Cast & Crew
At a U.S. Navy research base near California's Salton Sea, a four-hundred square mile body of salt water in the middle of an arid desert, top-secret atomic experiments are conducted. A parachute testing unit is also based there and flies daily missions over the sea. Shortly after an earthquake centered below the Salton Sea occurs, two seamen, on a regular mission, wait in a launch to pick up a parachutist when he lands in the water. On this occasion, when they reach the parachute they find no trace of the man. One seaman dives into the water to search for the jumper but does not resurface. The other seaman reacts in horror to the sudden appearance of a giant creature. When the seamen fail to respond to radio messages, naval intelligence officer John "Twill" Twillinger, recently assigned to the base, is alerted and sets out with Lt. Bob "Clem" Clemens to investigate. They find only the body of the one seaman on board and a strange mucus-like substance smeared over the boat. Suddenly, the mangled body of the parachutist floats to the surface. Twill orders an autopsy of both bodies and takes a sample of the substance to Dr. Jess Rogers at the base's laboratory. While waiting for Rogers' evaluation, Twill meets Rogers' secretary, Gail MacKenzie, and her young daughter Sandy. The next day, at the county morgue, the coroner tells Twill and Sheriff Josh Peters that both bodies had been drained of blood and water and that the seaman probably died of a fear-induced stroke. Twill then asks Peters to post a complete ban on swimming in the sea. However, that night, a young couple, unaware of the ban, go swimming and are subsequently reported missing. Twill sends two divers, Tad Johns and George Blake from Rogers' lab, to swim to the bottom of the sea and take radioactivity readings. All appears normal until the divers descend into a cave underneath the sea bottom and find a large, egg-like object that is radioactive. The egg is hauled up to the launch and as Johns and Blake prepare to join it, Blake is captured by a creature and killed. On board the launch, Johns is recounting what happened below when the creature rears up out of the water and threatens them. After Twill drives it away by destroying one of its eyes with a pole, they return to the base where the egg is placed in a controlled temperature water tank. While Rogers consoles Blake's widow, Gail tells Twill that she, too, is a widow, having lost her pilot husband two years earlier. Within a few hours, Twill mounts an expedition to destroy all the creatures and their eggs using underwater explosives. Meanwhile, Rogers explains to military officials his belief that the creatures are descendents of the historically documented Kraken family of water mollusks. Rogers also states that the earthquake probably caused a fissure in the sea's floor through which radioactive water seeped, fertilizing the eggs and causing the creatures to become enormous. Although the cave will be sealed, Rogers fears that some of the creatures could escape into the nearby All-American Canal and threaten the entire world. Although an around-the-clock patrol of the canal system is ordered, two more people are killed. The next day, at a local museum, Twill and Peters attempt to find old maps of underground rivers in the area, but are unsuccessful. After a creature strikes again, killing a gatekeeper at one of the canal's locks, all the locks are closed in an attempt to isolate and trap it. Soon after, Gail's young daughter Sandy enters the lab to see some caged rabbits and, thinking that she is turning up the heat for them, changes the temperature in the water tank. Later, after the museum archivist comes to the command post to deliver an old map of Indian wells, Twill and Rogers survey the mapped area from a helicopter and spot a scum-covered body of water, which they think may contain the creatures. Twill joins Johns on a dive and they locate several dormant creatures, set explosive charges and destroy them. Meanwhile, the egg in the laboratory has hatched, producing a full-size creature, which threatens Gail and Sandy, forcing them to hide in a closet. The creature has almost broken through the closet door when Twill and Rogers return. While Rogers goes for help, Twill diverts the creature's attention by spraying it with the contents of a fire extinguisher, allowing Gail and Sandy to escape. Twill then contains the creature with a hose of hot steam until three riflemen arrive and kill it. Later, Twill, Gail and Sandy walk off together.
Robert B. Crandall
John D. Faure
Edward S. Haworth
Jules V. Levy
Jules V. Levy
B. F. Remington
Charles S. Welborn
The Monster That Challenged the World
Complemented by impressive special effects and fast pacing by director Arnold Laven, The Monster That Challenged the World is a cut above the usual grade-B science fiction thriller of the fifties. One particularly impressive sequence even pre-dates Jaws (1975) in its depiction of a midnight swim where a young girl is attacked and pulled under the water's surface. Her body is later discovered by two frogmen in an equally shocking scene which was also recreated in Steven Spielberg's shark epic. But the overall tone of the film is campy by today's standards and the dialogue is full of howlers like Tim Holt's incredulous comment, "Can you imagine an army of these things descending upon one of our cities?"
The Monster That Challenged the World was shot in sixteen days on a budget of $200,000 and reportedly Holt suffered a broken arm during one of the film's action sequences. According to co-producer Arthur Gardner in Science Fiction Movie Stars and Horror Heroes by Tom Weaver, "The mollusk monster was conceived by us and executed by a very good special effects man named Augie Lohman. Augie went on from that picture to do many, many famous special effects films (Barbarella, 1968). The monster stood around ten feet high, and the exterior was made of fiberglass. All the movements were controlled by Augie and two assistants - it took three men to operate it. It worked with a series of air pressure values. I believe it cost around $15,000 to build, and weighed about 1,500 pounds."
Casey Adams (aka Max Showalter), who plays one of the research scientists/frogmen in the film, recalled a personal crisis during the making of The Monster That Challenged the World in Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Flashbacks by Tom Weaver: "My problem was that I was so terrified of water! They took us out in the ocean and I said, 'I, I just can't go in - .' They said, 'Just go under the water far enough that we can at least see you coming up.' I was terrified to even do that, but I did it. The close-ups were done in a big water tank - they had these huge tanks on a soundstage and put us in there, and the camera shot in at us through a (window). Then, of course, they had regular divers do the deep sea stuff. Anything with water, I've always been terrified of, coming from Kansas, where we have little creeks and that kind of thing. No water that you can go under!"
Producer: Arthur Gardner, Jules Levy
Director: Arnold Laven
Screenplay: David Duncan, Pat Fielder
Cinematography: Lester White
Editing: John Faure
Music: Heinz Roemheld
Art Direction: James Dowell Vance
Cast: Tim Holt (Lt. Cdr. John "Twill" Twillinger), Audrey Dalton (Gail MacKenzie), Hans Conried (Dr. Jess Rogers), Barbara Darrow (Jody Simms), Max Showalter aka Casey Adams (Dr. Tad Johns), Harlan Warde (Lt. Robert "Clem" Clemens), Jody McCrea (Seaman Fred Johnson).
by Jeff Stafford
The Monster That Challenged the World
This film's working titles were The Jagged Edge and The Kraken. The film's pressbook states that the film was shot around El Centro, the All-American Canal and on the Salton Sea in southeastern California. A September 7, 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item adds Catalina Island, CA to the locations. The Variety review gives the screenplay writer's name as Pat Fiedler, but the onscreen credits list Pat Fielder. A October 1, 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item adds Joe Hamilton to the cast, but his appearance in the film has not been confirmed.
Released in United States 1957
Released in United States 1957