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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Giant Claw is one of the most critically maligned sci-fi movies of the 1950s. Granted, it is no classic, but all the same this reviewer considers it a perfectly acceptable example of b-movie fun. The biggest target for critical arrows is the movie's monster--a giant bird from an anti-matter galaxy that turns the Earth into its aerie and hunting ground. It's hard to defend the appearance of the puppet that is our monster, as it certainly is rather silly and even by the standards of 50s effects, not very scary. I can't help but wonder how critical and popular reaction might have differed when the predator first appeared on-screen if it had been, say, a dragon, or even just a better-realized bird. Screenwriters Samuel Newman and Paul Gangelin actually put together a competent script that demonstrates some creative thought. The rationale for the monster's appearance is actually fairly reasonable, and it's neat that the reason for the monster's invulnerability to our most powerful weapons is due to an anti-matter force field as opposed to an impossible degree of physical toughness. Moreover, the relationship between our leads--played by stalwart Jeff Morrow and the vivacious Mara Corday--is developed with greater realism than the usual stock romance typical of many genre films. Some viewers criticize what they perceive to be an abrupt shift in the relationship of the main characters as they go from being near-adversaries to lovers, but if you pay attention it's obvious the verbal sparring between the two early on is of the flirtatious variety, and quite expertly written and acted as well. The cast is good overall, and Morrow and Corday are both quite likable as our heroes. Any perceived flaws in the visual effects are surely compensated for by the striking presence of Ms. Corday, whose physical charms are better than any technical effects could ever hope to be. The action scenes are handled well enough by director Fred Sears, and are comparable to those seen in many other period films. Overall, The Giant Claw is a competently made and genuinely entertaining film. The lackluster monster effects are admittedly poor, but once you get past that the rest of the film has a lot going for it. I think that fans of 50s sci-fi who can overlook the film's reputation may find that despite it all, The Giant Claw isn't all bad.
"The Giant Claw." Oh, boy. This movie is something else. Seriously, any
movie that is about an extra-terrestrial vulture coming down to earth
and being moronically mistaken for a flying battleship by every
stick-figure character who spots its distinctively un-vessel form
belongs in a category all its own. It's not, as far as I can tell, a
deliberate comedy. However, it bounces up from atrociousness to
mediocrity simply because it's so hilarious. So despite the fact that
it is fundamentally awful, "The Giant Claw" comes up to being silly and
a slight bore because of its unrestrained fatuity.
Contained in "The Giant Claw" are a mincemeat of special effects that are brilliant and special effects that are jaw-dropping in their crowning fakery. Of course, that is because the better visuals are recycled stock footage done by Ray Harryhausen in the 1956 film "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers." The raw effects by Ralph Hammeras are, in a word, terrible. There's no denying that. As legend has it, the hokey marionette used to portray the battleship-sized alien vulture were so dreadful that it sent the preview audience of 1957 into a thunderous uproar and sent its star, Jeff Morrow, crawling out of the theater in fear of being recognized. Maybe an alien bird could be, if thought-out properly, scary or at least intimidating.
But hey, let's not bash the bird or its makers too hard. After all, it is its fakery and their hack-job work that propel this movie from being a complete disaster into just a mild one. Every time I saw that bird appear on the screen, I spilled my guts.
Also hysterical is the movie's distinct lack of common sense, even under the loose confines of its genre. For example, again, the whole thing of a giant vulture being mistaken for a flying battleship. I counted a total of twelve utterances of the word "battleship" throughout the movie. Also, there is a key moment where the hero and heroine take matters into their own hands and use rifles to target something vital to the "plot." An ordinary-sized rifle whose bullets must increase in size as long as they are fired, for they strike with the force of a tank shell.
