When talking Turkeys, the only bad movie is a boring one! And the films we discuss in this episode are anything but boring! We delve into the world of the Turkey! Films that may not be the best made in the technical aspect, or in the acting department, or even a cohesive story line, or could have you scratching your head wondering if aliens had created these films. But no matter what, they are damn entertaining.
Tonight, we discuss The Giant Claw (1957), Blood Freak (1972), and Creatures from the Abyss, aka Plankton (1994). With each of these films, there are moments where you will ask yourself, “just how did these ever get made?” I know we’re glad they did because we have all enjoyed them over and over again, for all their strangeness, oddness, or just downright craziness.
So sit back and enjoy some very intellectual discussions on some films that deserve your attention!
(1957) Directed by Fred F. Sears Starring Jeff Morrow, Mara Corday, Morris Ankrum, Louis Merrill, Robert Shayne, Edgar Barrier
When I worked at a movie theater, we played It Came from Hollywood (1982), which featured hundreds of movie clips with popular comedians making fun of them, cracking jokes, pointing out flaws, all in the name of entertainment. Mind you, this was years before Mystery Science Theater 3000 made a career out of it. It was during that initial screening that I caught my first glimpse of the epic The Giant Claw (1957). though it would be some time before I actually knew what movie it was. Sure, it was silly and laughable at that time, with the creature looking more like some sort of sickly marionette turkey, but in those scenes where it is swooping down and chomping on parachuting passengers from the plane it just attacked, kind of creeped me out.
Since The Giant Claw is one of my all-time favorites from the ‘50s, the announcement of this being on released on Blu-ray had my attention. Then to find out it would be in a special edition box set celebrating the works of low budget producer Sam Katzman. This guy was a producer that spanned just shy of 40 years that produced 239 pictures. In the decade of the ‘50s, he produced 105 titles, averaging out to almost 1 a month! He made everything from horror and sci-fi films to westerns, musicals, rock and roll, and just about every other exploitation genre out there.
Last Saturday, we had the official book launch party for my book Discover the Horror, at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago. I also had the wonderful opportunity to introduce the film The Giant Claw (1957) before the signing in the lounge area. Now honestly, going into this, I was hoping the film would have a good turnout, but expected it to be 4 or 5 of my friends that were coming out to support me. In reality, there was quite a bit more than that! In fact, we had several people there that had never seen the film before, so we knew they were in for a real treat.Continue reading →
Morris Ankrum Born Aug. 28th, 1897 – Died Sept. 2nd, 1964
Now this is a guy that needs a little more attention. He is one of these character actors that was never a big star but appeared in so many of our favorite films, such as, of course, The Giant Claw (1957)! But you can also see him in Rocketship X-M (1950), Invaders from Mars (1953), Earth vs the Flying Saucers (1956), Zombies of Mora Tau (1957), and even in Bert I. Gordon’s Beginning of the End (1957).
He actually was an attorney and even an economics professor before he was bitten by the acting bug and joined the theater. It was in the ’30s when he started appearing in movies, appearing in close to 300 movies and TV shows before he passed away. He was usually showing up as a military officer of some type, someone of authority, not to mention in more than a few westerns.
So when the next time you’re watching some old sci-fi/horror flick, see if old Mr. Ankrum doesn’t show up somewhere!
Jeff Morrow Born Jan. 13th, 1907 – Died Dec. 26th, 1996
Mr. Morrow is another one of these actors that had a pretty active career, is really known for a few films, for better or for worse. Granted, to be remembered at all, well… isn’t that the most important part?
Morrow started working on the stage by the time he was 20 years old, and didn’t make his movie debut until 1953 in the biblical epic Robe. But it is appearances in the Sci-Fi and horror genre in the ’50s that we are going to remember him. From the Sci-Fi epic This Island Earth (1955), to The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), Kronos (1957), and of course, The Giant Claw (1957). In the ’70s, while working as a commercial illustrator, he occasionally appeared in different projects, including a few low budget horror films like Will to Die and Octaman (both 1971). He also appeared in a lot of different TV series throughout his career.
