With the 50's monster cycle almost over, The Monster that Challenged the World is one of the "lost" entries of the era. While it does fall victim to typical and expected clichés, it also builds some strong character, a rarity for not just the time or the era, but the genre too. It's the best thing going for this low budget piece of filmmaking.
The title may be a little misleading. The monster doesn't really challenge the world so much as it challenges a few local beaches. Still, the body count and especially a few gruesome shots of drained bodies are fairly shocking compared to the tameness of 50's sci-fi.
Lead actor Tim Holt takes charge against the giant "we don't know what it really is but it looks cool on screen" creature. His character doesn't follow the usual stereotypical military director. He's stern, impatient, yet understanding. The loss of life has an effect on him, a surprising move on the part of the writers. Most of these films slap a cigar in the general's mouth and have him spout off lines about nuking the beast. That's thankfully not the case here.
That leads back to the creature. Everything is pulled off practically, which is to be expected. It's well realized, though we're told it's numerous different species, from mollusks to the legendary Kraken. Whatever it is, it's bulbous eyes, sharp pinchers, and tiny, eerie legs are fantastically realized. It's not particularly mobile, and the final confrontation is hurt badly as the creature swings around obviously pulled by an off-screen special effects crew. That's one of the few moments when it stands out negatively.
Direction is excellent for the most part. The only missed opportunity is the full reveal of the creature. After a solid 20-minutes of build up and multiple deaths, just inserting footage of the killer on-screen standing alone in the water is disappointing. That's intercut with obvious footage of the lead actors inside a pool during close-ups.
For B-movie fans however, that's not a problem. The tweaks to the formula are welcome; the monster is threat, and the characters are unusually well rounded. It makes for a quick 90-minute ride, and it's a fun one. (**** out of *****)
Interestingly, MGM inserted the "image has been cropped to fit this screen" notice before the film begins. It's presented in standard full frame (1.33:1). The original ratio is the oddball 1.37:1, so missed information is negligible. There's also a chance no widescreen print exists anymore. Most studios wouldn't have cared enough to add that.
Regardless of the small cropping, this is a clean transfer from the studio's "Midnite Movie" line. Damage is evident throughout (though not distracting), while the black and white footage rarely allows compression to show. The contrast seems set low and the entire movie seems to take place in a murky gray scale. Black levels are flawless, making it easy to identify the slime from the exoskeleton of the giant bug. (***)
It's hard to fault this basic mono track. The stock soundtrack from Heinz Roemheld (who rarely, if ever, received credit for his work) would be used in other films like the Americanized version of King Kong vs. Godzilla. It sounds fine coming from the center channel, while not a single line of dialogue is lost. This remaster doesn't even have the typical static or popping in the audio. (****)
There are no extras other than some basic trivia on the back of the box. That however does let us know someone had the idea to call this movie The Jagged Edge. That title makes zero sense. (*)
Writer David Duncan would pen this film, and his name should be familiar to fans. He also gave us the typical but entertaining Black Scorpion and the totally botched The Thing that Wouldn't Die. He also had a hand in the slightly changed American version of Rodan.