Still, as funny as it is, "The Giant Claw" is not a movie to wholeheartedly recommend, even for a few good laughs. First of all, for obvious reasons. It's just a bad, bad movie. And secondly, it does, in the end, produce a series of yawns. The bird just is not on-screen enough to tickle our diaphragms. There's really just too much yappity-yapping going on with the (well-acted, but dull) stick figure characters and a lot of dull subplots (such as, of course, the obligatory local monster legend) that go into and out of nowhere. The giant bird really is, in a paradoxical kind of way, the saving grace of the show. Its buggy eyes, crooked mouth, wobbly head and accordion-like neck are destined to induce laughs for generations to come. And no, a movie like this will not be forgotten. How could it be?
(Some Spoilers) Hilariously funny if you don't take it seriously, and
how could you, 1950's monster from outer space flick involving this
giant turkey the size of a battleship causing havoc all over the place.
It all starts when hot shot radar calibrator and part time nuclear physics engineer Mitchell "Mitch" MacAfee, Jeff Morrow, is almost side swiped by a giant UFO while on a training mission over Alaska. At first it's thought that Mitch had one too many at the local ginmill before he took off but when this UFO ends up destroying a number of planes and killing their crews that it becomes apparent that Mitch was really on to something. Something so big and destructive that if not stopped in its track it would end up destroying the entire planet earth! That's if its not destroyed first!
We finally get to see the big bird when it makes itself know to the world at large by flying over a number of majors cities and, in the case of New York, destroying their skylines. The big bird is so clumsy that in one scene it seems to have trouble taking off and crashes into a high rise office building almost killing itself along with hundreds of people inside! As we, and the US military, soon find out the bird is protected by this invisible anti-matter force field that keeps rockets and missiles, by being unable to penetrate it, from killing it.
Working around the clock Mitch and his fellow nuclear physics scientist Dr. Kavol Noymann, Edger Barrier, come up with this contraption, a giant anti anti-matter pea-shooter, that can bring the big bird down but the time to get it ready is quickly running out. That's before the bird gives the bird to the entire human race by laying eggs all over the earth that will hatch an army of killer birds to go into action and finish the job that it started!
Worth watching for laughs only with Mitch as well as his love interest in the film mathematician Sally Caldwell, Mara Corday, doing their best to look scared and terrified and at the same time trying to keep from cracking up in how ridicules the movie that their staring in is. In fact it was reported that Jeff Morrow, who played Mitch MacAfvee, himself in him watching "The Giant Claw" at the premier of the film at his hometown theater that he got so embarrassed by seeing the big ridicules looking bird, which he hasn't seen while making the movie, that he tried to sneak out before anyone in the audience who were laughing themselves silly could recognize him!
The film is padded with over a dozen scenes, some shown more then once, from other 1950's sci-fi movie like "Earth vs the Flying Saucers" and "Beast from 20,000 Phantoms" that are actually far better then the movie itself. There's also in the film from the TV's Superman series Inspector Henderson Robert Shayne as Air Force General Van Buskirk who after himself seeing the film wished, like Jeff Morrow, he never had anything to do with it. And last but not least there's the venerable Morris Ankrum known to his legions of fans and admirers as the take charge and take no BS "Eternal Colonel" in him being the guy who always gets things done playing in this case three star US Air Force General, and Gen Van Buskirk's boss, Edward Lansing.
One of the finest and campiest science fiction films of the Fifties was
The Giant Claw. For once a monster's existence is not based on atomic
I have a soft spot for The Giant Claw, the claw in fact belonged to a space buzzard. Now how this big bird (and he looked something like Big Bird from Sesame Street) flew through airless space to nest here on earth is not explained, but it has arrived and the bird's here to lay some eggs. It picks a spot up in the Canadian northwest to do so.
But flying at supersonic speeds the whole planet is a feeding ground for it. And mankind can't get at it because it has an invisible anti-matter shield. Anything we shoot at it just bounces off and doesn't touch it. Of course the bird drops it shield long enough to ingest its meal which could be as much as a whole airplane in one gulp. The space buzzard's got the appetite of a buzzard and the feedings habits of same.
