ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS *** USA 1957 Dir: Roger Corman. 62 mins
No this is not a film on sexual diseases or etiquette at a seafood restaurant. This is a Roger Corman opus as only he could produce in those halcyon days of the late fifties. The Drive-in culture flourished in North America, rock and roll was unruly and people just wanted to get out and find their ‘thrill on Blueberry Hill”. Atomic testing and experiments gave birth to new monsters and mayhem on the silver screen. Why not a bunch of psychic giant crabs that kill a research team on a remote island. Is the plot simple, yes, it it silly, yes. Is it fun, yes because it all works in the spirit of the age. The making of the film is more fun than the actual film, which is saying a lot.
ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (1957) was originally conceived by Corman under the title Attack of the Giant Crabs which he told to writer Charles B. Griffith. Roger Corman was an exploitation filmmaker responsible for launching many careers in front and behind the camera. He also made films, fast and loose and got them into the theatres. Claimed he never lost money on one although it was later revealed that THE INTRUDER (1962) starring a young William Shatner as a racist stranger who stirs up trouble in a small town was the only one to not make its cost back.
ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (1957) was written on the stipulation that it has suspense in every scene. Viewing the film today that is debatable. The film begins in a true titillating fashion as a sailor is attacked by a giant crab that you only partially see in the frame. He is decapitated and floats to the surface as a greeting that all is not well on this island. A group of scientists and their support crew of five sailors land on a remote island in the Pacific. They are tasked to find what happened to a previous expedition that disappeared without a trace and to continue their research on the effects of radiation from atomic testing. The scientists on the expedition are led by Dr. Karl Weigand (Leslie Bradley), and also include geologist James Carson (Richard Cutting) and biologists Jules Deveroux (Mel Welles), Martha Hunter (Pamela Duncan), and Dale Brewer (Richard Garland) and handyman Hank Chapman (Russell Johnson).
Keeping the action rolling two sailors (Beech Dickerson and Tony Miller) are left behind to guard the explorers. Lt. Quinlan (Ed Nelson), is in command and attempts to return to the mainland, but their seaplane inexplicably explodes. Earthquakes open pits into the island and storms happen with fury and somewhat questionable effects. The scientists learn from journals of “worm creatures” in caves that rampage at night.
In a nocturnal scuba dive and romantic interlude Martha and Dale later go scuba diving. That night, Martha hears “McLane”, the leader of the previous expedition, calling out to her. Carson descends into a pit that opened up outside during an inexplicable earthquake and falls, losing his footing. The expedition learns to their horror that the earlier group had been killed and eaten by two mutated, intelligent giant crabs, who have absorbed the minds of their victims and can speak telepathically. The island is also changing as the crabs open up more pits threatening to swallow the entire surface.
Russell Johnson who is the handyman who saves the day went onto stardom as ”The Professor” in GILLIGAN’S ISLAND TV series. Ed Nelson later became Dr. Michael Rossi in the TV series PEYTON PLACE.
ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (1957) clocks in at 62 mins so this is all fast and furious. The Fast and Furious was a title of a Corman film long before the current franchise. Roger Corman is a film making legend that did things his way on the cheap.
Did this film benefit from the digital/ Blu-ray release is debatable as it serves to show the grainy film stock of the day and expose the effects more? It is still great fun to watch if you park your brain which in those days would be disembodied, floating in a jar. Designed as drive-in fare for the teenage audience coupled with another Corman-produced film NOT OF THIS EARTH (1957), ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (1957) grossed over a million dollars making it the most profitable film Corman’s studio had done to that date. However, viewers are warned that it may make you order the shrimp cocktail instead of the crab.
Review by Terry Sherwood