Today I'm watching, dun dun dun, The Giant Claw! This B-monster movie released in 1957, and even then it was ridiculed for its special effects. According to Wikipedia, the lead actor first saw the movie in his hometown. He left the theatre early because he was afraid that people would recognize him...that's pretty bad. Heh, I'm looking forward to this already.
I knew virtually nothing about this movie going in. Heck, I still know little about this movie after researching it. All I knew is that it's on numerous lists of movies that are so bad their good. Being the fan of bad movies that I am, I had to check it out, and I wasn't disappointed in the slightest.
The opening narration starts with,
"Once the world was big." Really? So you're saying it isn't anymore? Has the world magically shrunk in size in the last 100 years? "Through the centuries, science has made man's lifetime bigger..." What does that even mean? If you meant longer, than use the word longer. This is already reminding me of Plan 9 from Outer Space with its weird grammar. I'll let the narration continue.
"...and the world stronger...Time has lost all meaning as man-made devices speed many many times faster than sound itself." So you’re saying that the time you spend with your friends or your kids has lost all meaning? Deadlines for reporters has lost all meaning? The time it takes to diffuse a bomb has lost all meaning? There's more to time than simple travel time. And about that supersonic speed you mentioned, how many average citizens have regular access to that equipment? Also, the fastest aircraft speeds as of this movie's release is 1,822 km/h while sound travels at 1,236 km/h in the atmosphere. I wouldn't consider that many times faster than sound, would you? What's worse, this movie has pretty much nothing to do with the speed of any aircraft, making me wonder why they even mentioned it. Anyway if I keep this up, I could write an entire review on the intro alone, but I've still got a full movie ahead of me.
The narrator goes on to describe how radar equipment must be calibrated carefully and tested for blind spots, which makes me wonder how that has anything to do with how fast machines can travel. A quick scene shows radar operators communicating with a pilot, showing them testing the radar equipment.
The narrator talks over the radar analysts talking and working while the test pilot spots a UFO. The narrator continues to talk over the pilot reporting his sighting in. Why are you narrating over this? I'd much rather hear what the pilot is talking about. Anyway, the UFO didn't appear on the radar.
The narrator describes the object as something the size of a battleship that travels too fast to even estimate its speed. Holy crap I want one of those. The camera shows a black blur flying across the screen several times. At one point I could make out a bird-like creature, could this be, dun dun dun...the giant claw?
The radar operator sends out a distress signal, and we cut to stock footage of pilots dashing toward their fighter jets complete with silly trumpet music. Ah, the glorious days of 50's B-movies - they never get tiresome.
The pilot walks into the officer's office, where the officer belittles him. The pilots that responded to the distress signal found nothing. The officer says that if the pilot was in uniform, he'd court martial him. The officer also points out that the pilot is a radar technician. Because he's a radar techie citizen, the officer can't touch him. Question, why is the radar technician flying a plane when he should be on the ground configuring the radar? That's his job after all. Why is he handling a military aircraft when there should be military pilots available?
Holy crap, I'm only 7 minutes in and I've already got plenty of stupidity to work with. I'd better hold back or this review will never end.
The officer then finds out that one of the pilots didn't return from the wide search for the UFO and he and his plane are missing. Right after that, the officer receives a call and finds out that a transport aircraft is also missing. This calms the officer down and he lets the pilot - sorry, engineer go.
The movie then shows the engineer on a transport plane with a female mathematician, who was also testing the radar earlier. The transport's pilot soon sees the giant blurred bird. The pilot then calls the engineer, named Mitch, up to the cockpit. The pilot tells Mitch about seeing another UFO, and then the plane is hit by, dun dun dun...the Giant Claw!
The pilot is knocked out and Mitch takes over the cockpit. Meanwhile, we see a model plane smoking as it's the background makes it look as though the plane is falling. The plane crash lands into a field and everyone evacuates the plane, Mitch helping the unconscious pilot. They duck as the transport explodes, and several pieces of the plane's exterior fall around the trio. Alright, I'll give them points for having debris while most modern big-budget pictures ignore that kind of science.
