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The Giant Claw 01

From the DVD case: In an act of cosmic irony, an enormous bird from outer space descends upon the Earth and begins chowing down on people. As usual, scientists and the military must team up to save our planet. This hysterically feathered fable stars sci-fi icons Jeff Morrow, Mara Corday, Morris Ankrum, and Robert Shayne, and is directed by Fred F. Sears. (1957, b&w)

Mark says: It was such a treat to find this movie on DVD. As a devoted fan of 1950’s schlock entertainment, I knew The Giant Claw was legendary in its appalling production values and “special effects.” I’ve seen stills and I’ve read articles, but until recently, I had never actually seen the film. I must say, it was worth the wait.

The Giant Claw starts out like countless other cheap sci-fi/horror flicks of the time. We get a lot of stock footage of military operations and rotating radar dishes. A narrator sets the scene: “An electronics engineer. A radar officer. A mathematician and systems analyst. A radar operator. A couple of plotters. People doing a job, well, efficiently. Serious. Having fun. Doing a job. Situation: normal. For the moment.”

Oh, we know its going to be bad, but there’s no way to anticipate how wonderfully terrible it’s going to get.

The Giant Claw 02All of the usual suspects are here. Jeff Morrow (Kronos, This Island Earth) is Mitch MacAfee, an electronics engineer and pilot who plays by his own rules; Mara Corday (Tarantula, The Black Scorpion) plays Sally Caldwell, the no nonsense mathematician, and B-movie staple Morris Ankrum (Beginning of the End, Invaders from Mars) eventually shows up as Lt. Gen. Edward Considine, a man committed to his duty and his country. Director Fred F. Sears is no stranger to the genre either, having already directed such pictures as Earth vs. the Flying Saucers and The Werewolf, both released only a year earlier.

The Giant Claw 03The real star of the movie, though, is the ridiculous flying prop that is supposed to be a threat to humankind. We only see it as a blurred lump of feathers at first, but eventually we behold it in all its ludicrous glory. I’ve seen it described as a vulture, a turkey, as Beaky Buzzard from the old Looney Tunes cartoon, and even Gonzo of Sesame Street. What it is not, however, is scary. No flying menace was ever more laughable (though Reptilicus gives it a race for its money).

The Giant Claw 04At this point it would be customary for me to attempt to make this review as humorous as the creature is absurd. However, I have to confess that I simply can not do this flying marionette justice. The beast is mind-bogglingly horrendous. Producer Sam Katzman had the prop manufactured in Mexico rather than Hollywood to save on cost. I think we can safely assume he saved a bundle. What a mess.

It’s not just the terrible special effect that makes the movie such a treat, though. The film is also filled to the brim with incredibly inane dialog. It’s not as bizarre as what you will find in Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space, but the results are similarly hilarious. Here are just a few gems:

Gen. Considine: Three men reported they saw something, and two of them are dead.
Mitch: That makes me chief cook and bottle-washer in a one-man bird watchers’ society!

Also:

Sally: Will it work, Mitch?
Mitch: I don’t know. I honestly haven’t the faintest, foggiest idea. It’s one of those cockeyed concepts that you pull down out of Cloud Eight somewhere in sheer desperation!

Furthermore:

Dr. Karol Noymann: That bird is extraterrestrial! It comes from outer space, from some God-forsaken anti-matter galaxy millions and millions of light years from the Earth. No other explanation is possible.

And another:

Narrator: No corner of the Earth was spared the terror of looking up into God’s blue sky and seeing, not peace and security, but the feathered nightmare on wings!

This stuff is B-movie gold, folks, and just plain good fun.

The Giant Claw 05There are a few other tidbits to relate, like how some of the scenes were recycled from Earth vs the Flying Saucers, and a funny story of how Jeff Morrow, sans a cast and crew screening, viewed the film (and it’s comically inept “special effect”) for the first time at his hometown theater with his family. Morrow was so embarrassed by the laughter the bird elicited that he sank down in his seat and eventually escaped the theater to meet his family afterwards in the car. (See Bill Warren’s book, Keep Watching the Skies.)

I could write more, but what would be the point? See the movie for yourself and let it do the squawking . I can’t imagine any fan of the genre being disappointed.

