January 28th, 2008

THE GIANT CLAW (1957) **

Every bad movie fan owes it to themselves to check this movie out.  It features one of the WORST monsters ever seen on the silver screen, and if that isn’t a worthwhile recommendation, I don’t know what is. 


Jeff (This Island Earth) Morrow stars as a jet pilot named Mitch who sees a giant bird monster but no one believes him.  When the enormous eagle swallows up a couple pilots, the Army hires Mitch to help kill it.  The first order of business though is to find it’s nest and shoot the creature’s eggs so there aren’t MORE gigantic gulls with titanic talons flying around.  Well, that makes the monster REALLY mad, and it flies into the city and destroys a couple buildings.  Since the monster is covered by an impenetrable force field, the military has to shoot it with “atomic spitballs” in order to kill it; but all they really had to do was cut the clearly visible strings that were keeping the damned thing up. 


You may have seen some crummy looking monsters before, but you ain’t seen nothing unless you’ve seen The Giant Claw.  You’ll have to wait a good half an hour to see the giant bird for yourself, but it’s definitely worth the wait.  It looks like a cross between a demented vulture and an anorexic turkey.  As animatronic avians go, it looks about as lifelike as Big Bird.


The monster effects, though completely retarded looking, will keep you in stitches.  The scene where the bird attacks a group of parachuters and gobbles them up one by one is priceless.  The bird’s other victims include cattle, horses, hot rodding teenagers and one annoying superstitious Mexican.  Trust me you haven’t lived until you see a monster that looks like a drunken piñata swoop down from the sky to scarf down on an illegal immigrant. 


Speaking of bad models being held up by strings, the airplanes in this movie also look like they came directly from the dime store.  All you’ll be able to think about during the scenes where the planes duke it out with the monster is “Oh my God, I hope their strings don’t get tangled up!”  There’s also a hilarious effect of the spinning Earth that looks like a painted beach ball tossed in for good measure too.  


Every time the goofy looking monster shows up, it’s damn good times, but unfortunately everything involving Morrow and the lamebrain scientists is boring as all get out.  The movie is also padded with tons of stock footage and gratuitous narration (“It was a feathered nightmare with wings!”) that will make you want to pull your hair out.  The scenes of the phony flamingo are pretty great, but ultimately there are way too many laborious scenes involving humans with the personalities of unupholstered furniture that get in the way of the fun.


Producer Sam Katzman saved a LOT of money on the effects in this one by hiring a bunch of Mexicans to create the infamous monster.  Maybe if he let THEM direct the picture instead of Fred F. (The Werewolf) Sears, it could have been a laugh a minute classic, instead of a sporadically amusing cult item. 


Even though Katzman cut corners on the budget, some of the dialogue is worth a million bucks. 


Like when Morrow showcases his doubts about his plan for killing the monster:  “It’s one of those cockeyed concepts that you pull down from Cloud Eight somewhere in sheer desperation!”


Or how about when one of the fighter pilots does battle with the oversized ostrich and says:  “Yow!  Holy Toledo!  I’ve seen some mighty big chicken hawks back on the farm, but man, this baby takes the cake!  Honest to God, I’ll never call my mother in law an old crow again!”


But it’s a random puzzled scientist that gets the movie’s best line:  “That bird is extra-terrestrial.  It comes from outer space from some God forsaken, anti-matter galaxy millions and millions of light years from the Earth.  No other explanation is possible.”



After starring in crap like The Incredible Petrified World, Robert Clarke said, “Hey making a low budget horror movie is easy!” and decided to direct, produce, co-write and star in this uneven atomic age monster flick. 


He found out making a good horror movie isn’t as easy as it looks. 


Clarke plays an alcoholic doctor who accidentally gets hit with a massive dose of radiation.  He shows no immediate signs of being harmed, but whenever he is exposed to the sun’s UV rays, he becomes an ugly scaly monster.  He copes with his dilemma the only way he knows how, which involves drinking mass quantities of alcohol.  


