Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Giant Claw and Creature with the Atom Brain

Once again I have to admit that I love Netflix. It allows me to watch movies that I would never actually buy and can't find in your average video rental store. This time I watched two films from the Sam Katzman "Icons of Horror Collection": The Giant Claw (1957) and Creature with the Atom Brain (1955).

The Giant Claw is notorious for it's bizarrely uneven handling of science (how do you correctly describe a muonic atom while mangling just about every other scientific aspect?), inept use of stock footage (a flight of F-80s turn into F-84s, F-86s, and F-102s, all of which look very different), and the hysterically bad execution of the titular creature (a giant space vulture with anti-matter shields). In order to save money, produce Sam Katzman had the creature made by a model-maker in Mexico City; none of the actors ever saw it before the film's premier. The movie's lead actor was apparently so embarrassed by the final film that he walked out on opening night. Behold the awesome terror of THE GIANT CLAW:

The giant space puppet bird comes to earth to lay eggs and eat random things: airplanes, cars, trains, buildings, etc. Mitch MacAfee (regular b-movie actor Jeff Morrow), an electronics engineer working for the Air Force, and mathematician Sally Caldwell (the attractive Mara Corday, who is the best thing about this movie) have to figure out how to stop the googly-eyed peril before it destroys the world. This film falls firmly into the "so bad it's good" category.
A- (for entertainment value and Mara Corday), D- (for just about everything else)

Creature with the Atom Brain is a significantly better movie. The creature (creatures, actually, since there are nearly a dozen of them) are corpses that are reanimated with radioactivity and are remotely controlled by a convicted mob boss and a German scientist. The superhumanly strong automatons start killing those who helped to convict the mob boss, leaving behind strong traces of radioactivity. Police scientist Chet Walker (Richard Denning, whose justly deserved fate in The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) caused my girls to cheer) quickly figures out what's going on. Of course, he faces an uphill battle in convincing others of his theory.

The filmmakers' grasp of the physics of radiation and radioactivity is poor, but the movie is actually pretty good. The only real misstep is the mid-movie creature rampage, in which the monsters supposedly cause a number of disasters such as train crashes and airplane explosions. The scene is composed of stock footage mayhem and superimposed footage of the creatures from the film's climax (a fight between the creatures, soldiers, and the police). The stock and reused footage, as well as the fact that the creatures were explicitly said to be small in number and limited in how long they can function (their brains tend to fail after a few days) make me think that this was a last minute addition to make the creatures seem more threatening.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails