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Not Rated
Copyright 1957 Columbia Pictures
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 14 December 2007 (updated)

The Characters:  

  • Mitch MacAfee - Your all-purpose good guy: electronics engineer, sniper, ornithologist, physics wiz, ladies man, and test pilot. Fathers lock up your daughters, because he wears underwear that matches his cap, and it is leather.
  • Sally Caldwell - That has to be the best rack I have ever seen on an adding machine. Her handling of a firearm would give a member of the USMC Shooting Team apoplexy to the tenth degree. I am at a loss how she hits anything.
  • Pierre - A Canadian redneck! He is amusing, what with his jug of moonshine and irrational fear of giant birds. Of course, his phobia is not so irrational in a b-movie. The Giant Claw eats the poor, screaming, partially pickled fool.
  • General Considine - His office defies geography.
  • General Van Buskirk - He is the mean General; it's a "good general/bad general" thing. His office is located in a building next to the Watergate Hotel.
  • Pete - Stop moving around; you are supposed to be dead.
  • Dr. Noymann - This physicist handles a feather from the Giant Claw with his bare hands. Knowing what we do about the creature, we can be pretty certain that he eventually will develop cancer.
  • Civil Aeronautics Board - A balanced part of the Giant Claw's diet.
  • The Giant Claw - A GIANT ANTIMATTER SPACE BUZZARD, hehehehe! Don't mind me. I get the giggles every time I say that. Anyway, this terror from outer space sports an impenetrable antimatter force field, an external pancreas at the base of its long neck, flaring nostrils, and teeth. It is finally bombarded with mesons and blasted from the sky by a rocket-equipped B-25 bomber.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

This is an awesome film. It has almost everything that a b-movie should contain: a completely ridiculous monster, incredibly bad (but delivered with complete sincerity) dialog, mishmashed stock footage and special effects work, creative science, and a plot that is devoid of rational thought. If that did not get your attention, how about this: any movie bold enough to feature a GIANT ANTIMATTER SPACE BUZZARD is a movie worth watching.

Go ahead and try to contradict me. Tell me that, somewhere in the back of your mind, the idea of seeing a real, live GIANT ANTIMATTER SPACE BUZZARD fails to cause a pleasant tingle. For me, it feels like somebody is massaging my hippocampus while wearing a joy buzzer. I giggle hysterically. If the tickling goes on too long I might become a vegetable, lose control of my bowels, or both (while still consumed by hysterical giggling).

I am careful not to watch "The Giant Claw" too often.

The story begins with Mitch flying a jet to help calibrate a radar system. While high in the sky, he sees something. Mitch cannot identify the UFO, but he does know it is big, about the size of a battleship. I think it looks like an old rug, but those are rarely sighted at 10,000 feet. Whatever it is, the UFO does not show up on radar. However, fighter interceptors are scrambled and sent to find the unidentified flying object. One does not return, and a transport aircraft also goes missing. The disappearances are a mystery.

Yes, I know that if two planes go missing in the same area at the same time, assuming that they collided is not a bad start. Just remember that Mitch saw something the size of a battleship in the air. The Japanese did not have any flying battleships at the time (those came later), so it must have been something else.

En route back to the United States with Sally aboard a military transport, Mitch runs afoul of the UFO yet again, except this time Mitch's plane is knocked out of the air. The pilot is killed, but the two passengers survive the crash, and what a crash! After they stagger away from the burning wreck, Mitch and Sally throw themselves flat just prior to it exploding. From offscreen, some member of the film crew chucks a couple of pieces of burning sheet metal at the protagonists! Yikes!

Fortunately, the plane crashed near the cabin of an agreeable fellow named Pierre. He takes in the disoriented survivors and gives them unrestricted access to his homebrewed applejack. Venturing out into a thundering storm to discover what is spooking his livestock, the French-speaking redneck is scared out of his wits by something he sees in the clouds. We know that Pierre must have seen the Giant Claw. However, the Canadian calls it "la carcagne," referencing a local legend. Leaving the frightened man to experience his night terrors alone, Mitch and Sally board a plane to Washington, DC. On the way, Mitch tries to put the moves on his female companion. She wakes up (yes, Mitch starts fondling the young lady while she is asleep) and a stupidly funny conversation results that substitutes baseball jargon for plain sexual terms.

