Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on February 10, 1957
Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Charles B. Griffith
Cast: Richard Garland, Pamela Duncan, Russell Johnson, Leslie Bradley, Mel Welles, Richard H. Cutting, Beach Dickerson, Tony Miller, Ed Nelson, Charles B. Griffith, Maitland Stuart, and David Arvedon as Hoolar the Giant Crab
When the movie you’re watching starts off with a man toppling over the side of an inflatable raft just ten feet from shore, and he’s pulled back aboard missing his head, you know you’re in for a wild, no-holds-barred ride. And trust me, it was definitely wild…I don’t know where this vintage Roger Corman monster sci-fi ranks with fans when compared to other Corman-directed productions, but for me it sits in the Top 3, along with the excellent Not of This Earth and the guilty pleasure It Conquered the World.
I thought it was interesting that there were so many things to ponder in just the first few minutes, besides that sailor suffering from a sudden onset of decapitation. First, there was the question of a previous expedition to the island, and where they disappeared to, along with those shots of land crabs scurrying along the shoreline…hmmm. And then, most disconcerting of all, a disembodied voice calling out for help, over and over again. Well, if I didn’t know better, I’d say nuclear fallout + crabs + Roger Corman = Attack of the Crab Monsters.
The first H-bomb test has sent a cloud of radioactive fallout over a small Pacific atoll, blanketing the island with radioactivity. A group of scientists, part of a second expedition to the island, arrive there to study the negative effects of the fallout, and hopefully discover what happened to that first expedition. Soon they find themselves trapped and fighting for their lives, battling giant mutant crabs who have the ability to snip off a human’s head, ingest it, then absorb the brain into its own system, giving itself the power to think and talk as that person.
Mind-blowing ideas indeed, but Corman really knew what he was doing: competent direction with some nicely-composed widescreen shots, nightmare monsters that were seen—and heard—many times throughout the film, and a fairly exciting and cerebral story, all squeezed into 62 minutes of pure, unadulterated, low-budget cheese. Some witty asides were spoken here and there, and Russell Johnson foreshadowed his future as an island professor, but best of all, we were able to see the buxom lead actress, Pamela Duncan, wearing a form-fitting top all the time!
What also helped was how Corman kept the pace swift and the ideas compelling; as he told screenwriter Charles B. Griffith, “I want suspense or action in every scene.” And though it was a silly concept overall, at least those involved tried to keep things serious and smart, while adding a touch of humor into the mix as well. For me, it was unintentionally funny when two sailors, also part of the expedition, were treated like second-class citizens and forced to sleep in a cramped tent on the shore, instead of with the oh-so-respectable scientists in their comfortable laboratory retreat.
Though I’m awarding this a rating of four, it’s a good four: cheesy, low-budget films of this sort usually fare no better than a two or three with me, but if you’re a fan of these goofy monster movies from the 1950s like I am, then this is definitely worth a look, and at just sixty-two minutes, it won’t be too taxing on your time or cranial fluids. Overall, I’ll give it one star for effort, one star for quality, and two more for keeping me happily entertained. And if there’s one thing I learned from Attack of the Crab Monsters, it’s this: giant mutated crabs love the taste of lab hamsters. (4/10)