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ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (1957)

"Once they were men – now they’re land crabs!"





  Director:
 
Roger Corman

  Starring: 
Richard Garland, Pamela Duncan, Russell Johnson, Lesley Bradley, Mel Welles, Richard Cutting, Beach Dickerson, Tony Miller, Ed Nelson, Charles B. Griffith

  Screenplay: 
Charles B. Griffith

Synopsis:  A team of scientists and a supporting naval crew land upon a small Pacific island, from which a previous team of scientists disappeared while investigating the effects of a recent nuclear test, which threw a blanket of fall-out across the island. As the scientists look around, they are unnerved by a sense of foreboding, as if the island did not want them there; Lieutenant Quinlan (Ed Nelson) agrees, saying that he felt the same way upon his earlier visit. As the scientists walk up to the house which is to be their headquarters, Quinlan’s attention is then caught by the blundering of his crew of seamen, one of whom is tilted out of their small boat and into the water near the shore. The irritated Quinlan shouts at the others to pull him back in, which they do – only to cry out in horror when they discover that his head is missing.... Having broken the grim news to the scientists, Quinlan reassures them that if they run into any trouble, they can radio the base for assistance – as long as the weather permits. As Quinlan prepares to leave, Karl Wiegand (Leslie Bradley), a nuclear physicist, questions him again about the disappearance of the first team of scientists. Quinlan reiterates that no trace of them was found, except the journal of the team leader, MacLean, adding that the navy’s theory is that they were at sea in their small boat when the recent typhoon hit. Radio operator Hank Chapman (Russell Johnson) is walking back to the beach with some of the seamen when they hear what sounds like a series of explosions on another part of the island. Moments later, the island shakes as if hit by an earthquake. Quinlan and one of the seamen take their boat out to their seaplane, shouting back that they will return in a month if not summoned earlier. The scientists watch the takeoff from a cliff overhanging the beach, recoiling in shock as the small plane explodes.... That night, a violent electrical storm sweeps across the island. Hank tries the radio, but there is too much interference for them to make outside contact. Biologist Dale Drewer (Richard Garland) suggests that they leave Hank to persist with the radio, while the rest of them get on with their own work. In the living-room, Dr Wiegand reads aloud the journal of his predecessor, MacLean, whose notes record any number of strange biological phenomena, but give no hint to his fate – except for the abrupt way the entries break off. Suddenly, there is again the sound of explosions, and the house is shaken as if by an earthquake. Late that night, after the others have gone to bed, Wiegand and Drewer discuss MacLean’s journal. Drewer comments that he has seen no insect life since arriving. The next morning, marine biologist Dr Martha Hunter (Pamela Duncan) dives in the bay, collecting specimens; Drewer joins her. Back on shore, Martha remarks that while underwater, she was using a particular rock as a landmark, and yet suddenly it was gone. From the cliff, Dr James Carson (Richard Cutting), a geologist, shouts for the biologists to meet Wiegand and himself at the top of the path. When they get there, they find that an entire section of land has simply fallen away, leaving a sheer drop below. Carson wants to investigate, but Wiegand argues that the chance of a second cave-in is too great. Carson agrees – if it was a cave-in. As he speaks, he hands Drewer a piece of rock that is entirely glazed, as if by great heat. That night, Martha is woken by a voice calling to her. It is MacLean’s voice, begging for her help. Dressing hurriedly, Martha follows the voice outside and into the surrounding jungle. Suddenly, she encounters Carson, who comments that she must have heard it, too. Carson assumes that MacLean must still be alive, but a nervous Martha insists that he is dead, and that someone is imitating his voice. The two continue their search until, over Martha’s objections, Carson decides to investigate the land-drop. But even as Carson is lowering himself on a rope, there is the sound of an explosion and the earth begins to shake. Martha is knocked to the ground and hits her head, losing consciousness; while from Carson there is a despairing scream.... 

