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Film Review: The Giant Claw (1957)

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SYNOPSIS:

Global panic ensues when it is revealed that a mysterious UFO is actually a giant bird that flies at supersonic speed and has no regard for life or architecture.

REVIEW:

Since I mentioned the show many times in the past, it should become as no surprise to anyone that’s read my reviews that I am a big fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (both the original and the new). However, there are so many episodes that even I can’t keep track of which films they riffed on which they haven’t. As I watched The Giant Claw, a black and white “gem” from 1957, I was thoroughly convinced that it had been in an episode of MST3K. I was quite surprised to learn that it had not, in fact, fallen victim to that show’s good-natured ribbing. It was exactly the kind of stuff they covered, and it resembled so many others that they had in the past.

The Giant Claw is another movie where a giant creature (this time some kind of bird) presents a danger to the world, and it’s up to the U.S. armed forces, with the assistance of a scientist, engineer, and mathematician to help them overcome the threat. The problem is that the giant bird that is causing so many problems is from an antimatter galaxy (no, really) and has some kind of weird antimatter shielding that renders most of our weapons useless against it. The movie’s heroes are now in a rush to find some way to counteract the bird’s natural defenses so the military can try to put the creature down.

When I mentioned earlier that this flick resembled many of the others that MST3K covered, that wasn’t meant as a compliment. The movie is so similar to many others of its time that I was having trouble remembering details of it as soon as it ended. It follows so many of the same beats as of many numerous films of its time that it seems like the writers and director were too afraid to actually do anything to new. This results in a pretty much “paint by the numbers” affair. No one’s asking for them to reinvent the wheel, just add something, anything, different. Their failure to do so makes it and indistinguishable from the rest of the pack. It’s blander than a bowl of plain oatmeal and mostly forgettable.

However, adding a bit of “spice” is the giant bird itself. This thing is freaking hilarious looking. It’s like someone used rubber and paper mache to make some kind of hideous pinata. Not only does it look fake, but I’ve also seen skeletons that are more lifelike than this creature. It’s so obviously being pulled around on wires during the flying shots that there is no chance of taking it seriously. It’s almost cute in how ugly and terrible looking it is. We sometimes get close up shots of its head when it’s doing certain things, like eat a parachuting pilot that just ejected from a jet it destroyed, and I’m pretty convinced the bird’s noggin in those instances is a puppet with some dude’s hand in it. I found myself laughing at the creature whenever it showed up on screen, and it was even funnier when people were trying to act terrified of it.The creature actually stopped things from being dull since it provided so much unintentional comedy. Of course, I could just have a warped sense of humor.

The explanation for the creature, that it’s from an antimatter galaxy, is just as wacky as the beast’s appearance. Believe it or not, it is possible that there is such a galaxy out there, but there’s no evidence to support the theory. From what my limited research has uncovered, we should have seen some signs of a galaxy of antimatter by now since there’d be explosions caused by when it interacts with any kind of matter. If such a galaxy did exist, it would have to be so far away that the light of the matter/antimatter reactions hasn’t become visible to us yet. This then brings up the question, how did the bird get here? If it actually flew through space, how was that even possible? What did it do to survive in the vacuum of space? How old is this creature? It’s a concept that’s so preposterous that it falls apart under the most surface level scrutiny, even if you didn’t take the time to do a little research.

Much to my surprise, one of the movie’s strengths is in the acting. While not every single actor gave a great performance (okay, some of the actors in minor roles were actually kind of awful), the principal cast members were actually pretty good. In particular, Jeff Morrow as our main hero does a great job of showing his characters fear, confusion, and desperation as all efforts to bring down the creature. He gave an earnest and believable performance of a man forced to watch helplessly as the events spiral out of control. His female co-star, Mara Corday, didn’t have much to do a lot of the time, but she still shows some solid acting chops when given the chance. The rest of the supporting cast, for the most part, was pretty good too. After seeing so many movies of this ilk be plagued with shoddy performances, it was refreshing to see this particular film buck that trend.

All in all, this is a quaint little film that is largely forgettable. Sure it has surprisingly solid acting and creature effects silly enough to be funny, but the Giant Claw sticks too closely to a formula set by other for its own good. Since it doesn’t add much new to the table, there isn’t much of a reason to go out of your way to see it by itself. However, if you want a chuckle, it looks like the fellows over at RiffTrax riffed on it recently. That is probably the only time it’ll be worth seeing.

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