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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE GIANT CLAW contains damned near everything that makes bad '50s
sci-fi so much fun: a goofy-looking monster; scenes of destruction with
Styrofoam buildings, model cars, and HO-gauge trains; made-up science
(my Google search of "masic atoms" turned up nothing); scientific
equipment slapped together with whatever junk was handy; a female lead
with a brilliant mind who nonetheless does all the "girl" things like
serving coffee to the men; and the usual dollar-store acting.
The story: a killer bird the size of a battleship (and with teeth) flies around the Earth on a swath of destruction. It is impervious to guns, bombs, and fighter jets, nor does it appear on radar screens. Scientific analysis of a discarded feather concludes that the bird emits a protective energy shield that makes it nearly invincible. Also, since the feather contains no elements known on the Earth, the bird must be an extraterrestrial from some anti-matter galaxy millions of light years away. (Don't you dare question it!) As the lady scientist deduces, the bird came here to build a nest and lay an egg. When the film's heroes shoot up the egg with rifles, it seriously pisses off the bird, which sets about trashing a cheap mock-up of New York City. (Did you know that buildings explode when a monster claws off a chunk of its top floors?)
I watch films like THE GIANT CLAW for the same reason I listen to records by the Shaggs: they're fundamentally awful, but I can't help loving them.
"The Giant Claw" (1957) is 50s sci-fi, which very often means a big
monster, a military presence to defeat it, scientists working
feverishly for a solution to its seeming invulnerability, buildings and
trains being wrecked, cars squashed, and crowds fleeing.
Admittedly, the first view of the giant bird is unimpressive; but it grows on you as a threat as the movie proceeds as its giant mouth heads toward you, head on, as it eyes some moving prey and as it pecks at the UN building.
The movie features undeniable veterans of this genre in Jeff Morrow, Mara Corday, Morris Ankrum and Robert Shayne. They breathe life into a swiftly-moving story that's well edited. The science that's introduced has at least the ring of plausibility. It's based on an anti-matter shield that might just be penetrable by the right sized sub-atomic particles. And it would take a mathematician like Corday and an electrical engineer like Morrow to work out the details.
I'd rate this 5.5 if I could. It's not up to the level of the more elaborate sci-fi productions. A Sam Katzman production is usually rather stingy, but the direction of Fred Sears offsets this. Personally, I like most all 50s sci-fi, so I'm biased.
The Giant Claw is "dated cheese" to the extreme, but highly quotable.
Included here are some fine examples.
"The bird would be defenseless then except for beak, claws and wings, you could hit it with everything but the kitchen sink! / We've got kitchen sinks to spare son."
"Hey man, who's afraid of the big bad bird!? / PUT OUT YOUR LIGHTS - GET OFF THE ROAD! / Don't worry about us we've got salt for it's tail!"
"Sure electronic spit-ball's / Close General, close, only not electronic spit-balls - atomic spit-balls!"
Before there was Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, there was another rogue of reckless daring who flew by the seat of his pants, with his hair on fire, his name was: Mitch MacAfee! A fearless warrior of the sky, inspired inventor and gallant lover. But there's trouble ahead. Let us now enter the world of THE GIANT CLAW! The sky's are dark and turbulent and Mitch MacAfee is taking heavy flack from all angles - from a string of dutiful, but doubtful Majors and Generals, to the quick tongue of a beautiful, but skeptical mathematician...... but most fearful of all, a giant, extraterrestrial, force-field generating, bird that's the "size of a battleship"! With the cards stacked steeply against him and having ONLY 72 minutes to complete his mission, before the end credits are set to roll, the odds seem insurmountable! CAN Mitch MacAfee corral the Generals? CAN Mitch MacAfee defeat the forces of evil? CAN Mitch MacAfee "Ace of the Skies" save the world from THE GIANT CLAW!!!
