be over in one minute. Craigis turns to Sherman and tells him that Baines could be at it for hours. He turns back to Baines and raises his voice enough to get the other man to stop what he is doing and come on over. Oddly enough, at this point Baines has finally landed his ass on a bench. I suppose that hovering maneuver was killing his back. And while we’re on the subject, why in hell does that table with the typewriter have chairs on three sides of it, but the fourth side has what appears to be a long bench stolen from a grade school’s cafeteria.

So Baines approaches the other two and Craigis introduces him to Sherman. Baines now turns to Craigis and in an excited tone talks about "two new litters since lunch" that "support GT116." Don’t ask, cuz I don’t know. But I do know this…that guy’s voice is awfully familiar. Wait! I know! It’s the annoying narrator from the very beginning of the movie! Well how about that! It’s not too often that the annoying narrator appears in the film. Usually when he does, it’s as the exposition man sitting at desk or in a lab, talking to the audience like they were morons and trying to sound knowledgeable about science by using big words. In such cases he would be known as a PAIN - Pontificating Attendant Irksome Narrator. But hell, here is a case where the annoying narrator actually plays one of the characters in the film. I guess all those marches for narrator rights have paid off. The Million Annoying Narrator March is next, I can only assume. Of course there is a very good reason why this particular annoying narrator managed to get this additional part. See the character section above for enlightenment.

So Baines is all excited about these two new litters. He thinks they can be bred to another group in about three weeks time, but would prefer to wait and expose about half of them to the "Hoskins Factor" first. Um…Hoskins Factor? Bob Hoskins perhaps? What is the Bob Hoskins Factor? That any movie where he does not employ an accent will suck? No wait, that can’t be right, as it would preclude Mario Brothers. Oh…NEVERMIND! Craigis tells Baines there is a hurricane coming, but the other man is already lost in thought. He absent mindedly mutters that there isn’t anything they can do about it before briefly shaking Sherman’s hand and then returning to his typewriter (I wonder if he will again engage in the "ass-hover" maneuver before sitting down).

Doctor Craigis excuses Baine’s behavior, explaining to Sherman that the man is just engrossed in his research. Sherman asks what field Baines is in and Craigis says that it is biology, specializing in heredity genetics. Craigis now starts droning on about what he is hoping to accomplish. He mentions small organisms with high metabolisms and short life spans. He is trying to maintain size while decreasing metabolism and thus lengthening life spans. Um…what?! Sherman asks to the reason behind this and the older man says, "overpopulation." Oh, crap…here we go again. I swear, back in the 50’s everybody really seemed to be worried about overpopulation. The way they carried on back then, you’d think we’d be wall to wall people by now, like that episode of the original Star Trek, The Mark of Gideon. It seems a good portion of the science gone berserk in 50’s flicks was centered around the problem of overpopulation and the desire to increase the world’s food supply, whether it be by enlarging produce or livestock (either way resulted in giant bugs more often than not). At least Craigis admits that overpopulation isn’t a problem at the time, but will be in the future.

A quick cutaway shows Ann walking down a hallway and stopping before a door. Then we return to Sherman and Peabod…er…Doctor Craigis, the latter of which is talking about how if we were half as big as we are now, we could live twice as long on our natural resources. OMG! What, does he want to shrink people or something? He does live on an island. That would make him the original Dr. Shrinker. Ann now enters and wants a word with her father. She asks Sherman to excuse them for a minute, addressing him as Captain, but he asks her to drop the rank and refer to him as Thorne. As in Thorn in my side, no doubt! Sherman polishes off a drink while watching father and daughter whisper conspiringly on the other side of the room.

Craigis and Ann return to the bar and Sherman asks if a hurricane has ever hit the island before…only he pronounces hurricane as hurrikin. The Doctor says no. They’ve only been on the island for nine months and before that the place was deserted for years. Sherman warns the Doc of the pressure building up with the approaching storm and tells him he should get some doors and windows open. Craigis asks him to "freshen" Ann’s drink while he goes to check. While he is gone, Ann talks about how glad she will be to leave the next day, but Sherman tells her that they might not be able to leave until late in the day, as he must wait for the sea to settle down after the hurricane. Craigis returns and offers to "freshen" Sherman’s drink (what the hell is it with this guy and the "freshening" of drinks? Has he ever heard of the term refill?) – one for the road, though he says he does not mean to be rushing the Captain, it's just that it will be dark soon and Sherman will no doubt be wanting to return to his ship. Ann says that she has invited Sherman for dinner (she did not), so Craigis agrees to let him stay, but Sherman declines, opting to go back to his boat.

"You're getting very sleeepy."Doctor Baines come rushing back in at this point, carrying something in his cupped hands. He tells Craigis that it is the sole survivor of "Group 30" and it is 28 months old this very day. Craigis replies that such an age is equal to one hundred and forty years for a Human. We finally see what they are talking about – the small mouse-like creature Baines is holding by the tail. The two men yak some more about their work and then Sherman asks what kind of animal Baines has. Baines replies "It’s a Sorex Soricidae." Sherman notes that it looks like a small rat and smells like a skunk (the same could be said of my cousin Rich). Craigis then explains that this little critter is an example of the subjects they are working with on the island. The Doc then provides some quick Sorex Soricidae facts: their birth cycle is ten to fourteen days and this short time allows the scientists to track hereditary changes from one generation to the next. Sherman then asks how big they get. An ominous musical cue and an off look on Craigis’ face lets us know that the answers to that question are more interesting (and freakin’ dangerous) than Sherman yet realizes. The Doc just tells him that the tiny creature he is holding is an adult. Some more critter talk follows.

During this entire exchange, Ann is on the other side of the room becoming more and more uneasy by the minute. Finally, when the wind blows open a door somewhere in the building (we hear it but cannot see it – the place must have really thin walls) she lets out a scream. This gets everyone running to get it closed, which Fat Mario manages to accomplish. Doctor Craigis tries to pass off his daughter’s vocal outburst as just an example of the jitters she gets from storms – something she has dealt with since she was a child. Yeah, right…if you buy that I have a bridge in New York to sell you.

If it's night, then where are all the damn stars?It is now getting rather dark and we see good old Rook rowing towards shore in the dinghy. Well, we can assume that it is Rook. The day for night photography is so murky, all we see is a figure in the dinghy. The movie really wants us to believe that the storm is building in intensity, so the sound of wind has been dubbed over the scene. However, despite that, the water is as calm as ever and crappy day for night photography or not, we can see that the sky is completely clear. I know – the hurricane is approaching from the other side of the island.

