Thursday, November 25, 2010

K.A.C. - T - 30 Days ...

Courtesy of Ron Adams' Monster Bash website
     Happy Thanksgiving, One and All! On this most marvelous of Turkey Days, I thought I’d share with you memories of MY favorite ‘turkey’: 1957’s THE GIANT CLAW.
        Both of us were born in 1957 (I like to think I came out ‘slightly’ better than my cinematic cousin), and it was one of the first films I remember seeing. I went to a military school in Tennessee from first grade though ninth grade, and I have fond memories of this film running one solid week as the Afternoon Movie on a local TV station when I was around five or six (they must have lost the prints of every other film!) – so Monday – Friday, at 4:30PM we would gather around the set and …Monday, THE GIANT CLAW – cool! Tuesday --- THE GIANT CLAW! We looked at each other and said, “No way!”  By Wednesday, word had spread of this phenomenon and other kids had to see for themselves – the audience grew for Thursday and Friday’s showings until it was standing room only.  We were frantic come the following Monday to see if we were in The Twilight Zone and this was now the only film left on Earth … but no, the spell was broken.
        To truly understand the hold this film has on fans, take a look at the trailer: - Sam Katzman, the head of Columbia, had done well with a series of SF films (particularly the early b/w efforts of Ray Harryhausen) and wanted to duplicate his efforts, but cheaply. Unbeknownst to his stars (Jeff Morrow and Mara Corday), he went with the lowest bidder, a special effects house in Mexico. Morrow used to tell a great story of attending the premiere in Hollywood, being introduced and sitting in the front row, then sinking lower and lower in his seat when he saw the finished result for the first time.
        The posters for the film (see left) had kept the creature as a mystery, never showing it's face – nobody was expecting a Turkey From Hell! Not only does she (yes, it’s a mama) have the ugliest face in monster history, her voice is screechingly hilarious, as well. None of this mattered to me as a kid … 
I always get nostalgic every time I would see this or talk about it with other fans. Turns out I wasn’t alone – other fanboys and fangirls remember La Carcagne (as one character calls it – an actual mythical creature in Canada) fondly. She actually made the # 1 spot in the Top Ten Giant Movie Monsters List at Cinemassacre’s poll!
   One funny follow-up: many years later, I was attending Boston’s 24-hour Science Fiction Film Festival, and Columbia had struck a brand-new 35mm print of the film, which was premiering there. During the famous bird/jet fighter fight, the film broke! As time wore on and the projectionist struggled to fix it, I jumped up and said, “I’ve seen it so many times, I can tell you what happens next … it looks something like … THIS!” So saying, a total stranger ran down the aisle with arms extended like a plane and I took off after him, arms flapping and making my best Giant Claw screech. He collapsed in front of the screen, we got a HUGE round of applause and the movie continued. 
The film is available in a spotless, beautiful transfer on DVD as part of the Icons of Horror: Sam Katzman boxed set – it’s something to behold on DVD – you can see EVERY string holding the old girl up.
        Last but not least, a few years ago professional artist Keith “Kez” Wilson did a series of BEAUTIFUL “what if” fantasy Doc Savage paperback covers,  creating mash-up adventures of The Man of Bronze with different characters we would have LIKED to have seen. Imagine my joy when # 195, CLAW OF DEATH came out.
        So as you’re starting to snooze from all the turkey and stuffing, remember that if another member of her race from 'some godforsaken Antimatter Galaxy’ finds its way here, the turkey could be eating YOU!
        Tomorrow: Number 3 in our countdown of the Strangest Christmas Shorts of All Time – it’s downright … ITCHY!

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