Finally arriving in General Buskirk's office, Mitch is surprised to discover that his story about a battleship-sized UFO is no longer dismissed as pure fallacy. Another aircraft, this time carrying a bunch of investigators, was lost shortly after the pilot radioed a distress call that a bird the size of a battleship was attacking the plane. That is not to mention some googly-eyed pictures snapped by a high-altitude balloon's camera. Yup, there is a GIANT ANTIMATTER SPACE BUZZARD on the loose.

Except, the military does not know the Giant Claw emits an antimatter shield. The interceptor aircraft sent to shoot down the bird are completely ineffective; it withstands rockets and high-velocity cannon fire, then catches and eats the jets. Dr. Noymann's examination of aircraft wreckage reveals that the bird is protected by an impenetrable antimatter shield. It only drops the shield to eat. For all intents and purposes, the Giant Claw is invulnerable to every weapon known to man.

Until somebody gets smart and stuffs a small-yield nuclear device into a cow carcass and leaves it out for the bird to find. I guess that sort of explosive creativity was not obvious to America's military, circa 1957.

It is impossible not to laugh about the movie's special effects. They are the same quality as a 1930's serial, and almost show the same attention to detail. It is not unusual for a character to be sitting in the cockpit of a C-47, only to see the bird attack a B-25 model that it is supposed to be the same plane. The aerial battle between the space buzzard and the jet fighters is no exception. I think we see F-86 and F-89 fighters launching rockets, but when the bird catches a model plane in its beak the aircraft is obviously a delta wing model, like an F-106. Then we watch what looks like WWII camera footage of a flaming aircraft plummeting into the ocean.

The constantly changing planes are not even the best part - that is the bird itself. Whoever designed the Giant Claw is a genius. It really is the epitome of a GIANT ANTIMATTER SPACE BUZZARD. Look at those googly eyes! Check out that neck! Listen to how the creature screeches and caws as it swoops through the air! I also dig the fact that everyone who sees the Giant Claw immediately thinks, "That bird is as big as a battleship!" People who have probably never seen a battleship say that.

You might think I am making fun of the movie. I am, a little. However, I cannot imagine "The Giant Claw" without the title creature exactly as it appears, in all of its long, wrinkled-necked glory. The winged terror is completely absurd looking. Forget the premise; forget the execution - who the heck came up with that puppet? Someday, Hollywood is going to remake this film, with lots slick CGI special effects and a well-known actor or two. The bird will probably be a fiery extraterrestrial phoenix whose passing turns cities into raging infernos.

Why are you accusing me of giving Roland Emmerich ideas?

The Giant Claw circles the globe, eating cattle, spreading destruction, and causing quite a fluster in London (British people running in panic is not something you see every day). We even see it snatch a train off a set of railroad tracks and carry the whole thing, locomotive, cars, and caboose, through the air. In the midst of this chaos, Mitch realizes that the bird must have come to Earth to nest. There cannot be any other reason that the GIANT ANTIMATTER SPACE BUZZARD flew millions of lightyears through the intergalactic void, other than to lay eggs.

Flying back to Pierre's cabin with Sally, Mitch conducts a search for the Giant Claw's roost. He finds a giant nest that contains a massive egg. Pierre freaks out and runs away, but Mitch and Sally shoulder their rifles and shoot the egg to pieces. I felt a little sorry for the bird, because it might have come to our planet in search of a safe nesting ground (maybe on its home planet there are GIANT ANTIMATTER SPACE SNAKES that eat eggs). Angered by the destruction of its egg, the Giant Claw goes after Pierre and kills him. Then, as our two protagonists drive down a dark country road, the bird appears and grabs a car filled with teenagers. You know something? I am starting to see a pattern in all of this. The Giant Claw is following Mitch around. Maybe the government should send Mitch on a one-way mission to the moon or something. The least they could do is make him the US ambassador to Russia.

Since the Giant Claw is shadowing Mitch, it only makes sense that he comes up with a plan to defeat the monster. Using a focused meson emitter, it might be possible to short out the antimatter force field. Once the protective screen is gone, the Giant Claw is a dead duck. The electrical engineer works feverishly to complete the new weapon as the flying terror attacks New York City.

