The Killer Shrews

04/28/2017 15:53

Film: The Killer Shrews

Year: 1959

Director: Ray Kellogg

Writer: Jay Simms

Starring: James Best, Ingrid Goude and Ken Curtis



This film begins with two people on a boat. The first one is the captain, played by James Best. Along with him is Judge Henry Dupree. They are going out to an island to bring their supplies. There is a hurricane coming though.

They arrive on the island and Best knows that he is going to have to stay on it for night. He is not even going to unload the supplies, because he knows the storm will hit them first. He walks inland with Dupree and they come upon three people. There is the doctor who is in charge, played by Baruch Lumet. His daughter is Ingrid Goude and his assistant Ken Curtis. Everyone seems on edge. Goude wants to leave the island, but Best informs them that they he won’t be going anywhere until the following day. Best goes back to the house they are using as a lab while Dupree returns to the boat.

We then meet another doctor, played by Gordon McLendon, as well as the man that helps out, played by Alfredo DeSoto. It appears that they are doing research on a small rodent called a shrew. They are genetically altering them.

Night begins to come and Best tells them that he is going to return to his boat. Goude talks him out of it, inviting him to dinner. He finds this odd and Curtis is upset. It appears that they were engaged and he thinks Best is trying to take her from him.

Goude and Best talk and we learn that some of the altered shrews escaped due to Curtis not securing their cage. This is why Goude is terrified. Lumet earlier stated that shrews look for food at night, they eat three times their body weight to be nourished and they will resort to cannibalism if they need to. These rodents will also dig.

Lumet reveals that the some of the testing they have done have made the escaped creatures bigger. I believe the film claims there is 2-3 hundred running loose on the island. They also tell Best that they are the size of a wolf due to the genetic modifications.

Dupree comes back on the island and he is chased up a tree. The tree breaks and he is eaten by the creatures.

Curtis drinks heavily to deal with this situation, but Best takes over. He states they are going to sleep until morning, hoping the creatures will go back to their lair. They are going to take shifts of one and half hours to ensure no one falls asleep.

When DeSoto watch ends, he goes to wake up Curtis, but he is still drunk. He also is told to do Curtis’ watch so he can sober up and they won’t bother with Best. DeSoto finds that a window is open and closes it. He wakes up Best and tells him that a shrew got into the basement. They go down there and kill it. DeSoto does get bit on the leg by it though. He dies almost instantly.

This is when Lumet reveals that he created a powerful poison, hoping that it would take care of the problem. It appears that they ate it and that the poison was absorbed by the shrews. Now even a scratch from them is fatal.

Can they survive until morning? Will they get enough food to leave them alone during first light? Can they get off this island?

I will lead off stating that this film doesn’t have a bad concept. We see films like this come out a lot during this time period. This was a scary thing during this era, because that is when science really started to take off and it terrified people that scientists would tamper with nature like in this film. It does add an element of fear that on scratch that has the poison in it would be fatal. The acting isn’t bad and premise of surviving until morning is something we see a lot of.

This film does come with quite a bit of flaws though. The first is that the shrews clearly are dogs wearing costumes. I will give them credit to use what they had, but they could have done a little bit better. I’m not entirely sure how the hurricane made them stronger, but I heard Lumet say something about it. I also don’t understand how the poison they ingested would turn around and be incorporated into them. This seems like something to just add another horror element to the film. Lumet also states that shrews do not come out at night, yet they are fleeing from them in the morning and early afternoon. They try to contend that they didn’t get enough to eat, yet they ate a barn full of animals, that should have been more than enough for the 4 or 5 we see. They also claim there was supposed to hundreds, yet we only see a few of them and it would see with the size they are, that they would struggle to leave the compound. This isn’t the case though.

Now with that said, I would only recommend this film if you like old horror films. There isn’t much action. The story is something that is common as well as the concepts. This film is really low budget and we can clearly see that. It does have a low running time, but it is in black and white, so keep that in mind. This is a common type of film for the era, but there are much better choices out there.


My Rating: 4 out of 10