Monday, February 13, 2012

Review: The Giant Claw (1957)

Credentials: 3.6 out of 10 (

Plot: During a routine radar test flight, an electrical engineer by the name of MacAfee (Jeff Morrow) spots a UFO that’s “as big as a battleship.” The Air Force sends fighters to investigate, but they don’t find anything. Worse: one of them doesn’t make it back. So of course everyone thinks MacAfee is a dangerous nut. Until more planes start disappearing. Then more people spot the UFO and eventually we learn it’s not a ship, but a giant intergalactic vulture that emits an antimatter force field, making it immune to weapons. You know, that old chestnut. It’s up to MacAfee, the world’s most attractive mathematician (Mara Corday), a few generals and a drunken French Canadian to kill the bird, save the planet and restore order to the scientific community.

Why it stinks: I have no idea why this movie is called “The Giant Claw.” None. The giant, intergalactic space vulture, like all regular and Earth-bound vultures, has two claws. So I guess a more accurate title would be “The Giant Claws.” Why the producers chose to single out just one of its claws is beyond me. Also unknown is whether the title refers to the left or right claw of the intergalactic winged menace, since they both seem to be roughly the same size.     

                Petty moaning about the title aside, “The Giant Claw” was made in the 50’s, it was made on the cheap and boy does it show. Look no further than the intergalactic space vulture. Sweet jesus lord, the thing looks like something a demented kindergartener would draw. It has a beak AND huge pointy teeth! Why?? That kind of early-stage psychosis will almost certainly get you sent to the principal’s office and enrolled in some type of counseling.

                Not only is the character design bizarre, the puppet used to bring that design to life is an absolute disaster. There are no words to describe it other than it’s like something out of Jim Henson’s cheapest, ugliest nightmare.
                Side note: The bird is either from "some godforsaken antimatter galaxy" or the past, depending on who you believe. 
                Let’s face it though, the human characters in the movie really aren’t any better constructed than the puppet. Our hero, if you can call him that, MacAfee is just so easy to root against. Perhaps his shining moment comes while he and the lady mathematician are on board a plane. She’s asleep, so naturally he takes it upon himself to start making out with her. Now, at this point in the story, the two have no relationship other than business, and she really doesn’t even seem to like him all that much.
                So, she does what any intelligent woman would do when she wakes up to find a creepy guy with his tongue down her throat: She starts throwing around sex euphemisms and laughs the whole thing off. Next thing you know the two are a couple! What a story that’s going to make for the grandkids! “You see little Jimmy, one day your pop pop started having his way with me while I was asleep.”
                The characters also have an annoying habit of identifying each other by what they do. For example: MacAfee is an electrical engineer, and we’re told that over and over again. I guess in case you’d forgotten what his occupation was in the 5 minutes since it was last brought up.
                Being a Z-grade 50’s sci-fi movie, “The Giant Claw” relies on a lot of stock footage and narration to tell its story. In terms of the stock footage, fans of aviation should get a kick out of spotting all of the different time a plane changes to something else in mid scene, based on what was available. Bombers, fighters, it’s all the same as far as “The Giant Claw” is concerned.
                And the narration. Boy oh boy. This movie features some of the most trivial narration ever committed to film. “It was eleven o’clock. On a Thursday. The sky was clear. Visibility, unlimited.” Who cares! The movies only 77 minutes, stop wasting time with a weather report!

                Worst of the worse

                If you’ve never seen a model plane crash into a model forest in truly unspectacular fashion, and want to, then boy have I got the film for you!    

                Video Evidence

                There it is, “The Giant Claw.” Bumblebee tuna.

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