Back at the complex Craigis is reciting more Shrew facts that the writers felt the audience really needed to know. Like how they are not climbers but are digging animals, like moles. Or like how the critters only hunt and eat at night, unless they are starving (CLUE). Or even how they will tackle just about any prey, regardless of size, when they are hungry enough (CLUE). Place two in a cage for twelve hours without food and the stronger will eat the weaker. I know that is supposed to sound morbidly fascinating, but hell…the same holds true for people, especially Jenny Craig clients. Have you tasted that crap they call food? Put two of them alone in a room with one Jenny Craig entrée and I’ll bet that the stronger opts to chow down on the other rather than the "food" inside of four hours!

Craigis hands the small shrew back to Baines and then expounds some more on the animals – how they are sometimes called "bone eaters" for their habit of leaving nothing of their prey behind. Ann is getting real fidgety now and stomps over to her father and says she needs another drink. Cheers, at this point so do I! So Pops heads over to get her a drink and Ann takes this opportunity to tell Sherman…nothing. She just looks at him like she wants to say something, but doesn’t make a sound. Craigis returns with the booze and after handing her the drink calls to Fat Mario. Craigis has him show Sherman to the bathroom in order to freshen up before dinner. After Sherman follows Fat Mario out of the room, father and daughter share a knowing look.

Fat Mario leads Sherman around a corner, down a hall and to a door. You really don’t have to take a good look at this hallway and door if you don’t wish to, as the movie will be showing it again about a zillion times. Sherman managed to light up really quick, as well. When he followed Mario out of the living room, he was not smoking and was empty-handed, but as they round the corner in the hall, a cigarette can distinctly be seen in his mouth. Behind the door (this time) is a guest bedroom with attached bathroom. Sherman makes his way into the room and Fat Mario hesitates at the door and then follows Sherman in. The Captain asks him what is on his mind and Fat Mario mentions how Sherman will be leaving on the ship the next day. Sherman stresses that he will only leave if the weather permits. Everyone’s concern over his departure is obvious to him by this point.

Down at the cove, it is still day for night, but now we actually have some clouds to help re-enforce the image of bad weather that up until now was only represented by some sound effects. Rook has docked the dingy at the pier (which is nothing more than a few boards nailed together in the most simplistic fashion) and walks ashore to secure the boat to a tree via a rope.

We return to Doctor Craigis’ complex where Ann and Jerry are conversing in the main room. She is going on about not blaming him for "creating them" but she thinks that due to his "drunken stupidity" in leaving the cage door open, he is responsible for the "horrible situation that now exists." Jerry thinks it is a mistake that anyone could have made is and is getting quite sick and tired of being called an irresponsible drunk. Hey pal, if the shoe fits. The door opens and Sherman enters. Jerry takes off for parts unknown – probably to get drunk and see what else he can f*ck up. Sherman sits on the couch with Ann and the two light up cigarettes. Ann mentions again how she is glad that Sherman showed up at the island when he did, and he asks why. She mumbles something about things coming to a head and wanting her father to leave with her. She also blames Jerry for having something to do with her father’s decision to remain.

Outside in the hallway, Jerry is eavesdropping at the door and chooses this moment to re-enter. "Well, this is certainly a cozy little scene," he says sarcastically and begins to mock the two’s apparent proximity. Ann tells him to mind his own business as what she does not concern him. He disagrees big time, as he does not take being engaged lightly. Engaged!? You mean Mr. NRA here and Blondie are gonna get hitched? Well, they were…but whatever happened the previous night ended the relationship as far as Ann is concerned. I’m guessing Jerry experienced some guy troubles when trying to rise to the occasion. Either that or she got a good long look at his bank statement and realized how much money he did not have. While these two begin sniping at one another, Sherman has the good sense to get the hell out from between the two. Heck, they don’t even notice him get up and leave. He walks outside where he runs smack into that wind sound effect, as well as some stock footage of some clouds in the sky – probably filmed before a real storm, but not something at hurricane levels. Now there is even a little bit of water being splashed about to make us think it is raining.

Now we see poor old Rook stumbling through the trees, no doubt following the path that leads from the pier to the complex. He hears some strange sounds and pauses to look around. From out of the trees comes a great big dog! Well, it is actually a giant shrew but I am betting he does not realize that. It seems he remembered Sherman’s advice to come packin’ heat, as he whips out a pistol and squeezes off a shot at the beast before turning tail and running. At least, that all is what I think happened. The film print is so dark that it is hard to make out anything. Of course with Rook being a black man, that means all you see is a shirt and jeans running around against a dark background.

"Skipper, help! Skippeeeeeeer!"We get a quick cut to Sherman still standing right outside the main door to the complex. He looks around a bit and then we cut back to Rook running like mad through the trees, the freaky sounds of the shrews echoing about the darkened woods. Naturally, he looks behind him as he runs, which only causes him to not see where he is going, trip and then fall. He picks himself up and then lunges at the low branches of one tree, but it is too weak to support his weight. He turns and manages to haul his ass up an adjacent tree…and none too soon, I might add, as several of the shrews converge on the spot and begin leaping into the air in attempt to pluck him from the tree. He begins hollering for help, but between the wind sounds, which have been cranked up several notches, and the newly added thunder effect, no one can hear the poor bastard. Not even his pal Sherman, who is still outside enjoying a cigarette.

Inside the complex, Ann and Jerry are still trading insults. He is saying how everyone in the world is scared to death of something and she throws it in his face how he pushed her aside in order to get within the complex’s fence when the shrews attacked the night before. He tries to justify it by saying he simply can’t stand "them." She replies by saying that she has discovered something that she cannot stand. It isn’t said aloud but it is obvious she means him. He grabs her and shakes her a bit, telling her to keep such stuff to herself and how he WILL be staying to complete the research with her father, even if their engagement is over. Over? Over? They’re carrying on like any married couple already! His breath must smell something awful, as the entire time he is holding her by the shoulders and mouthing off, she turns her face away. Doctor Craigis shows up at this point and asks where Sherman is. Ann says that he went outside to check the weather, and then opens the door and calls the Captain in for dinner.

Funny that dinner should be mentioned, as it is about to be served elsewhere as well. Poor Rook is still up that tree and still screaming his life away, but there is no help on the way. The shrews continue to jump at him and as he tries to re-position himself in the tree (either to avoid them or put himself in a spot where he can scream for help in the proper direction) the tree decides that supporting this large man is not something it has any more interest in doing, and so it promptly begins to crumble under him. Within seconds the poor bastard has fallen to the ground, where the shrews swarm over him like flies to proverbial horseshit. Since there are large bushes between us and him, we can’t see the shrews tear him to pieces, but we can sure hear it! The last time I heard any man reach such high pitched notes was when Jimmy Miller was showing off in gym class by standing on top of the chin-up bars and pretending to dance before slipping – each leg falling on a different side of the bar, and proceeding to smash his nuts on the unforgiving metal. His screeching howls were similar to what poor Rook now lets out, though it is far more than those irreplaceable family jewels that are getting forcibly removed from him. I feel sorry for the poor bastard…though I remember laughing my ass off at Jimmy Miller.

