The Giant Claw 1957 US
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Sony DVD Region 1
Warning! Giant sized spoilers... if you’re reallly going to worry about stuff like that in a movie like this!
The Sam Katzman produced The Giant Claw is exactly the kind of movie I like to put on to relax to when I don’t want to have to overcomplicate my life with any unnecessary thinking or, as in the case when I watched this one... I’m too ill to concentrate too much on the intricacies of the plot.
There are B-movies and there are B-movies but this one definitely fits snugly into the blissful category of a B-movie’s B-movie!
The film stars Jeff Morrow (you may remember him from such seriously cool B-movie classics like This Island Earth and The Creature Walks Among Us) as electronics engineer Mitchell “Mitch” MacAfee who spots an unidentified flying object while out in his plane. He’s just the kind of hard, granite-jawed statue of a man to quickly thaw the frozen charms of hardcore mathematician Sally Caldwell played frigidly, then playfully, by Mara Corday (from Tarantula). As their romance develops, so too does their investigation into the deaths and disaster’s caused by Mitch’s UFO, which turns out to be a big, silly looking, Pelham puppet style giant bird... and believe me, the entertaining footage of this squawking, feathered harbinger of death is more than worth the price of admission alone. In fact, all the terrible model shots used in this movie are so bad they’re great.
The script is quite bad too. There is a genuine, quick-fire chemistry between most of the leads in this one and they seem to make the most stupidest of B-movie dialogue work in their favour. Real pros these... I would love to see this movie with a modern day audience and see what reactions you get to big, camply quotable lines of dialogue like “I want you two to hold yourselves in readiness...” today!
And then there’s some of those great bits of B-movie fluff moments you just know aren’t going to hold up under anything like close scrutiny... but these are the films that the term “suspension of disbelief” were made to extoll. Like the wonderful moment where Jeff Morrow draws some seemingly randomly placed dots on a map and then says there’s a flight “pattern” to this giant bird... and then shows this by joining up the dots with an Archimedean spiral. Now I’m no maths expert like the character Mara Corday plays in this mini monster masterpiece but I’m pretty sure that any position of a few randomly placed dots could be made to fit an Archimedian spiral of some size or proportion!
You might also find yourself having to bite your tongue a little (and then hold in your sides) when the professor/scientific adviser character explains that the bird is of extraterrestrisal origin and it shields itself with an anti-matter forcefield! Great stuff for morbid, late 50s scientific obsession.
Right from the start the film shows that it’s just not in the same league as some of those more eminently watchable B-movies we all know and love today. It opens with some voice over narrative on a shot of the earth “from space”... just like the opening of Creature From The Black Lagoon. Now we all know that it never occurred to people in those days of pre-space age shots of planets to figure that you would see all the cloud cover on the earth... fair enough... but this world looks like a badly crafted rubber ball - which is all I can assume it is. A film then, that wears the cheapness (and in the case of the monster... cuteness) of its special effects on its cheesy 1950s sci-fi sleeve.
The style of the narrative continues into great chunks of the movie too, Dragnet-style, and one wonders if this was added over certain sequences, where the dialogue is quite heavy (but unheard on the soundtrack), in order to cover up some of the more dubiously written and performed parts of the script... if such a thing is posible. It’s a crazy authoritative style of narration which tries to be both dead accurate with the time (to the nearest minute... 11.37am, that kind of thing) while being quite hazy with the bigger picture... “It was on the eleventh of the month...”. What month? This is one crazy, mixed up script!
At the movies end, it’s up to our science heroes to create a big electronic thingamujig (you know it’s highly futuristic because it has valves) which will knock out the antagonistic avian’s anti-matter force field. Once this is achieved, the airforce’s big guns bring it down and it splash-crashes into the sea... the last shot of the movie is the giant claw sinking slowly beneath the surface... waving goodbye to a thoroughly entertained audience.
I don’t know about you but I really like B-movies and this one is going to get frequent flyer miles in my DVD playlist from now on. A bird-brained, avian abomination like no other you’ve seen before!