This is how the world ends - not with a bang, but with a grasshopper. Yes, the finest military force in the world finds itself completely helpless in the face of gigantic locusts. Even Peter Graves seems at a loss as to what to do - which is unfortunate in that the whole thing is his (well, his characters') fault. He's the one who was growing all the radioactive super-sized vegetables - which were inedible by humans, by the way. Apparently, they were quite appetizing to locusts, though - and now there's a bazillion of the little buggers grown to immense size and destroying everything in their path. Emerging out of the, ahem, world-famous Illinois mountains, they make a, ahem, bee-line for Chicago - apparently, the locusts are Cubs fans who just can't take bear the thought of another season without a pennant. It isn't looking good, folks. Perhaps the very fate of humanity rests in Peter Graves' hands, and his ultimate solution involves giving a locust a lie-detector test. Run for your lives!
Of course, things don't start out with a lot of excitement. This is a Bert I. Gordon movie, after all. The very first shot after the opening credits shows us a road with a vehicle approaching in the distance - way back in the distance, so far back you sit there and sit there wondering if anything is actually going to happen before you even spot the car. Then, Gordon throws us right into a big mystery; it seems the town of Ludlow, Illinois, has been destroyed, its population of 150 vanished into thin air. The National Guard's there, but they aren't talking, not even to famous journalist Audrey Ames (Peggy Castle). As the story begins to emerge, though, she joins up with Dr. Wainwright (Graves), a local entomologist, and quickly discovers two things: one, the mysterious force that destroyed Ludlow was a horde of gigantic locusts and two, it's all Wainwright's fault. Surprisingly, the military folks don't immediately embrace this story of a plague of gigantic locusts, but they soon learn just what they are up against - and fail miserably when they try to take the critters out. The big showdown takes place in Chicago, and it is here that Bert I. Gordon goes a little crazy showing grasshoppers crawling all over postcards (I mean, buildings).
This low-budget big bug movie probably went over pretty well in the late 1950s, but today it just looks silly. Actually, watching grown, well-armed men run away from grasshoppers would look funny no matter how technically proficient the special effects are. No one is going to make the mistake of thinking these locusts are really gigantic, especially since they vary widely in size depending on the perspective of each scene. A couple of times, the locusts look as if they are really there with the characters, but those good shots are rarities indeed. Yes, the 50s was all about superimposing harmless little backyard critters onto low-budget films and passing them off as unstoppable monsters threatening the very survival of humanity, and no one did it quite like Bert I. Gordon. With a musical score by Albert Glasser, The Beginning of the End is a double whammy of "radioactive super-sized creatures are attacking" fun.