By Scott A. Cupp
This is the 177th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films
The other day on Facebook someone put up a picture that brought back interesting memories. The picture was a still from The Giant Claw.
I remember the events leading up to my seeing this film. I don’t remember the exact year. I know it was the summer of 1964 or 1965. My family was vacationing at the military park on Lake Texoma. We were visiting with my uncle Johnny and his family in the evenings and spending the day swimming at the lake. I am not a great swimmer and this may have been a reason why.
About ten in the morning, we were wading around in the water when my sister screamed bloody murder. She had stepped on a broken beer bottle and gashed open the sole of her foot. My mom grabbed a towel and wrapped up the foot. We got our stuff together and made the drive over to Perrin Field and the hospital. About an hour and a couple of stitches later, she was better.
We went back to the lake and had our lunch. In the afternoon, we went back into the lake (except my sister, who had a bandage on her foot). About 2 p.m. my brother stepped on a broken beer bottle and sliced open the bottom of his foot. Again, we grabbed up our stuff and headed back to town. I got dropped off at my uncle’s house, as sitting in the emergency room for the second time that day did not appeal to me. My cousin Ronnie was there. We were about the same age but of totally different temperaments.
While the family was at the hospital, Ronnie and I watched The Giant Claw. The family came back for me after about an hour and a half later and asked if I wanted to go back to the lake. I looked at my pale, flat and unscarred feet and said I thought I would stay at the house and finish the movie.
If you’ve ever seen The Giant Claw, you know what a hard choice that was.
Aeronautic Engineer Mitch McAfee (Jeff Morrow) is performing some tests in a jet when he witnesses a large shape coming toward his jet. He cannot make out the details but it is big and moving very rapidly. He narrowly avoids a collision and returns to the ground. Here, as he recounts his encounter, he is greeted with skepticism as the ground radar has not reported anything else in the sky. The military officer in charge threatens him over his prank. Even Sally Caldwell (Mara Corday), his girlfriend/mathematician, does not believe him.
Major Bergen (Clark Howat) is about to fight him when a call comes in about another sighting of a UFO and a missing commercial plane. Again, nothing else was seen on the radar, and the pilot had called in the sighting. Suddenly, Mitch and Sally are on their way to Washington. On their flight, the plane is attacked by the UFO and they end up in the area of the U.S./French Canadian border, where they are rescued by Pierre (Louis Merrill). When the authorities arrive, Pierre is outside and screams. He has seen la Carcagne, a French Canadian mythic creature, part woman, part giant bird.
In New York, the pair meet up with Generals Considine and Buslirk (Morris Ankrum and last week’s star of The Neanderthal Man, Robert Shayne). Mitch has found a pattern in the bird’s attacks, based on a giant spiral. More attacks are happening and they fit the pattern.
Up to this point, the The Giant Claw is a decent little B film. Then, we get to see the bird. Oh, my Lord! According to IMDB, Jeff Morrow stated that, up until the premier, no one in the cast had seen the creature. Morrow saw the film in his hometown and when the crowd started laughing, he got up and left, rather than be recognized for being in the film.
The producer ran out of money and contracted with a special effects group in Mexico. Their monster is one of the great laughing stocks in B movie history. The giant bird is a puppet with a deformed face. You can see the strings in a few scenes. It is unconvincing and horrid-looking and ruined what might have been a decent film.
Humanity wins against this extra-terrestrial being with an anti-matter screen which is bent on destruction. The method doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but by then, you don’t care. It’s a sad finish to a ruined film that had potential.
It had been more than 50 years since I saw The Giant Claw the first time. I had hoped my memories were incorrect or hazy. They were but not in a good way. It will be at least that long before I attempt it again. Unless I have to show it to someone as a lesson.
Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.