October Horrorshow: The Giant Claw

In the Arctic, vigilant eyes watch the skies. America is in a mortal conflict with communism. In order to protect the free peoples of the west, early warning stations have created an impenetrable net across the Arctic. Should the commies try anything, we’ll be ready. But, it’s not spy planes or ICBMs that menace the nation in this film. A giant monster from places unknown has appeared, and is wreaking havoc. If this sounds at all familiar, that’s because the setup to The Giant Claw is basically the same as yesterday’s giant monster film, The Deadly Mantis. The only major difference is in the monster. The Deadly Mantis featured a giant praying mantis, while The Giant Claw features…well, I’ll get to that.

Released in 1957, The Giant Claw comes to us care of writers Samuel Newman and Paul Gangelin, and director Fred F. Sears. This is the ninth giant monster flick of this year’s Horrorshow, and the pattern established by The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms is getting somewhat wearying.

Something terrorizes isolated communities. Some dashing military officer or other authority figure is on hand to take charge of the situation. A scientist or doctor is also present to form wild, yet ultimately correct, hypotheses about what could be happening. Said scientist has an attractive assistant, who catches the eye of the square-jawed lead. Monster continues to attack, leading to a final confrontation in a major city in which the beast is dispatched. Make some cosmetic changes here and there, pick out some reels of stock footage that Bert I. Gordon overlooked, and one has a 1950s giant monster flick.

The jaw in this one is played by Jeff Morrow as Mitch MacAfee, a civilian test pilot who spots a UFO while on a research flight near the North Pole. He describes a fast-moving blur that is the size of a battleship. Should one see this film, get used to that comparison. It’s used by the characters about once every five minutes. The problem for MacAfee The Giant Clawis that the UFO doesn’t show up on any radar, so his bosses think he’s lying. But, after a string of air crashes and disappearances, with accompanying reports of a UFO the size of a battleship, MacAfee’s tale is eventually embraced by the military.

The UFO is no spaceship or anything. It is, as is suggested by the title, a giant monster. It’s a creature that strains scientific credulity more than usual in a film such as this. As explained by some wild scientific gobbledegook from supporting brains Sara Caldwell (Mara Corday) and Dr. Karol Noymann (Edgar Barrier), the creature is from a galaxy made of antimatter, although the film goes back and forth on whether or not the creature is made of antimatter or just emits an antimatter field that can stop rockets and bullets. None of that stuff really matters. It’s just words that fill the spaces between battles with the monster. As for that monster…

Wow. Never before in a monster flick have I seen anything quite like the monster in The Giant Claw. There is a surprise here I don’t want to ruin for the viewer, but I feel I can describe the monster with some freedom here, as the written word cannot possibly convey enough of its silliness to spoil it. The monster is a huge, vulture-like beast, about the size of a battleship, and it looks like something Jim Henson would have come up with. It’s supposed to be a threatening creature, but there’s nothing threatening about the monster’s goofy head lolling about on its long neck. It looks like a joke, but it’s not. This was the creation of a serious, yet underfunded, production.

The creature is hilarious and the model work is dreadful. There would be nothing to separate this film from any of the other similar films that appeared around the same time. But the monster, my goodness. It’s an incredible piece of shitty filmmaking. Every time the thing is on screen is another moment of hilarity. How in the world did the filmmakers look at that thing and think it was acceptable for their movie? As it turns out, the creature effects were farmed out after principal photography was done. According to the internet, so it must be true, the work was contracted to a small company in Mexico City. I couldn’t find information about who exactly was to blame, so it’s possible I’m just repeating a rumor. But, whoever is responsible, I thank you. There is nothing that makes this film stand out other than the creature. It’s worth a million laughs. That doesn’t make The Giant Claw a better movie than Alien: Resurrection, though.