The real beauty of Morrow was that he could play both sides of the coin, from the hero in The Giant Claw or the bad guy in Creature Walks Among Us, and he was always entertaining on both sides. While he may not have liked the fact that some of us still (fondly) remember him from the giant bird movie from outer space, saying he had never been “so embarrassed in my whole life”, I still get a kick out of watching it, and his performance.
For those coming out to the Music Box Theatre this Saturday for our Book Launch, we will be giving away Kitley’s Krypt anniversary shirts, for FREE! Below is what is on the front and back of the shirts.
We only have a limited supply of these so when they’re gone, they’re gone! Hope to see you on Saturday!Continue reading →
Sam Katzman Born July 7th, 1901 – Died Aug. 4th, 1973
Katzman was known as one of those B-movie producers, usually taking pennies to get films made. But how could that be considered bad, if he stayed in business for almost 40 years. And during that time, he produced 241 films. That averages out to 6 films a year, but early on, such in 1953, he produced 17 films! Okay, so most of them may have not been memorable, but when he worked in the sci-fi / horror genre, I think they were. Especially one particular title, The Giant Claw (1957).
He is the man responsible for instead of paying the money for someone like Ray Harryhausen to create the title creature, he spent a rumored $50 to some guys down in Mexico. You could barely tell by the end result, can you?
Besides that epic, he also produced genre films like It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), Creature with the Atom Brain (1955), Earth vs the Flying Saucers (1956), The Werewolf (1956), The Night the World Exploded (1957), and Zombies of Mora Tau.
So while he might not have made the right choices all of the time, the choices that he did make are probably one of the reasons we’re still talking about him today.
There are some actors and actresses that only make a handful of genre pictures, but make such a strong impression that we always remember them. Mara Corday is one of them. If she would have kept acting longer, instead of deciding to take care of her growing family, maybe we might have seen her in a few more. But it didn’t sound like her marriage to actor Richard Long was the easiest, so maybe it was better not to compete in the business.
But she did make a few genre pictures within a couple of years that I’ve always remembered her from. The first one was Jack Arnold’s Tarantula (1955), where she met a young actor who she became good friends with. His name was Clint Eastwood. In fact, they remained such good friends, that after her husband died, Eastwood would give her little bit parts in his films, such as The Gauntlet (1977) or Sudden Impact (1983).
She would appear in The Black Scorpion in 1957, with Richard Denning, but it was the other film she made that same year is one that I am most fond of, those she probably isn’t. It is The Giant Claw! Granted, she, along with the rest of the actors, never saw the title terror until it was already out.
Corday even appeared in Playboy magazine as Playmate of the Month in Oct. 1958, but this was when they didn’t appear nude. But it is shame that we didn’t see more of her on the big screen, since she was a talented actress.
Fred F. Sears Born July 7th, 1913 – Died Nov. 30th, 1957
Being a director back in the ’50s is nothing like it is today. These days, a director can make one film every 5 or 6 years and still be considered a working director! But take a guy like Fred F. Sears, who’s directing career only lasted 10 years before dying of a heart attack in 1957. But during that decade, he cranked out over 50 features. So yeah, that’s averaging 5 pictures a YEAR!
He started his career on stage in regional theater, working as an actor, director, and producer. He was hired by Columbia pictures as a dialogue director, before moving into being a director. He always stayed with Columbia, working a lot with b-movie producer Sam Katzman. Together, they made films in just about every genre, from rock musicals, action thrillers, juvenile-delinquent pictures, and of course, the sci-fi flicks. He directed films like The Werewolf (1956), Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1957), with the incredible effects by Ray Harryhausen. And of course, that same year, he directed The Giant Claw. While some might consider that film a failure, to me, because we’re still talking about it, I would say that one is a big success! But that’s just me.