Monster That Challenged the World, The (1957)

The Monster That Challenged the World (1957)

Crawling up from the depths to terrify and torture

Following an earthquake in the Salton Sea area of California, a strange number of people are turning up dead in and around a US naval base. It turns out that the earthquake ruptured a fissure in the deep depths of the sea, releasing a swathe of huge blood-sucking molluscs.


Let me first clear up that at no point do any of the monsters challenge the world. There’s a brief mention that if uncontrolled, they could reproduce and pose a threat to mankind, but the actual monsters are too content with terrorizing the Salton Sea area of California along a few canals and the military base as opposed to having any major plans for world domination. That nit-pick aside, The Monster That Challenged the World is a hugely underrated 50s sci-fi atomic monster flick which deserves a bit more praise than it gets.

The Monster That Challenged the World does run very much like your run-of-the-mill 50s sci-fi flick and there’s little change of course during the film’s running time. You know what you’re going to get: square-jawed military heroes, old school damsels-in-distress and self-assured boffins joining forces to take on mutated monsters in old school black and white glory. Variety of monster aside, there’s not a huge difference between this and the likes of Them!The Black Scorpion, The Deadly Mantis et al. The plot runs almost the same, the characters may as well have walked off one film into the next without so much as a hiccup in the script and the end results are near identical – avoid atomic testing (though it has to be said the molluscs here are never explicitly referred to being ‘mutated’ by radiation but the link is pretty easy to make).

The Monster That Challenged the World pushes the boat out for its time with some grisly moments involving two dead bodies being found with all of their blood and bodily fluid sucked dry. The make-up effects look a bit laughable nowadays but I’m sure that back in the 50s, they’d have caused a bit of disgust. There’s also some inspiration for Jaws here with the beaches being closed at the first sniff of something dodgy and the scene in which a female bather is pulled underwater will instantly bring back memories of the opening scene from Spielberg’s classic.

Considering we’re dealing with here basically equates to giant snails, the film does a terrific job of turning them into a nasty threat. The monsters are a bit feeble in scale (when compared to the rest of the humungous 50s sci-fi creations which tower over buildings and famous monuments) but they’re a creepy sight, all done with the use of a $15,000 hydraulic prop monster. It may move a bit mechanically and slow but at least we get a couple of sequences in which we see the damage it can do, grabbing hold of its victims by their heads and necks in its pincers. You do get to see a lot of them as well – practically from the first attack, though I’m not sure whether this was a good idea as a bit of a slow-reveal approach would have given the film some added intrigue. However there are some great attack scenes and time is spent in building the tension up a little bit first – the one along the canal is ‘Spielbergian’ with some false tension first and then a brilliant ‘out of nowhere’ moment which always makes me jump. I’d hasten to say it’s one of the best scares I’ve ever had.


The Monster That Challenged the World will play out very familiarly to anyone with a fondness for 50s atomic monster movies but there’s more than enough here to warrant it being given a tad more acclaim in the genre than it gets. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover and the sound of killer snails may not be too appealing but trust me, if these critters were in your garden munching your plants, you’d be best advised to call in the army!





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