With all sarcasm and humor aside just what is The Giant Claw all about? It's about a giant bird from outer-space that's come to roost, but it has a hellish appetite for destruction and attacks anything that moves. Meanwhile jack-of-all-trades Mitch MacAfee, with the assistance of a beautiful young mathematician (Mara Corday) and some cantankerous old military officers try to uncover the mystery behind a sudden rash of mysterious airplane crashes. The military doesn't believe main-man Mitch's account at first, but after further quarreling with the military brass face-to-face and over the phone ("joke...false-alarm, look here General what kind of infantile jack-ass do you take me for!") he produces his theory of a spiraling flight path, that the mysterious winged menace is thought to be on course with. In short, the beast must be found and eradicated ASAP! This cheaply produced, black and white, sci-fi film from the late-fifties, clocks in at a mere 72 minutes in length and is for the most part brisk in pace and often looks down right stark and minimal in appearance, with no fancy sets our impressive art direction to speak of, no doubt due to it's minimal budget. Yes, The Giant Claw has all the tell-tale signs of a film that was "grinded out" quickly and cheaply, hence it's known as a "cheapie" and that fact is never more obvious then when you see the special effects that were used in this movie - they are unbelievably dated and positively riotous!
The Giant Claw is a film that's composed of three easily discernible elements that are all represented in equal proportions, the movie is one third drama, one third action and one third unintended comedy. It's the films awesomely comical-looking effects, that make the movie for me and it's because of these effects, that the movie becomes something of an accidental comedy. From the outrageously ridiculous looking puppet used to represent the giant bird, to the cheap looking model planes and train-set's that were used, in which they typically emit smoke and sparks, this has a way of making these "vehicles" look more like fireworks. And when they were deliberating on just how to bring their "terrifying winged-monster" to the screen, the producer's, simply put, chose the most incredibly stupid-looking puppet imaginable. I think it has a lot to due with the large tuft of long stringy hair on the top of the puppets head, though it could be the whiskers (Yes, the It-Creature has whiskers!) or maybe it's the beady eyes, but more than likely it's all the above. Why this thing looks bad even for the primitive standards of the 1950's and I find it impossible not to laugh out loud whenever I see it, none more so than that magical first viewing of several years ago - this ridiculous flying contraption with set you on your ear! It's a thing of pure comedy and it's been said that when this film had it's premiere in 1957, it's audience could not stop laughing at THE BIRD!
Of all that is cheap, dated, and simply bad, about The Giant Claw, there are precious few positives to mention. I can confidently say that the cast did a much better job, then the effects crew did, but that's not hard to do. The screen-writer obviously had a colorful mind, because there's some catchy dialog exchanged in several scenes throughout the movie. As far as the films jargon goes, it's flavored with a pinch of superstition, as well as a heavy dose of scientific psycho-babble and it pretty much seems as if their making up physics as they go, as you'll see near the end of the film; and take notice of just how quickly they design and build their one-of-a-kind ray-gun (where would a vintage sci-fi film be without ray-guns). Then about 57 minutes in there's this great scene, that involves a hot-rod convertible, which is brimming with a pack of rowdy high-schooler's, who are loudly and recklessly motoring down the road at night, despite the mandatory curfew and black-out precautions. This whole sequence packs a great authentic feel and sensibility and serves as a sort of miniature period piece, they even threw in a "Hey, Daddio!" into the scene, great stuff and very true to the time period.
My advise is watch this simply for the laughs, because it offers little else.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Giant Claw is about a UFO report that turns out to be a giant bird,
things turn sour when the bird begins to wreak havoc upon people.
Being the buff on bad sci-fi movies that I am, I decided that I would give this movie ago, and to be honest, I got just what I expected. The Giant Claw is another classic of the bad sci-fi genre, it's a cheesy, clichéd, badly acted, badly written, and badly directed film, but as you might have expected, all of this falls into the so bad it's good category. I had heard how bad this movie was (and especially about how ridiculous the bird looked), and all of it's true, this movie is bad, yet at the same time, there is just something about the movie that makes it enjoyable. I think what did it was the fact that I was laughing and laughing at the movie's shoddy production values. However, I did not find this movie as enjoyable as some of Ed Wood's movies. Fred Sears may have been good at making movies on the level of so bad it's good, but he wasn't a master like Ed Wood was. But all the same, this movie has plenty to recommend, especially if you are into those low budget sci-fi movies of the 1950's and the 1960's.