Comments:  Watching the early films produced and directed by Roger Corman more or less in order is an amazingly informative experience. The ferocious activity of those years and the rapid pace at which Corman worked necessarily compressed his professional development to the point where it is an almost tangible thing: you can actually see him improving as a director from film to film – and likewise, you can see exactly where Corman the producer is going to become a millstone around the neck of Corman the director.

 

 

Hey, it's Art! Hi, Art!

Although the early films are not entirely without their virtues, it is perhaps best to think of them as “a learning experience”; but it took only two years for Corman to begin to hit his stride. To me, It Conquered The World is the first “real” Roger Corman film, given its combination of a talented and committed cast, a clever screenplay, more ideas than many science fiction films with twenty times the budget, amusingly cheap production values, and a ludicrous monster that almost scuppers everything that the film has achieved up to the point of its appearance.

Not Of This Earth is a better film, however, and probably the best of this phase of Corman’s career; while the most financially successful (and therefore the one closest to its producer/director’s heart) was Attack Of The Crab Monsters. The film suffers somewhat from a cast that is neither as talented nor as likeable as those of its companion-pieces, but this is more than compensated for by the bizarreness of the plot. And, hey! – crab monsters!

Some of my considerable affection for Attack Of The Crab Monsters stems from the circumstances under which I first saw it, at the old and, alas, no longer extant revival theatre where I spent a frightening number of Friday and Saturday nights some twenty years ago. Aside from that mere fact, Attack Of The Crab Monsters also suffered the indignity of being shown with its reels out of order: not an uncommon event. My version of the film opened rather bewilderingly with Martha Hunter and James Carson wandering through the jungle searching for the missing-presumed-dead MacLean. However, some puzzled exclamations from the small audience, an abrupt jump in the picture, a blank screen, the lights up, the sound of frantic activity in the projection-booth and the lights down later, and normality had been resumed.

“Normality”, in this case, involves something that was becoming a signature in Corman’s films at this time, the opening credits running over a series of gorgeous abstract drawings. In this case, the desert scenes of The Beast With A Million Eyes have been replaced by sea-scapes; although eyes are again prominent in the design. I have no idea who was responsible for these – anyone?

Too late, Charles B. Griffith read the fine print on his contract with Roger Corman.

The best thing about Attack Of The Crab Monsters – apart from its titular entities, which are, yup, ludicrous (if, like Beulah, adorably so) – is the amount of action it manages to cram into its sixty-two minute running-time. The film is almost entirely free of both unnecessary talking and pointless wandering around; and even the scuba-diving scenes are painless. This film is also, for the time of its production, astonishingly gruesome, not only offing the majority of its cast like a proto-slasher movie, but including in its opening sequence the fairly graphic, albeit bloodless, aftermath of a decapitation. I bet that got their attention at the drive-in.

The film proper, like Day The World Ended, opens with a biblical voiceover (this time from an uncredited Skip Homeier), which was a standard manoeuvre in nuke-horror films at the time – scolding Man for tampering in His domain, while simultaneously reassuring people that the Big Guy was still in control. Unlike Day The World Ended, however, here the voiceover is no more than a token gesture, although one that catches God in a pretty grumpy mood.

“And the Lord said, ‘I will destroy Man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth; both Man and beast and the creeping thing and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth Me that I have created them’.”

Yeah, well, to be honest, I always thought that whole “Man” and “Woman” thing was a big mistake, and that the world would have been a much nicer place if the creating had stopped a little earlier; so I’m not surprised to find God having second thoughts on the subject; although I don’t know why He should repenteth the rest of it. Especially the creeping thing.

Two loaded boats head for the shore of a small island. One disperses both scientists and naval personnel. The former are led by Dr Karl Wiegand, a German – or ex-German – nuclear physicist; his team consists of Jules Deveroux, a French botanist, and three Americans, the geologist James Carson and the biologists Dale Drewer and Martha Hunter – the latter of whom introduces herself with a cheerful, “Just call me Marty!”, in a nice, unforced evocation of the Androgynous Name Rule. The scientists are on the island for two reasons: first, because it caught a large amount of fall-out from a recent nuclear test, and “the authorities” want to know what effect it might have had; and second, because the first team of scientists sent in to investigate vanished without trace. The theory is that they were out in their boat when a typhoon struck, but no-one’s very satisfied with that explanation – and they become less so when they find the journal of the previous team’s leader, Orville MacLean, which breaks off in the middle of an entry.

