Challenging the World

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After finishing a book, I like to take time off to decompress, which usually involves upping my movie-a-day habit, at least on weekends. My DVR is full of films pulled off of Turner Classic Movies, a channel that continues to amaze me. Just when I think I’ve seen all the Kay Francis movies there are, they come up with ten (or twenty—that woman made a lot of movies!) that I’ve never heard of.

And so, with my revisions for my October release finally done, I was sifting through my movies this weekend and found The Monster That Challenged the World. I’ve been passing by it for months, assuming that I’d seen it before, probably because I’ve seen so many creature horror flicks that they all tend to get mixed up in my head. But this one, about a brave crew of military men battling mutant killer mollusks in the Salton Sea, turned out to be new to me. It has everything there is to love about old fifties creature flicks: a solid everyman leading man, in this case a slightly past-his-prime Tim Holt; a scientist, played by Hans Conreid, who makes a fatal error with mollusk eggs; a romance blossoming amid the mollusk frenzy; and a cast of secondary characters who ham it up nicely during their moments with the creature.

The creature resembles a giant, hard-shelled caterpillar. He seems to move slowly but must also be stealthy because he sneaks up on a lot of people. It’s hard to see how he’s challenging the world—he barely makes it out of the neighborhood of the military base—but I suppose that’s why I love these creature horror movies. People think globally but fight their horrors locally. It’s the only way to survive.

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