Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Beginning of the End |
Actors: Peter Graves, Peggie Castle, Morris Ankrum, Than Wyenn, Thomas Browne Henry
Director: Bert I. Gordon
Genres: Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
A small town demolished to the ground. Dozens of innocent people mysteriously missing. A monstrous secret covered up by the military. Lovely reporter Audrey Aimes (Peggy Castle) smells a scoop, and with the aid of Dr. Ed W... more »
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Swell DVD package for fun, underrated Big Bug favorite
Surfink | Racine, WI | 05/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bert I. Gordon's Beginning of the End always seems to get dumped on in science fiction movie books and magazines, but it's my second-favorite "big bug" movie (right after Tarantula) and, while clearly a low-budget effort, packs as much entertainment value as many higher-rated SF "classics." The film opens with a favorite 1950s SF cliche, necking teens getting munched by unseen monster (nearly identical to the pre-title sequence of Giant Gila Monster). Pretty soon cops are finding entire small towns deserted and demolished. Peggie Castle plays Audrey Ames, spunky gal reporter and former war correspondent investigating the mysterious devastation. Low-budget SF icons Thomas B. Henry (one of the great big noses of all time) and Morris Ankrum are both on hand as military officers, B.I.G. regular Hank (Green Acres' Fred Ziffel) Patterson puts in a cameo, and veteran voice artist Paul Frees (Mr. Limpet's Crusty the Crab, etc.) is heard a number of times (coming out of loudspeakers, helicopter radios, etc.) The script, co-written by Fred Freibeger (Beast from 20,000 Fathoms), is generic B-monster pulp, and they occasionally resort to the low-budget moviemakers' crutch of describing events that would have been too costly to film. Peter Graves (Killers from Space, It Conquered the World, Mission: Impossible) and his deaf-mute assistant (who you just know is eventually going to be grasshopper lunch) have been working on developing giant crops (love those gigantic tomato and strawberry props) at the USDA Illinois experimental station. The crops have been consumed by locusts, causing them to grow to titanic proportions. The bulk of the movie is standard giant monster stuff: the army attacks; the `hoppers attack; Peter Graves goes to Washington and shows a 16mm film about locusts to Pentagon brass; the Illinois National Guard are overrun; chlordane is found ineffective (off-screen); Peoria, Pontiac, and Joliet, Illinois, are demolished (off-screen); and refugees pour into Chicago (off-screen again). A bathing woman in a towel is menaced by a giant locust (a standard B.I.G. device), a TV announcer advances the plot (another standard B.I.G. device), and a newspaper headline screams "Chicago Next!" Finally the U.S. military moves in and is again overrun by the `hoppers, who invade Chicago's South Side. When the military gives up and decides to drop an A-bomb on Chicago at dawn, Graves gets the brilliant idea to lure the `hoppers into Lake Michigan with a recording of their mating call, precipitating the wonderfully ludicrous finish that fans of this movie will remember fondly. Apparently this was shot just after Amazing Colossal Man so the effects actually look quite a bit better than that movie and The Cyclops (forget King Dinosaur), and are accomplished through the typical rear-projection and travelling matte techniques, using live oversized Texas grasshoppers. True, the opticals are not as clean as in the bigger-budgeted Tarantula (matte lines and mismatched contrast are often evident), but if you want giant bugs and lots of `em, Beginning of the End delivers. The much-maligned shots of grasshoppers crawling on still photos of buildings are rescued somewhat here by the restored widescreen matting, preventing the insects from crawling off the edges of the photos, as seen in open-matte TV prints. Personally, I think Beginning's FX show a lot of ingenuity, especially considering the budget (the notorious "photo crawling" shots are often actually matted composites, not the rock-bottom cheese reviewers sometimes describe). Detractors should sit through Monster from Green Hell or Cosmic Monsters sometime. As pure an example of 1950s B-movie SF as exists, and a must-have for fans.
Although Rhino's MST3K DVD includes the uncut version of Beginning of the End, this Image edition is hands-down the one to buy if you just want the movie in fantastic shape and don't need the MST3K stuff. The print quality here (supposedly from the original camera negative) is excellent to pristine, with only some light speckling evident, handily demolishing Rhino's acceptable but inferior transfer. Jack Marta's cinematography looks great and it's finally matted to 1.66:1 as intended and anamorphically enhanced. There is a spare, generic but nicely done lobby card gallery, and audio commentary by Flora M. Gordon (Bert's ex-wife and frequent collaborator) and Susan (Bert's daughter) Gordon. Why the still-living Mr. B.I.G. chose not to participate is a mystery (is he perhaps sensitive about being picked on all these years?) The chat is moderated by actor/director Bruce Kimmel (First Nudie Musical, Creature Wasn't Nice). I'm not sure why since he seems generally unprepared and ill-informed (he refers to Bronson Canyon as Beechwood Canyon several times) and takes a few unnecessary swipes at MST3K. Flora and Susan provide some interesting background, although there are times where Flora can't remember incidents or wasn't involved, and at one point she claims that Universal's Incredible Shrinking Man was based on Bert's Attack of the Puppet People!!! All in all, a far higher caliber DVD set than guilty-pleasure fans of this flick could have dreamed would ever appear. Recommended."
