The first three movies in the blu-ray box set Cold War Creatures: Four Films from Sam Katzman truly astonished me. One was a unique horror/sci-fi/noir hybrid, another reinvented the werewolf trope. The last was a feature about undead pirates and which had the dreamlike vibe of I Walked with a Zombie.
The fourth picture is a doozy as well, but for a reason significantly different from the other three. 1957’s The Giant Claw is deliriously bad. If one doesn’t have an appreciation for camp, this would probably be a slog to watch. But this will be a laugh riot for those who do enjoy such things.
The most obvious target for ridicule is the titular creature, a pathetic puppet that is supposed to be a giant bird. Even as laughable as the things looks, it is a tad scary just because it is so insane in its appearance. Perhaps I’m wondering more so about the mentality of the uncredited artists who created this thing, with its beak full of teeth and nostrils in its beak that can flare. Muse upon that latter element.
At least the flaring nostrils took some amount of technical expertise, and it is well-done, even as insane as it is in concept. Far worse are the effects for airplanes, all of which are obviously toys. I never look for the wires in effects like these, but so little effort is put into this that those wires are impossible not to see.
It’s hard to believe stop-motion legend Ray Harryhausen ever applied his craft to movies produced by Sam Katzman. Katzman was originally going to use him for this picture but didn’t. Accounts vary as to whether Harryhausen turned down the project or the producer decided his services were too expensive. Given how obvious it is every expense was spared, I’m going to assume the latter.
Going into this movie, I assumed the giant avian menace was a resurrected prehistoric creature of some sort. Instead, it is an alien being made of antimatter. One science fact everybody somehow knows is how matter and antimatter would annihilate each other on contact. And yet the bird isn’t destroyed when it comes in contact with the multiple airplanes it takes down. A scientist explains that is because the bird is surrounded by an energy shield. He relays this information while handling one of the bird’s feathers, which would be composed of antimatter, right?
One aspect of this movie I genuinely appreciated is how much the top-billed actress is given to do. Mara Corday’s character is primarily a mathematician. Although we don’t see her diagram any complex calculations, she radiates more intellectual authority than any of the men. We also see she’s a decent shot in one scene. Alas, she will eventually be reduced to bringing sandwiches for the boys and the like, as were the clichés of the era.
The Giant Claw is a deeply stupid movie, though a highly entertaining one if you’re in the right frame of mind. This is the kind of movie where a character declares a novel idea was “pulled out of cloud eight.” In addition to that being some bizarre phrasing, these characters apparent don’t strive to pull their ideas out of cloud nine. As for the makers of this movie, I can hazard a guess as to where they pulled their ideas for this out of, and it is an orifice on their own bodies.
Dir: Fred F. Sears
Starring Jeff Morrow, Mara Corday, Morris Ankrum
Watched as part of Arrow Video’s blu-ray box set Cold War Creatures: Four Films from Sam Katzman