In honor of Thanksgiving I thought I would write about the biggest turkey of all - “The Giant Claw” (1957). I don’t mean that figuratively, but literally. The Giant Claw belongs to an extraterrestrial creature that looks like a giant turkey who flies around the world wrecking havoc. That is, those parts of the world where legendary cheap-o producer Sam Katzman could get matching stock footage from.
I know I will lose the respect of all who read this blog, but I thoroughly enjoyed “The Giant Claw.” After all, that giant bird is ridiculousness personified as it flies around doing battle with toy planes, chomping down on parachuting military men (yum!), picking up toy trains (twice!) and perching atop a plastic version of the United Nations building.
So why do I like this? I don’t know. I truly don’t know. It is a silly looking monster, I agree. But there are compensations. It moves fast (only 75 minutes), there are no wasted scenes, the romantic subplot is kept at a minimum, we get to see the bird munch on some teenage joyriders (always a good thing), and its just so gosh darn enjoyable.
Everyone in the cast is a veteran of this type of film. Leads are Jeff Morrow from “This Island Earth” (1955) and Mara Corday “Tarantula” (1955) and “The Black Scorpion” (1957). The military is represented by the ubiquitous Morris Ankrum, who played countless generals in 1950s giant monster movies.
Stock footage is familiar from numberless science fiction movies from the period, as are the music cues. It’s like a visit from an old friend.
Plus it includes one of my favorite pieces of stock footage of people running in panic – an old geezer wearing a hat barely keeping up with everyone else as they run away in panic.
I have a story about that footage. I first encountered that gentleman when, as a much younger lad, I saw the immortal giant grasshoppers attacking Chicago movie “Beginning of the End” (1957). Being young and naïve, I thought they had actually come to Chicago to film the movie. From behind the gentlemen looked like my grandfather who used to run like that. Maybe, just maybe, he was in the movie. They filmed the scenes at, say, Grant Park, and now he’s in a monster movie. How cool is that? Of course it wasn’t him, and dear old grandpa denied ever being in a movie with giant grasshoppers.
Little did I realize that it was stock footage, which I have since seen in lots of other 1950s science fiction movies. And there it is again, in “The Giant Claw.” I don’t know where that footage first came from, but if there were residual payments for stock footage, that old geezer must have bequeathed an estate equal to Bill Gates.
Rating for “The Giant Claw”: God forgive me, two and a half stars.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.