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.


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The Mysterians!!!

The Mysterians – 1957, Ishiro Honda – Japan


In the eleven years between 1964 and 1975 we saw seven (SEVEN) Godzilla films with essentially the same plot; aliens (or, in the case of Godzilla Vs Megalon, an ancient, futuristic society from the bottom of the ocean, same deal) show up and try to conquer Earth. At first they act like they’re out interplanetary pals, but then they bust out a giant monster, which they control, and start acting like real dicks. Fun fact; unbeknownst to me until NOW, the blueprint for this scenario predates Ghidorah The Three Headed Monster; it goes back at least as far as The Mysterians, in 1957, which is essentially the same idea, but without Godzilla. Yeah, it’s not a very original idea in the first place.

poster5 mysterians bfi dvd cover

THE PLOT~ A highly advanced race of aliens arrive in rural Japan and set up shop, invasion style. These aliens, all of whom look like they should be piloting a damn Voltron or something, claim that they mean us no harm; they just need a place to crash for a while, and they’d really appreciate us being cool about it. PLUS, they want to bang our Earth ladies. So, hopefully we’re into that.

We’re not. Earth maybe would have been cool with them chilling here for a while, but banging Earth ladies is well over the line, and so, plans to kill every last Mysterian are immediately put into development by every organized government on the planet. They all have to die, every damn one of them.

It turns out that reaction was warranted, because, of course, The Mysterians are all assholes and they plan to conquer the Earth after all. The small area of land they’ve taken is being transformed into some kind of Spacebridge, or something, and it becomes important that we manage to stomp out their efforts before construction is complete. The advanced technology the Mysterians wield makes this difficult, but we figure it out and eventually the invasion is repelled. Hooray! Go die in the cold reaches of space, you sons of bitches.

My take on The Mysterians is a mixed one. Apparently, the film was regarded as being quite well done at the time of it’s release, but without that perspective, it’s hard to know how to look at The Mysterians in a fair way. My honest, gut reaction is that time hasn’t been very kind to this movie. We heard this story so many times during the Showa era that it leaves this early effort feeling unremarkable, and it’s difficult to remember that this one predates the many superior versions we’ve already enjoyed. The Mysterians feels like a rough draft of an idea, and it’s just not done well enough to make this the movie you want to see when so many superior variations are available to you.

Additionally, right or wrong, to me, Godzilla somehow feels exempt from the B-movie stigma that would normally be attached to an alien invaders/giant monster movie. His contributions to pop culture somehow earn him a pass, but without Big Green on board, Mysterians can’t claim this same exemption; it feels every bit as hokey and dated as the American saucer and spaceman films of the 1950’s, even with Ishiro Honda and the supremely talented Takashi Shiumra attached to the project.

The special effects are another problem; they further date and cheapen the production quite drastically. Taking into account the limited technology of the era, it is again difficult to assess this in a fair way, but regardless, it’s impossible for more modern eyes not to notice the clumsy use of blue screen and assorted other gaffs. The miniatures look quite nice, as is the case with most Toho productions, but Mogera, the giant, mechanical monster deployed by the Mysterians early in the picture, looks obnoxiously shoddy. Successful neither in design, nor execution, Mogera looks exactly like a man stumbling about in a costume made largely of spray painted cardboard boxes, which has the potential to be hilarious, if that’s what you’re looking for.

moge-01He is the doofus of the kaiju world.

Mogera turns up again in the Heisei era during the events of Godzilla Vs Spacegodzilla. Somehow he sucks much, much less in that movie.

But are we being too hard on The Mysterians? After all, it’s enjoyable enough, it’s certainly ambitious (jam packed with effects shots from start to finish) and it’s nearly sixty years old! If we’re being fair, the movie is probably fairly impressive when put against other films from that era, and it’s not really that The Mysterians is a bad film, it’s just not as good as Toho’s output in the following years… But this IS an earlier effort. Last word: The Mysterians is interesting, and fun for the completist, but if you’re a more casual movie goer, this just isn’t a Must-See.


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