The Giant Claw
Today’s feature is a monster movie cult classic: 1957’s The Giant Claw.
The Giant Claw was written by the duo of Samuel Newman and Paul Gangelin, who wrote on a handful of television shows throughout the 1950s and 1960s, including The Gene Autry Show, Annie Oakley, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, and Perry Mason.
The Giant Claw was directed by Fred F. Sears, a proficient low-budget director of the 1950s who amassed credits like Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, The Werewolf, and numerous episodes of Ford Television Theater.
The cinematographer for The Giant Claw was Benjamin Kline, an accomplished director of photography who worked on countless television shows, including Wagon Train, The Virginian, Dragnet 1967, Ironside, McHale’s Navy, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and The Amos ‘n Andy Show.
The Giant Claw had two credited editors: Anthony DiMarco, best known for cutting Hell Night and a number of episodes of The Outer Limits, as well as working in a supervisory capacity on Purple Rain and the television show The Rat Patrol, and Saul Goodkind, of the Sherlock Holmes films Terror By Night, Dressed To Kill, and The House of Fear, as well as the 1936 serial movie Flash Gordon.
The lone credited producer on The Giant Claw was Sam Katzman, a frequent collaborator of Fred F. Sears whose credits include Hot Rods To Hell, It Came From Beneath The Sea, and Creature With The Atom Brain, among many others.
The musical score and orchestration for the film was provided by Mischa Bakaleinikoff, a Russian expatriate who composed and orchestrated music for Columbia Pictures for decades, and has credits that include 20 Million Miles To Earth, The Big Heat, and Lady For A Day.
The effects team for The Giant Claw included Ralph Hammeras (The Giant Gila Monster, The Great Dictator, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, The Lost World), George Teague (He Walked By Night, Raw Deal, Hollow Triumph), and Lawrence Butler (Casablanca, The Caine Mutiny, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner).
The cast of The Giant Claw includes Jeff Morrow (This Island Earth, Octaman, Kronos, The Creature Walks Among Us), Mara Corday (Tarantula, The Black Scorpion), Morris Ankrum (In A Lonely Place, Invaders From Mars), Robert Shayne (Indestructible Man, Neanderthal Man), and Louis Merrill (The Lady From Shanghai).
The plot of The Giant Claw is summarized on IMDb as follows:
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.
Reportedly, the cast and the majority of the crew on The Giant Claw had no idea what the monster looked like until the premiere of the movie, during which there was audible laughter every time it appeared on screen. Vic Morrow claimed to have walked out of the premiere screening out of embarrassment.
Shockingly, even the poster artists for the movie weren’t shown the monster, and were given only descriptions to work with. The result is that the monster that features in the posters only vaguely resembles the laughably hideous one in the film.
The Giant Claw now is remembered as one of the great good-bad monster movies of the 1950s: currently, it holds an IMDb user rating of 4.1, and a Rotten Tomatoes audience aggregate score of 34%.
I first came across The Giant Claw when I was a really young kid, and was given a VHS trailer compilation titled Fantastic Dinosaurs Of The Movies by my parents. The Giant Claw was one of the most hypnotically terrible movie monsters featured on the tape, and I was always hoping to stumble onto a copy of the movie. I ultimately didn’t see the film until I was in high school, and I can honestly say that watching the trailer is a lot more fun than sitting through the whole movie. While the stilted dialogue and pseudo-scientific babbling is mildly entertaining, there isn’t a whole lot more to see of the ridiculous monster itself that wasn’t already spotlighted in the trailer.
For fans of b-movie history, The Giant Claw is worth seeing for the experience. I would admit that it is an easier watch than any of the Coleman Francis movies, or pretty much anything that made the cut for MST3k. It has some definite highlight moments, but it is hard to recommend this flick to anyone outside of monster movie die-hards.
For more thoughts on The Giant Claw, I recommend checking out acclaimed director Joe Dante’s commentary on it over at Trailers From Hell, as well as the reviews on the film by Brandon Tenold and Dark Corners of This Sick World.