ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS
Roger Corman's
Sci-Fi Classics Triple Feature
U.S.A. | 1957
Directed by Roger Corman
Starring
Richard Garland
Pamela Duncan
Russell Johnson
B&W
| 63 Minutes | Not Rated
Format: DVD(R1 - NTSC | 2-disc set)
Shout! Factory
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Review by
Brian Lindsey

Film:5
DVD:9
Replaces EC's review of the 2002 Allied Artists Classics edition
NOTE: DVD Rating is for entire 3-film set
In 1957 alone, B-movie impresario Roger Corman directed ten motion pictures. Attack of the Crab Monsters was one of these. Remembered more for its title than anything else, the flick stands as a minor monument to enterprising low budget moviemaking it was made extremely fast and for next to nothing. Ridiculous and cheesy, with a nonsensical plot completely shot through with holes, Crab Monsters is also surprisingly fun... if, like me, you're a fan of Atomic Age beasties in glorious black and white.
    A scientific expedition to a remote, unnamed Pacific island ominously located in an A-bomb testing zone has vanished without a trace. So a second team is brought in by the U.S. Navy via seaplane to investigate. Headed by nuclear physicist Dr. Weigand (Leslie Bradley), this follow-up team includes geologist Carson (Richard Cutting), French botanist Deveroux (actor/director Mel Welles, who'd go on to helm Lady Frankenstein), and betrothed biologists Dale Drewer and Martha Hunter (Richard Garland and Pamela Duncan, who also appeared in Corman's The Undead that year). Rounding out the group are technician Hank Chapman (Russell Johnson, It Came from Outer Space) and a pair of Navy enlisted men to assist him.
    Things begin to go disastrously wrong practically the moment they land. A seaman manning the launch bringing the team ashore accidentally falls overboard; when hauled from the water only moments later he's missing his head. Then the expedition members watch helplessly as the Navy plane explodes just as it's lifting off. With their radio unable to cut through interference generated by a Pacific storm they can't contact the outside world about the tragedy. Effectively stranded, Weigand and the others set about solving the mystery of the first team's disappearance.
    Available clues are scarce and indecipherable. The only animal life seen is the occasional sand crab; the rest of the native fauna have also vanished. Booming explosions, seemingly emanating from underground, periodically rock the island, with sizable chunks of its mass sliding into the sea. Thus the island grows inexorably smaller. Later, while sleeping, Martha hears the disembodied voice of the missing team's leader calling to her. It wasn't a nightmare other members of the party also heard it. Then Carson, exploring a newly opened fissure in the ground, is trapped in the pit below.
    Investigating a cave system connected to the pit, the rest of the team comes face to face with unbelievable horror: giant crab monsters able to absorb the intelligence of any human brain they eat! Bullets and grenades have absolutely no effect on the deadly, sentient creatures. The monsters disable the radio and set about picking off the survivors one by one gloating haughtily about their impending triumph.
    As silly as this may sound, it gets even loopier. A lot of the plot points in the film don't make any sense at all. Just how did the crabs blow up the plane? Shown as huge, clumsy creatures, how was one of the monsters able to meticulously snip apart the vital components of the radio? They also have the power to generate intense, focused heat waves why is this power never used against any of the humans once they become threatening? What does the discovery of oil on the island have to do with anything? And why methodically blow up the island to begin with? Ostensibly it's to corner the surviving humans so that they can't escape. But aren't they already stranded? What are the crabs supposed to do once the island's completely gone? (Where are they supposed to hang out after destroying their own home?) Also, when the island's been reduced to only a single remaining outcropping of rock, just what exactly is generating all that electricity coursing through the transmitter tower? Batteries?
    Actually, at only 63 minutes the flick zips by so fast that one isn't given much time to ponder these conundrums. And that's why it works if only on the level of cheesy, disposable fun. It's also great to see Russell Johnson, best known as the Professor on TV's Gilligan's Island, get to play the All-American hero part usually reserved for John Agar or Kenneth Tobey in the bigger-budgeted monster pics released at the time by the major studios. His Hank is an amiable, can-do type of guy, the movie's real hero. First-billed Richard Garland really doesn't do much of anything... It's Hank who ends up saving the day with a memorable sacrifice play I vividly recalled from my Creature Feature-infused childhood. (Even Marsha, who's engaged to Garland's character, starts falling for Hank and flirting with him.) Johnson really deserved to receive top billing in the cast. Now whether he would've wanted it that way is another story...

Previously available in a shitty gray market DVD edition by the long-defunct "Allied Artists Classics" label (whoever they were), Attack of the Crab Monsters has been given a totally new lease on life by Shout! Factory. It's packaged with two other early Corman efforts, Not of This Earth (1957) and War of the Satellites (1958), in the newly released Roger Corman's Sci-Fi Classics Triple Feature set. Aficionados of Atom Age schlock will want to snap this one up in a heartbeat.
    Crab Monsters shares Disc 1 with Not of This Earth (fitting, since they originally played as a double bill). War of the Satellites and a selection of bonus materials are found on the second disc. Both Crab Monsters and Not of This Earth are presented 1.78 anamorphic; Satellites is 1.33 open matte. (The latter can easily be viewed as theatrically exhibited by using a DVD player's Zoom function.) With their share of nicks and dings these aren't exactly pristine prints apparently from a British distributor but they are unequivocally the best-looking versions of these movies we're ever going to see on home video. The black & white photography is quite crisp, offering nice levels of detail, while the mono audio tracks are surprisingly clean and clear, especially for the Disc 1 features. (Satellites easily fares the worst of the three in terms of audio/visual quality, looking and sounding a bit rougher than the other two.)
    Extras: Original TV syndication "prologues" (added/recycled footage incorporated to pad out the short running times) are included for Crab Monsters and Not of This Earth. These are in generally abysmal shape, exemplifying just how crappy various bootleg versions of these flicks have looked and sounded in the past. Participating in audio commentaries for both movies are genre film historians Tom Weaver, John Brunas and Mike Brunas; their discussions are the expected trove of lore, trivia, and behind-the-scenes factoids. Also on Disc 1 is a film-specific interview featurette (12 min.) in which Roger Corman recalls the making of the three movies in this set. On Disc 2 is another featurette, A Salute to Roger Corman (26 min.), in which some of the more notable almuni of the B-movie king's "school" of low budget filmmaking Peter Fonda, Joe Dante, James Horner, Peter Bogdanovich and Jack Hill, just to name a few praise the man for the opportunities he gave them and the lessons he imparted. Additionally, Disc 2 contains a slate of 25 trailers, all for pics produced and directed by Corman; these range from the original 1957 Crab Monsters/Not of This Earth double feature to 1990's Frankenstein Unbound. (NOTE: It's been reported on various Internet forums that, for some people, their remote's STOP button won't work if present on any of the discs' menu screens; the actual movie has to be started again before a remote's STOP button will function. Well, I'm one of those people. My Panasonic Blu-ray player certainly has this problem, although I can stop the discs at the menu screens when they're loaded in a PC drive.) 1/26/11
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