The attack of the giant superimposed mutant grasshoppers
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 05/16/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There is a level on which you have to admire the sheer audacity, not to mention the budgetary value, of putting grasshoppers on postcards of Chicago landmarks and filming them as images of giant mutant grasshoppers attacking the Windy City. Certainly there is no more enduring image in the cinematic career of Bert I. "B.I.G." Gordon, the shlockmeister who directed "The Amazing Colossal Man," "The Food of the Gods," "Empire of the Ants," and even lesser efforts. If you can name another B-movie as noteworthy for superimposed monsters, then you go right ahead and knock yourself out.
The plot is standard B-movie fare. A couple of wacky teenagers are out in the lovers' lane of a small town in central Illinois when the chirping of the insects gets a tad louder and then there is screaming and stuff. The state police discover not only the wrecked and bloody car, but the fact that the nearby town of Ludlow has been completely destroyed and there are no bodies. The next thing we know intrepid girl reporter Audrey Ames (Peggy Castle) is hot on the story about giant mutant grasshoppers courtesy of an Illinois State experimental farm. This is where Dr. Ed Wainwright (Peter Graves) has been experimenting with the use of radiation to grow giant tomatoes the size of basketballs and thereby feeding the world. The good doctor tells the reporter that things have going pretty well except for the fact that his partner Dr. Frank Johnson (Than Wyenn) is now deaf and mute because of accidental exposure to the radiation and that grasshoppers have been eating the tomatoes.
Well, gosh, darn it, Ed feels just terrible about everything when the giant grasshoppers eat his partner and defeat the U.S. army troops sent out to try and keep things under control. Fortunately, General Hanson (Morris Ankrum) lets Ed tag along as his scientific adviser (think of it as the mob of townspeople asking Dr. Frankenstein for advice). When the grasshoppers decide that the agricultural expanses of America's breadbasket are not as appealing as the skyscrapers of Chicago, General Hanson fears the end of the world, or at least the beginning of the end, and orders up an A-bomb to save the day. However, Ed, who knows a little something about the deleterious side effects of exposure to radiation, things nuking Chicago is a bad thing and has to come up with a better plan pretty darn quick.
Ed's solution is too good to give away and despite it being so laughable it is indicative that the group of screenwriters responsible for this film were trying to connect all the dots with something scientific. Once again, the science might be suspect, but you have to admit that the solution is a lot easier and cheaper to film than an exploding atomic bomb. "Beginning of the End" is another example of the fact that size is always important in one of B.I.G.'s movies, as well as extending the giant mutant monster trend from ants ("Them!") to spiders ("Tarantula") to grasshoppers (I know, they are really locust, but grasshoppers sounds funnier). The idea of having a giant swarm of mutant monsters overwhelming a small town, the U.S. army, and whatever is put in their way is compelling. But carrying it off requires the CGE technology that produced "Starship Troopers" and instead we have a movie that Steven Spielberg could have made in 1957 (i.e., when he was only 11 years old and making movies in his backyard with his friends).
Once again, my rating for "Beginning of the End" is based more on the entertainment value of the film rather than its aesthetic quality. How can you not enjoy superimposed grasshoppers or Peter Graves suggesting doubts about the nuclear destruction of a major American city? I would not say this is the best of Gordon's films; indeed, I am loath to actually pick one under those conditions. But I would contend that this is the one of his films that I would give "must see" status to for those who enjoy 1950s black & white science fiction monster movies."
Giant Grashoppers in Chicago!
Joshua Koppel | Chicago, IL United States | 07/13/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I had the chance to watch another classic B-movie on DVD. This one stars Peter "Mission: Impossible" Graves and is called THE BEGINNING OF THE END.The movie opens with a beautiful shot of the mountains of Illinois (I know, but shhh). A young couple parks, there is a shadow, some screams and then a change of scene. Police spot the car all torn up. When they go in to town to check on a lead provided by a wallet found on the scene it turns out that the town has been destroyed.As a cause is searched for some giant locusts are spotted. It seems that they got into some experimental crops where radioactive isotopes were used to generate a fertilizer that allowed fruit to grow to enormous proportions. These giants begin moving North where they wipe out a number of other towns including Joliet. Soon Chicago is in danger.Peter Graves, the scientist who is sort of responsible for the creation of the monsters, sets up a lab in the Wrigley building. It is hope to lure all of the locusts into one spot and then lure them into Lake Michigan where they will drown. If he is unable to succeed within a certain time period, Chicago will be bombed in hopes of wiping out the menace.Like the movie THEM, BEGINNING OF THE END is a superior giant bug movie. The movie gives the impression that someone actually did a little research before writing the screenplay. So if you want to see some great shots of a Chicago that no longer exists this is a good movie. If you also like giant bugs then this is a great movie. Check it out."
Mr. B.I.G. Strikes again!
Brian C. Lawton | Brooklyn, New York United States | 10/02/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I love this stuff! I love it because I know what the movie is about
and what era it represents. America was bombared with horrors of a
world gone mad in the Atomic age and Hollywood simply met the cause
by putting out b-movies by the truck loads to keep up with not only
teenage drive in crowd but that new invention call the television.
Bert I. Gordon was a special effects man turned producer / Director
tried his hand at the Atomic giant monster genre. We're not exactly
talking "Them" here, but what you having is a well round form of B-
movie quality entertainment. Of course the special effects are off
key and the acting is low brow at best but Bert.I took time to hire Music writer Albert Glasser to conduct the brass march theme
in which he has been crowned famous for in his films. A fun disc
in which Image took the time to find a great master print but I
was disappointed to find no original trailer attached but a nice
cover art kind of makes up it. Oh I almost forgot that while it
was nice to see the film minus most of the army footage, why was
the "grasshopper chasing the army truck" scene sliced out?"