The Giant Claw (1957)

Directed by Fred J. Sears (Don’t Knock the RockEarth vs. the Flying Saucers, Teen-Age Crime Wave), The Giant Claw is somehow inspired by matter and anti-matter, as well as la Carcagne, the mythical bird-like banshee from French-Canadian folklore. Yes, some heady material, but then this movie has one of the goofiest — and most awesome — monsters ever.

Producer Sam Katzman originally planned to utilize stop motion effects by Ray Harryhausen. This movie didn’t have the money for that, so he hired a Mexico City effects studio who sent him a marionette that, well, looks like a monstrous turkey. Seeing as how he spent fifty dollars on the monster, I think he got so much more than what he paid for.

No one in the movie knew what that creature looked like until they saw the movie. This really embarrassed lead actor Jeff Morrow, who was there to see the movie live in his hometown and every time the monster showed up, people laughed louder, until the actor ran home and started drinking. I mean, Morrow must have felt the same way when he was in Octaman.

Obviously, the poster artists never saw the special effects either. That said, the film is also quite aware of the UFO sightings of the day, which is what they think the monster is until scientists discover that it’s an evil bird from an antimatter universe.

This is a pretty nihilistic film for the time, as the evil bird kills people without a thought when it isn’t destroying every building it can.

The Giant Claw is one of four movies on Arrow Video’s new Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman set along with The WerewolfThe Zombies of Mora Tau and Creature with the Atom Brain. Each film has a 1080p blu ray presentation, along with a fully illustrated 60-page collector’s book featuring extensive new writing by Laura Drazin Boyes, Neil Mitchell, Barry Forshaw, Jon Towlson and Jackson Cooper, as well as 80-page collector’s art book featuring reproduction stills and artwork from each film and new writing by historian and critic Stephen R. Bissette, the former artist of Swamp Thing. Plus, you get two double-sided posters featuring newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin and reversible sleeves for each movie with original and newly commissioned artwork for each film by Matt Griffin.

The Giant Claw has extras including an introduction by critic Kim Newman Brand, commentary by critics Emma Westwood and Cerise Howard, a visual essay from Mike White examining the theme of Cold War paranoia in Sam Katzman monster movies, a trailer, an image gallery and a condensed Super 8mm version of the movie.

You can get this set from MVD.

The Zombies of Mora Tau (1957)

You have to feel for the deep sea divers in this movie. Sure, they have to deal with their boss, rich businessman George Harrison, but now to get the diamonds out of the wreck of a ship that sank sixty years ago, they have to deal with not only a curse, but the ship’s undead zombie crew who must remain there until the curse is removed or the diamonds are destroyed. This is getting into some Return of the Curse of the Creature’s Ghost-like shenanigans, right?

Somehow, fate has decreed that I watch multiple Alison Hayes films as of late. Between Gunslinger,  The UnearthlyThe Crawling Hand and this movie, I really have come to enjoy seeing her show up. Marjorie Eaton — who was the physical actress who played Emperor Palpatine in the non-special editions — is also on hand.

The prologue to this movie says, ‘In the darkness of an ancient world — on a shore that time has forgotten – there is a twilight zone between life and death. Here dwell those nameless creatures who are condemned to prowl the land eternally — the Walking Dead.” That’s right, this movie used Twilight Zone two years before Rod Serling and 46 years before the comic book. And wow, zombies sure got different a decade or so later.

The Zombies of Mora Tau is one of four movies on Arrow Video’s new Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman set along with Creature with the Atom BrainThe Werewolf and The Giant Claw. Each film has a 1080p blu ray presentation, along with a fully illustrated 60-page collector’s book featuring extensive new writing by Laura Drazin Boyes, Neil Mitchell, Barry Forshaw, Jon Towlson and Jackson Cooper, as well as 80-page collector’s art book featuring reproduction stills and artwork from each film and new writing by historian and critic Stephen R. Bissette, the former artist of Swamp Thing. Plus, you get two double-sided posters featuring newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin and reversible sleeves for each movie with original and newly commissioned artwork for each film by Matt Griffin.

The Zombies of Mora Tau has plenty of extras, including an introduction by Kim Newman, commentary by critic Kat Ellinger, a visual essay exploring the intersection of mythical horror creatures and the rational world of science in the films of Sam Katzman by critic Josh Hurtado, the theatrical trailer and an image gallery.

You can get this set from MVD.