He contemplates suicide, but finds a reason to live in the form of a sexy nightclub singer played by Patricia Manning.  One night they make love on the beach, which makes her gangster boyfriend jealous.  When the thug tries to rough him up in broad daylight, Clarke turns into the hulking monster and goes on a rampage.  He murders a couple of cops, scares some school kids and kills a dog.  In the end, he gets gunned down by the police and plunges from the top of a water tower. 


The Hideous Sun Demon is similar in some ways to The Incredible Melting Man (the hospital scene is almost identical) but isn’t nearly as much fun.  You have to wonder if the esteemed Marvel artist Jack Kirby loved this movie as the creature looks a lot like The Thing from The Fantastic Four and features a lot of similarities to The Incredible Hulk as well.  The make-up effects are rather well done, but as in The Alligator People (which was released the same year), the monster in this movie inexplicably wears a pair of snappy dress pants. 


This would-be cult item has the benefit of a pretty convincing monster and a solid performance by Clarke, but little else.  Despite showing the creature rather early, Clarke doesn’t turn the beast loose into much later in the picture.  Ordinarily this wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but most of the scenes that take place in between the monster’s appearances play like a grade Z soap opera.  It doesn’t help when you have to sit through Manning’s incessant droning on the piano TWICE, which is guaranteed to drive you up the wall.


There’s not much here in the way of fun dialogue, but the headlines do warn:  Weird Killer Still at Large!


Clarke later help spoof the film when it was re-released and redubbed with comic dialogue as What’s Up Hideous Sun Demon?    If some of the music seems familiar, it’s because it later turned up in Night of the Living Dead. 


AKA:  Blood on His Lips.  AKA:  The Sun Demon. 



A nerdy professor named Dr. Percy Corly (Robert Wood) teaches a sex education class, even though he’s still a virgin.  (The narrator says, “When it came to girls, he was still in kindergarten!”)  He drives a car that looks like a cross between a Beetle and a Radio Flyer wagon, still lives with his nagging mother and is pretty much a big time loser. 


He’s tired of not getting any, so he and a grey haired colleague build a giant computer that produces beautiful women out of thin air.  Things get off to a rough start when he wishes for a “real life bunny” and the machine spits out a cotton tailed rabbit.  The second attempt isn’t very successful as the computer creates an extremely effeminate homosexual which leads him to promptly hit the erase button.  The third time’s the charm as the machine produces a sexy chick who says “I am programmed to love only Dr. Corly!” 


They make out for a bit, but then his partner gets jealous and creates a girl for himself.  He gets carried away and sucks himself into the computer with the two girls.  Dr. Corly then sticks his head into an industrial hair dryer so he can have a (fully clothed) virtual orgy with several girls.  He becomes addicted to the machine and we get to see glimpses of the seemingly never ending line of girls he gets to hook up with.


Eventually Percy has enough of the virtual sex and orders the machine to produce an army of brain-dead women zombies who say “We… love... you!”  Percy finally weeds out his “perfect girl”, but he ends up breaking his glasses and falling in love with an “ugly” girl, who is played by the same actress except she's wearing GLASSES. 


Usually when Herschell Gordon Lewis made a gore movie, you had to sit through a lot of bad acting, awful dialogue and kooky music before you got to the “good stuff”.  Unfortunately, there IS no good stuff in this flick.  After everything Percy goes through in this movie (not to mention what he puts the audience through), you’d think he’d at least score, but NO.  Even though the movie promises sex, it’s all tease and no please.  There’s no nudity, and the “lovemaking” is nothing more than extended make-out sessions.  Lewis is the only director alive who could make a nudie movie that had NOT ONE SINGLE NUDE GIRL in it and get away with it.  We’ll forgive him though. 


The “comic relief” in this movie is anything but funny, but at least the chintzy production values are good for a laugh or two.  The inane music on the other hand will crush your soul and force your mind to teeter on the brink of insanity.  It’s not the worst film Lewis ever made, but it may be his most baffling. 


As bad as the film is, you at least have to give credit to Herschell Gordon Lewis for creating the concept of virtual reality sex twenty five years before Skinamax made it chic.  That alone is worth SOMETHING in my book.


AKA:  How to Love a Doll.