366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.
DIRECTED BY: Fred F. Sears
FEATURING: Jeff Morrow, Mara Corday, Morris Ankrum, Edgar Barrier
PLOT: When an unidentified flying object terrorizing the globe is discovered to be an enormous, grotesque bird, the planet’s collective scientific brainpower and military might are brought to bear against the winged menace.
COMMENTS: One of the great stories of cinema is the tale surrounding the production of Jaws. It seems the robotic shark that was built to terrorize the citizens of Amity was temperamental at best, unusable at worst. Accordingly, director Steven Spielberg was forced to scrap many of the intended scenes featuring the automated predator, instead resorting to obfuscatory tricks to keep the villain hidden until the last possible moment. This ended up working to the film’s benefit, as the star’s delayed entrance only served to magnify the tension. Spielberg had stumbled backwards into brilliance.
Of course, it’s questionable how much his tactics would have worked had the ultimate reveal of the shark not paid off the suspense. Once the chum-shoveling Roy Scheider comes face-to-face with Bruce the animatronic carcharodon, then we’re off to the races, because the reveal has justified the withholding. You can believe your eyes. It is the black-eyed, remorseless killing machine we were promised.
In some respects, The Giant Claw faces precisely the same dilemma. The filmmakers want to hold back the full and awesome power of their beast for as long as possible. We get hints, of course: blurry visions of an airborne foe, evocative descriptions of a flying creature “the size of a battleship,” an enormous footprint indicating the immensity of the monster, and many Spielbergian stares into the unseen maw of a force to terrible to behold. But at some point, the monster has to be revealed. And when at last it is… my goodness, how can I do this justice? Can it even be conveyed? I mean, here are just a few examples of my peers attempting to reckon with this thing:
- “…one of the silliest looking monsters in the history of cinema…”
- “…one of the worst puppets ever committed to screen…”
- “…a cross between a demented vulture and an anorexic turkey…”
- “…not just his claw, but every ill-advised turkey-feathered inch of the damned thing. It is … well, just, wow.”
- “…a heroin-addicted cousin of Gonzo from The Muppets…”
- “…oh, what a monster – part vulture, part Looney Tunes Dodo, and all puppet…”
- “…not just badly rendered, it is hilariously rendered, resembling nothing so much as Warner Bros. cartoon-character Beaky Buzzard…”
- “The bird’s body looks like a turkey, at least up to the point where the accordion-like neck protrudes from the torso. Perched atop the long, featherless neck is a bizarre visage: large rolling eyes, flaring nostrils (how a bird has flaring nostrils in its beak is beyond me), a fanged mouth, wiry whiskers, and last but not least, what looks like a lock of human hair glued to the top of its lumpy head.”
- “…there’s no description I can give that can accurately define it.”
All true, and that last one probably comes closest to illustrating just Continue reading CAPSULE: THE GIANT CLAW (1957)