Saturday, December 31, 2011

James Best does KILLER SHREWS sequel!

   By chance, I turn on the radio and I hear talk show host Rusty Humphreys about to interview James Best (who, for good or ill, remains best known these days from his Dukes of Hazzard years). One of the first things Best mentioned is a recently-shot sequel to his 1959 Drive-in classic THE KILLER SHREWS!

   THE KILLER SHREWS tells the story of a small group of people who become stranded on an island during a fierce storm and must remain in the sole house on the island. The scientific team on the island has been experimenting with growth hormones and have created a pack of dog-sized shrews which have escaped. Shrews are deceptively vicious little rat-like creatures that must consume something like three times their body weight each day or starve to death. With every other animal on the island having been eaten, the shrews turn their attention on the humans. Our heroes try desperately to survive and keep the shrews out, as the monsters try desperately to get inside and eat the only flesh left on the island.

   With its moody natural locations, an aura of cold isolation, and growing sense of terror, THE KILLER SHREWS is classic drama. Similar set-ups have fuelled countless films ranging from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD to ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. THE KILLER SHREWS is a nice example of high drama on a limited budget, and was a box-office hit as it toured the country on double bill with THE GIANT GILA MONSTER. Whatever strengths THE KILLER SHREWS brings to the table, though, have been largely ignored over the last 60 years.

   Constant gripe is lobbed at the film for its use of dogs wearing shaggy fur and make-up as the mutated shrews (with a hand puppet shrew head used for close-ups). (Decades later, dogs would again be dressed as rats for THE DEADLY EYES, only that film used squat dachshunds rather than the grayhounds seen here.) The way people harp on that, you'd think they expected to see cows dressed as shrews instead, and felt cheated by the dogs. The choice always seemed logical to me, since the shrews are mutants, and are now forced to hunt in packs.

   James Best plays the hero, Thorn Sherman, a rugged sailor who delivers supplies to the island and uses his wits to survive. Best plays Sherman again for the sequel. Best didn't have much good to say about the 50's film, however, and he even made mention of the film as a spoof of sorts. Possibly, he confused his words, since the sequel is going to be a comedy (or he's trying to cover himself and give his earlier film an excuse not to live up to expectations?). At any rate, a sequel has been filmed, and it does star James Best! Comedy or no, it sounds like fun!

   The title? THE RETURN OF THE KILLER SHREWS. Sadly, they've opted for cartoon shrews instead of more dogs (what gives?). On a promising note, the IMDB lists it as a horror film rather than a comedy! And a friend tells me the trailer plays more to scary than funny, so hopes up. One the other hand, the shrews ARE cartoons and it looks like it'll be yet another 'found video footage' movie. Low expectations. Could still turn out to be fun, though, we'll see.

   I think its about time I dug my tape out and gave THE KILLER SHREWS another viewing....

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