The special effects are terrible (but is it really surprising?). As far as cheap looking movie monsters go, I would say that the bird in this movie probably takes the cake. The bird is an obvious and extremely unconvincing marionette. It flies around destroying obvious models of buildings, and when the bird itself is finally taken down? It looks like somebody just throwing a tree branch into some water. And the acting, is terrible as well. In fact, I heard a story saying that nobody knew what the bird looked like until the movie's release. Actor Jeff Morrow went to go see the movie at a screening in his hometown, and he recalled that everybody in the theater just burst into laughter whenever the bird appeared on screen, and afraid that anybody might recognize him, Morrow left and went to a bar. However, I was expecting it to be bad, and it was bad, but at the same time, I enjoyed it for the hilarity and the low quality production values.
In short, The Giant Claw is a classic of the bad sci-fi genre, it has got just about everything that you would expect to see from such a movie, bad production values, numerous special effect failures, laughable acting, cheesy dialogue, and much more. And like most people, the is a very high chance that whenever the bird appears on screen, you will end up laughing yourself silly at how cheap and silly it looks. On a more positive note, I will say that will the movie was bad, it wasn't boring, it was at least entertaining. So in short, if you are a fan of this kind of movie, then step right up and enjoy the "dazzling spectacle" that is known as Fred Sears' 1957 movie, The Giant Claw.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched this movie with a friend on a Sunday evening, expecting to get some laughs after what I had heard about this movie. The DVD was only $4, and I like monster movies, so I thought, why not? The laughs were crazy. I don't think I've ever laughed harder at a non comedy movie. The monster is ridiculous, possibly the worst I've ever seen on screen. A giant turkey vulture with a mo-hawk being operated by clearly visible strings. The science is ludicrous, the bird is extra-terrestrial and it has an anti-matter shield? What were they thinking? The acting is okay though, the performers are genuinely trying, but some of the lines are still cheesy and sometimes hysterical. If you like B movies or monster movies, or just want a good laugh with some friends, go out and buy it for cheap.
Fred F. Sears directed this science fiction/horror picture that stars Jeff Morrow as pilot Mitch MacAfee, who one day reports seeing a huge UFO flying overhead. He is not believed, but is later proved right when the "UFO" is identified as...a giant outer-space bird with big bulging eyes and a Mohawk which is composed of anti-matter, and proceeds to decimate the world! Oh Boy... Astonishingly(even staggeringly!) inept film has the most jaw-dropping, god-awful model F/X ever seen in a motion picture. Truly laughable and cringe-inducing at the same time. Actors were reportedly embarrassed by the big turkey when they saw the finished film, and who can blame them. Ludicrous plot and cheap production only makes this all-time worst film candidate even worse.
I'm a huge science fiction fan, constantly on the lookout for any film
with a futuristic theme everything from "Flash Gordon Conquers the
Universe", to "Forbidden Planet", to "Pacific Rim". As a classic film
buff as well, I know that, from film's earliest days, up until George
Lucas redefined the box office potential with the megahit "Star Wars",
science fiction movies were usually relegate to "B" status and assigned
What is really amazing is just how much the special effects wizards (in the time before ILM) were able to accomplish on such skimpy budgets. Sometimes though, the budgets were so skimpy there was no possible way to make a believable monster which brings me to "The Giant Claw". Before I ever saw the movie I had a negative impression because it seemed to top all the "worst movie ever" lists (e.g. The Golden Turkey Awards). However, when I finally got the opportunity to see the movie for myself, I was surprised how much better the script and acting were than what I had expected. I ended up enjoying "The Giant Claw" as much as more highly regarded '50s Sci-Fi such as "Them", "The Giant Mantis", or "It Came From Beneath the Sea".