Having dined on Rook, the shrews are still hungry and decide to lay siege to the complex. This is achieved by running up to the tall wooden fence that surrounds the place and then jumping up and down and making sounds. Somewhere in the forest, a tree is struck by lightning and is engulfed in flames before it comes crashing down. Inside the complex, Sherman and Ann are sitting on the couch (awfully close together BTW) when the sound of the crashing tree can be heard. Ann jumps up as if someone just set fire to her ass, and begins worrying that a tree might come crashing through the window, but Sherman calms her and then says he needs to return to his boat. Ann begs him to stay there with her. He wants to know why – is it because she is scared or because she is lonesome. "Both," she says. Still, he says he’ll take a raincheck and heads for the door. She tells him that no one opens the gate after dark and when he wonders who will stop him, she pulls a gun on him!!

Sherman is able to talk her into giving him the gun, which he then puts right back on the fireplace mantle from where she plucked it. She agrees to tell him what is going on. She likens the truth to a "true fairy tale" and that Sherman is right in the middle of it. She brings up the subject of shrews, which is the more common name to what Sherman calls those "cute little animals." Ann does not think of them as cute and calls them monsters. She tells Sherman the reason why he cannot open the door – there are between two to three hundred giant shrews running loose on the island, each weighing anywhere from fifty to one hundred pounds. Furthermore, the critters are beginning to starve. Sherman realizes what a mess he would have been in had he gone outside, so he thanks her for saving his skin (no thought of Rook).

Jerry wanders into the room about now and overhears the last parts of their conversation. In his trademark biting and confrontational tone of voice, he tells Sherman that had he stayed on his boat "playing Captain" he would not have to worry about this problem now. Sherman stands up, looking as if he is fully intending to plant his boot up Jerry’s ass, but Doctor Craigis comes in and reins in Jerry. The Doctor asks Ann what is wrong and she explains how she had to stop Sherman from leaving by telling him about the shrews. Craigis figures the Captain ought to know the whole truth and not just half of it.

Sensing an imminent boring speech, Jerry wisely bugs out and leaves the room, while everyone else lights up. Gee, these people are regular smokestacks. The Doc begins his tale and relates how six months back there was a litter of shrews that grew to be really friggin’ big…yadda, yadda, yadda...they somehow escaped (actually during the lover’s spat earlier we learned that it was that lousy Jerry who left the cages open)…blah, blah, blah….began to multiply on the island…etc, etc, etc. The scientists tried to eradicate the new breed but had no luck. Soon however, they stopped seeing the animals since they only hunted at night. However, the night before, two of the super sized shrews charged Ann and Jerry, thus indicating that their available food supply was dwindling. Sherman asks what they can do. Craigis tells him that all they need to do is wait inside for a few days until the shrews exterminate each other and then starve to death (still no thought of Rook).

On that note, the lights go out, plunging the complex into darkness. Sherman theorizes that "some wires blew down." Gee, ya think? Ann goes to get some lamps while Jerry, Baines and Mario all come running into the room. They rush around lighting candles and lamps, Jerry barking orders at Mario (that must make him feel big). Alas, the generator is outside, so no one can go take a look. Jerry leaves the room, but shoots Sherman a dirty look, as if the other man was responsible for the storm and the wind.

"Dude! This new blend you created is some righteous stuff!"Now we see Jerry and Baines in one of the complex’s rooms. This looks like the exact same room that Fat Mario showed Sherman to earlier, only now it has been re-dressed. Baines is studying something under a microscope while Jerry smokes. They seem to be discussing Ann, and Baines thinks that the young woman made a good case for why her father should leave the island with her. Jerry doesn’t agree, thinking it would be bad for the project. If anyone should leave the island with Ann, it should be him, he says. He then brings up the topic of Thorne Sherman, making no attempt to hide his dislike for the man. He says that the Captain looks like the kind of guy that would "try anything." Somehow, I don’t think he is alluding to a willingness to sample new cuisine, nor do I think he is referring to Sherman’s sexual appetites. No, I think he is afraid that Sherman might try to make a play for Ann…even though she has already officially dumped his ass.

Speaking of Sherman and Ann, they are by the fireplace where the good Captain has realized that Ann’s dinner invitation was just a ruse to make certain he stayed until after dark. She confesses to feeling better now that he is there. She begins to wax poetic about the wind, and seeing that she is getting very little response from Sherman, she asks why he seems so disinterested in things…the guns, the high fence, the broken window, her accent. He explains that he is only concerned about things that affect him. All right, some honesty at last. A true man, only interested in himself. (sigh…Rook who?) While this conversation is taking place, outside the shrews are digging a passage under the wooden walls of the stable. The horses inside begin to go nuts. Soon the shrews squeeze in and the sounds of the terrified and dying equines is heard in the complex.

Hearing something outside, Sherman is instantly on his feet and out the door. Ann lets out a holler which brings her father and Jerry running. They run outside and find Sherman about to open the gate, but Jerry stops him by belting him. Craigis stops Jerry from wailing on Sherman any more, but Sherman says he was aware of the danger. He thought he heard a human voice and was thinking of Rook (it’s about bloody time!!). Craigis realizes that what Thorne heard was the livestock being devoured and they head back inside. Sherman heads straight for the bar and fixes himself a drink. Jerry is ready to blame Fat Mario for leaving the barn unlocked, which is typical for such a hypocritical ass, since he was the one who left the shrew cages open and allowed them to escape. Craigis says he barred the barn doors himself, so the shrews had to gain access another way – by digging under the floor. Sherman wants to know why the Doctor never called in the Coast Guard to help burn out the critters (at this point Jerry takes Sherman’s drink away from him, takes a big swig and then hands it back!). Craigis offers some lame-ass explanations about private funding and the need to keep the rest of the world safe.

Baines has wandered in by now and chimes in by saying that very soon the island will be a miniature reproduction of the overpopulation problem they are working to avoid. Jerry says the time has not yet arrived to panic. That will come when the shrews go on a twenty-four hour a day foraging hunt. Sherman wants to know how he knows the creatures have not already reached that point. Craigis thinks the chances are possible, as attacking the livestock in the barn is a sure fire sign that they have depleted the rest of the food on the island. Sherman comments that they’d be safer on his boat. Craigis agrees and says that when daylight arrives, that is where they will head. Until then they are safe, as the floors are too hard for the shrews to dig through. Sherman points out that while the floors may be shrew-proof, the walls to the complex are adobe, and would be easy for the shrews to dig through. The Captain is in full-on take charge mode, and comes up with the idea of taking turns at watch. He sets up a schedule, with him taking last watch, and advises everyone to get some rest.

We now see a clock that reveals that it is 2:45 AM. A fire burns in the fireplace, Ann is sleeping on the couch and Fat Mario is on patrol. He goes to Jerry’s room, knocks and then opens the door. Jerry is laying on his bed drinking and cradling a rifle. He grabs at the gun when Mario enters. What the hell was he thinking? That shrews were at the door? I’m sure they’d do just like Mario did and knock before turning the doorknob and entering. Jerry’s room looks the exact same as Sherman’s room, only re-dressed with different furniture and paintings on the wall. Mario reminds Jerry that he is up next on the patrol schedule. Jerry invites Mario in and pours him a drink. It is obvious that he is three sheets to the wind. Operating under the logic that since Mario just did check every room in the house, they have a few minutes to kill until he needs to get his ass out there on patrol. He begins drunkenly griping to Mario about Ann, Sherman and their mutual attraction to one another. He thinks Ann is just hooking up with the Captain in an effort to look after her own ass, and Jerry proposes that he and Mario stick together to watch out for themselves…since, as he puts it, Mario is someone who can be trusted.

Outside, the shrews continue to makes sounds and jump up and down, accompanied by that omnipresent wind sound effect. I guess it has the trees convinced, as a branch from one breaks off and strikes the wall of the complex. I’m not sure, but I think it may have broken open some shutters.

Inside, Jerry is continuing his speech about Fat Mario’s trustworthiness. He says that he trusts him so much, that he will now trust him to take his turn at patrolling the house. Fat Mario gets this look on his face that says, "you lazy gringo Cabrón." Jerry goes on further and tells him not to wake Sherman but rather, to come wake him. He should feel good enough by then to get up and take Sherman’s turn at watch. Yeah right! You and I both know that the lazy son of a bitch is going to go wake Sherman at that point and pretend to have just finished his own watch and turn it over to the Captain. Fat Mario leaves and Jerry goes back to being an assbite.

Now we see the kitchen and Hokey Smokes…a shrew has gotten inside! Since they aren’t evolved enough to open doors, it is stuck in that room…for now. Fat Mario is walking around, on patrol again. He enters the kitchen and hears a sound from the cellar. A shot of the cellar stairs shows the intruding shrew to be hiding underneath them. Though Fat Mario cannot see this, he still quickly closes the door that leads to the cellar and then heads to the open shutters and ties them shut again (it seems that errant branch did knock some shutters open). He then rushes to Sherman’s room and tells the Captain that there is a shrew in the cellar. See how fast Fat Mario has forgotten about his "alliance" with Jerry and runs straight to the island’s new Alpha Male? He relates to Sherman how the beast gained entrance through the kitchen window and Sherman asks if he has told Jerry, to which Fat Mario answers with a "no." The two grab flashlights and head to the cellar to check things out.

In the living room, Sherman grabs a rifle and then wakes Ann, filling her in on the situation. He has her promise not to open the door to the cellar until he tells her. He and Fat Mario head to the cellar door and open it, but nothing is there. They enter, close the door behind them and then descend the stairs. They reach the bottom and each takes a different side of the cellar to explore, neither of them seeing the shrew still hiding beneath the stairs. The two begin walking amongst the maze of boxes and crates, but still see nothing. Then the shrew decides that the movie really does need something a bit more than so much talking, so it jumps out and takes a bite out of Fat Mario’s leg. Mario gets off a shot, and the critter falls over…apparently dead. Sherman comes running over just as Fat Mario collapses to the floor, clutching his wounded leg. The Captain takes a rag and quickly ties it around the other man’s leg as a tourniquet.

"But Senor, he bit me on the arm…why are you removing my pants?"Alerted by the gunshot, Doctor Craigis, Jerry and Doctor Baines all come running. In the cellar, the shrew is rousing again, so Sherman grabs Fat Mario’s pistol and shoots it again. This time it is dead for sure. Craigis calls down to Sherman, who tells the older man to come down quick. The others rush down the stairs and Craigis examines Fat Mario. Alas, he is dead. Sherman is mystified, as Fat Mario could not have bled to death – he got the tourniquet on him almost instantly. Craigis says an autopsy will makes things clear. Baines mutters something about "Hematoxic syndrome." Sherman seems pissed at what Craigis and his cohorts have achieved on the island now that he is confronted with one of the giant shrews. A few heated words are exchanged and then they drag the bodies of both Fat Mario and the shrew upstairs for examination.

Baines and Craigis have now donned white lab coats and are examining something under the microscope. Baines notes that there is an extremely high poison content to the shrew’s saliva. Next they plan on scrutinizing a slide containing blood from the late Fat Mario.

Elsewhere, Sherman is trying to console Ann, who is upset over the way things have gone. He tries to get her to talk and tell him what she does on the island. She tells him that she is a zoologist and she specializes in animal diets. She admits that she contributed to the project and she holds herself partially responsible for what has transpired, even going so far to promise that she will have nothing to do with it if she ever escapes the island. Sherman asks what she would do, and she says that she would live normally, like other women do though it may not be as exciting as the life she has lived. Ok…hold the phone. Yes, it is true that these people are in a real tight spot at the moment, but these circumstances are a fluke. It is not like being a zoologist on a secluded island is the most exciting thing as is, but she acts like she has been jumping out of planes and wrestling with gators or something! Anyway, Sherman notes that he prefers the "dull, alive" women over the exciting ones – a line if ever I heard one.

Later, Sherman walks down a hallway and into the laboratory…which is to say that he walked down the same hallway seen earlier and into the same room used as both his and Jerry’s rooms. This time it is dressed up to be a laboratory, which means a couple of tables with a microscope, beakers and test tubes arrayed on them. Craigis informs him that the autopsy of both the shrew and Fat Mario has proven their suspicions correct. He goes on to say that several weeks past he had concocted the most virulent poison he could with the materials available. The poison was set out as bait for the shrews. Now it appears that Fat Mario died from poisoning. Baines hypothesizes that the shrews somehow assimilated the poison and that it remained in their salivary glands. Sherman asks if they can counteract the poison but Craigis just shakes his head. They can now no longer afford to sustain even a scratch from the animals. Sherman wonders if all the shrews are poisonous, to which Jerry retorts with the smartass response that the best way to find out is to let them all bite you and then see which bite you die from. Sherman outlines his plan for surviving until daybreak…which is to do nothing. Well, honestly, there is not much they can do. He thinks they should keep all the doors in the house closed and keep an eye out for the shrews. Craigis reminds him that the walls are two feet thick, but Sherman points out that the adobe can be easily breached…especially after being softened up by the fierce storm.

