October Horrorshow: Attack of the Crab Monsters

There haven’t been a whole lot of giant monster flicks here in the October Horrorshow. There have been plenty of zombies, gaggles of slashers, a smattering of aliens, some killer viruses, and even a couple of vampires. But giant monsters, the bread and butter of classic directors of cinematic schlock such as Bert I. Gordon and Roger Corman, have been largely missing. There isn’t really any reason for this oversight. Maybe it has something to do with the heyday of the genre having come so long ago. Whatever the reason, for today, the oversight has been rectified. And what a doozy it is.

Attack of the Crab Monsters, also known as Attack of the Giant Crabs, is a Corman flick hailing from 1957. It’s a pretty damned swift film, clocking in at 62 minutes. Living in this day and age, an era of epic cinema where seemingly every other movie pushes or blows past three hours, wrapping up an entire narrative so quickly was refreshing. But what gives? How could Corman possibly get away with releasing a film that was so short? Easily, as it turns out. Attack of the Crab Monsters was part of a double feature, released alongside Not of This Earth. This review is not a double feature. I’ve seen enough Corman for the day, I think.

But that run time! Wow! Just a little over an hour. It led me to wonder: are movies really getting longer? The consensus of opinion seems to be that they are, but is there data? As it turns out, there is.

Randal Olson, a grad student at Michigan State, crunched the numbers, and found that movies are NOT getting any longer. In fact, movie lengths are slightly down off of their peak. Maybe movies seem like they are longer because we have shorter attention spans. I don’t wish to get bogged down in cliché about our over-connected society, but these days, even friends who I would otherwise regard as sensible persons seem incapable of not peeking at their cell phones in a movie theater. As for me, I’ve managed to resist the temptations of the pocket screen, but only while in an actual theater. At home, all bets are off. But, can a person really be blamed for a wandering attention span when the new Transformers flick demands three hours of a person’s time, not including the commercials and previews shown before the movie itself? I think not. As for those previews, they really do show more of those than they used to. And the volume is too loud. And those darn kids keep cutting across my lawn!

So, we have a movie that is only 62 minutes long. Is it any good? Oh, God no. Attack of the Crab Monsters is a woeful piece of shit. But it’s not a bad example of its genre. It’s missing the bold lack of self-awareness that made Them! or The Beginning of the End so adorable, but otherwise, all the ingredients are there.

On an isolated island somewhere in the...ocean, I guess, some scientists and military folk have arrived to find out what happened to a missing research party. While there, they discover that the island is suffering through a whole lot of earthquakes, and people keep disappearing. It turns out that is all due to a pair of freakishly large land crabs. At this point, the science gets a little tricky. See, these aren’t the normal giant, irradiated beasts a viewer is expecting. These crabs supposedly have the molecular consistency of water, meaning there is no difference between a molecule in its head an one in its claw. A couple leaps of logic later, and this means that every person one of the crabs eats has their memories and personalities absorbed by the crab. And they’re capable of psychokinesis. That might be too much detail about a movie that’s so short, but I just had to share. I love the fact that giant crab monsters weren’t enough for Corman and company. No joke, the first time one of the crabs spoke to a human in a disembodied voice, I thought I had somehow been transported to a whole other movie entirely. But, no. It does actually happen. In this movie, giant crabs talk to human beings...with their MINDS.

The production is as cheap as one would expect. Supposedly, the missing research crew hadn’t been on the island a long time, but a viewer wouldn’t know it from the exterior shots of their abandoned homes. They look more like the homes one would find in the hills and canyons above Sunset Boulevard than something flung up for scientists in the middle of the ocean.

The giant crab (single tense; the two monsters never share a frame) reminds me of the foam rubber plant my high school made for its production of Little Shop of Horrors. A good portion of the crab is always hidden. Not to increase tension, but because the thing was clearly set on top of wheels. I was pretty sure I could see a 2×4 in there somewhere when its claw was being waved about. This is not a bad thing. This is exactly the way a cheap ’50s monster flick should be.

Attack of the Crab Monsters is a wonderfully shitty movie, and more fun than Alien: Resurrection, but Alien: Resurrection is better.