It's up to scientists Jeff Morrow and Mara Corday to bring the big guy down and of course they do since we're all still here. But it's how they do it that's the story.
This particular monster is one of the funniest ever put on the big screen. Anyone over the age of seven will laugh themselves silly looking at Big Bird. But that's the film's charm.
One of the best overgrown monsters to grace the drive-in screen; this
one's a must for all connoisseurs of the '50's brand sci-fi fun.
The story line is actually pretty well thought out: a mysterious UFO, moving at supersonic speeds is seen only as a blur by its potential victims, usually airplane pilots. Jeff Morrow, veteran of several movies of this ilk, is a scientist lucky enough to survive an attack, and embarks on a quest to first prove the existence of the thing to skeptics, and then find a way to blast it out of the sky.
The acting is very good, and the action never slows down as battles with the creature, which proves a formidable foe, unfold. All the familiar subplots used in these '50's monster movies are there, from the male/female scientist love story to the military/scientist alliance, to the wild teens who act reckless and get attacked. Several actors are recognizable from other similar films, and the movie is just downright fun to watch.
The movie's claim to fame, though, may be the zany design of the monster. This malevolent apparition, when finally seen, appears more like a psychotic ostrich than a rampaging killer, and screeches like a chicken getting its head cut off. With eyeballs that wobble around like a broken doll's, it's one of the silliest looking monsters ever. Give the cast credit for maintaining a serious face while dealing with this bizarre foe.
Highly recommended for fans of drive-in classics.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Giant Claw starts as electrical engineer Mitch MacAfee (Jeff
Morrow) working for the US Government is piloting a Military jet plane
for reasons which escape me, while flying along Mitch notices
'something' up there with him which he describes as a UFO but no-one
down below monitoring him on radar see anything & thus don't believe
him. However when reports start coming in regarding planes mysteriously
going missing amidst reports of UFO's the people in charge change their
minds about Mitch. Soon the Giant Claw has revealed itself, a huge bird
like creature from outer space with an anti matter shield that likes to
eat people & destroy buildings. Earth's weapons are useless against it,
can a lowly electrical engineer & his lady friend mathematician Sally
(Mary Corday) find a way to destroy the Giant Claw before it destroys
Originally worked on under the title The Mark of the Claw this black and white 50's monster flick was directed by Fred F. Sears for Columbia shortly after he had directed Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) for them & I would have thought that Columbia was looking for another hit sci-fi film. Instead Columbia got one of the silliest sci-fi monster films ever made, according to the IMDb director Sears actually died of a heart attack in late 1957 just five months after The Giant Claw had been released in theatres. The script by Paul Gangelin & Samuel Newman is obsessed with the word battleship & takes all the usual monster film clichés & cobbles them together like the first twenty minutes where some unseen monster is going around causing lots of damage, someone seeing it yet no-one believing him, the romance between the hero & the token female character, the expected scenes of crowds of people running & screaming, the military people who want to destroy it, the scientists who come up with loads of pseudo scientific nonsense that in reality doesn't mean a thing or make any sense, the awkward sounding narrator who is used to quickly announce various bits of exposition, the very stiff & frankly absurd script & dialogue, cardboard cutout character's, the copious amounts of stock footage & a short sub eighty minute duration. It's all here & it's rarely as fun as in The Giant Claw, basically if your the kind of person who takes watching films very seriously then you will hate The Giant Claw but if you can just go with it & enjoy a film, no matter how bad it is, for what it is then the chances are you will get some guilty pleasure from The Giant Claw. I mean how can anyone not like a film about a giant turkey from outer space destroying the Earth? Definitely a so bad it's great sort of film.
