‘Flying beast out of prehistoric skies!’
The Giant Claw is a 1957 American science fiction monster feature film directed by Fred F. Sears (The Werewolf) from a screenplay by Samuel Newman and Paul Gangelin. The Sam Katzman produced movie stars Jeff Morrow and Mara Corday. It was released by Columbia Pictures.
The Giant Claw is usually mocked for the quality of its special effects. The bird is obviously a marionette puppet with a very odd face. The movie includes copious stock footage, including 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 City.
While engaged in a radar test flight, Mitch MacAfee (Jeff Morrow), spots an unidentified flying object. Jets are scrambled to pursue and identify the object but one goes missing. Officials are initially angry at MacAfee over the loss of a pilot and jet over what they believe to be a hoax but are forced to take his story seriously after several other planes disappear.
A gigantic bird “as big as a battleship”, purported to come from an antimatter galaxy (and then later from the year 17,000,000 B.C.), is responsible for all the incidents. Mitch, his mathematician girlfriend Sally Caldwell (Mara Corday), Doctor Karol Noymann (Edgar Barrier), General Considine (Morris Ankrum) and General Van Buskirk (Robert Shayne), work feverishly to develop a way to defeat the seemingly invincible enemy.
The climactic showdown takes place in New York City, with the bird attacking both the Empire State and United Nations buildings.
Reviews [click links to read more]:
“This would have been an ordinarily bad movie of its type, with a good performance by Jeff Morrow, if the special effects had been industry standard for the time. That, however, is not what happened. The Claw is not just badly rendered, it is hilariously rendered, resembling nothing so much as Warner Bros. cartoon-character Beaky Buzzard.” AllMovie
“People love it because of its radioactive level of badness. How ironic that the cast treated the material with absolute professionalism only to later discover the cinematic turkey waddle they were ultimately appearing in. The picture is actually quite well made much of the time…” Cool Ass Cinema
“Of all the monsters I’ve ever seen, this snarling, nostril-flaring, ragged, hair-tufted excuse for a buzzard is the most knee-slappingly funny monster ever devised; too bad the movie wasn’t intended as a comedy. Apparently, Sam Katzman saved a bundle of money by having the special effects done by a company in Mexico.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings
“While watching The Giant Claw, fire back a shot of Scotch (or any other spirit of your choice, I ain’t fussy), every time someone in the movie refers to the huge-ass monster birdie as being/looking/acting like ‘a battleship’…. I guarantee by the end of the film you’ll either be in hospital for alcohol poisoning, dead, or signing up for the twelve steps to addiction recovery and finding Jesus.” The Horror Hotel
“The Giant Claw is a B-movie blast, a picture that delivers all the brainless monster mayhem you could hope for alongside some fun characters and some ridiculously goofy special effects.” Rock! Shock! Pop!
“Mainly, when not foolhardily taking to the skies for the umpteenth time, the characters spend their hours snapping at each other, then apologising and comforting one other, which can get repetitive. It’s the Claw you’ll be watching for though, its awkwardness hilarious and guaranteed to cheer you up – who says this is a bad movie? It’s great fun.” The Spinning Image
“The Giant Claw is not the worst film ever made, and it is pretty bad, but it is actually watchable and there are moments of suspense to be had though horror is understandably missing. Worth watching for the novelty that it is and nothing more.” The Telltale Mind
“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!”)” The Video Vacuum
Cast and characters:
- Jeff Morrow … Mitch MacAfee
- Mara Corday … Sally Caldwell
- Morris Ankrum … Lt. General Edward Considine
- Louis Merrill … Pierre Broussard (as Louis D. Merrill)
- Edgar Barrier … Doctor Karol Noymann
- Robert Shayne … General Van Buskirk
- Frank Griffin … Pete – Pilot (as Ruell Shayne)
- Clark Howat … Major Bergen
- Morgan Jones … Lieutenant, Radar Officer
- Benjie Bancroft … Civil Aeronautics Board (uncredited)
- Brad Brown … Pool Party Diver (uncredited)
- George Cisar … Admonishing Man on Airliner (uncredited)
- Bud Cokes … Civil Aeronautics Board (uncredited)
- Leonard P. Geer … Paramedic (uncredited)
- Dabbs Greer … Fighter Pilot, in clips from ‘Mission Over Korea’ (uncredited)
- Sol Murgi … Civil Aeronautics Board (uncredited)
- Fred F. Sears … Narrator (voice) (uncredited)
- Robert B. Williams … First State Trooper (uncredited)
The Giant Claw had only two official VHS releases – one in the USA through Goodtimes Home Video and the other through Screamtime in the United Kingdom. Columbia Pictures finally released it on DVD in October 2007 as part of the two-disc four-film set Icons of Horror Collection – Sam Katzman.
The working title was Mark of the Claw