Speaking of being easily breached, we now see some shrews digging and clawing at the walls. They manage to create an opening large enough to squeeze through and they enter the complex, though they are confined to a single room for now.

6:00 AM rolls around and everyone is gathered in the living room. Sherman is talking to Craigis and is outlining his next big idea. Now that it will soon be light out he wants to take the dead shrew and toss it over the fence. If the other shrews come for it, they will know the run for the boat is not safe. If they don’t show up, they can eventually make their way to the boat. So the dead shrew is tossed out, but after twenty minutes there is no activity. Sherman will now head to the boat and then fire a flare to let them know if it’s safe. Ann doesn’t want him to go alone, so her father volunteers. She shoots that idea down as the old guy has never fired a gun. She thinks Baines or Jerry should go. Jerry agrees and says, "and you’ll be sure of getting the signal," a none too subtle insult directed at Sherman.

Sherman and Jerry head out, cautiously threading their way through the trees. Sherman tells him not to shoot the rifle unless he has to, as they only have a total of twenty rounds. Jerry now gets behind Sherman and points the gun at his back. He tells the Captain to stay away from Ann or else "when the shrews get done with you, they won’t even find the buckshot." These are fighting words and Sherman whirls around. The rifle is knocked out of Jerry’s hands and Sherman belts him. Jerry falls down and Sherman retrieves the gun before walking on. We see some shrews running through the trees, but the two men are oblivious.

They arrive at the pier and there is Sherman’s boat where he anchored it. He calls out repeatedly for Rook, but of course there is no answer. Jerry notices that the dinghy is gone. Sherman sees a tie line and says he will follow it. Jerry shows his true chickenshit colors and announces that he is going nowhere and intends to remain where he is. Sherman tells him the best thing for him to do is to swim to the boat, but Jerry says he cannot swim. Sherman makes to leave, but Jerry insists the other man should leave him a gun. Sherman just looks at him incredulously. This was the coward that just threatened to kill him moments before, and now he expects Sherman to give him a weapon? Yeah right. Not about to be left without a gun, Jerry decides to follow Sherman.

They quickly locate the dinghy, which has been washed ashore and into some trees. Walking a little further, Sherman finds a shoe and some torn clothes that belonged to Rook as well as a pistol. He recognizes it as the gun he kept on the boat. He realizes that his friend is dead. Jerry says something about making a deal but is cut off by some strange sounds. They listen intently and Sherman comes to the conclusion that the shrews have been trailing them on both sides. Jerry really, really wants a gun now and faced with the circumstances, Sherman hands him a pistol, but warns the other man not to run and to stay in front of him, as he doesn’t trust him.

Fed up with Jerry’s drinking and blacking out, Thorne decides to box and ship his ass to Madagascar.They begin making their way back to the complex when the sounds of the shrews start up again. Jerry, the typical chickenshit that he is, panics and runs. He calls out for the gate to be opened and lets loose with the pistol, though he hits nothing. Doctor Craigis opens the gate and Jerry rushes in, closing it behind him. Sherman arrives a few seconds later and begins pounding on the gate, the shrews not far behind him. Within the complex grounds, Craigis and Jerry are struggling, the former trying to get the gate open for Sherman but the latter keeping it closed. With the beasts nearly upon him, Sherman takes out a couple with his rifle and then throws it over the fence. He then jumps up, snags the top of the fence and pulls himself over. Chickenshit Jerry yells something about not being able to take a chance on opening the gate with the shrews out there, but Sherman is not in a talkative mood. He jumps down and proceeds to lay an ass beating down on Chickenshit Jerry, the shrews right outside the gate. Then when Jerry has been beaten into unconsciousness, Sherman picks him up, hops up on a crate and prepares to throw the coward to the shrews. Regaining his senses, he hops back down and places Jerry on a crate, then heads into the house.

Inside he tries to justify the near homicide to Baines and Ann by implying that Jerry had it coming. He says that Jerry tried to kill him twice in the last five minutes. Did it really take only five minutes for them to leave the house, fight in the woods, walk to the pier, find Rook’s clothes, hear the shrews and then come running back? I don’t think so…not unless the pier is about twenty feet away. Sherman announces that Rook came ashore the night before and is now dead. When Craigis enters, dragging Jerry along, Sherman looses his cool. He is angry with Craigis for not being completely truthful with how dangerous the shrews were. He decides to calm down by pouring a drink. Craigis would rather have some coffee, so Ann volunteers to make some.

Ann opens the door to the kitchen and a shrew comes barreling through the doorway. It manages to bite Baines on the leg as it flies through the room. Sherman grabs a pistol and empties a couple of rounds into the beast, killing it. The door is quickly closed and Baines claims the shrew did nothing more than rip his pants. Then he sits down at the typewriter (no ass-hover maneuver this time) and starts pounding away at the keys. Jerry is downing booze like it's Kool Aid and spots the pistol on the table. He snatches it up and fires several rounds at the kitchen door, behind which are more shrews. Sherman grabs the weapon away and yells at him for such a stupid waste of ammunition.

Meanwhile, Baines is continuing to type, but his efforts are getting slower. Finally he keels over into the floor. The others rush over and look him over. It seems he was lying about the shrew only ripping his pants and he is now quite dead. Craigis looks at what he had been typing. It seems the late Radford Baines had been recording every symptom and reaction he experienced from the poison, right up until he died. Talk about dedication to science! If that was me, I would have gone out kicking, screaming and breaking shit! Sherman tells Jerry to pull down a drape and cover Baines up. Jerry has reached the "flipping out" stage that chickenshits in these situations invariably arrive at, and wonders who will be around to cover the last person to die. Sherman employs his counseling skills to help him calm down...in other words, he proceeds to beat the shit out of him again.

While these two morons are fighting, Ann notices a shrew burrowing its way through a wall and into the room. She yells and points it out, to which Sherman and Craigis push a couch against the wall in question. Now is not the time for feng shui! The Doctor notes it won’t take the shrews long to dig around it and the Captain wonders where else the animals may be digging through at. The answer is…about three freakin’ feet away from the first hole! Yes, another opening appears and a shrew sticks its puppet-like head into the room, only to be shot by Sherman. Jerry pushes the mini bar against this hole but more holes are appearing as the shrews begin clawing their way into the house. With the interior of the house no longer safe, the group runs outside into the yard, which is still protected by the high wooden fence.

