The Giant Claw has become infamous for its numerous humor elements, both intentional – like the frequent joking comparisons to the bird and a battleship – and unintentional, i.e. the titular monster’s design. The thing about The Giant Claw – both the movie and the monster – is that it’s actually really close to being legitimately good. The script for the film is fast paced, has a lot of creative spins on the typical kaiju movie formula, and is loaded with snarky one liners. Likewise, the Giant Claw itself has a lot of elements that could make for an interesting monster design – a hideous wrinkly neck, wicked fangs, claws, and greasy, fraying feathers, and hell, even those enormous bulging eyes. It could be so good!
Sadly, both of these are killed by the execution. The special effects of the movie are just… off. The puppet for the bird crosses the line between “horrifyingly ugly” to “hilariously ugly,” and even its expressive abilities can’t compensate for how goddamn goofy it looks. It’s like a deranged muppet. Goofy can be horrifying in the right context, but only if you play up the surrealism. The Giant Claw does not do that. Instead it presents a very realistic world… that just happens to be menaced by a muppet. The result is great humor, but bad horror.
The movie also clearly desires a scope it lacks the budget to achieve. It wants to show the bird menacing the entire world, flying from city to city within hours to terrorize the populace. But they didn’t have the money to do that, so everything is told to the audience instead. While I love snark (as anyone who’s read any story I’ve written ever knows too well), the movie doesn’t know when people should stop making quips and get serious – which results in them making quips IN EVERY SCENE. You begin to wonder if even they are taking it seriously.
Still, it’s a fun film, and one that is quite entertaining. I’d like to see someone remake it with a decent budget so they could actually show the bird menacing people around the globe and give it a more impressive looking antimatter force field. You could make a really good monster movie out of it. La Carcagne, as the monster is sometimes called in the film, has a great degree of characterization for an American movie monster, with an iconic screech and a manic personality brought to life by its puppet. If her movie went either a bit more surreal, or, alternatively, her design skewed a bit more realistic, she would be one of the better monsters of her era. As it is, she’s held down by a movie that settled in an uncomfortable middle ground between two extremes.