This script was obviously not written by an infinite number of typewriter-assisted monkeys with an infinite amount of time. I believe there was one retarded lemur with two or three Etch A Sketches. It is still amazingly fun to watch, and it will make you giggle.

Hey, doesn't Roland Emmerich own a lemur?

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • Seen from space, the nations really are different colors.
  • The best way to avoid saying something that you will regret later is to drink lots of moonshine.
  • The French Canadians are deathly afraid of Mexican food.
  • Battleships are quite large and often the target of hyperbole.
  • When is a pattern not a pattern? When it is a spiral.
  • The Pentagon is located across the street from the Capitol building.
  • Osmosis: os·mo·sis (oz-mo'sis, os-) n., 1. When a bird eats something.
  • Residents of Montana must be crack shots. It's the law.
  • Never mix particle physics and a snowmaking machine.
  • Scientific instruments explode when they do not work.
  • Where there is smoke, there is fire, but there could also be antimatter.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 6 mins - Those are Royal Air Force planes, but we just watched American aircraft being scrambled.
  • 13 mins - The plane turns into a B-29 and the smoking model pauses before hitting the ground!
  • 30 mins - Is Sally wearing a pancake on her head?
  • 36 mins - Look at all the different planes. That is odd: not one of them matches the model that the Giant Claw destroys.
  • 40 mins - Outside the door is the hallway. Get those covers off your nasty grapes!
  • 51 mins - What the radio is trying to say is, "Stop moving, or the military will shoot you (until you stop moving)."
  • 53 mins - And now for the switcheroo helicopters.
  • 59 mins - So Ford did try to design a flying car. Too bad that they based it on the Pinto.
  • 71 mins - In related news, the United Nations convened an emergency session in the auditorium of a New Jersey elementary school and passed a resolution condemning the GIANT ANTIMATTER SPACE BUZZARD.


  • Mitch: "How's the jug holding out, Pierre?"
    Pierre: "You like Pierre's applejack, oui?"
    Mitch: "Ahh, perfect antidote for snakebite, thunder, lightning, and disbelieving generals. Fill her up, Pierre!"
  • Scientist: "That bird is extraterrestrial. It comes from outer space. From some godforsaken antimatter galaxy millions and millions of light years from the Earth. No other explanation is possible."

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note giantclaw1.wav Narrator: "Something, he didn't know what, but something as big as a battleship had just flown over and past him, at speeds so great he couldn't begin to estimate them."
Green Music Note giantclaw2.wav Canadian Policeman: "We've got orders to seal off the area, real hush-hush. What happened, tangle with a flying saucer or something?"
Sally: "Oh, nothing so domestic as a flying saucer, officer. Just a flying battleship."
Canadian Policeman: "Well, have a good time with your flying battleship. Your car will be here soon."
Green Music Note giantclaw3.wav Sally: "Let's stick to baseball instead and say, 'Out! Trying to steal 2nd.'"
Mitch: "Back to the bush leagues, finished."
Sally: "A quitter! I knew it! No fight; no spirit."
Mitch: "Of course, the umpire could always reverse her decision."
Sally: "No. No shortcuts. Must follow the pattern: first the minor leagues, then the major leagues."
Green Music Note giantclaw4.wav Mitch: "Let's face that and then try and do something about that bird!"
Gen. Considine: "Any suggestions, MacAfee?"
Gen. Buskirk: "Sure, electronic spitballs."
Gen. Considine: "Van!"
Mitch: "Close general, close. Only not electronic spitballs. Atomic spitballs!"

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clipgiantclaw1.mpg - 4.5m
Here is the GIANT ANTIMATTER SPACE BUZZARD (hehehehe) attacking a plane. The Civil Aeronautics Board members try to jump, but the bird mistakes them for little parachuting potatoes. If you think that these special effects are bad, you should see some of the other scenes.

God, I love this movie.

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Earth is visited by a GIANT ANTIMATTER SPACE BUZZARD! Gawk at the amazingly bad bird puppet, or chuckle over the silly dialog. This is one of the greatest b-movies ever made.

Lesson Learned:
  • Osmosis: os·mo·sis (oz-mo'sis, os-) n., 1. When a bird eats something.

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