 

Note - It is at this point that the movie enters its final segment, so if any of you really feel the need to watch this film and not know the ending ahead of time, skip the rest of this section.

 

"Now we just need to strap these four kegs together, hook up the pressurized pump and we’ll be set for the Frat party."Sherman knows that it won’t long before the shrews inside the house make their way through the walls and into the fenced yard, so he thinks the safest place may be on the roof. To buy themselves some time, they begin moving as many crates and boxes as they can up against the house in order to slow down the shrews. While turning over containers, Jerry finds a rifle, which he picks up and verifies that it is loaded. Then he places it nearby, within easy reach. A few feet away, Sherman has come across a large empty metal barrel that was used to hold chemicals. He hits upon the idea of using it and others like it as "individual tanks." They quickly set to work lashing four of them together for stability. Sherman finds an Oxygen/Acetylene welding rig and starts cutting out small sections of the barrels to serves as eyepieces.

The shrews are steadily tearing down their defenses but within just a few minutes they have their barrel-rig ready to go. Jerry grabs the rifle he found earlier and climbs up on the roof. He says he can see a lot of the creatures and refuses to go. He plans on staying up on the roof. Sherman warns him that the wind will blow him down (a few minutes ago he thought it was a good idea to get on the roof). Again, that damn ever-present wind sound effect is being used, but when we see Jerry on the roof, not only are the nearby trees as still as a mouse, but the sky is perfectly clear! The others try to coax him down but with shrews seconds away from gaining entrance, they decide the time to go has come. They climb under the barrels and using a rope that Ann rigged up earlier, they open the gate.

The shrews instantly swarm them, but are unable to turn over the barrels. Slowly they begin making their way to the beach, the shrews constantly trying to get at them. Soon, they are getting pooped out from their exertions, but they stick with it.

The View: The MovieBack at the complex, Jerry has noticed that all the remaining shrews have followed the others toward the beach. Slowly he climbs down from the roof, grabs what looks like a saddlebag and runs out of the yard. He doesn’t get too far before some shrews notice him and are in pursuit. He turns, fires a couple shots and then turns again to run, but slips and falls. Before he can pick himself up, the shrews are all over him. His screams rend the air as the shrews rend him limb from limb.

Meanwhile Sherman, Craigis and Ann continue toward the beach. There is a moment of worry when a shrew manages to grab hold of Ann’s foot under the barrel, but it doesn’t scratch her and only gets away with her boot. Another shrew gets its head under Sherman’s barrel, but he just blows it away with a pistol shot. Just as Ann thinks she cannot go any farther, they hit the sand and realize they are getting close to their destination. They gradually wade into the surf until the water is too deep for them to stand, then they abandon their barrels and swim for the boat.

They haul their asses up onto the boat, Sherman and Ann wasting no time in locking themselves into an embrace. He mentions something about having time now to learn about her accent. Doctor Craigis notes that in twenty four hours there will only be one shrew left on the island, and it will be dead from starvation…an excellent example of overpopulation. Sherman says that he isn’t going to worry about overpopulation just yet. Then he snogs Ann.

The End.

Review

As the 1950’s grew to a close so did the era of the giant radioactive beast. Spawned from the nuclear fears stemming from World War II, the movies saw untold creatures attain super sized status due to one of the popular catch words of the time – radiation (another being satellites AKA UFOs). By decades end, just about every manner of giant beastie had been seen – lizards, spiders, ants, grasshoppers, etc, etc. The big studios no longer seemed inclined to finance as many such projects and gradually re-focused their attention on new trends – gore, nudie, biker and gothic horror flicks. That is not to say that movies with oversized critters did not exist…it is just that, more often than not, it was left to the little guy i.e. the independent producer or filmmaking newbie to unleash such monsters.

The Killer Shrews was the brainchild of Texas millionaire Gordon McLendon. Born in Paris, Texas, on June 8, 1921 he would go on to win a nationwide political-essay contest, attend Yale University where he studied Far Eastern languages, work for the campus radio station, and serve as business manager for the Yale Literary Magazine – all before the U.S. got involved in World War Two. During the war he worked as an interpreter, translator, and interrogator for the Navy before being reassigned to armed forces radio, where he earned a reputation for his colorful broadcasts. After the war he bought interest in a radio station and built up a following for his live baseball game broadcasts. In 1947 he and his father formed the Liberty Broadcasting System to carry the games. LBS became the second largest radio network in the United States – quite a feat when you consider that McLendon did not pay for the rights to broadcast live games but rather, paid people to watch them and feed him minute-by-minute plays via Western Union. Eventually he was forced to discontinue his broadcasts.

Having built up quite a name for himself as a pioneer in the radio field, McLendon now turned his attention to film. He and his family owned both drive-in and conventional movie theaters. Like many drive-in owners discovered in the 50’s, their outlets for screening films were considered the bottom of the barrel by the pretentious lot in Hollywood and many in tinseltown tried their damnedest to keep their films out of the drive-in chains. This only led to the drive-in owners taking the next logical step – they financed their own films. In 1959, McLendon financed three films: The Killer Shrews, The Giant Gila Monster, and My Dog Buddy, none of which are remembered as sterling examples of cinematic skill. However, like all great "B" movies from the period, McLendon’s films live on to this day, appreciated by those of us crazy enough to watch them over and over again. After his brief stint as a producer, McLendon spent several years writing and producing more than 150 motion-picture campaigns under an exclusive contract to United Artists. A brief political career came next, followed by a job as Vietnam correspondent. He would write several books and have a net worth of $200 Million by 1985, the year before his death. Remembered mostly as a pioneer in radio programming, he will be best remembered by B movie fans as the man who brought us some of the cheesiest monsters ever put on screen….and the one who warned us of the imminent arrival of The Giant Killer Shrews!

Part of me would really like to know how the idea for this film was developed. Just who was it that hit upon the idea of super sizing shrews? Yes, by 1959 the silver screen had seen all sorts of giant monsters, many of which were just normal members of the animal kingdom until they were somehow increased in size. One factor that made them so popular was that many of those critters would be tremendously more frightening as a giant. Hell, normal sized spiders scare the crap out of me now…but one the size of an office building? We’re talking instant heart failure. No doubt writers and producers were searching for specimens from said animal kingdom to use in their horror films. What would really be scary as a giant? Bees? Lobsters? Squirrels? I can almost hear someone rationalizing it now: Well, they may be tiny, but those shrew things are vicious as hell. Make them the size of a sheep dog and you’d have another case of people wetting themselves at the very idea, right?