Asked why he signed with Corman, Griffith could only offer one explanation....

The others to land are Lieutenant Quinlan, who led the navy’s search for the missing scientists, his squad of seamen, two of whom are assigned to the island to handle demolition, should it be necessary, and the radio-operator, Hank Chapman. Hank is something of an outsider in the team, neither fish nor fowl. When one of the seamen calls him a scientist, he denies it in a way that simultaneously sets him up as the working-class-joe identification figure while letting us know he has a slight chip on his shoulder. We are not particularly surprised when a love triangle later forms, with Marty caught between egghead Dale and two-fisted Hank.

While the scientists walk up towards the house that will be their base, Quinlan sees to his exasperation that the second boatload of naval men has somehow gotten itself into trouble only a few yards from shore. One of the men is tipped out into what proves to be surprisingly deep water. As he slides through the water, something stirs below him, and opens one enormous eye....

Attack Of The Crab Monsters does a much better job than most of its brethren in disguising the shortcomings of its monsters, which rarely appear in the film with the embarrassing clarity displayed in the infamous stills from the film. Instead, they are chiefly conveyed through glimpses of body parts. This sequence is a good example, wherein the opening of the eye is followed by the briefest of shots of a whole crab. The focus then shifts back to the unfortunate Seaman Tate (played by Charles Griffith), who screams in terror and tries to get away. But when his crewmates finally pull him up out of the water, well....

Inside the house, the scientists – and Hank – are setting up shop. We hear that “the navy boys really fixed this place up” after the typhoon, and indeed they did. I particularly like the frilly curtains, and the tacky table-lamp. By the time we get there, the scientists already have the essentials in place: on a bench-top sits a microscope, a beaker, a rack of test tubes, and a flask filled with a Mysterious Coloured Fluid.

SCIENCE!!

"The situation is desperate, but as long as we have a microscope, test tubes and some Mysterious Coloured Fluid, I'm sure humanity will prevail!"

Everyone then troops down to watch Quinlan and Seaman Mac, who are leaving, take off in their seaplane. On the way, however, there is a strange, booming sound, like explosions on the far side of the island, and the next moment the island itself shakes violently. No-one is hurt, but Hank and the three seamen narrowly escape being caught in a rockslide. Quinlan and Mac head off, while the others watch from the cliff-top. However, the smiling and waving stops abruptly when the plane goes up in an impressive flash of light.

Wiegand orders Hank to the radio, to report the tragedy – and, presumably, the earlier tragedy – but before he can contact anyone, the violent electrical storm that has been threatening breaks. The scientists begin their reading of MacLean’s journal, and we hear of the discovery of a strange piece of flesh, which seemed to be worm-like in character, but if so, must have come from a worm some five feet in length, judging by the dimensions of the sample. Astonishingly, the flesh proved impossible to cut, with the scalpel passing right through it as it healed itself. The reading is then interrupted by more of the booming noises, and another mini-earthquake.

Later, after the others have gone to bed, Drewer and Wiegand discuss the significance of the abrupt breaking-off of MacLean’s journal. They are interrupted by a tapping sound from outside, which to their relief proves to be caused by nothing more than a branch and the wind...except that, once the relieved men have turned their backs, the noise persists after the branch has stopped moving....

The next morning, Marty goes diving, and is unexpectedly joined by Drewer. These scenes were obviously filmed in an aquarium – Marineland of the Pacific, to be exact, the forerunner of SeaWorld, which at the time did indeed have a “swim-through” tank in which visitors could dive, which has the effect of putting Pamela Duncan and Richard Garland in shot with some very nice underwater life, including a couple of gorgeous manta rays.

(Charles Griffith filmed these scenes in his capacity as second unit director, thus picking up his third pay-cheque on the production....perhaps.)