Director Sears can't really be blamed for how bad the notorious effects are, the producers were apparently going to have the monster created using stop motion animation but couldn't afford it so they gave the contract to a place in Mexico to cut costs &, quite frankly, the Giant Claw looks as silly as any giant monster from any film you care to name. Having said that it's eyes move, it's nostrils flare, it's mouth opens & closes & it's wings flap (well usually) so at least it's got some sort of movement even if it's not entirely convincing. There are a few continuity errors as well, the planes often change make between shots with the sequence where the planes first attack the Giant Claw & it grabs one in it's mouth which as a model is completely different to what it originally looked it when it was stock footage being particularly noticeable. Some of the destruction scenes set in New York are taken from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. Apparently when released theatre audiences laughed at The Giant Claw back in 1957, star Jeff Morrow has said he never saw the bird until the premiere since all the special effects scenes were shot separately & when he did see it he sneaked out of the cinema to avoid any embarrassment after it had finished. You can't blame him I suppose...
Technically the film is basic, the special effects are really poor & the script is full of laugh out hilarious lines but it's fun & I loved every silly moment of it. The acting is as wooden as a tree, no-one comes out looking particularly good.
The Giant Claw is a fun 1957 monster film, whether you like it as much as I did will entirely depend on how much tolerance you have for awful looking monsters, rubbish special effects, an unintentionally hilarious script & dialogue & of course it's shot in black and white which will put some off all by itself. Me, I thought it was great & it's as simple & straight forward as that.
Even though this has been called one of the worst science fiction films in history, it still has a warm place in my heart. The thing that really destroys this film is the fact that the producers decided to go on the cheap and use a moth eaten marionette instead of calling upon Ray Harryhausen and his stop motion effects. This would have made the film more of a credible viewing experience and probably would have saved it from being treated with the scorn that it has over the years. Still, once you get past the marionette, this film is no worse than any of the other science fiction films of that era.
What SHOULD have been one of the best of the late-1950s creature features is reduced to a laughing stock by inadequate special effects. THE GIANT CLAW is almost a great film, with a no-nonsense plot and fantastic acting. It's tense and well-written. What kills it though, is the monster. The giant claw of the title is a bird "the size of a battleship" but it looks like something out of a "what if a Sid & Marty Kroft puppet went horribly wrong" nightmare. I've seen piñatas that were more realistic. Apparently, they farmed the effects out to the lowest bidder in Mexico, and got what they paid for. Otherwise, it's a fine monster flick. With a better creature, it'd be right up there with THEM! and CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.
What can you say about a movie that features as it's monster a giant cross between a buzzard and a turkey with ping pong ball eyes and a bad case of the mange? This is what you get with "The Giant Claw", one of the silliest of the 1950's drive-in sci-fi movies. I defy anyone who sees the bird for the first time it appears on the screen to not to die of laughter..it's hard to believe that the creators of this "monster" actually thought anyone would be scared by it. Mara Corday and Jeff Morrow, the two lead actors in this turkey (no pun intended) are stuck with a silly script and inane dialog...but hey, who cares? Watching the Giant Claw attack the toy airplanes and fly through the air screeching like it's in heat is so much fun that you forget how awful it all is.
Did the scrawny-looking bird puppet used in this movie inspire Jim
Henson to create "Big Bird"? One might be excused for thinking so.
Apparently the producers were going to employ stop-motion animator Ray
Harryhausen to create the special effects, but then decided to go with
something requiring less time and money. The result elicited nothing
but laughter from audiences, even in 1957.
I understand that the actors never actually saw the ludicrous- looking "monster" until after the movie was completed, which undoubtedly explains how they all managed to get through the production with straight faces. That's probably just as well, since playing this sort material absolutely seriously is the only way it can possibly work. They love to make fun of films such as this on shows like "Mystery Science Theater 3000". However, films such as this really don't need that treatment because they're already so "bad" that they require no external enhancement to be appreciated for what they are. As legendary low-budget film maker Roger Corman once observed, "You cannot set out to make a 'cult movie', only the audience can make a 'cult movie'".
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