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The Killer Shrews [monster movie]

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The Killer Shrews (1959) starring James Best, Ken Curtis
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The Killer Shrews (1959) starring James Best, Ken Curtis

The Killer Shrews is a B-movie about a small group of people, trapped on an island with mutated shrews. Very, very, hungry shrews, that are on the verge of starvation. Very large, hungry shrews …


The Killer Shrews is a surprisingly enjoyable B-movie. It deals with a small group of people, trapped on an island, with several hundred large, hungry shrews. Shrews that eat three times their body weight daily. Despite its’ small budget, the acting, cinematography, etc. are all good.

Killer shrew in all it's glory … or lack thereof

The glaring thing that isn’t good are the shrews themselves. It’s glaringly obvious that these “monsters” are puppets, or dogs in costumes. Which, frankly, is a pity. It turns an otherwise enjoyable horror/monster movie into something that the MSTK crew mocked mercilessly.

Cast of characters

  • James Best (Three on a Couch) as Captain Thorne Sherman. The captain of the small boat that delivers supplies to the island. He quickly becomes the protagonist. On arrival, Dr. Cragis wants him to unload the supplies and leave immediately, taking his daughter Ann with him. Unfortunately, a hurricane’s approaching, so he’ll have to stay overnight.
  • Ingrid Goude as Ann Cragis. Dr. Cragis’ lovely daughter, and zoologist. She quickly falls for Thorne. She was formerly engaged to Jerry. Why is a mystery. She keeps Thorne inside at gun point … to save his life. And then explains about the killer shrews.
  • Ken Curtis (Gunsmoke, The Searchers, Walt Disney’s Robin Hood) as Jerry Farrell. Ann’s former fiancee – a drunk and a coward. He nearly runs over Ann trying to get into the compound away from the shrews. His drunken negligence allowed the genetically modified shrews to escape in the first place. And, he jealously attempts to kill Thorne multiple times. His acting is somewhat wooden as well.
  • Gordon McLendon as Dr. Radford Baines. Dr. Cragis’ research assistant. A very focused man, as well as a bit of a nerd. After being bitten by the poisonous killer shrew, he manages to type up the symptoms of the poison before dying. Talk about a dedicated researcher!
  • Baruch Lumet as Dr. Marlowe Cragis. The scientist behind the project, and Ann’s father. He’s experimenting on the shrews to intentionally increase their size. Why? So he can reverse the process, and shrink human beings to half their current size. Why? To prevent global starvation due to the population explosion. All he’s succeeded in is creating gigantic killer shrews with a voracious appetite.

Secondary characters

  • “Judge” Henry Dupree as Rook Griswold. Thorne’s first mate and best friend. The first victim of the killer shrews.
  • Alfred DeSoto as Mario. Dr. Cragis’ servant. A nice, likeable fellow. He gets killed when a killer shrew breaks in through a basement window. This is how the group finds out that the shrews’ bites are now poisonous.

Editorial review of The Killer Shrews courtesy of

James Best as Captain Thorne Sherman in The Killer Shrews

Sailing to a remote and deserted island, Captain Thorne Sherman (James Best) delivers supplies to scientist Dr. Craigis (Baruch Lumet), who is anxious to have his daughter, Ann (Ingrid Goude), join the skipper on his return voyage. And for good reason: Dr. Craigis and his assistants have accidentally wreaked biological havoc by spawning mutant shrews that are starving for food – especially humans! Sherman must fight for survival while fending off these savage creatures. Surrounded by the bloodthirsty beasts, he concocts a desperate escape plan that will keep viewers’ hearts pumping with excitement. Shot in Texas on an extremely low budget, The Killer Shrews is well acted and tensely written and has justifiably become a minor classic of its genre.

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