Sunday, 7 March 2010

The Giant Claw

Title: The Giant Claw
Director: Fred F. Sears
Released: 1957
Staring: Jeff Morrow, Mara Corday, Morris Ankrum, Louis Merrill, Edgar Barrier, Robert Shayne

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Plot: While testing new radar systems, test pilot Mitch (Morrow) spots an UFO, which turns out to be a gigantic bird, intent on bringing doom to the inhabitants of Earth.

Review: It’s funny the things which inspire me to often hunt down a title, often having nothing to do with the plot and more often than not a desire to watch the film based on a single shot, or perhaps the prospect of seeing a certain scene, which is especially true for this film, a clip of which I remembered being featured in the title sequence, for “Monsterpiece Theatre”, which shows the clip of a man parachuting, with a look of terror on his face as we watch him falling in front of the monstrous face of the titular creature, which is without a doubt one of the most comedic looking monster creations I have seen, since I discovered that “The Thing” in “Godzilla Vs. The Thing” (better known as “Godzilla Vs. Mothra” outside of the states) was in fact a giant moth! This also go a long way to explaining why, you don’t actually see the whole creature on any of the posters, though leaving why the film is called “The Giant Claw” when the creature in question clearly has two claws! It is also worth noting that throughout the production none of the cast actually had any idea what the creature was going to look like, with Animatronics maestro Ray Harryhausen originally being considered to create the creature, an idea which would be scrapped due to budgetary restraints, leaving the creature effects to be handled by a small Mexican special effects company, which does prove slightly detrimental to the film, seeing how the effects are not just laughable now, but were considered laughable back when the film was first released, with audiences supposedly bursting in laughter whenever the creature appeared on screen.
Outside of the creature the majority of the effects are a combination of well edited scenes of stock footage, combined with some seriously ropey miniature work, which is amusing to watch as planes bounce around on strings and model trains get thrown through the air. Still Sears being keen to get the most out of his budget, even recycles footage from his earlier film “Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers” (1956), providing some of the better effects here.

Plot wise it’s a standard B-movie affair and rattles along at a quick pace, which goes a long way to explaining why it’s such a fun film to watch, despite suffering from numerous flaws, while at the same time it actually bothers to break several genre conventions seeing how Corday plays Sally a strong female character, rather than the usual damsel in distress which is almost expected in the genre, but here she is seen not only as a romance interest but also as a major part of the team, proving herself not only feisty but also quite handy with a rifle, putting her a whole head and shoulders ahead of the majority of her female b-movie predecessors, still the majority of the cast seem to believe that they are in a film which is more than B-movie fodder, judging by how the actors handle the dialogue combined with their general performances throughout, but then I guess no one really bothered to tell them that they are staring in a movie were the world is under attack from a giant rubber chicken. Still we do get the classic lines “I’ll never call my mother in law and old crow again” aswell as my personal favourite

“Holy Toledo! I've seen some mighty big chicken hawks back on the farm, but man, this baby takes the cake!”

Both lines spoken completely straight faced only further adding to the humour value and questioning if this was ever intended on being a serious movie?

Plot wise the one point which stuck with me which watching this film, is why does everyone keep referring to the creature as being “A giant battleship”? Seriously this one description is shared by nearly every character that comes into contact with the creature, but why call it a battleship? Why not at least describe it as something that flies at the least. I also have to wonder for a creature which is supposedly from space, how it actually travels through space, let alone generates its own force field which is pretty much accepted as fact, almost as if the idea of a giant chicken flying through space makes perfect sense.

I can’t help but feel had the creature effects been better, that this film might be remembered in more positive light, rather than for its unintentional humour value, caused by a seriously random looking creature, caused by the budget restraints the film was put under and certainly which resonates even now, when you consider the amount of half decent films, which are ruined by the inclusion of cheap bargain basement CGI. Still the film remains as it does a fun way to burn away a Sunday afternoon, especially when you can’t be bothered with the complexities of something heavier which after all is what this genre does best.

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