The Giant Claw (1957)

This is one of those films that are hard to believe.

Hard to believe, that is, that anyone would ever make such a film.  Seriously.

I mean, a giant monster from outer space shows up, a bird the size of a battleship, and starts causing all sorts of chaos, and what does it look like?  Some sort of cartoon Buzzard, with huge googly eyes, shaggy feathers, and a toothed mouth.

Supposedly, Ray Harryhausen was asked to provide a proper stop-motion monster for the film, but there wasn’t enough money in the budget.  Instead they had a Mexican puppet maker create the beast we see on screen:  I have to say that a realistic monster had no place in a movie as goofy and threadbare as this one, and that the insane space condor they got is absolutely perfect.  Particularly when it picks up a train and the cars dangle from its giant claws like a string of sausages.  You can’t let any rational part of your brain get in the way of any scene that silly (I mean, the weight of the cars alone — even assuming the couplings held together — would be enough to tear the upper cars apart!)

One could have quite a bit of fun tearing the more obvious goofs apart on this film:  my favorite by far are the aircraft, which change type, markings, color and even nationality without warning (watch for the CF-100 Canucks, wearing British Roundels, mixed with shots of P-80s and even an F-86) .  One detects a certain sense of desperation in their use of stock footage, including sequences “borrowed” from Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers, The Day the Earth Stood Still and even 30 Seconds over Tokyo.

Jeff Morrow plays the hero, who is, in classic 1940s serial style, an expert at electronics, a pilot, and ultimately, the inventor of a last-minute secret weapon which spews out a stream of extremely rare particles normally produced by a cyclotron — and then only for a few millionths of a second.

And what’s better, it only takes him a few days to create it!

Ehh.  He only had to rewrite the laws of physics.  No big deal.

(You do have to wonder, though,when they’re trying to get past the thing’s invisible force field to blow it up with conventional weapons, why no one tried dumping a dummy full of explosives on a parachute out of one of the planes it’s chasing.  That would have saved them a lot of trouble!)

Morris Ankrum plays yet another General (what else?), Radio stars Edgar Barrier and Lou Merrill shows up in minor parts.  And, of course, Sam Katzman produced, which does, yes, explain some of The Giant Claw‘s more heroic bits of cheapness.

Not long ago, the movie Hidden Figures celebrated the efforts of the women who worked as human calculators at NASA for the Space program.  But that wasn’t the first time woman calculators appeared on screen:  it’s interesting here to see that the heroine, played by Mara Corday, is a human calculator working on a scientific project, although for the Air Force rather than NASA.  She of the more interesting variations on the Howard Hawks girl so common in the SF movies of the Fifties:  Like Nikki in The Thing from Another World, she is tough, confident, plays an important job in the scientific work — and gets the best of the hero at his most wolfish.

But modern feminists would never approve of her:  she brings everyone coffee and sandwiches at one point.

And doesn’t complain about it, either!

Oh, well.

This one is stupid, silly, and crammed full of mangled lines and overblown narration.

It is also a lot of fun.

So shut your brain off and you will enjoy this one far more than most of the “good” SF monster movies out there.  Just don’t try to take it seriously.

You might hurt yourself if you do.





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