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The Killer Shrews (1959) – Episode 45 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

“Look, Ann, this is a mistake any one of us might’ve made. And I’m getting a little sick of being called an irresponsible drunk, now believe me I am.” Who hasn’t accidentally unleashed a pack of killer creatures while irresponsibly drunk? Join this episode’s Grue Crew — Whitney Collazo, Chad Hunt, Joseph Perry, and Jeff Mohr — as they journey to a remote island and are trapped with The Killer Shrews (1959)!

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 45 — The Killer Shrews (1959)

Gordon McLendon, the owner of a chain of drive-in movie theaters and a network of radio stations, decided to cut out the middle man and formed a short-lived movie production company to crank out a pair of typical, regional horror films. He enlisted Ray Kellogg as his director and Jay Simms as his screenwriter. The products of their efforts are The Killer Shrews and The Giant Gila Monster (1959).

The Killer Shrews tells an oft-told tale of pseudoscience gone wrong. Scientists on a remote island experiment on shrews in search of a way to reduce food shortages and the effects of population growth by making people smaller. Instead, they manage to enlarge the tiny creatures to the size of large dogs.  Entering this cozy enclave is the captain of a charter vessel delivering supplies and his crewman, coincidentally arriving as a hurricane hits the island and are trapped. They soon learn that one of the island-dwellers recently released the enlarged shrews while “irresponsibly” drunk. The result is a horde of hungry, teeth-gnashing, rampaging killer shrews on the loose!

The original residents of the island are played by Baruch Lumet (Dr. Craigis), Glendon McLendon (Dr. Baines), Ingrid Goude (Dr. Craigis’ daughter, Ann), Ken Curtis (Ann’s fiance), and Alfredo de Soto (Mario, their assistant).  James Best is Captain Thorne Sherman and Judge Henry Dupree is Rook Griswold, his crewman.

No one will ever mistake The Killer Shrews as a great movie. The effects, the dialogue, and some of the acting rank high on the cheese-factor scale. It is, however, a boatload of fun! Whitney recounts seeing the film as a child with her grandmother and gives us the “You do what you have to do” mantra of the low-budget, independent filmmaker. Though he has come to love it, Chad hated the movie when he saw it as a child. He also wishes Judge Henry Dupree and Alfredo de Soto had lasted longer into the film, though they both did have heroic deaths. Joseph points out that Baruch Lumet was director Sidney Lumet’s father and opines that James Best is giving it his all as the lead protagonist. The colorized version of The Killer Shrews gets a short test run from Jeff and he also reveals the connection between Ken Curtis and legendary director John Ford. Unsurprisingly, your Grue Crew gives a unanimous, cheese-dipped, thumbs-up to The Killer Shrews!

The Decades of Horror: The Classic Era Grue Crew plan to release a new episode every other week. The next episode in our very flexible schedule will be The Haunting (1963). We thought it was time to revisit the original following the recent release of The Haunting of Hill House as a Netflix series.

Please let us know what you think of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era! We want to hear from you! After all, without you, we’re just four nutjobs talking about the films we love. Send us an email or leave us a message, a review, or a comment at GruesomeMagazine.com, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Podcast, or the Horror News Radio Facebook group.

To each of you from each of us, “Thank you so much for listening!

Jeff Mohr
Jeff lives smack dab in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa and is a long-time horror fan. His first remembered encounters with the genre were The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan gorilla chases, and watching the first broadcast of The Twilight Zone episode, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." While he now qualifies as an old fart, he strives to be an Old Boy. Paraphrasing Robert Bloch, he has the heart of a small boy. He keeps it in a jar on his desk. Jeff has written for Horrornews.net and SQ Horror Magazine. He currently writes for Gruesome Magazine and is a co-host of the Decades of Horror podcasts - The Classic Era, 1970s, and 1980s - and the Gruesome Magazine Podcast.