Um…wrong. A frightening beast is just one vital component to a good monster flick. You also need decent characterization, a group of halfway skilled actors, a script that focuses on the story without getting lost and a director who knows how to assemble it all together to get an interesting, if not thrilling and riveting, experience. Well, two and a half out of five is all you’re gonna get with this one.

The Storyline.
As is most often the case with films from this era and of this short running time, little time is wasted on things that do not directly relate to the core of the plot. People are stuck on an island with giant shrews out to gobble them up and must use their dwindling resources to remain alive long enough to either outlast the beasts or escape...period. Aside from the first few minutes, which establish the newcomers to the island and the last few seconds, which show us who escaped, the film does not leave the island even once. Heck, it had a hard time leaving the living room of Craigis’ complex. And though the film takes a leisurely pace unfolding at times, every scene manages to develop the story a tiny bit further. The movie is nearly a third of the way through its running time before the shrews are introduced, but in this reviewer’s eyes, it really didn’t seem like that long. It felt like things had barely gotten going when someone was being chomped by the shrews. After that, the movie does slow down some (ok quite a bit) and presents us with one dialog scene after another. While there is some minimal shrew action mixed in, things don’t really kick into high gear until the film reaches its climax. While that may sound like a movie suffering from too much padding, keep in mind that all the talking brings the characters to life…and what an odd bunch they are, indeed.

Characterizations & Acting.
Despite some annoying foreign accents at work, I’d have to say that this aspect is probably the film’s strongest point. Each of these characters seems much more like a real person than ones you might find in a different movie. The accent may be confounding at times, but Dr. Craigis is one of the better screen scientists of his age. He fully accepts responsibility for the colossal screw-up he has achieved and does his best to rectify the situation. Most of the time he is cordial and inviting, but there are the moments when the strain and guilt can be seen in his demeanor. Conversely, his assistant Jerry Farrell is just the opposite. Jerry blames everyone else for his problems and does little to help matters other than to whine and point the finger. If Craigis represents the Angel that stands on one shoulder of science, Jerry is the devil on the opposite shoulder. This dichotomy plays out very well in how both men react to their situation: Craigis with acceptance and calm but with little leadership, and Jerry with denial and cowardice. Balanced between the two men is island newcomer Thorne Sherman. At first Sherman comes off as the stereotypical man’s man. He drinks, he smokes, he eyes the ladies and he’s ready to fight at a moment’s notice. Soon however, he emerges as the group’s de facto leader when both Craigis and Jerry seem unable to rise to the task (with differing reasons). Still, while Sherman takes issue with both men, for the most part he provides balance between the two. This is not to say that he can’t be swayed to extremes. At one point he is ready to toss an unconscious Jerry to the shrews, but stops himself before he can do it. It's these type of subtle touches that make these people just a hair more realistic than most of their contemporaries. Rounding out the group is happy-go-lucky Rook, who manages to come off as a nice guy in the few minutes he has on screen and thus engenders some sympathy from the audience when he is devoured by the shrews. Less effective is Ann Craigis, whose role seems to be nothing more than eye candy. She does get a few good moments though, like when she tells Jerry what she thinks of him, but she mostly just reacts to what is happening around her. Radford Baines is hardly in the film, but his scenes do manage to convey the sense that this guy is obsessed with his work and little else. Overall, a nicely and surprisingly well crafted set of characters.

FX.
Ok, now we are getting to the film’s worst qualities. Simply put, the shrews look terrible. The Muppet-like heads used for close-ups are just plain bad, no ifs ands or buts about it. I have seen sock puppets that projected more menace than these things and stuffed animals that displayed better movement. It appears that the Muppet heads are attached to sticks or something, because whenever one is shown up close, or seen to be moving, I cannot help but think of those cheap ass toys that have dinosaur or other animal heads on the end of a small stick, with a squeeze trigger at the opposite end that causes the head’s jaws to open and close when utilized. The shrews look something like that. Only slightly more realistic is the method used to show shrews from a distance – live dogs were saddled with silly looking “shrew costumes.” I don’t know about you, but costume or not, a dog’s legs look nothing like those of a shrew, so the illusion is instantly erased when they appear on screen. However, I suppose this approach is preferable to having a man in some cheap shrew suit, lunging out from the shadows to paw someone in a pathetic attempt to look dangerous. No, for such imagery, we would have to wait nearly twenty years for The Food of the Gods.

Music.
The original music by Harry Bluestone and Emil Cadkin is your typical 50’s monster movie music. Nothing really stands out here. It swells at key moments, it is subdued at others. Instantly forgettable.

Technique.
This is where the film’s opposing strengths and weaknesses are really noticeable. On one hand you have scene after scene of people talking with each other, but often with their faces not clearly seen. Poorly lit scenes and the insistence of using the same set for most of the film do not help. Nor do the obvious multiple uses of other sets (the one location re-dressed to be various bedrooms and a laboratory). Added to all this is the inherent cheapness to the film’s atmosphere: the silly looking monsters, the piped in sound effects used to convey the presence of a mighty storm, the lousy day-for-night shots and the fact that the science compound looks like someone’s house. These elements are what give the film its reputation as a B-Movie cheesefest...and they are right on the money. However, overlooked are some elements at the opposite end of the spectrum: the subtle building of tension, the threat conveyed from within (Jerry and Sherman’s fighting and mutual distrust) as well as without (the storm and the shrews), and the sudden and desperate need to devise an escape plan. These are things that often get ignored in this film, though the very same facets pop up in later films, most notably The Night of the Living Dead and are lauded by the critics as excellence in filmmaking. The Killer Shrews might not have done it first, or even the best, but it did mange to pull it off effectively enough.

Summation.
While this film sure has its fair share of crap on display, it in no way is in the same league as pure crapfests like Mesa of Lost Women or The Beast of Yucca Flats. Contrarily, it falls far short of being anything remotely resembling a classic. The best it can achieve is either “fond memory” or “worth a look” status. It doesn’t pretend to be anything but a monster flick, though it is populated by some halfway interesting characters and not the stock heroes usually stuffed into these movies. Check it out, it may end up surprising you one way or another.

 

Expect To See:
Nature Run Amok
Nature Run Amok - We have hundreds of shrews the size of Dobermans running loose. If that doesn’t count as "amok" I don’t know what does.
Ocean Hijinks -
Ocean Hijinks - Not much. A little bit of dorky banter between Sherman and Rook at the beginning of the film while they’re sailing the high seas. Alas, no pirate impersonations.
Romance -
Romance - As soon as Sherman lays eyes on Ann, you can almost hear the blood rushing away from his brain and to his crotch. For some reason, she clings to him for salvation.
Science
Science - Amongst lots of talk about overpopulation, "Hoskin’s Factor," Hematoxic Syndrome and other dizzying terms, is the fact that science created these colossal shrews.
Violence
Violence - Two people are torn to pieces by shrews (offscreen), two are bitten and die from poisoning (on screen), Jerry and Sherman have a fistfight.

