The Giant Claw (1957)
The Giant Claw is a giant, monstrous, vulture-like alien with appearances dotted all over popular culture, appearing as the main antagonist of the 1957 horror film of the same name. This feathered monster from another dimension came to Earth to lay its eggs and wreak havoc on humanity.
The Giant Claw Movie
The Giant Claw (a.k.a. The Mark of the Claw) is a 1957 American black-and-white science fiction giant monster film from Columbia Pictures, produced by Sam Katzman, directed by Fred F. Sears, that stars Jeff Morrow and Mara Corday. Both Sears and Katzman were well known as low-budget B film genre filmmakers. The film was released on a double bill with The Night the World Exploded.
When humanity spots an unidentified flying object, jets pursue it only to discover that it is a hostile avian creature “as big as a battleship”. Like pretty such every movie monster, our heavy weaponry can barely put a dent into it thanks to its antimatter shields. The main character MacAfee and his girlfriend Sally look for ways of destroying the bird, finding the creature had been flying in circles. They find the bird’s nest and destroy its eggs, which prompts the bird to start rampaging through Manhattan. They pursue the bird on a plane and after using an isotope to destroy said shielding, the military brings the bird down with barrages of missiles. The bird falls into the ocean, with the final shot of the film showing its claw sinking to the bottom of the sea.
According to Richard Harland Smith of Turner Classic Movies, the inspiration for the story may have been taken from media reports about scientific discoveries in the field of particle physics, dealing with matter and antimatter. Other influences included the Japanese film Rodan (1956), and the Samuel Hopkins Adams story “Grandfather and a Winter’s Tale”, about la Carcagne, the mythical bird-like banshee from French-Canadian folklore. The Hopkins story was published in The New Yorker in January 1951.
A character in The Giant Claw mistakes the menacing bird for la Carcagne, said to be a monster resembling a giant woman with a wolf’s head and bat-like black wings and which, like the banshee, is a harbinger of death.
Under the working title Mark of the Claw, principal photography took place at Griffith Park, subbing for the New York-Canada border, with interiors filmed at the Columbia Annex near Monogram Studios from February 1–20, 1957. Katzman originally planned to utilize stop motion effects by Ray Harryhausen, but due to budget constraints, he instead hired a low-budget special effects studio in Mexico City, Mexico to create the mythical creature that would be the showpiece of the production. The result, however, was a poorly made “marionette”.
Morrow later confessed in an interview that no one in the film knew what the titular monster looked like until the film’s premiere. Morrow himself first saw the film in his hometown, and hearing the audience laugh every time the monster appeared on screen, he left the theater early, embarrassed that anyone there might recognize him (he allegedly went home and began drinking).
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2015)
Critical reception was very negative, with Bill Warren of The New York Times later commenting, “This would have been an ordinarily bad movie of its type, with a good performance by Jeff Morrow, if the special effects had been industry standard for the time. That, however, is not what happened. The Claw is not just badly rendered, it is hilariously rendered, resembling nothing so much as Warner Bros. cartoon-character Beaky Buzzard. Once seen, you will never forget this awesomely silly creation”.
The Giant Claw has been mocked for the quality of its special effects. The menacing bird, in particular, is considered by many to be badly made, being a puppet with a very odd face. Film critic Leonard Maltin noted that the film disappointed for those reasons, “(a) lack of decent special effects ruins the running battle between colossal bird and fighter jets. Big bird is laughable”. TV Guide panned the film, awarding it a score of 1 out of 4, criticizing the film’s monster as “preposterous-looking”.
Not all reviews of the film were negative. Allmovie gave the film a positive review, stating, “The Giant Claw has a terrible reputation that isn’t entirely deserved – to be sure, producer Sam Katzman opted for the cheapest, worst-looking monster that one could imagine, a ridiculous-looking giant bird puppet that makes the movie seem ludicrous. But except for those moments when the title monster is on the screen, the movie isn’t bad – so for the first 27 minutes, until it appears for the first time and evokes its first rounds of laughter, the picture is working just fine within the confines of its budget, script, and cast”. Allmovie also complimented Morrow’s performance as “the best thing in the picture”.
MANOS: The Hands of Fate
In the Indie game MANOS: The Hands of Fate (based on the B-movie of same name), the Giant Claw appears a the boss in stages 3 and 5. He is identified in the game’s credits as “Bird Battleship”.
POWERS AND ABILITIES
The Giant Claw is protected by a antimatter shield, which deflects all artillery, including rockets and cannon-fire shot at it. The only time it drops the shield is when it is eating. It also flies fast enough to keep up with fighter jets.