action-adventure / Amok Nature / black & white films / Creature Feature / Have Cheetah,Will View / horror / sci-fi / thriller

Have Cheetah,Will View #258 – “The Killer Shrews” (1959)

It’s 11:20 am
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A couple of weeks ago a fellow movie buff blogger posted he had just watched a horror film featuring John Schneider from the old “Dukes of Hazard” TV show. I naturally said “Oh hell no” in which he replied had I seen it. While I said that I hadn’t,I also commented that I had seen John so his fair share of SyFy creature features and that I did think it was pretty neat see him ham it up.
So when I was out recently hunting for some new movies,I picked up “Return of the Killer Shrews” which starred,yep….John Schneider. But a funny thing happened…included in the special features section was the original “The Killer Shrews” of which not only was “Return” a direct sequel to but it starred James Best for played Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane in “Dukes”.
It seems that “The Killer Shrews” slipped into the Public Domain and so the filmmakers were able to include adding the first one as well as the sequel. Since I had never watched the first one which of itself is a wonder considering all the monster/creature feature I watched growing up,the cheetah and I settled in and took a peek.
I’m posting the whole movie here if you like to see it…..

Despite its pure cheese factor,”Shrews” is a interesting look at how a low budget film worked around its tiny’s budget….several long dialogue scenes,an sudden love triangle and the score which is rather slow in places making several scenes seem longer then they are. Of course having a 68 minute run time doesn’t hurt either!

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The actors are game,Ken Curtis,who also produced the film,would go to join “Gunsmoke” as the beloved “Festus Haggen”,shows a completely different side as Jerry Ferrell, a alcoholic scientist who also abusive to his girlfriend Ann. His willingness to do anything to survive is pretty straight forward.

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James Best as boat captain and leading man Thorne Sherman does a good job as well,while practical,he is a bit short sighted. He never expresses anything close to emotion about the well being of his first mate Rook. He assumes that Rook is safe and sound,forgetting he gave Rook a gun for protection.

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Speaking of Rook,this may be the first horror feature that featured the only African – American getting killed off as the first victim. His demise is pretty insulting quite honestly,one expects Rook to be much smarter as a first mate….while back then I’m sure the writer Jay Simms didn’t give that a single thought,today,it rather stands out.

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The “killer shrews” are mere dogs with some sort of material draped over the bodies to help increase their size as they have been mutated by the various experiments being conducted on this small island. The funny thing is,they are far more effective then the dime store CGI we get in the various creature features we get today. There is something to said about practical effects.
This film also could be one of the first that showed a band of humans being trapped by outside forces and how they handle the crisis,a plot device that is now standard in any zombie film. Then as now,several different personalities are often shown for who they really are when a life or death situation pops up,this may be “Shrews” greatest strength as a story.

“The Killer Shrews” is a fine example of a 50’s era creature feature,cheesy,hokey and a hoot to see some familiar faces when they were just starting out. Being that its a movie in the public domain,you can watch this for free on YouTube.

The cheetah and I both gave “The Killer Shrews” a thumbs/paw straight up.

Do you have a favorite 1950’s creature feature? Feel free to drop a comment and share it with us!!

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