Two Words Peter Graves
Beginning of the End (1957): 7 out of 10: Giant grasshoppers threaten Chicago as a lady photographer and a scientist who specializes in giant radioactive vegetables try to convince the army of the threat.
The Good: Good lord this movie is great. Is it as good as Them!? Well, no, of course not. That is a legitimately scary movie. Beginning of the End would have a hard time scaring anyone who has figured out object permanence.
Okay, so this isn’t scary. The action scenes consist mostly of stock footage and grasshoppers crawling over postcards (I am neither exaggerating nor making that up). The key to this film is two words. Peter Graves.
Beginning of the End would fall apart without Mr. Graves at the helm. The other acting is actually solid, but Peter brings it to a new level. He and the script are so serious, while giant grasshoppers wander down Wacker Drive and climb the buildings. It is incredible. This movie is all about seriousness and science. It plays such a ridiculous story so straight that it becomes entertaining in its own right.
Also bonus points for the lady photographer having an honest to goodness car phone in the middle of a black and white fifties film.
The Bad: Did I mention the grasshoppers crawling over actual postcards?
The Ugly: The filmmakers started with over two hundred grasshoppers. Because of rampant cannibalism among the insect actors, it left them with only eight for the big finale.
Despite looking every inch of a man that was about to lead the Wehrmacht into Leningrad, Peter Graves carries this movie. A guilty pleasure and delight of that super serious science-based sci-fi that the fifties did so well.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Beginning of the End (1993) Episode 517
MST3k: Episode 517: Beginning of the End: 9 out of 10: You will see this episode on peoples’ best lists and for good reason. Excellent riffing. (If only the lady photographer had some way to prove what she saw?) and the classic “The Mountains of Illinois.” Combine this with multiple host segments that are both original and funny and you have a good introductory episode to MST3k and an old favorite that holds up over multiple viewings. The movie is decent and silly, which helps as well.