Some French dude shows up and finds the crash survivors in the field, and the movie cuts to the night at the dude's crib. An ambulance shows up and they pick up the injured pilot. A military officer informs Mitch and the mathematician that there's a commercial jet waiting to take them back to New York. Seriously? You'd think that after a plane crash, they might feel like taking a bus or taxi home instead. Anyway, the military is sealing the area off and wants to keep the situation "hush hush." Of course, we all know that never lasts long in these monster movies (monster movie cliché number 47.)
After the military man leaves, the French dude heads outside his crib. Suddenly, the storm outside picks up and the dude screams. Mitch and the mathematician walk outside and see him lying on the ground. They help him inside and sit him down as he's obviously traumatized by, Dun dun dun...The Giant Claw! The dude talks of seeing something with the body of a woman and wings too big for description. He calls the creature La Carcagne, but it's more fun to call it the Giant Claw.
Two cops soon show up. Apparently the cops are Mitch's ride to the airport. One of the cops decides to stay behind and look after the traumatized French dude. It's here where I learn the mathematician's name is Sally, took the movie long enough.
The cop explains to Mitch and Sally that the bird the dude described belongs to a legend. The legend says that if you see the bird, you will die really soon. At that, the dude starts crying. At this, the cop leads Mitch and Sally to his car and they depart for the airport. Before we cut to the airplane, we see a giant bird-like footprint in the ground. Oh come on, I already know it's a bird creature. The advertising poster shows a giant winged creature and I already made out a bird-like blur.
On the plane, we have a really cheesy conversation between Mitch and Sally. Apparently they're in love, and they like comparing mathematic patterns to baseball. Least romantic love talk ever. Mitch suddenly gets the idea and figures out a pattern of all the sightings and plane disappearings related to, Dun Dun Dun...The GIANT CLAW! The claw is flying in some outward circle; Mitch's sighting is in the center of the circle.
The next morning, a military patrol flies over where Mitch's plane crashed earlier. They spot the UFO and send out another distress signal. This time, the giant claw starts chirping like a giant bird, gaining the attention of everyone on board the patrol plane. Here, we finally get our first glimpse of, DUN DUN DUN...THE GIANT CLAW!
Just look at that thing. What is that supposed to look like? A vulture with a Mohawk? A mutant with the neck of a giraffe and the wings of a...giraffe? No wonder people made fun of it. This is where it's at people, pure 50's B-movie greatness, and I'm loving every minute of it.
Anyway, the flying thing grabs the plane and the crew jump out in their parachutes. The creature then charges one of them and swallows him whole in a hilariously bad special effect. After swallowing a second man, the scene ends.
(Watch out for the bad green screen effect!)
Mitch is awoken by the military asking him to see the officer at once. Mitch is soon at the military office, showing his outward circle theory. The officer then draws two more points on the map; two more planes have been taken out by the battleship-sized bird. One plane simply dropped off the radar; the other reported seeing a giant bird. The military has also found pictures of the bird from some floating balloon cameras (just roll with it,) and the officer commands the entire nation on full combat alert. Mitch and Sally are taken to Washington as Mitch is the only living person to have witnessed the bird personally. I guess the movie forgot about that other pilot who was only injured in the plane crash earlier but whatever.
In Washington, Mitch is talking to a General. This scene is mostly pointless, other than informing us that the military has found and engaged, DUN DUN DUN...THE GIANT CLAW! The General orders them to shoot the "overgrown buzzard" down.
Cut to pilots filmed in front of screens of stock footage. The effects here are similar to Turkish Star Wars, although it's easier to see what's going on. The pilots start spewing one-liners about the giant vulture...giraffe...thing, including,
"Holy talio! I've seen some mighty big chicken-hogs on the farm but man this baby takes the cake."
"Honest to Pete I'll never call my mother-in-law an old crow again." The General chuckled silently at that one. Ladies and Gentlemen, the cheesiness has gone into overdrive - LET THE AWESOMENESS BEGIN!
What follows is a battle composed of stock footage mixed with the giant claw looking goofy as ever, eating small model planes and shrugging off missiles like a car shrugs off bugs. This is simply hilarious.
"It's like we're hitting a battleship with a slingshot."
(poster is from here)
The bird kills the squadron off, followed by a scene of the general distressing over how the frick they'll possibly kill the creature. Mitch suggests they use "Atomic spitballs." Atomic spitballs? What's next, black hole crayons?