If "The Giant Claw" had substance as good as those movies though, where it fell flat was style. You can have the best acting, directing, cinematography, and sound; but, as the old saying goes at some point the monster has to jump out and say "boo"; and that's where "The Giant Claw" falls flat. I mean, as one reviewed noted, the best way to describe the monster is looking like a half plucked Christmas turkey that escaped a Safeway freezer - 50 years ago.
One could speculate how much better it would have seemed - even then - if an effects wizard such as Ray Harryhausen could have had the time and budget to make a more believable monster. However, it is what it is and "The Giant Claw" is great fun to watch; sometimes adding a bit of cheese make the best tasting popcorn.
Moderately fun 1950s silliness centered around a pilot (Jeff Morrow)
who spots a battleship- sized UFO sweeping around the skies. Nobody
believes his assertion at first, until other pilots start experiencing
the same phenomenon and then start disappearing -- turns out the
culprit is actually a gigantic buzzard who's eating them (!). The
flying puppet bird-monster itself looks patently ridiculous with
visible strings to maneuver it, and is easily one of the poorest
creatures seen in such pictures. But that can be part of the cheesy
good time, and the lead actors are enjoyable because they take this all
so seriously. Mara Corday is the fetching love interest. Also starring
Robert Shayne and Morris Ankrum.
** out of ****
Better written than "The Night the World Exploded," "Creature With the
Atom Brain," Twelve to the Moon," "The Deadly Mantis," "Beginning of
the End, "The Black Scorpion" and "Fiend Without a Face;" better paced
than any of those, plus "Kronos," "Spacemaster X-7," "Rodan" and "The H
Man"; at least as well directed (by Fred Sears) as "Earth vs. the
Flying Saucers," this movie gets most of its pans due to a ludicrous
monster and some supporting actors better befitting a "Three Stooges"
short. However, even the monster is better than pretty much anything
Japan produced after its 50s "Golden Era". Besides, you pretty much
cannot go wrong with Jeff Morrow and Mara Corday.
I wish the movie had included the occult legend of a "Stargate" at each of the poles. That would certainly explain how a creature could pass from an "anti-matter galaxy" and ours. Nonetheless, this scientific mumbo jumbo is far more convincing than the "Element 112" nonsense of "Night the World Exploded." Thanks to Morrow, Corday, Morris Ankrum and Fred Sears expert direction, ludicrous monster or not, the movie actually generates some fairly good suspense. I give "The Giant Claw" a "5".
A movie such as the howler "The Giant Claw" may not exactly overflow
with quality, but that's precisely what makes it an endearing artifact
from the 1950s science fiction boom. Provided one can turn off their
brain and is ready to laugh a lot, this can be good fun. Well, fun,
Story has an enormous Muppet looking turkey / buzzard from outer space flying to Earth to cause much death and destruction while the usual stock heroes rack their brains trying to come up with the means to annihilate it.
Jeff Morrow ("This Island Earth") is the egghead hero, lovely Mara Corday ("Tarantula") his leading lady, and the supporting cast features such prominent character actors of the period as Morris Ankrum ("Earth vs. the Flying Saucers"), Edgar Barrier (Welles's "Macbeth"), and Robert Shayne ('Adventures of Superman'). The dialogue is often hilariously ridiculous, and it gets to a point where one has to believe that the filmmakers, led by director Fred F. Sears ("The Werewolf"), had their tongues in their cheeks to some degree. The actors deserve a lot of credit for keeping straight faces while mouthing their lines.
Of course, no matter what the intentions were, what truly makes "The Giant Claw" something special are the hysterical, not-so-special effects; the monster ranks as one of the dumbest looking to be ever created for a feature film.
Things get off to a comfortably predictable start as we're obliged to listen to the standard narration / exposition common to so many other '50s genre efforts. From then on the movie is simply a horrendous hoot. Bad movie lovers can also amuse themselves by playing a drinking game whenever phrases like "electronic engineer" and "La Carcagne!" are uttered. All in all, this is 75 minutes of agreeably silly entertainment.
Trivia note: the Karol Noymann character played by Barrier also turns up in "Invisible Invaders", where he's played by John Carradine; both movies were written by Samuel Newman.
Five out of 10.
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