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Sam Katzman: Icons of Horror Collection

The Giant Claw (October 19/07)

Slow-moving, talky, and ultimately dull, The Giant Claw doesn't possess a whole lot in the way of positive attributes - though there's certainly no denying that the film's central monster is good for a few laughs. The movie, which is as schlocky and poorly-acted as one might've expected, follows a group of scientists and soldiers as they're confronted with a seemingly unstoppable space creature, with much of the story dwelling on a jocular pilot's (Jeff Morrow's Mitch MacAfee) efforts to take the bird down. The extent to which The Giant Claw is unable to hold the viewer's interest from start to finish is downright astonishing, and although it's admittedly ripe for mocking (that bird is just ridiculous), the film is essentially a complete and utter failure in virtually every way imaginable. The stiff performances are exacerbated by eye-rollingly silly instances of dialogue (ie after spotting the bird, a fighter pilot remarks, "honest to pete, I'll never call my mother-in-law an old crow again!"), with the hopelessly overwrought narration just as ineffective and unintentionally hilarious (ie the title creature is referred to as a "feathered nightmare on wings"). While there's little doubt that most viewers will find The Giant Claw to be nothing more than a 74-minute endurance test, the film admittedly might hold some entertainment value for those with a natural predilection for movies of this ilk.

out of

Creature with the Atom Brain (October 19/07)

Though there's nothing as overtly silly in Creature with the Atom Brain as The Giant Claw's winged mutant, the film does suffer from precisely the same sort of problems that one generally expects out of a '50s sci-fi effort - including an egregiously slow-moving structure, an emphasis on meaningless technobabble, and uniformly stiff performances. The story follows mad scientist Wilhelm Steigg (Gregory Gay) as he reluctantly agrees to help a notorious gangster (Michael Granger's Frank Buchanan) exact revenge on a number of former associates, which he accomplishes by re-animating dead bodies with radio-controlled atomic brains. Intrepid doctor Chet Walker (Richard Denning) subsequently makes it his personal mission to put an end to the zombiefied corpses' neck-breaking shenanigans, and the movie primarily follows his less-than-enthralling efforts at discerning the secrets behind their continued existence. Directed by Edward L. Cahn and written by Curt Siodmak, Creature with the Atom Brain never comes off as anything more than a tiresome, thoroughly dated piece of work - with the film's lack of broadly ridiculous elements essentially negating one's ability to easily mock it amongst friends (ie it's just dull).

out of

Zombies of Mora Tau (November 4/07)

Directed by prolific B-movie filmmaker Edward L. Cahn, Zombies of Mora Tau follows a group of shifty sailors as they attempt to procure a vast treasure trove of diamonds held within a sunken ship. This proves to be a far more difficult a task than they ever might've imagined, however, as said ship is being guarded by several tenacious zombies. These aren't ordinary zombies, however; in addition to their preference for sleeping in coffins and their ability to walk freely underwater, these undead monsters seem to rely primarily on hypnosis to thwart their victims. With the exception of one admittedly effective sequence - a would-be diamond pilferer heads to the ocean's floor to retrieve the treasure and subsequently encounters a deadly zombie - Zombies of Mora Tau primarily comes off as a typically dull and entirely forgettable '50s sci-fi entry. The movie, which has clearly been shot cheaply and quickly, features a raft of underwhelming performances and a plot that couldn't possibly be less interesting (this despite the presence of zombies!) - ensuring that only the most ardent aficionado of trash cinema will find something worth embracing here.

out of

The Werewolf (November 4/07)

A substantial improvement over the other titles in this set, The Werewolf follows an amnesiac (Steven Ritch's Duncan Marsh) who is unwillingly transformed into a vicious monster whenever he gets upset. Not surprisingly, this doesn't sit well with the various residents of a small town and it's not long before Duncan finds himself the focus of a city-wide manhunt. Director Fred F. Sears - working from Robert E. Kent's screenplay - has infused The Werewolf with a brisk pace and surprisingly stylish visuals, and there's little doubt that his decision to prolong the reveal of the title creature plays a significant role in the movie's mild success (the viewer doesn't get a good look at the guy until about the midway point). The mystery surrounding Duncan's true identity (as well as the origins of his lycanthropy) generally keeps things interesting, though one can't help but lament the (admittedly expected) inclusion of two speechifying, scientifically-oriented characters. The stirring finale - in which Duncan is pursued by torch-wielding villagers - basically offsets the ineffectiveness of the saggy third act, and The Werewolf is ultimately a better-than-average '50s sci-fi quickie.

out of

About the DVD: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents each of these four movies with crisp transfers, along with an intriguing selection of bonus features (including an installment from a '50s serial, a 1934 comedy short, a Mr. Magoo cartoon, and trailers).
© David Nusair