Giant Claw, The (1957)
Cast: Fred Morrow, Mara Corday, Edgar Barrier, Morris Ankrum, Robert Shayne.
Director: Fred. F Sears
Nutshell: American greatness under threat once again, this time from a Prehistoric Monstrous Buzzard with an appetite for human blood. Either Earth (America) survives or its all over.
Inspired by the Japanese monster classic Rodan, Columbia set out to create their own epic in 1957 with the Cold War as a perfect backdrop. The Giant Claw begins with airplane civil engineer Mitch MacAfee is on a routine flight while the radar experts, scientists and mathematicians take notes. McAfee is somewhere in the far-flung vicinity of the North Pole when he is stunned by a huge fuzzy blob, the size of a battleship streaking across the sky at more than super-sonic speed. He radios in his concern but the radar has no evidence of another vessel in the vicinity. Regardless, a few air force jets are sent to investigate and one of them mysteriously vanishes much to the disgust of the Air Force General who reckons MacAfee has lied in order to create a fuss and because of his idiocy, one of their valuable men and aircraft are unaccounted for.
The furious generals would have had MacAfee court martialed for his misdemeanors but as he is a civilian, they can’t prosecute him. MacAfee himself is pretty distraught at being labelled a liar but is soon somewhat vindicated when there are an increasing number of similar reports about a mysterious UFO blob, flying around faster than the speed of light and causing all sorts of havoc with the air traffic in the region.
Just as the authorities are coming to terms with the situation Mitch and his Mathematician lady friend Sally Caldwell are assailed by the UFO which sends their aircraft plummeting to the earth but miraculously they are able to survive and crawl out before the plane, seemingly made out of cardboard, explodes into smithereens. As horrifying filmed evidence of the UFO is discovered, the Air Force and Washington realize that they have a major problem on their hands and America is in Peril by this pre-historic monstrous gigantic Buzzard like creature with a rapacious appetite for destruction and human flesh.
In a spectacular high speed midair sequence, the beastly buzzard launches a ferocious and murderous attack using its aforementioned Giant Claw, beak and fearsome talons on a jet carrying some scientists. The squawking winged monstrosity plucks the plane out of the air in its beak, toying with it before sending it crashing to the earth below. To satisfy its seemingly insatiable blood lust it snaps two of the scientists as they hope to parachute to safety but instead end up as buzzard bird-feed.
Realizing the scale of the threat that America and indeed the world is under, the United States air force sent out their best to take down the monster and a thrilling battle ensues that ends with the realization that civilization is under extreme threat and the likelihood of the Buzzard taking over Earth is an increasingly grim likelihood. The missiles and bombs just enrage the barbaric bird with a Giant Claw further and make it more blood thirsty and aggressive than it already is.
It is soon determined that the bird is not an animal at all but a creature from Outer Space and that is why for reasons better understood by the most brilliant scientists, it is unaffected by the weapons that are fatal to man. They must now race to find a method by which they can bring down the bird before it ravages all of humanity. Spreading its wings, the beaked menace has already swooped upon an entire railway, carrying hundreds of innocent people and sent it crashing to earth from a height instantly mutilating everyone within. It has also been reportedly been pecking away with impunity at various famous monuments around the world in between regularly plucking large aircrafts from the sky as a snack. That squawking demon now goes into overdrive as it starts ravaging civilian populations, quenching its filthy lust for warm, fresh blood. No one is safe and everyone seems to be lost for an answer but for the curvaceous mathematical bombshell who in between working out a formula that may save the planet still has time for a little canoodling with MacAfee.
Meanwhile in a rare moment of unity, all the nations of the world announce an emergency and all transport is ground to a halt because it is believed that the beast is attracted specially to moving objects. As the vile feathered beaky lump torpedoes towards the population of New York City, the battle is on to find some way by which to stop it because the surrender of the human race is at stake. Can our lovebirds Sally and Mitch find an answer in time or will the Flying la Carcagne take over earth as seems highly likely? There is some hope when they discover some of la Carcagne’s eggs and destroy them, but this only makes an already charged monster even more hell bent on destruction and Manhattan is now the target.
With the bald eagle-buzzard hell-bent on destruction and revenge; a bloody battle to the bitter end is on; either earth survives or takes a bird because, “Lemme tell-jew-one-thing Mi Amores Cu cu, this bald buzzard Boss Bitch right here is a long way from Tweerrie Pie, honey! Jew-know-whatam-talkin’about, Jew-mark-mai-wurr.” (A little quote from Ms. Cynthia Lee Fontaine clone there).
The Giant Claw was derided out of sight when it was released back in 1957 as part of a shock horror double feature. Rather than create any sense of horror the film had audiences laughing uproariously each time the star of the show, the buzzard was on screen. Rather than evoke fear and dread the buzzard evoked peals of laughter and guffaws aplenty which is fine but alas the film was meant to be dead serious and very scary! However, to give credit where due, the stupendousness of the monster has managed to endure and the film has now attained cult status as one of the classics of the golden age of Sci Fi and Creature features of the Atomic 50s.
The buzzard holds its head high among movie monsters alongside Giger’s Alien and Ray Harryhausen’s wonderful creations. The buzzard is quite simply a breathtaking sight and immensely fearsome with razor sharp talons which it used to chilling effect, demolishing building and picking up entire railway lines and aircrafts. The beak however, is the object of most damage with its ability to ravage and obliterate and devour.
The Giant Claw lives up to its still growing reputation and more with several scintillating and horrifying scenes of spectacular mayhem. An array of dazzling special effects and midair battles make this film uniquely exciting and really rather excellent. Highly recommended, with a movie monster, the fabulous la Carcagne that is second to none in the history of Hollywood (well, you could argue the Creeping Terror monster was more impressive but you would lose the argument, eventually). Absolutely essential viewing for those who enjoy their old fashioned Atomic age monster movies. Bordering on “minor masterpiece”.