We then cut to...a lesson in the science of atoms? What the frick? I came here to watch bad special effects and poorly inserted stock footage, not a refresher on grade six science. Anyway, the science officer talks about anti-matter (he describes it as matter where the electrons are in the nucleus and the protons orbit the electrons.) He says that anti-matter is proven to exist. Uh, anti-mater is made up of antiprotons and anti-electrons. Ignoring that, the scientist suggests that the creature is protected by a screen of anti-matter, and when matter and anti-matter collide, they both explode. Apparently that's why the creature won't show up on radar, fair enough. They conclude that the bird is an alien - there's that B-movie goodness again.
The movie cuts to a montage of the bird revealing itself to the general public, flying over cities and frightening people all over the world. It attacks everything it sees, including trains, cows, and civilians running for cover. The entire world is in a state of unified emergency. Not even atomic weapons can slow the rampage of, DUN DUN DUN...THE GIANT CLAW! All public transportation has been halted. It's the end of the world, AAAAAAAAAAAA!
(Such a friendly guy. He'd be the life of any party.)
Sally and Mitch figure out together that the alien bird isn't just on earth to feed; the alien is on earth to build a nest. Additionally, the nest is near the French dude's crib. No idea how they figured that out, but I don't care either.
They head toward the alien's nest with a helicopter, which is such a good idea considering how easily the thing has taken out military jets in the past. Heck, the creature even sweeps at them on the way down, yet it somehow misses and leaves. I...don't...never mind. After they land, Mitch, Sally, and the French dude start hiking through the woods. Mitch is carrying two sniper rifles with him. What good will those sniper rifles do against a creature that can't even be harmed by nuclear weapons? Also, why does he have two? Give the other to either sally or the French dude. Fricken weapon hogs, the bane of my Goldeneye 64 days.
After their hiking trip, the trio finds the nest of, DUN DUN DUNN...THE GIIAANT CLAAW! The creature shows up and as it sits inside the nest, the trio spots the creature's egg. The French dude runs off as Sally takes one of Mitch's rifles. They take turns shooting the egg until it breaks in half. I'm pretty sure an egg would shatter in more than two pieces after it was shot several times, but whatever. The creature attacks and knocks a bunch of branches on top of the two before charging after the French dude. Yeah, because it's always more satisfying to slightly annoy the aliens that killed your child than it is kill them. The claw kills the French dude, NOOOOOO! He was my favorite character that spoke French in this movie.
Mitch and Sally then leave the area in a car. They're passed by a gang of obnoxious teenagers, who are soon attacked by the flying alien bird. What follows is the funniest special effect in the movie yet. The bird flies around carrying the car. We see a bunch of sparks coming from the car as if it's supposed to be on fire. Eventually the alien drops the car, and it randomly explodes in mid-air. Everything about this scene looks incredibly fake. Mike and Sally find two of the teenagers on the ground. Somehow their alive despite their car exploding hundreds of feet in the air. Mitch and Sally agree to take them to the hospital.
We learn in the next scene that Mitch has figured out how to hurt the battleship-sized vulture. He's discovered some new kind of atom that can slip through the anti-matter shield. Are you serious? A radar operator discovers a new atom? What's next, a real light saber? Teleportation to the moon? Genetically engineering humans with wings? This guy could beat Dr. Doom in the science department. What follows is a short montage of Mitch working with the atomic scientist in trying to create this new kind of hyper atom, intercut with repeat shots of the giant flying alien attacking trains.
After Mitch succeeds at creating a new atom, the alien bird is shown on top of a model empire state building. Mitch and Sally join a crew in a plane with the hyper atom launcher in the back, and they take off toward New York for the final battle. The plane passes by the bird several times to attract its attention. The rest of the battle is a combination of stock footage and the bird chasing a model plane over a model of New York City. It's cheap looking, poorly edited, and one of the funniest things I've seen in a while.
The hyper atom gun works, breaking up, DUN DUN DUNNNN...THEE GIIIAAANT CLAAAAW's anti-matter shield. The alien is soon killed by rockets, sinks into the ocean, and the movie ends.
What a glorious ending to a gloriously bad movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and anyone who enjoys bad movies needs to watch this as soon as possible. It's similar to Plan 9 in some ways, but it usually makes more sense and has fewer glaring mistakes. Still, it's a classic B-movie that's well worth it's cult following.
Two word review - Amusingly bad