Drive-ins were very popular in and around 1959, as were monster movies. The cult classics The Killer Shrews and The Giant Gila Monster were among the favorites of the movie-going public, one with multiple mutant creatures, the other with one giant reptile. Half a century later, Legend Films released these two horrors on a double feature DVD in their original black and white state and for the first time in color! Accompanied by trailers for other classics, a retro segment on squirrels called ďSqueak the Squirrel,Ē and comical information on both shrews and Gila monsters, this was the best either film had ever been released. But are these cult classics really classic, or simply throwaway products?
The Killer Shrews stars James Best as Captain Thorne Sherman on a boat with his skip, travelling to an island. There, they meet Ann Craigis (Ingrid Goude) and her father. Thorne goes with them to their home, where tests on shrews are being performed. Everything appears to be normal, except for Jerry, who Ann does not appear to be getting along with. Something had happened the night before, but neither will speak of it. A hurricane rolls around, leaving Thorne to stay overnight at the house. The Captain finds it peculiar that all doors and windows are to be locked at all times, especially nightfall. That evening, the skip is attacked outdoors by what appears to be giant shrews! Itís true. Experiments have gone haywire and now monstrous flesh-hungry animals are running around on the island. They are all trapped here, and in order to survive, they must defend the fort. Unspeakable terror awaits those who find themselves face-to-face with...The Killer Shrews!
The special effects are a lot of fun. These giant shrews look more like dogs in rodent costumes, kind of like the killer rat movie Deadly Eyes. On top of having ferociously big teeth and ravenous black eyes, these monsters also have the curse of poison. A helper named Mario and another scientist are both bitten by a killer shrew, but with very little tear. They end up dying soon after contact, but not from loss of blood. The experiments caused these creatures to obtain quick deadly attacks with poisonous bites. This tidbit adds to the intensity of the groupís escape. The shrews are very well done for their time, and can be a bit frightening too. We receive a startling scare after Ann opens a door to get her father some coffee. On the other side is a shrew, who bursts through the door with a sudden leap. In a film where suspense is the main name of the game, this definitely catches you by surprise.
Here we have a quick seventy minute feature that can be enjoyed both in its original atmospheric black and white state, or in a beautiful colorized picture, with scenery thatís absolutely to die for. Whichever one you choose, you canít go wrong. Itís terrific in any fashion that you watch it. Where monster films from the 50s usually kept a repeated formula with dull events, The Killer Shrews is full of ideas. The character of Jerry is a true jerk, and you canít 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. This is a true B-movie. Characters are dying off, silly (but effective) antagonists are running about, and thereís blood to be seen!
One of my favorite parts of the film is the barrel invention. Ann, her father, Jerry and Captain Thorne all try to leave the home in a combination of four barrels. When the shrews break through the wall, the group ducks into the tipped over cans, and slowly walk past the shrews, who are unable to attack them. Itís one of the most suspenseful parts of the movie. The DVDís color, as Iíve said, is beautiful. For those that find black and white films harder to enjoy (for whatever reason) Legend has aided in their viewing, along with a restorization never thought possible. There are messy parts, smudges, and cuts in the movie, but this is due to the original source. For a film as long gone as this one, what has been achieved is a wonder in itself. The audio is above average, and everything can be heard clearly. The Killer Shrews turned out a lot better than what I was expecting going in. It turns out that this creature feature is not only entertaining, but well made too. Itís one hell of a great wild vermin film. Buy it!