There’s something just a little bit endearing about a bad movie, isn’t there? So long as it looks like the fine men and women involved at least tried to make a product fit for human consumption and put real effort into it, then this is especially true. However, there are times when you get a real shit sandwich. It can actually have a reasonable cast, an appetising story that makes sense and cinematography that doesn’t make you want to hang yourself but you can’t help but notice that lump of shit sitting in the middle of your otherwise tasty sandwich. Welcome to The Giant Claw.
This movie seems to have been born out of two things: advancement in scientific thinking relating to matter and antimatter made during the mid 1950s, and Godzilla. Both are painfully obvious too. And why not? Godzilla was very successful when it came out (1954 in Japan and then in 1956 as an Americanised released called Godzilla: King of the Monsters). Hell, it’s still successful, having garnered more appreciation and inevitable sequels over time. And who doesn’t love a bit of science in their movie? Except when there’s too much of it and it doesn’t make sense… Unfortunately, this is not Godzilla and was not successful for perhaps the exact opposite reason Godzilla was: The creature is unforgivably, irrevocably, undeniably rectal spawn. But we’ll get to that later.
So I’ve referred to this as a shit sandwich, which is absolutely correct. There are elements to this movie that honestly just aren’t that bad. Indeed, lots of my notes state: “not a lot to say, it’s just average”. The main character, Mitch MacAfee (Jeff Morrow) and his… I guess girlfriend – I’m not really 100% sure to be honest – Sally Caldwell (Mara Corday) are actually quite good. Sometimes likeable. They’re pretty spunky (yeah, this is one of THOSE movies) and occasionally smart in dealing with the threat of a giant vulture-ish puppet from space/wherever. They’re proactive and watchable, which may just be this movie’s saving grace. They are the bread, holding the shitty filling back and preventing it from getting all over everything.
Then we get to the garnish. I’m a fan of tomatoes over cucumber, personally. This film kind of opted for both when casting the ensemble and writing the script. Lots of these guys are simply bad. Whether they’re overacting or just plain don’t give a crap, they’re there in the background, with perhaps a couple who stand out, such as Pierre (Louis Merrill) with his dubious French accent. For a while, I couldn’t actually tell what it was supposed to be, but yeah, it’s French. There’s also your standard scientist bookworm and over-dramatic military man types with a group of asshole teenagers thrown in like a dash of pepper. And, like any bad movie, this is filled with little scripted gems such as “Hey Daddy-O, get that tin can off the road!” Truly a product of its time.
Now how about we add some sauce? Ketchup, Mayo? Not like it makes a difference; they’re still getting mixed up with shit. And the sauce here is the science jargon. First it’s about radar and how good it is; I suppose it was still fairly novel in 1957. But then the radar can’t detect this gigantic bird supposedly “the size of a battleship”, which, thank GOD, they do actually attempt to explain. Kudos movie, you didn’t disappoint. But the main character’s job is a ‘civil aeronautics engineer’… I’d say that’s just about as shoehorned in a job that you could possibly pick. He needs to know about planes and radar and aeronautics and… antimatter? Yeah, I don’t get it either, but what can you do. And that antimatter is pretty important for the whole bird thing. It somehow gives it a shield that for some reason it can turn on and off. They try to explain everything at length, which I like. But they do it badly and in a boring way, which I don’t like. What I managed to take away from this movie is that it pulls an Indiana Jones 4 and goes ‘Oh it’s not an alien bird, it’s from another dimension’ or an ‘antimatter galaxy’ or whatever. I don’t care. Big bird comes, let it wreck stuff! Whether it’s from another dimension or space or the space between spaces means very little to me. What MATTERS is whether the monster that is the poster-boy for this movie is any good… Oh yeah, now we get to wade into the middle and into the real shit.
Oh, the bird… if ever I come across another example of wasted potential, I’d say it pulled a Giant Claw. If you look this movie up, you’ll probably notice that Ray Harryhausen was supposed to produce the special effects and creature art for this film. Yeah, the guy who did Jason and the Argonauts (1963) with those kick ass skeletons, colossus and hydra; Clash of the Titans (1981) that’s full of dozens of memorable creatures; The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) which has a cool fight between a cyclops and weird dragon. Those effects, while dated now, were amazing for the time! This movie COULD have been counted among these classics. But unfortunately, the producer hit budget constraints and decided to go with a rather amateur studio in Mexico and boy, did they screw this up.
We got ourselves a sweet little puppet here. Now that’s not to say that puppets and animatronics are bad in movies. Far from it. E.T or Jurassic Park anyone? Yeah, we wish. This is like Pinocchio in hideous bird form. Actually, it’s like burnt up Anakin Skywalker had a child with Pinocchio and someone threw in the vultures from the Jungle Book for good measure… It’s also painfully and thoroughly unfinished. The eyes are permanently set at different angles, the neck is all wrinkly and weird and it has really stupid hair and teeth that stick out. Oh and the nostrils move for some reason. Can birds do that? Let me know if you know, because I have no idea. Finally, and perhaps what makes it looks the most terrible is that it gets thrown into contrast with other effects that aren’t actually bad. I was impressed by the number of people they got to do crowd scenes in this film. Some models and miniatures that the bird attacks are quite nice. They get some tasteful action in when the bird goes after a train and wrecks the Empire State building. But then it comes back into shot and you can’t help but laugh at how terrified people are of this thing. It’s literally unbelievable just how utterly awful this bird is.
And there’s the deal with this film. You take all of the separate parts, lay them out on a table and you’d be absolutely fine digesting most of it. It’s not great, but I’ve sure as hell seen worse. Dress it up as much as you like though, add as much sauce and garnish as you like and take a bite. At the end of the day, you’re still eating shit.
I’m thinking of doing more reviews of some of the crappiest films around and hopefully being able to make a little selection of ‘so bad they’re good’ ones that I could almost recommend. The kind that drinking games are made on. Maybe I’ll even take some of this stuff to YouTube if I ever get round to it.
You can follow me on Twitter if you like by searching @snakeintheplane. If you liked this one and have any constructive criticisms, recommendations for other terrible movies or games to discuss, or topics you think I’ll get annoyed at, then don’t be afraid to leave a sweet comment down below. Thanks a lot for reading, everybody!