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GIANT CLAW, THE (director: Fred F. Sears; screenwriters: Paul Gangelin/Samuel Newman; cinematographer: Benjamin H. Kline; editors: Anthony DiMarco/Saul A. Goodkind; music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff; cast: Jeff Morrow (Mitch MacAfee), Mara Corday (Sally Caldwell), Morris Ankrum (Lt. Gen. Edward Considine), Robert Shayne (Gen. Van Buskirk), Louis Merrill (Pierre), Edgar Barrier (Dr. Karol Noymann), Clark Howat (Maj. Bergen), Ruell Shayne (Pete, pilot), Morgan Jones (Lieutenant, Radar Officer); Runtime: 76; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sam Katzman; Columbia Pictures; 1957)
“Entertaining bad film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Incompetent special effects to depict the giant bird (it unmistakably looks like a tacky puppet) that menaces the skies and attacks people on the ground, grounds this alien sci-fi flick with unintentional laughter. But it’s an entertaining low-budget bad film that was produced by the ‘king of the Z films’ Sam Katzman, with a wacky script by Paul Gangelin and Samuel Newman and enough stock footage to almost complete the film. B-film director Fred F. Sears (“The Night the World Exploded”/”Earth vs. the Flying Saucers”/”The Werewolf”) does his usual workmanlike job.

Electrical engineer Mitch MacAfee (Jeff Morrow) is a civilian working for the Air Force to calibrate a new radar facility being installed at the North Pole. On a solo flight mission, Mitch spots a UFO the “size of a battleship.” But when Mitch calls it in and the base commander Maj. Bergen (Clark Howat) sounds an alert, it’s not spotted on the radar and a search plane goes missing. Mitch is chewed out by the Major for causing a false alarm and endangering the lives of his men. Soon word comes that a commercial flight disappeared soon after its pilot reported a UFO, which lets Mitch off the hook. With the installation completed, Mitch and Sally Caldwell (Mara Corday), a pretty mathematician on the project, fly back on an Air Force plane to New York. When their plane is attacked by a UFO, which is a giant bird that flies at a speed greater than sound, Pete, the pilot, is killed and the engines burst into flames after it crash lands in an open field in upstate New York. The Civil Aeronautics Board fly the same route to investigate the crash and their plane is attacked by the giant bird, with fatal results. Eventually it’s determined by a know-it-all scientist, Dr. Karol Noymann (Edgar Barrier), at his internationally respected “The Research Lab” in Washington, DC, that the mysterious giant bird is made of anti-matter and is an extra-terrestrial and that the bird radiates an invisible barrier of anti-matter that not only prevents its detection by radar but its destruction by conventional weapons.

Lt. Gen. Edward Considine (Morris Ankrum) gets photos of the giant bird (The Claw) taken by the balloon observation cameras, and declares that the search and destroy mission to get the darned bird be a top-secret mission so as not to unduly alarm the public. Sally and Mitch, when not bickering with each other, team up both romantically and as heroes to find a way of penetrating the bird’s protective armor so they can destroy it. Not to anyone’s surprise the bird lands on top of the Empire State Building and knocks it down. But, in the nick of time, Mitch devises a plan to use rockets to bombard the bird’s shield with a rare atom, which destroys it before it can topple the United Nations. The bird falls harmlessly into the East River and the last shot is of its giant claw submerged in the water, which makes for a great title for such a fowl movie.

For certain viewers the silly bird creation is hilarious and makes the seemingly run-of-the-mill bad movie a cult gem despite its overwhelming faults. Though the classic bad film never reaches the infamous heights of Plan 9 From Outer Space, it can be enjoyed on its own rights by those with a sense of humor for such nonsense and wretched filmmaking (I found myself chuckling throughout).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”