There are movies that change us. There are movies that define a generation. There are also movies that bring about tortuous pain like an Indian Deathlock dispensed by yours truly. There are those films that become transcendent, though, and somehow transform from trite garbage into sublime entertainment. This is one of those movies that is so bad yet so good according to El Jefe de Santo.
Stare into the face of pure evil. Terror from prehistoric age! Giant bird evil? Giant dinosaur bird evil! You are one of the few who shall survive to witness the dawning of the age of the Claw!
You're going to be familiar with this main points of this film if you've seen a film like The Beast from 20000 Fathoms. The public made it a huge hit, and well, the studios did what they do best: remake, reuse and regurgitate. One of the films that arrived in the wake of Fathoms is The Giant Claw.
We're treated to the usual standards of the time: stock footage and a narrator! I would say that our narrator, redundant as he may have been, managed to further weave the tapestry of the film's nightmarish concept, ancient giant birds, into reality but honestly it just grew tiresome. Well you'll just have to deal with it, Nancy! You're going to sit and listen to our good buddy, Jim Narrator, inform you that we start off in the great white north of Canada and that . .
Look it's not really important where it starts off. We do, however, get to see Mitch Macafee(Jeff Morrow, well known for his role of Exeter in the much BETTER This Island Earth) bantering back and forth with Sally Caldwell (Mara Corday) about radar, sexual innuendos and the like while flying a fighter jet. Mitch is a pretty rad dude for a CIVIL ENGINEER. He is a civilian flying around in a military plane. Oh man! Talk about your loose cannons! He even spots a UFO while faffin' about, though it's more like a blur that's as "big as a battleship". Holy hell! Interceptor squadrons are sent out to investigate but soon they're in need of finding as well!
Mcafee is sure to get an earful from the commander on the ground for this what with being a civilian flying a jet and him claiming to see a UFO as big as a battleship. Preposterous! A search plane is sent out to find the interceptor squadron sent to investigate the claims and, well, things don't turn out so well much like the film.
Sally and Mitch are on their way back to the the good ol' USA! Thank God! Turbulence hits, and well, that handsome rogue civil engineer Mitch Macafee manages to land the plane, which is CLEARLY made of balsawood and only suspended by poorly hidden strings, on the ground and get out with Sally in tow before there's a big explosion! Man! This film is rockin' along so far! Blurs! Intrigue! Explosions! Thinly veiled sexual advances between Mitch and Sally!
They make it to a nearby farmhouse owned by Pierre, a lovable French-Canadian who helps our heroes out when their in a jam. Mcafee uses Frenchie's phone to get in touch with the boys at the Pentagon to let them know that that turbulene he just experienced wasn't from rough skies, but rather from the Blur! Not the Smallville kind but the UFO kind! It doesn't show up on radar, though, so that's a bit problematic. After being dismissed as a haughty and drunk fool Pierre suggests that idea that maybe Le Cocona has come back! It's a giant bird-like creature that means your death imminent if it appears. PLOT DEVICE!
Just then.. the animals out back get mighty spooked and Pierre goes to see what the fuss is about. Sally and Mitch are soon pressed with the frantic ramblings of a French-Canadian who has SEEN Le Cocona! Clearly after all that Mitch and Sally have been through they must believe him! WRONG! Mitch, being a real dick here, discounts it all for hallucination. He's a man of science damn it! It's just the spiked apple cider talking!
The local constable arrives and whisks the pair off to the airport to fly back to New York. But wait..
..What's that by Pierre's barn?..
The footprint of Le Cocona! Pierre wasn't a crazy bastard after all! This does not bode well for our heroes!
A team is sent by the military to investigate the wreckage of the flight Mitch and Sally were on. Surely they'll shed some light on this mystery. Nope. Just attacked by that UFO again, though the pilot manages to get out a message. It's a bird as big as a damned battleship! It can't be! This shall be the first appearance of the Giant Claw and man is it a doozy!
Yes! Drink it all in! How fucking terrible is that bird? That's what happens when you farm out the special effects work to a shop in Mexico City to save money. It's all downhill from here, folks, but man is it a gorgeous trainwreck to catch a glimpse of.
It really doesn't matter what happens past this point because you know that all you're waiting for after the first look is to see just how bloody ridiculous this thing is in action.
This was, perhaps, one of the worst films to come from well-known producer, Sam Katzman, and his stable of fly-by-night productions. He was known as one of the cheapest gits in all of Hollywood and, well, the celluloid speaks for itself. You get a good actor in Jeff Morrow, toss him in a sci-fi movie and you've got instant hit, right?
Well, audiences laughed themselves silly at the sight of the monster. There's even a story of Morrow seeing a screening of it in his hometown and leaving the theater early due to the fact that he was so ashamed of his involvement. The script was written by guys who normally did Westerns and Jungle-themed pictures and all this with special effects done by a studio in Mexico City that really had no idea how to make a buzzard not look beyond stupid. It's a buzzard. How hard is that to screw up? We get, instead, what Sid and Marty Kroft might have come up with in one of their acid induced brainstorming sessions mixed with a Jim Henson failed Muppet. Seriously it's just awful.
We are, however, treated to the giant bird wreaking havoc on New York City! He more often than not just bangs his head into styrofoam buildings but man is it glorious! Words don't paint the picture well enough, honestly, and even stills just don't do it. This has to be seen, to be experienced, to be lived through. If the special effects had been, as the director and producer promised, as stellar as they should have been this could have been at least a decent monster movie. The cast and crew didn't even know what the monster was going to look like while filming and many didn't see it until the premiere.
It has a generic plot, pseduo-science jargon out the ass, poor characterization and a badly made monster.It is beautiful in all its horror and well worth a watch. You will love it, for all its monumental flaws, I promise.