The Black Scorpion (1957)

This movie has a good FX pedigree: Willis O’Brien, creator of the stop-motion animation effects for the original King Kong, was the special-effects supervisor. There’s an urban legend that the spider pit creatures that were cut from that film show up here. While Ray Harryhausen’s An Animated Life would claim that many of O’Brien’s models  were still in storage at RKO when this was made, many of them were pretty decayed by that point.

An earthquake happens in Mexico and a new volcano rises, along with someone who believes that a demon bull has come out of hell. If only it could be so simple. Instead, the beasts are gigantic prehistoric scorpions.

How do you kill a monstrous scorpion? You fill an arena with meat and then shoot it with a spear that’s attached to an electric cable, then spark that thing up. You have to admire that level of ingenuity.

October 1958 Playboy Playmate Mara Corday was probably used to this kind of thing by this point, having already dealt with Tarantula and The Giant Claw. I can see dealing with one giant monster, but three? Yeah. That’s being a magnet for kaiju.

An even bigger coincidence is that six of the actors in this movie — Carlos Rivas, Mario Navarro, Pascual García Peña, José Chávez, Roberto Contreras and Margarito Luna — all appear in another Willis O’Brien-animated giant monster movie, The Beast of Hollow Mountain.

The Amazing Colossal Man (1957)

Lt. Colonel Glenn Manning (Glenn Langan) has been given orders to keep his men safe from a nuclear blast, but when a civilian glider crashes close to the area, he races out to save the day. He ends up getting blown up real good — one would argue exactly like Dr. Bruce Banner five years later — and has third-degree burns all over his body. Then, the bad news. The plutonium blast has caused his old cells to stop dying while the new ones multiply at an accelerated rate. That means that he’s growing ten feet a day and there’s no sign of it stopping.

Before long, his heart and brain can no longer support him and he’s running wild, decimating the olf Vegas strip and throwing giant syringes at scientists before taking a tumble off the Hoover Dam directly into next year’s War of the Colossal Beast.

Jim Nicholson of American International Pictures made this movie because The Incredible Shrinking Man was a success and he had the rights to Homer Eon Flint’s The Nth Man, which is about a man ten miles tall. Charles B. Griffith was hired for the script ad Roger Corman was brought on board to direct but soon dropped out. You know, if you’re going to make a movie with way too big or way too small people, get the man whose very name says BIG: Bert I. Gordon.

The Unearthly (1957)

Dr. Charles Conway (John Carradine) is experimenting with artificial glands to make people live longer, working with Lobo (Tor Johnson) and his assistant Dr. Sharon Gilchrist (Marilyn Buferd, a former Miss California). Those that get these glands think they’re getting one surgery and get shuffled off for something else.

One of those patients is Grace Thomas (Allsion Hayes, Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman; she died as a result of nutritional supplements, specifically a calcium supplement that had abnormal levels of lead), who is suffering from depression which means that she’s due for some surgery that will help John Carradine live eternally.

Originally called The House of Monsters, this was filmed over approximately five days and is the third movie in which Johnson played Lobo (Bride of the Monster and Night of the Ghoul would be the others).

Director Boris Petroff, using the name Brooke Peters, also directed Anatomy of a Psycho. I’ve heard that the writer of this movie, Jane Mann, was Petroff’s wife. I’ve also heard that its a pen name for Ed Wood.

Junesploitation 2021: From Hell It Came (1957)

June 5: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is revenge.

Sure, Paul Blaisdell created the effects for The She-Creature, Invasion of the Saucer Men, Not of This Earth and It! The Terror from Beyond Space, but this is the only movie in which he made a tree person.

Yes, this film is about the prince of a South Seas island wrongly executed by a witch doctor who hated the fact that the prince became friends with Americans. Well, those foreigners pay him back by irradiating the island and reanimating the royal victim, who has been buried inside a tree. Now he is known as Tabonga, an angry tree stump that demands bloody retribution.

This movie is one of the many reasons why quicksand concerned me as a child, as the tree man throws his unfaithful widow into the sinking muck and then tosses the witch doctor down a hill. He can only be stopped by white men and their guns, which hasn’t really changed for so many since this was made sixty some years ago.

Written by Richard Bernstein (Terrified!) and Jack Milner, this was directed by Jack’s brother Dan, who worked as an editor on the Bozo the Clown TV show (he also made The Fighting Coward and The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues).

Look, it’s not great, but the tree man reveal is better than most entire movies. It has that going for it at least.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Reform School Girl (1957)

Released on a double feature with Shake, Rattle and RockReform School Girl is the story of Donna Price (Gloria Castillo, whose song Joshua Kadison wrote the song “Mother’s Arms” about her), a girl in the wrong place who went on the wrong date with the wrong man at the wrong time. He leaves the scene of a hit and run, telling her that he’ll kill her if she tells the cops he was there. This leads her to, you know it, reform school.

