Giant Claw, The (1957)

The Giant Claw (1957)

Flying beast out of prehistoric skies!

A test flight to calibrate a new radar system goes wrong when a pair of planes spot what they believe to be a UFO. One of the planes is lost and no one will believe the other pilot when he is formally reprimanded. However other planes go missing until finally the culprit

 

One of the greatest ‘bad’ movies ever made, The Giant Claw has staked its claim to fame for one reason only – the monster. Everything else about it plays out perfectly well and in line with the rest of its 1950s brothers. The film begins with a mysterious threat starting to cause havoc in America. Some random people get drawn into the situation and find themselves uncovering something bigger and more deadly than they ever could comprehend. There are some straight-talking military guys who talk though and want to find out what is going on. There are scientists who spout techno babble to try and lend the film some scientific credibility. The music is booming and sinister. There’s even a serious voiceover guy who continually hammers home how terrible the situation is getting. All going accordingly to plan? Well that is until about twenty seven minutes into the film and you see the monster for the first time.

Apparently the producers wanted Ray Harryhausen to do the special effects but when he was unable to do it they just took the cheapest route possible and bought the WORLD’S WORST BIRD PUPPET. I mean this thing is just ridiculous. Forget whatever you may have seen on the screen before, the giant bird here is the sorriest-looking excuse for a monster the world over. It’s got huge bulging eyes, a ridiculous Mohawk-style hairstyle, a rubbery neck which seems to have no control over its head movements and wings that move occasionally and clearly defy gravity. And it’s not just any giant bird: it’s a giant antimatter space bird which has an antimatter force field protecting itself from man’s puny projectile weapons. The problem isn’t just that the puppet is the worst thing ever made but it’s that the puppeteer clearly has little control over where it’s head is moving and you can see strings desperately trying to keep it all together before it falls off the set.

Everyone in this film keeps referring to the monster as being “as big as a battleship” as if that has suddenly become the new measurement of anything huge. It sounds silly to start with but everyone in the film refers to it as a battleship. Maybe a flying battleship would have been a better idea! If the budget didn’t stretch to find a decent puppet, it certainly doesn’t stretch to the rest of the film either. The same cockpit is used time and time again for different planes. Stock footage is used from numerous other films in an attempt to make the bird looking like it’s terrorising the planet (in reality it’s just stock footage from Earth Vs The Flying Saucers). And there’s some really bad rear projection of the bird swooping in to attack various cars, trains and even men tangled up in parachutes.

The real travesty is that the film plays itself out so seriously. It runs like the other 50s flicks and if the monster had been decent, then would this have been looked at in the same light as the likes of Them! or The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms? It was crying out for a decent monster because the rest of the film did what it had to do. Or alternatively, if everyone had goofed it up a little bit, the script threw in a few more one-liners and a few more comedic situations for the characters to be in then it would have worked with the monster we get. But it’s not like cinema today where spoofs and send-ups are popular and common place. I don’t think they even knew what a spoof was back in the day. If this was made today, it would only work if it were done tongue-in-cheek. But the actors clearly thought that the special effects would be awesome so they all bust their asses trying to convey the threat of the giant bird. Fred F. Sears helmed the classic Earth Vs The Flying Saucers so the cast clearly thought they’d be onto a winner here. As the acting side of the film is wrapped up before post production hits and the special effects are wheeled in, it’s clear that none of the cast would see the finished article until the premiere so I would have hated to be any of them at that prestigious opening night! To think that over in Japan, Rodan had been made a year prior to this. Whilst the effects aren’t that great either, there’s no question which is the superior flying monster film.

 

The Giant Claw is a giant turkey of a film. It’s not that the rest of the film is bad because it’s about as standard as you can get for a 50s monster movie. It’s just for the sight of the giant antimatter space bird, THE worst monster ever to grace the silver screen. I dare you not to laugh.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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