The lunch team.

Back on shore, Marty scolds Drewer for startling her, also commenting that she had been using a big black rock as a landmark, only to have it seemingly disappear. As the two strip off their gear – their diving-gear – Drewer looks around and comments disgustedly, “Land crabs and seagulls--- Everything else is dead!”

Sooo.... Marine life doesn’t count, then, Mr Biologist? Or is that just for girls?

Truthfully, Dale Drewer is a bit of a jerk – or maybe I just don’t like the tone he uses when he calls Marty “honey”, which he does a lot. This is a very lightly sketched yet convincingly habitual relationship, the kind of which one party to it (oh, let’s face it, Marty) might say unenthusiastically, “I suppose we’ll get married some day....” So it isn’t surprising that Marty starts showing an interest in Hank. Problem is, Hank is a bit of a jerk, too – or maybe I just don’t care for his sneery attitude towards the “eggheads”.

There’s no pleasing some people, is there?

Carson and Wiegand call Drewer and Marty up onto the cliff where they and the two seamen gape down at the result of a sudden land-fall. (And yet again, our surroundings are played by Bronson Canyon.) Marty says in a stunned way that she walked that way before her dive, and Wiegand agrees that the pit wasn’t there only twenty minutes earlier. Carson wants to investigate, but Wiegand forbids him.

That night, Marty is woken by what she recognises as Orville MacLean’s voice, which calls her by name, begging for her help. She follows it into the densely vegetated area around the house, gasping in shock as she runs into Carson. (Reel change! Reel change!) Carson remarks that he, too, was called by name, which puzzles Marty, who only heard her own name. Carson believes that MacLean must still be alive, and that somehow the navy missed him in their search, but a nervous Marty insists that he is dead, and that for some reason, someone is imitating his voice. The two end up back at the pit, and Carson insists on climbing down. However, another mini-quake knocks Marty to the ground, while from the pit comes a despairing scream....

Some time afterwards, presumably having missed their companions, the others come searching. A dazed Marty comes around, sobbing over Carson’s fate. Wiegand shouts down into the pit, and Carson’s voice shouts back that he has broken his leg.

 

"Land crabs and seagulls--- Everything else is dead!"

Drewer takes Marty back to the house. Wiegand insists that the bottom of the pit can be accessed via a series of caves, and that he, Deveroux and Hank should go that way to look for Carson. On the way, they run into the two seamen, Fellowes and Sommers, who report that another land-fall almost took their tent and themselves with it.

I should say that Fellowes and Sommers stayed on the island to handle any demolition work, and therefore almost by definition are (i) a couple of wacky guys, and (ii) the Odious Comic Relief. Furthermore, Fellowes is played by Beach Dickerson, who is also the person inside the fibreglass crab for most of the, ahem, action scenes – although sometimes it’s Ed Nelson, explaining why he was killed off early.

The search party runs across the beach to the opening of the caves, and even though the situation should be one of desperate urgency, Hank stops to throw a rock at one of the many land crabs sitting on the beach. He misses, because Wiegand knocks his arm, leading to the following exchange: 

Hank [chuckling]:  “Doctor, why did you try to stop me throwing that rock?”
Wiegand
:  “I just don’t like to kill anything, even creatures as ugly as these.”
Deveroux
:  “Poor helpless things!”
Fellowes
:  “Helpless, nothing! Did you ever see a bunch of those things start on a wounded marine? They finish him off in five minutes!”

Heavens, I hardly know where to start with this. Hank, as I said, is a jerk. Don’t you love the implication that it’s okay to kill something you find ugly? – which, by the way, I’m not sure is a philosophy that this crowd ought to be propagating, if they know what’s good for them. Deveroux here becomes instantly my hero. (Mel Welles is verra verra Fronnch in this film, but thankfully the script refrains from stooping to any of the standard slurs.) As for the rest---

It might seem kind of silly today, the way that the camera dwells on perfectly ordinary crabs, not just as foreshadowing, but as if they were monsters in their own right. But Fellowes has a point. During WWII, land crabs became many a serviceman’s worst nightmare, not just because they’re scavengers and, well, likes Fellowes says, but because of their other nasty habit of massing together and then rustling through the bushes that might also conceal an enemy. While today we may see nothing more here than an innocuous crustacean (aww....crabby!), in 1957 there were probably quite a number of people who found these shots unnerving.

