The Giant Claw
|The Giant Claw|
Lobby card for the film The Giant Claw
|Directed by||Fred F. Sears|
|Produced by||Sam Katzman|
|Written by||Paul Gangelin
|Music by||Mischa Bakaleinikoff|
|Cinematography||Benjamin H. Kline|
|Edited by||Anthony Dimarco
Saul A. Goodkind
Clover Productions, Inc.
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
The Giant Claw (also known as The Mark of the Claw) is a 1957 science fiction giant monster film about a giant bird that terrorizes the world. Produced by Sam Katzman and released by Columbia Pictures, The Giant Claw was directed by Fred F. Sears; both Sears and Katzman were well known as low-budget B film genre filmmakers. The film starred Jeff Morrow and Mara Corday.
Mitch MacAfee (Jeff Morrow), a civil aeronautical engineer, while engaged in a radar test flight near the North Pole, spots an unidentified flying object. Three jet fighter aircraft are scrambled to pursue and identify the object but one aircraft goes missing. Officials are initially angry at MacAfee over the loss of a pilot and jet over what they believe to be a hoax.
When MacAfee and his mathematician girlfriend Sally Caldwell (Mara Corday) fly back to New York, their aircraft also comes under attack by a UFO. With their pilot dead, they crash-land in Quebec, where Pierre Broussard (Louis Merrill), a French-Canadian farmer, comes to their rescue. MacAfee's report is met with bewilderment and scepticism but the military authorities are forced to take his story seriously after several other aircraft disappear. A gigantic bird "as big as a battleship", purported to come from an antimatter galaxy, is responsible for all the incidents. MacAfee, his girlfriend, Dr. Karol Noymann (Edgar Barrier), Gen. Considine (Morris Ankrum) and Gen. Van Buskirk (Robert Shayne) work feverishly to develop a way to defeat the seemingly invincible enemy.
The climactic showdown takes place in New York, with the bird attacking both the Empire State Building and United Nations buildings. It is defeated by a special type of isotope which brings down its antimatter shield, allowing missiles to kill the bird as it crashes into the ocean outside New York. The last sight of the giant bird is of the creature's claw sinking to the bottom of the ocean.
- Jeff Morrow as Mitch MacAfee
- Mara Corday as Sally Caldwell
- Morris Ankrum as Lieutenant General Edward Considine
- Louis Merrill as Pierre Broussard
- Edgar Barrier as Dr. Karol Noymann
- Robert Shayne as General Van Buskirk (credited as Ruell Shayne)
- Frank Griffin as Pete, the missing pilot
- Clark Howat as Maj. Bergen
- Morgan Jones as Lieutenant, Radar Officer
The inspiration for the story may have been taken from media reports about scientific discoveries in the field of particle physics, dealing with matter and antimatter. Other influences included the Japanese film Rodan (1956), and the Samuel Hopkins Adams story "Grandfather and a Winter's Tale", about la Carcagne, the mythical bird-like banshee from French-Canadian folklore. The Hopkins story was published in The New Yorker in January 1951.
A character in The Giant Claw mistakes the menacing bird for la Carcagne, said to be a monster resembling a giant woman with a wolf's head and bat-like black wings and which, like the banshee, is a harbinger of death.
Under the working title Mark of the Claw, principal photography took place at Griffith Park, subbing for the New York-Canadian border, with interiors filmed at the Columbia Annex near Monogram Studios from February 1–20, 1957. Katzman originally planned to utilize stop motion effects by Ray Harryhausen, but due to budget constraints, he instead hired a low-budget special effects studio in Mexico City, Mexico to create the mythical creature that would be the showpiece of the production. The result, however, was a poorly-made "marionette".
Columbia Pictures released The Giant Claw theatrically as a double bill with The Night the World Exploded (1957). Critical reception was not positive, with Bill Warren of The New York Times later commenting, "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. Once seen, you will never forget this awesomely silly creation."
The Giant Claw has been mocked for the quality of its special effects. The menacing bird, in particular, is considered by many to be badly made, being a puppet with a very odd face. Film critic Leonard Maltin noted that the film disappointed for those reasons," (a) lack of decent special effects ruins the running battle between colossal bird and fighter jets. Big bird is laughable."
The Giant Claw is also riddled with stock footage, including one scene from Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), a clip of the explosion of the Los Angeles City Hall from War of the Worlds (1953) and the collapse of the Washington Monument from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) during the bird's attack on New York City, making continuity a serious issue.
Morrow later confessed in an interview that no one in the film knew what the titular monster looked like until the film's premiere. Morrow himself first saw the film in his hometown, and hearing the audience laugh every time the monster appeared on screen, he left the theater early, embarrassed that anyone there might recognize him. [Note 1]
Video and DVD release
The film has been a staple of the bootleg video market, with only two official VHS releases (one in the USA through Goodtimes Home Video and the other through Screamtime in the United Kingdom) to date.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment finally released the film officially to DVD in October 2007 as part of the two-disc, four-film set Icons of Horror Collection - Sam Katzman, along with three other films produced by Katzman (Creature with the Atom Brain, The Werewolf and Zombies of Mora Tau).
- Morrow allegedly went home and began drinking.
- Walker 1997, pp. 241, 393.
- Smith, Richard Harland. "Articles: 'The Giant Claw'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: April 8, 2015.
- Eggertsen, Chris. "Not So Scary... Top Ten Worst Movie Monsters!" BloodyDisgusting, March 4, 2010. Retrieved: April 8, 2015.
- "Original print information: 'The Giant Claw'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: April 8, 2015.
- Warren, Bill. "Overview: 'The Giant Claw'." The New York Times. Retrieved: April 8, 2015.
- "Review: 'The Giant Claw'." B-Movie Graveyard. 2013. Retrieved: April 8, 2015.
- Maltin, Leonard. "Leonard Maltin Movie Review: The Giant Claw'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: April 8, 2015.
- "Trivia: 'The Giant Claw'." IMDb. Retrieved: April 8, 2015.
- Walker, John, ed. Halliwell's Who's Who in the Movies (14th ed.). New York: HarperResource, 1997. ISBN 0-06-093507-3.
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