Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book Review: 'When Animals Attack' by Vanessa Morgan


Author/screenwriter Vanessa Morgan lives in Belgium and is best known for her terrifying mysteries - some of which have become movies - but she is also a very sensitive writer about animals, and cats in particular (witness, NEXT TO HER). In this book, however, Vanessa turns to another aspect of animal life and highlights movies that have featured Killer Animals!

As in her introduction, Vanessa poses ‘Why a book on animal attack movies? Animal attack movies have become a genre unto itself, and like any movie genre, it's one worthy of study. One of the most interesting aspects is how it has evolved over the decades in conjunction with trending angst. In the 1920s and 1930s, it was the lingering colonial fear of foreign lands that drove audiences to panic in front of rampaging wild beasts. For example, in the Mascot film serial The King of the Kongo (1929, Richard Thorpe), a giant gorilla guards a temple in the jungle and menaces those who dare to approach it. Many of this era's animal attack adventure movies took place at sea, like The Sea Bat (1930, Wesley Ruggles and Lionel Barrymore), about a giant manta ray attacking sponge fishers near the West Indies, or the silent film The Sea Beast (1926, Millard Webb), based on the novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville. The animal attack movie flourished in the 1950s. In the post-war period, with the nuclear genie released from its bottle, it was the impact of atomic radiation that led us to cower from mutated animals the size of freight trains, reflecting our hubris back to ourselves. “When man entered the atomic age, he opened a door to a new world,” a scientist intoned at the conclusion of the 1954 giant ant film, Them! In The Black Scorpion (1957, Edward Ludwig), enormous scorpions make it to the earth's surface after a volcanic eruption and attack the
countryside. Leeches have been mutated by atomic radiation in Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959, Bernard L. Kowalski). In Beginning of the End (1957, Bert I. Gordon) locusts turn gargantuan after eating radiated giant vegetables. In Earth vs. the Spider (1958, Bert I. Gordon), an abnormally large spider attacks a rural community. And in Tarantula (1959, Jack Arnold), a laboratory experimenting with size enhancers creates a monster tarantula. Humans weren't safe from giantism either. In both The Amazing Colossal Man (1957, Bert I. Gordon) and Attack of the 50th Foot Woman (1958, Nathan Juran) people grew to over 50 feet tall after an atomic accident. So do otherworldly and extinct creatures in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953, Eugène Lourié), Godzilla (1954, Ishirō Honda), The Cyclops (1957, Bert I. Gordon), The Monolith Monsters (1957, John Sherwood), Kronos (1957, Kurt Neumann), and many more.’

What follows is a fascinating overview of killer animal movies complete with images from the advertising posters, the men and women who made these films, interesting biographical data and social commentary about ‘why killer animals’, and more. There are words from many of the people who have created these films and for anyone who enjoys movies or enjoys being terrified by beasties, this is a great read. Grady Harp, December 16
This book is free on Kindle Unlimited.









Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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