by Eric McNaughton
If you are ever in any doubt how big the creature is in The Giant Claw, don’t worry….every ten minutes or so one of the characters will tell you “It’s as big as a battleship”! I’m not joking; you could probably make a decent 30 minute film just out of clips of people saying “It’s as big as a battleship”. A bit confusing really as battleships tend to come in all shapes and sizes. Quite how the monster is mistaken for a battleship is something of a mystery as it looks very much like a splodge of dirt crossing the screen; which is probably an improvement on the actual puppet!! Allegedly the effects were sourced out to Mexico and this monster was never going to give Ray Harryhausen any sleepless nights. It looks like a demented chicken with ping pong ball eyes and a Mohican and must truly be a contender for the worst movie monster ever!
Watching the film you get the distinct impression that the cast had absolutely NO idea of the travesty the effects would be, else how would they keep a straight face? In particular the scene where the cast are watching slides of the Claw getting nearer and nearer until it comes to a cheeky snapshot of the smiling big bird! In fact years later in an interview, star Jeff Morrow admitted that neither he nor anyone on the film saw the title “monster” until they went to the film’s premiere in Morrow’s home town. Producer Sam Katzman had contracted a low-budget model-maker in Mexico City to construct the “Giant Claw” and no one in the cast or crew had any idea it would come out looking as bizarre and, frankly, laughable as it did. Morrow said that the audience roared with laughter every time the “monster” made an appearance, and he wound up slinking in embarrassment out of the theater before the film was over so that no one who knew him would recognize him.
CGI ain’t got a thing on this movie. I mean, honestly, you would never be able to spot the stock footage used; everything from planes crashing to crowds running (I spotted the exact same scene of the exact same crowd running at least 3 times), even a quaint scene of Victorian omnibuses crossing Westminster Bridge!! Also look out for clips of the explosion of the Los Angeles City Hall from War of the Worlds and collapse of the Washington Monument from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers during the bird’s attack on New York. In fact the only stock footage not used seems to be that of actual battleships!
It’s a shame really as the story isn’t that bad – a by numbers 50s giant monster sci fi flick. It also stars the lovely Mara Corday from Tarantula. The film was directed by Fred F. Sears who had also directed the very effective Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers and The Werewolf, so he was probably as surprised and embarrassed as anyone at the final film.
A truly awful but wonderfully entertaining film, which ironically is probably more enjoyable to watch than most of the rubbish that comes out of Hollywood these days. Well worth checking out (you may need a supply of alcohol to hand!). Oh, and did I mention the Giant Claw is as big as a battleship!!!