 

Movie Stats:
Shadow's Commentary:

People killed by shrews: 4
People actually eaten by shrews: 2
Shrews killed by people: 5
Shrews eaten by people: 0
Cigarettes smoked: 9
Times Doctor Craigis smokes his pipe: 3
Times the term "Hematoxic Syndrome" is muttered: 1
Minority characters in film: 2
Minority characters that survive the film: 0
Alcoholic drinks consumed: 16 (average one every 4.3125 minutes)
Times the audience wishes they had a drink: several
Shrews reportedly on island: 200 to 300
Highest number of shrews seen at once: 5
Times English language murdered by foreign actors: Too many

00 Mins – Is there gonna be a test on this later?
03 Mins - Deserted island, my ass. I see buildings across the water!
09 Mins - Ask Dr. Stupid.
20 Mins - Lights! Lights! I cannot see!
22 Mins - Fat guy…it's what’s for dinner.
29 Mins - Seabiscuit, no!!
36 Mins - Squeak! Squeak, I tell you, Squeak!
40 Mins - Somebody call PETA!
41 Mins - He’s dead, Jim.
53 Mins - Somebody call PETA!
56 Mins - Killer muppet!
56 Mins - Somebody call…oh, forget it.
66 Mins - Jerry gets his just desserts...oh, wait…he is dessert.
68 Mins - Come up for air already. Sheesh!


Shadow's Drinking Game: This one is easy - every time someone pours a drink or takes a sip, you also take a drink of your beverage of choice.

 

Images Click for larger image

[sarcasm] Wow, look at the storm
building on the horizon. [/sarcasm]


"Hey, hey, hey!"
"coo, coo, coo… I love it! I love it!"

 
Look! It's Gilligan’s Island.


"Are you sure the script doesn’t
say anything about a love
scene with me and Ingrid?"


"Whoa! Say it, don’t spray it, Jerry."

 
"I smell BACON!!!"


 
"Raar! I’m a Monsta!"


Lassie! Noooooo!


"Hey look, the neighbors are
having a nude BBQ."

"I didn’t want it to come to this…
but take off that damn annoying
hat already or else!"




"Ahoy! Would you have
any Gray Poupon?"


Late for the NRA meeting again.

"I swear, if you ask me, ‘are we
there yet?’ one more time, I’m
gonna make you do
the walking."

A little known fact about this film
was how the script was written
live while the film was already shooting.

"Lucky for us I have a copy of the
Necronomicon right here. I’ll have
his dead ass up and back to
work in no time."

Sheesh, come up for air, already.

 

Immortal Dialog

Sherman gets an invitation to have a drink.

Craigis: "Will you join us in a cocktail?"
Sherman: "Well, I’ve never been known to turn down a drink yet."

Shadow’s comment: So…he’s Irish?


Jerry drunkenly ponders Ann’s new interests.

Jerry: "Imagine an intelligent girl like her goin’ for a…common…sea tramp like him."

Shadow’s comment: As opposed to a drunken sod like you?


Baines gleefully talks about the shrews’ new abilities.

Baines: "Doctor, I’ve wondered if you’ve thought…the system of the Sorex enabled them to assimilate that poison. It remained in the salivary glands of their jaws. Isn’t that wonderful?!"

Shadow’s comment: Yeah, that’s just peachy.

 

Keep In Mind
  • The key to solving global overpopulation is to shrink people.
  • A handful of candles will illuminate a room just as well as several electric lamps.
  • Pistols are best stored on fireplace mantles, in plain sight, for easy access.
  • An advanced genetics lab is sufficiently outfitted with just a microscope and some test tubes.
  • Bad hurricanes don’t necessarily have to generate a lot of wind. Or much rain for that matter.
  • Guns can be used to tie tourniquets.
  • Postmortem muscle spasms often cause a corpse to "help" with the lifting when others pick it up.
  • Scientists are nicotine and alcohol fiends.
  • It is possible to "assimilate" poison and not die from it.



This Film & Me

I can clearly remember watching The Killer Shrews on TV when I was very, very young. I recall watching it with three of my older sisters, so that means I had to have been about four or five years of age (they all had left home before I turned six – there was a significant age gap between me and the youngest of them) when I first saw it. This was when I was really cultivating my love for monsters, though I do not remember if I had already been subjected to Night of the Living Dead or not. I thought the giant shrews were wolves or crazy dogs…and it is easy to see why I would think that – they were dogs! My sisters had to explain to me that the monsters terrorizing the people in the film were not any type of canine but were giant mouse-like creatures. I think I saw it once or twice more before the 1970’s came to an end, but after that it just vanished. When I would see it mentioned in print I’d remember it fondly. The single image that stuck with me over the years was poor Rook in that tree, screaming away while the shrews eagerly waited for him to fall and provide them with a meal. When I started buying up VHS copies of 50’s scifi and horror in the late 80’s, this was a film that I was never able to find. I did manage to catch parts of the film when it was aired on Mystery Science Theater 3000. However, it wasn’t until I bought the DVD last year that I saw the entire film for the first time in over twenty five years. It was not much different from what I remembered, which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how one looks at it.

Shadow's rating: Four Tombstones



The Good

  • Hot Swedish Chick
  • Decent performaces
  • Short running time
  • Thorne Shermnan - a man's man
  • A fair amount of monster action

The Bad

  • Craigis' accent - WTF was he saying?!
  • Token black guy first to die
  • The sheer amount of alcohol consumed in this film
  • Jerry Farrell - king of the jerks

The Ugly

  • Dogs wearing mops for costumes
  • Terrible looking muppet-thing used for close ups of shrews
  • The shews assimilating the poison
  • "Huge" storm portrayed by cheap wind sound FX


A Killer Shrews take on the Gilligan’s Island theme
:

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip.
That started with two dolts at sea,
Aboard a tiny ship.

The mate was a mighty pudgy man,
The skipper dumb as lead
Five more fools awaited them,
On the island up ahead, the island up ahead………

The weather started getting rough,
The island was soon crossed.
If not for the contents of the mini bar,
The evening would be lost; the evening would be lost.

The fools took stock of their booze and smokes on this secluded isle
With Killer Shrews, the Skipper too,
The Chickenshit, and his ex
The Crazy Doc, the Professor and another man,
Here on Killer Shrew Isle.

 

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