The Giant Claw – 1957, Fred F. Sears
Science fiction and horror are two genres which play together very well. The sci-fi-horror subgenre presents scenarios which combine the inherent excitement of scientific discovery, with scares that could theoretically happen for reals. Possibly real scares are more potent than for-sure-not-real scares, you see. The Giant Claw is one such film, and it presents us with a terrifying scenario that all scientists agree is just waiting to happen; What would humanity do if we suddenly found the planet Earth invaded by a gigantic, cackling space vulture from the farthest reaches of the gallaxy? Probably we would shoot rockets at it until it freaking died, that’s what.
UNLESS, of course, it was an anti-matter-shield space vulture, in which case our Earth weapons would be powerless against it. Oh, shit! That’s right, you guys; Anti-matter space-vulture. What now?
And it looks just like Iggy Pop.
THE PLOT~ When capable pilot and respected radar expert Mitch MacCafee spots a strange, hulking object zooming through the skies during a routine flight exercise, he is chastised by army brass for making a stink over nothing, since they somehow didn’t notice the friggin’ enormous space-vulture we already know I’m referring to, and don’t believe his far fetched stories. Soon, however, both military and passenger planes begin to go missing under mysterious circumstances, and Mitch, along with Sally Caldwell (I think she’s a mathematician? Not sure) uncover the truth, big surprise, it’s a giant ass anti-matter space-vulture, just screaming it’s head off and tearin’ up our shit. Damn. Mitch and Sally work to find a way to defeat this horrible creature once and for all, and of course, they are successful. In this movie, since our monster is spawned of utter nonsense, so too is our solution, using some sort of science I’m sure is staggeringly inaccurate, they manage to kill this freaking thing, and soon the Earth is one giant monster corpse richer. Hooray! Pretty boiler plate.
As I’ve said, this is a straightforward, black and white monster movie from an era where straightforward, black and white monster movies were a dime a dozen. These films were more or less disposable, like the cinematic equivalent of chewing gum, sat through for lack of a better way to kill a Saturday night, and then quickly forgotten. While The Giant Claw is not as well known today as say, The Day The Earth Stood Still, people still seem to remember it more than they do other, comparable films of that era, and that’s mostly because it’s thought of as being particularly terrible. I would argue that this reputation is undeserved, frankly, I kind of like The Giant Claw. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and it’s not hard to find a 1950’s science fiction flick that sucks harder than this.
Really, it’s gotta be the monster. This freaking space buzzard is indeed a ridiculous looking frump of a beast, and unlike other films which would have left their monster mostly off-camera to conceal how laughably shabby it looked, our big dumb hell-bird is all over the screen in this flick. If the car from The Beverly HIllbillies was a monster, it would be this thing. It’s just a gigantic, cackling, gangly bastard of the skies, and I have no idea how in the hell it manages to go unnoticed for most of the film because it’s the very definition of an areal eye-sore, and it’s freaking gigantic. Also noisy as hell.
Anti-Matter Space Vulture: A Master of Stealth.
I’ve seen worse monsters, though, and anyway, for better or for worse, this giant, screaming bag of garbage is why we remember The Giant Claw today. Without this menacing sky-doofus, it’s doubtful that the film would have incurred enough cinematic wrath to stay in the game a whopping half a century later. Thanks, Space Vulture, you friggin’ idiot, we’ll never forget the good times you’ve brought us.
So, with our ridiculous monster out of the way, there is one last topic we need to cover before we wrap up; The Giant Claw’s ACTUAL worst quality; how badly it rubs that old fashioned 1950’s gender inequality in your damn face. The courtship of Mitch and Sally is pretty cringe-worthy, it involves what must have been a common pre-1978 American Courting Ritual, which goes like this;
“If you meet a fetching woman, take every opportunity to disrespect her for three calendar days. On the fourth day, kiss her on the mouth while she is sleeping. She is now your property by U.S. law.” – The U.S. Constitution
Here’s the thing, though, you can’t really let this surprise you. Have you ever seen a movie before? Believe it or not, Western culture has come a long way, and there was a time when people of both genders could and did watch films like this without even flinching. Today, it’s impossible not to notice how male-centric a film like The Giant Claw really is. You can take whatever lesson out of that you wish, but the fact of the matter is; if you’d like to avoid any fun reminders of what life was like with significantly fewer victories for the Civil Rights Movement, then there are just several decades worth of movies out there that are NOT for you. Actually, psychotronic film in general is something you should probably just steer clear of altogether, unless you’re damn near impossible to offend.
Despite, or perhaps BECAUSE OF its many flaws, I do like The Giant Claw. Its crappiness is charming, and if you like goofy 50’s/60’s B-movies, this is going to prove adequately entertaining.