Meanwhile, that wrong man remains convinced that Donna is going to tell the police what really happened, so he makes it seem like she’s a police informant. This leads to a girl on girl battle over a pair of scissors with even badder girl Roxy (Yvette Vickers, whose Playboy Playmate of the Month centerfold for July of 1959 was shot by Russ Meyer).

Reform School Girls is an American-International Pictures film directed by veteran Edward Bernds, who started his career with Three Stooges shorts (he struggled with the first few, as Curly’s health was in bad shape and it was difficult to work around) and films in the BlondieGasoline Alley and Bowery Boys series. He’d go on to direct Queen of Outer SpaceReturn of the Fly and 59 episodes of the new Stooges TV show and two of their full-length movies, The Three Stooges Meet Hercules and The Three Stooges In Orbit.

Keep an eye out for Luana Anders (Easy Rider), Diana Darrin (The Incredible Shrinking Man), Edd Byrnes (Vince Fontaine!) and Sally Kellerman in her first acting role.

You can watch this on Tubi.

SON OF KAIJU DAY MARATHON: The Mysterians (1957)

Known as Chikyū Bōeigun (Earth Defense Force) in Japan, The Mysterians is important to our kaiju studies as it contains the first appearance of Moguera, who would one day become M.O.G.U.E.R.A. (Mobile Operation Godzilla Universal Expert Robot Aero-type), who took over the role intended for Mechagodzilla in Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla. While the robot never was in a Godzilla film in the Showa timelime, he would become the big green guy’s only ally in the Heisei films*.

But here, he starts the movie blowing up a village and then gets destroyed by the military before the Mysterians show up, demanding their own land and the right to marry Earth women.

That’s because 10,000 years ago the planet Mysteroid was destroyed by a nuclear war. Once it was the fifth planet from our sun and now it’s nothing, with the Mysterians losing eighty percent of their people and needing to get at least five Earth women to make their race strong again.

Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka recruited Jojiro Okami, an aeronautical engineer and military test pilot who later became a science fiction writer to write the script for director Ishirō Honda.

The story of this movie would continue in 1959’s Battle In Space and 1977’s The War In Space. As for its influence, the band ? and the Mysterians would get their name from this film.

*The original Moguera suit was destroyed by an accidental fire during the filming of The Prophecies of Nostradamus.

Untamed Youth (1957)

If I were to go back in time and make a bad kids movie, I would put all of my budget into getting Mamie Van Doren, who is to this genre what Sean Connery is to the Eurospy film.

Mamie and Lori Nelson (Hot Rod Girl) play Penny and Jane Lowe, two sisters who have been arrested for hitchhiking and skinny dipping. This sends them to a Texas work farm owned by Russ Tropp (John Russell, TV’s Lawman). He’s got a great scam going, because he’s dating a judge (Lurene Tuttle, the “First Lady of Radio”) who he’s using to get any teen who commits a minor crime sent to his business as cheap labor.

Eddie Cochran plays Bong, another prison worker, and Mamie does four songs. I love every single one of them and really wish that I hadn’t seen nearly every one of her movies, because then I could see them all over again and get the charge I had when I saw them for the first time.

Howard W. Koch, who directed this, also made Frankenstein 1970 and went on to produce the Airplane! movies.

You can see the Mystery Science Theater version of this on Tubi.

The Invisible Man vs. the Human Fly (1957)

Seven years after The Invisible Man Appears, Daiei released this sequel which begins with a series of murders that seem to be the work of an invisible man. However, there seems to be the sound of buzzing with each kill.

It’s the work of a war criminal who created the formula and as a result, was left stranded on the island where his lab was. Now, he’s killing each of his associates in their new lives with the help of his brutal assistant, who is now addicted to the formula that allows him to become a human fly.

Now that scientists have made the invisible formula safe for humans, can a brave soul — or two — use it to protect the world from the Human Fly, who is now leaving bombs on trains and killing hundreds of people at a time?

At one point, this was going to be released in the U.S. as The Murdering Mite. It was never released, however.

How awesome is it that this movie basically has two Vincent Price characters, the Invisible Man and the Fly, fighting against one another? Seriously, the little fly man is super sinister and awesome in every scene, making this movie for me.

You can get this with The Invisible Man Appears on a new double blu ray from Arrow Video.