The Monster that Challenged the World

Accuracy in movie titles has never been a big concern of Hollywood, especially when it comes to B-movies.  In the case of today’s film, an accurate title could’ve been “The Giant Snail that Attacked a Naval Base,” but the filmmakers wisely went with The Monster that Challenged the World instead.

Yep folks, you read that right, we’re dealing with monster molluscks…snails.  Apparently, eggs for these prehistoric creatures have been sitting buried underneath California’s Salton Sea for eons.  But and earthquake causes the eggs to be unearthed, unleashing the creatures and causing all sorts of trouble for the commander of a nearby naval base.  Supposedly the premise is based on a real experiment in which prehistoric brine shrimp eggs were reconstituted and hatched.

Tim Holt plays Commander Twillinger, who spends more time in the movie making goo-goo eyes at a lab assistant played by Audrey Dalton than he does battling giant snails.  But he’s the perfect actor for a monster movie like this because he takes it all so seriously.  But the acting prize for this film has to go to the one and only Hans Conried, playing the scientist Dr. Rogers.  Even if you don’t know Conried’s face, something in the back of your mind will say, “I know this guy.”  Then you’ll realize it’s his voice you recognize, as he was probably most famous as the voice of Captain Hook in Disney’s Peter Pan.  Conried was born to play a monster-battling scientist.  His features are handsome but, at the same time, a little crazy looking with his hooked nose and huge forehead.  Plus, that slight crack in his voice, that he so perfectly exploited as Captain Hook, adds just a hint of extra madness to this character.

Though it sounds funny to say that this movie is about giant snails, the monster mollusks themselves are actually pretty scary looking.  They growl and shriek and leave slimy goo all over everything…and just when you think you’ve gotten rid of them all, another one pops up.  Compared to some B-movie monster, these actually rank pretty high.

The movie offers some good laughs as well, and I don’t just mean the standard B-movie sort that come from watching a giant rubber monster attack someone.  Milton Parsons practically steals the show as sleepy old museum curator.  Commander Twillinger pays him a visit to see if he might have any maps in his records room that would help in the search for the creatures.  But Parsons says how they don’t have a “room” because the ordinance that would’ve given them one was voted down.  From then on out, he’s always mentioning the voted down ordinance, even when he shows up in the film later on.  It’s some funny scripting that’s well above the pay grade for a B monster flick like this.

The Monster that Challenged the World is a great example of a 50’s monster movie, and a great one to use to introduce the kids to this sort of genre.  A little scary…a littIe silly…but overall fun.  I mean after all, it’s giant snails folks!

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