500,000 to One (film #21 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

This film about insects starts with a dramatic scene of the end of the world, with the last surviving form of animal life being a bug. Cheery thought, isn’t it? The rest of the film gives us way more information than we want to know about insects, with lots of visuals of various kinds of bugs, some creepy and some beautiful. It tells us that human beings have altered the balance of nature in ways that affect insect populations, mostly creating overpopulation of pests. The solution to this is to wage all-out war on the insects we don’t like––after all, we can’t be expected to alter our routines any, can we? Lots of spraying of everything with chemicals is shown, but to the film’s credit, other types of insect control are also mentioned, such as traps, quarantine, biological warfare, importing predators, and the good old-fashioned flyswatter. Priceless moments include the animated apocalyptic opening scene, a 50s housewife rescuing her freshly-frosted cake from an overeager kid armed with a flyswatter, a big ugly 50s car pulling a trailer that sprays everything in sight with insecticide, a scary scene of an exterminator in a gas mask fumigating a house with cyanide (says so on the warning signs), and a scientist injecting larvae one at a time with a deadly insect disease. Still, at least lip-service is paid to the idea that the cure of the insect problem shouldn’t create new problems in the future, making this a slightly more enlightened film than most 50s films on this subject. And junior entomologists will enjoy all the footage of bugs.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.

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