You know we had to do this one eventually, as The Giant Claw’s titular monster is the stuff of b-movie legends, for hilarious reasons etching the movie in the history of monster movies with one of the most laughable creatures ever conceived and built.
And if you never saw it before, it was eventually released in the Cold War Creatures boxset by Arrow Video, alongside three other Sam Katzman produced films, The Werewolf, Creature With The Atom Brain, and Zombies Of Mora Tau.
A pretty good boxset that in the case of The Giant Claw contains extras such as a video essay by Mike White on Sam Katzman’s output and the theme of Cold War paranoia in his produced movies, alongside a theatherical trailer, the usual photo gallery and a condensed 8mm version of the movie.
Thought it’s arguably the movie of the bunch that it’s way less about the Cold War paranoia, just indirectly with the usage of radar (RADAR!) and the implications that come with the radar’s perceived power at the time, it’s mostly played as a fairly straight sci-fi movie about a giant creature attacking planes and buildings but initially dismissed as a hoax since it isn’t picked up by radar and it’s just vaguely seen as an unidentified thing passing by in the sky.
To be honest, The Giant Claw as a film it’s actually kinda decent for a low budget b-movie of that era, shlocky, yes, with the expected usage of stock footage and some not always convincing effects for the explosions and such, but it’s honestly fairly well acted, the mystery of these strange sightings and aeroplane disasters is actually decently crafted, the build up isn’t bad at all, surprisingly.. but everything makes a turn for the laughably bad once the creature is revealed.
Nothing would prepare you for it, because it comes off as a practical joke in a movie that otherwise takes itself fairly seriously and wants to come up with a resolution via the power of science explained, but nope, The Giant Claw just suddendly drops on the viewer one of the most laugh-out loud monster to ever have been made.
Sure, the poster kinda gives away it’s some kind of bird, but it’s no wonder the promotional material just outright didn’t show the creature’s face, because it’s a condor-turkey with a mohawk, goofy giant eyes and hairy bulging nostrils. A giant condor-turkey-buzzard from outer space with an anti-matter shield that – at least according to the movie’s main character – moves in a spiral pattern… despite that explanation not making any sense any way you slice it. XD
I laugh everytime i see it, even after knowing that it’s coming i burst laughing, it’s unbelievable that it’s actually what they went it, i understand cheap, i understand they basically off-loaded the making of the prop in Mexico because it was cheaper, but i feel Katzman or some of the actors pissed in someone’s breakfast and this is their way of getting revenge. Which we know it’s better served cold turkey (?).
Money and the lack there-of just can explain the strings on the things being quite visible in more than one shot (the restoration does help in making them even more noticeable, btw), but it’s even more absurd because they clearly wanted to creature to be terrifying and scary, but its this mohawk-clad buzzard with exaggerated cartoonish features.
And what a surprise, none of the actors knew what the thing actually looked like until they saw the movie themselves, which kinda explains the odd running comparison of the creature to a “battleship”, and led to to Jeff Morrow (playing the lead Mitch McCafee in a good performance) going to see it in its hometown and embarassed by the crowds laughing everytime the bird was on screen, he left the theather early, went home and most likely got drunk big time.
Poor guy, but i can’t fault the audience, since this monster design was laughable even for the late 50s, it’s something one would expect to see in a spoof of 50s b movies, but nope, here it is in an actual 50s b-movie, presented to you NOT as a joke. But then again, the script crams in a french-canadian character that mistakens the creature for french folklore’s “La Carcagne”, a monster resembling a giant woman with a wolf’s head, bat-like black wings, and said to be harbinger of death like the irish Banshee.
But then again, the character was probably on his sixth glass of applejack, and the actor never saw the marionette of the monster until after the movie was released anyway….
It may sound unfair to bash the movie entirely on the creature’s being goofy… but it’s not, since it’s the title character, the main reason why you went to see a movie like this in the first place, and while it’s not the worst in terms of craft, i would lie if i denied it showing up on screen doesn’t tank the entire tone and credibility of the narrative. There’s no recovery to be had once you see it.
Would have this have been a better movie if the prop was actually made with less monetary woes, more time and maybe by actually hiring Ray Harryhausen to do the creature in stop motion, as originally intended? Probably, yes.
But on the flipside, we most likely wouldn’t be talking about The Giant Claw today if the title monster wasn’t one of the worst looking and goofiest creature from the atomic era of b-movies, and it wouldn’t be so entertaining as a “bad b-movie”, nor have this legacy.
It still would have most likely released in a double feature with The Night The World Exploded, as it was common practice and good business for the era, since these b-movies where short themselves, The Giant Claw being no exception, with its 75 minutes runtime.
I do recommend watching it for a good laugh, for your “education” on the genre, and it being a very short sit regardless, one that – at worst – will make you giggle and laugh at its bold-faced “scary bird”.