Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mant and Mosquito!

I previously posted about 13 Ghosts, the William Castle haunted house film in which the audience was given "ghost viewer" glasses (a variation of red/blue anaglyph 3-D glasses) to allow them to choose to either hide or reveal the on-screen ghosts.

The use of in-theater gimmicks to allow the audience to interact with what was happening on the screen was director William Castle's trademark, but he didn't have a monopoly on such ballyhoo.

Lawrence Woolsey's 1962 giant-bug film "Mant" was enhanced with gimmicky special effects, including vibrating seats, fireworks, and the in-theater appearance of the half-man/half-ant antagonist (achieved via a costumed actor).

Woolsey was a William Castle imitator who, like Castle, often appeared in the trailers for his films, to speak directly to the audience about his latest screen sensation.

For the Mant trailer, Woolsey speculates about the effects radiation might have on ants, and man.

The resulting mutation would be part man, part ant (hence, "Mant")...ALL TERROR!

Mant opens with stock footage of a nuclear explosion...

...before turning to the office of dentist Dr. Grabow (William Schallert) who is explaining to his patient Bill and Bill's wife, Carole (Cathy Moriarty) , that an ant must have bitten him while he was getting his teeth X-rayed.

How else to explain this most unusual side-effect?

In a situation reminiscent of 1958's The Fly, Bill must deal with the increasingly unbearable effects as first his head, then arms, followed by the rest of his body, slowly mutates into those of an ant.

But at least The Fly stayed the size of a man. As Mant transforms, he continues to grow at an enormous scale, until he's finally large enough to scale a skyscraper ala King Kong.

In a scene that may remind you of Castle's The Tingler, the giant ant runs loose through a movie theater... OUR movie theater... bursting right through the screen!

And then there's Mosquito!, another giant bug film, this one filmed in "Three Dimensional ProjectOVision" and featuring an in-theater gimmick as well.

Detail from the one-sheet for Mosquito!

Mosquito! even opens with the same nuclear bomb stock footage as Mant!

After the sensational opening titles have rolled, we meet Skeeter (Robert Dickman) and lady veterinarian Dr. Latimer (Suzanne Hunt), who are investigating the mysterious deaths of several sheep that have been found drained of blood and with large puncture wounds in the back of their necks.

Dr. Latimer speculates that the military's underground radiation tests may have something to do with it... but what? While driving to the army base to investigate, they hear a loud humming noise above their car...

It's a giant mosquito!

The mosquito lands on top of the car, piercing it with its giant needle before sucking the life out of poor Skeeter.

Dr. Latimer makes it to the base where Lt. Bradley (Barry Jenner) and Corky (Thom Adcox) call in the military for support.

But the mosquito isn't beaten yet...

Here's a rare photograph (circa early 1960s) of the in-theater gimmick that accompanied the exciting climax... a large mosquito prop that swooped over the audience, suspended from the theater ceiling.

Unfortunately neither Mant nor Mosquito! have ever been made available on DVD or VHS, but you can see clips of Mant in Joe Dante's fictionalized account of the Cuban Missile Crisis Matinee (1992) while scenes from Mosquito! can be seen in the slasher-film Popcorn (1991).


Zach Bellissimo said...

Great stuff! I just spent literally an hour and a half looking through every post on this blog and I found so much great stuff! Thanks for posting it all, man.

Beltdrive said...

lol, for just a second I thought mant was real..and i'm thinking but hey wasn't that the fake film in matinee (1993) with John Goodman. I guess they put some bones behind it..heheheh..