Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bird On A Wire: The Giant Claw(1957)

Giant winged monsters and birds are a common staple of science fiction films and I suspect they always will be. Monsters like Mothra and Rodan are well known and also well liked among the large community of giant monster movie fans, as is another Toho winged monster, King Ghidorah. Flying monstrosities are often featured in what are generally considered subpar films, to be sure, one of the more recent entries, and one I have great disdain for being Pterodactyl, a straight to video movie that utlimately, and not surprisingly, ended up on a quickie DVD release and currently makes the rounds on The Sci-Fi Channel. One of the earliest American films to fully showcase an enormous flying avian was 1957's The Giant Claw, produced by Columbia Pictures and directed by Fred Sears. It's been called a turkey in numerous DVD guides but I like it just the same. I guess there's no accounting for taste.

The film's story: a scientist named "Mitch McAfee", piloting a jet to test a new avionics system, witnesses a giant flying object. Later, on the ground, the scientist(played by Jeff Morrow), faces skepticism, even ridicule from his military colleagues, and a lovely female assistant(played by Mara Corday ). Not for long. Strange incidents begin happening, and eventually it is discovered that the cause is an absolutely gigantic bird, resembling a vulture and extraterrestrial in origin. The military's initial attempts to destroy the bird are futile, as it is determined that the enormous avian is shrouded in some kind of invisible, magnetic force screen. Meanwhile, the scientist(and his female colleague) discover the giant bird's egg, which the pair destroy with high powered rifle shots. The monster bird, predictably unhappy at the destruction of it's egg, renews it's attacks on populated areas with great ferocity. It is up to the scientists to determine how to solve the giant bird's force shield, in order to destroy it. (no other spoilers)

Observations: The Giant Claw is great fun for me to watch. There are some poorly rendered shots of the bird, no doubt, especially the effects shots used from Mitch McAfee's perspective as he first sees the gigantic space buzzard from the cockpit of his jet. A blurred shot of what looks to be a rubber chicken moving along a wire is used here. There are also some great shots as well, like when the flying monster attacks NYC and its skyscrapers, or when it swoops down and snatches up the train. Jeff Morrow is good as "Mitch McAfee", and Mara Corday is also solid, and beautiful(as always in these 50's films).

The film has been released to Region 1 DVD and is part of the DVD set Icons Of Horror Collection-Sam Katzman: http://www.superduperclub.net/col-d22074d.html

The trailer for The Giant Claw(1957):