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By Turner, George | American Cinematographer, November 1997 | Go to article overview

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Turner, George, American Cinematographer


Giant bugs first arrived in Hollywood in 1954, and remained for several years thereafter. This invasion began with Them!, a Warner Bros, picture in which elephant-sized ants, supposedly created by atomic bomb tests in the desert, descended upon Los Angeles as charmingly as a Hell's Angels convention. This surprisingly good flick - the studio's largest-grossing picture of the year - was followed by numerous imitations from other producers, who pressed into service almost every genus of insect and backyard pest (with the possible exception of the tumblebug).

Some independent companies leapt aboard the bug wagon, with mostly appalling results; among the horrors that surfaced were giant spiders in World Without End, monstrous grasshoppers in The Beginning of the End, huge wasps in The Monster from Green HeIi, and another not so itsy-bitsy arachnid in the creatively titled The Spider. Somewhat better was The Black Scorpion, in which high-grade animation effects by Willis O'Brien and Pete Peterson lost a valiant battle against tight-fisted production values. Not too dissimilar were movies about lizards, rodents, mollusks, and other creatures that attained humongous onscreen proportions during the era of post-bomb paranoia.

Most of the best bugs emerged from producer William Alland's unit at Universal-International, where the scripts weren't much better but good production values and superior special effects made a lot of difference. …

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