Scene to watch for: Mitch and Sally happily sip on Pierre’s applejack while the corpse of their friend lies covered on the sofa just feet away. I guess one can’t grieve forever.

Line to listen for: “You keep your shirt on and I’ll go get my pants on.”

Trivia: Fans of the genre may recall the name “Dr. Karol Noyman” (played by Edgar Barrier in The Giant Claw) was also John Carradine’s character’s name in Invisible Invaders. Samuel Newman was the screenwriter for both films.

Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! ! out of 5.

IMDb Link

The Giant Claw 06

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19 Comments

  1. The Tim Burton in me is simply delighted with that bird, and how clean and clear the photography is. That final screen cap is terrific. And the quotes are hysterical! I especially love the one about how there is absolutely no other explanation but outer space. Thanks for the laugh,Mark. :)

  2. Mariana: There really is a Tim Burton quality to that bird! I never noticed that before. The quotes are even better when you actually hear them recited by the actors. The urgency in which they’re spoken make them even more absurd.

  3. “The Giant Claw” was the first monster movie I was allowed to see, as a kid, after two previous experiences had temporarily brought a halt to my fright film viewing. The first was Boris Karloff’s Thriller TV episode “The Hungry Glass” and the second was a relatively obscure voodoo movie called “The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake.” Both prompted me to sleep with the lights on for months. It was a year or two before my mother allowed me to watch anything “scary” again. “The Giant Claw” just happened to be the feature on our Saturday night Shock Theater, when my mother lifted the ban on scary movies. I was about 10 at the time. I remember, after the movie ended, hearing the announcer say, “Watch again next week…if you dare!” I was proud of myself for not being scared after this movie. Looking back now, the film was more silly than scary, but at the time it was a personal milestone and the beginning of my life-long love of fright films.

  4. Paul: That’s the beauty of these old movies; they are like songs you remember and cherish because they help you recall moments that were special in your life. At least, that is how they work for me.

    I never saw this particular film as a child, but I know I would have been thrilled by it (I had incredibly low standards as a boy). Most of these movies that I review would never withstand the scrutiny of modern adult viewers. You really do have to remain faithful to a certain childlike naiveté to enjoy these pictures to their fullest. It’s great to see your continued comments and stories at this site, Paul. Come back any time!

  5. Mara Corday was a dreamboat!

  6. Pierce: Mara certainly wasn’t hard on the eyes. She was Playboy Playmate of the Month for October 1958. She was also a friend of Clint Eastwood and played supporting roles in some of his films (The Gauntlet, Sudden Impact). Eastwood had also played a small part in one of her films, Tarantula.

  7. That monster kind of looks like Madame. Who I think is way scarier than a clown even.

  8. Churlita: You’re right! I wouldn’t doubt it if both puppets were manufactured at the same place.

  9. This was so much fun to watch, Mark. Thanks for sharing it with me. A genuine campy classic!

  10. Clay: The pleasure was all mine.

  11. Mara Corday was also in the movie TARANTULA and i mean how come the big birdie has teeth i mean no bird has teeth except for a few cases and this is one of those old creature features

  12. Birdzilla: Yeah, you don’t see birds with such toothy smiles these days. Maybe that is how they are grown in an “anti-matter galaxy millions and millions of light years from the Earth.”

  13. When I saw this movie, I thought ”Where is Rod Hull when you really need him?”

  14. Toecutter: I wouldn’t doubt that Rod Hull didn’t use The Giant Claw as his inspiration for Emu!

  15. Toecutter you are meaning RON HULL and his emu which always turned on him

  16. Birdzilla: Actually, Toecutter is correct. I did a quick Google search just to be sure, but it’s ROD Hull and Emu. You can read more at his Wikipedia entry.

    • Seasick Seagull
    • Posted September 9, 2008 at 11:08 pm
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    I,ll bet if they ever remade it today they could make it more realistic becuase it would at least flap its wings

  17. Theres a movie come out last year FLU-BIRDS but they look kind of prehistoric

  18. Just hope a big birdie like that dont ever takes a crap on you i mean imagine a pigeon a battleship sized pigeon


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