OF THE CRAB MONSTERS
Sci-Fi Classics Triple Feature
EC's review of the 2002 Allied Artists Classics edition
NOTE: DVD Rating is for entire 3-film set
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.
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,
Came from Outer Space) and a pair of Navy enlisted men
to assist him.
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.
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.
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
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?
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...
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.
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.)
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