"Booga, booga!"

Fellowes’ remarks remind Our Heroes that they should probably be rescuing their injured colleague, instead of standing around and flapping their jaws. Down in the caves, Wiegand and the others hear Carson’s voice ahead of them, calling that he has broken his leg, but when they reach the point where the cave joins the pit there is no sign of him – just some blood on the sand.... Wiegand, whose mysterious behaviour is puzzling and annoying the others, insists upon them going back via Carson’s rope, but won’t say why. Various protests are lodged, but Wiegand responds to all of them with, “Up the rope! Up the rope!” Apparently, before becoming a nuclear physicist, Wiegand was a gym teacher.

At the house, Marty is re-reading those sections of MacLean’s journal dealing with the sudden appearance of the caves when that tapping noise starts again. It is followed by more ominous noises from inside the house. Drewer arms himself and steps into the next room to investigate, closing the door behind himself to protect Marty – and then wishes he hadn’t. A huge claw swings through the air at him, knocking the gun from his hand, and prompting Drewer to exit the room with more haste than dignity. Bizarrely, the film then acts as if Drewer couldn’t see what attacked him, and continues to make a mystery out of the nature of the scientists’ adversaries.

When the ominous noises stop, it is discovered that the power is out. Marty lights a lamp, and she and Drewer inspect the damage. They find that – surprise! – the radio has been wrecked, but in a very particular way: the wiring and the tubes have been removed and cut up. There is also a gaping hole in the side of the house.

Later, Hank examines the wreckage, muttering that if they want a radio, he’ll have to build a new one from scratch. Drewer wonders why “it” – whatever “it” is – didn’t keep on coming and get him and Marty, and Wiegand speculates that electricity somehow contains it, hence the attack on the power system. (I love the way that Wiegand fondles a microscope all through this conversation – SCIENCE!!) Marty, who has been gazing thoughtfully out of the hole in the wall, then points out that where there was a mountain yesterday, there is no mountain today....

The party sets out to look for Carson again, but despite checking every possible passageway, they find no sign of him. Suddenly, another quake hits. As the searchers scramble for cover, Jules Deveroux loses his footing and sprawls on the ground. The next instant, a chunk of rock detaches from the roof of the cave and plummets towards him – severing his hand. Ewwww!!

Look on the bright side, Jules: obviously, you were already left-handed.

Actually – from an historical perspective, I find all this very interesting. Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte is usually tagged as the first mainstream movie to include this kind of graphic body-horror, but that was five years after Attack Of The Crab Monsters. I suppose the issue here is that Charlotte is a big-budgeted, star-heavy, studio production, and the other mere drive-in fodder: the dismemberment, while no more explicit, is more shocking in that context. I do find it suggestive, though, that Charlotte features exactly the same shock moments as the earlier film – that is, a decapitation and a hand-severing. How I would love to think that Robert Aldrich and Henry Farrell were inspired by Attack Of The Crab Monsters!

After a moment of stunned horror, the others spring into action: Wiegand binds the wound, while Marty uses her belt as a tourniquet. (No shrieking, no fainting--- Attagirl!) Fellowes and Sommers then run in, reporting that huge chunks of the island are dropping into the sea. They also comment that they knew where to find the scientists because they heard them calling. After a startled exchange of looks, the others ask whose voice they heard, and are told that it was Carson’s. The scientists are relieved to learn that he is still alive, but make Deveroux their immediate priority.

At their tent, Fellowes and Sommers are playing poker – using sticks of dynamite for chips – when there is a strange tapping noise from outside. Sommers picks up their lamp and goes outside to investigate – and wishes he hadn’t....

You know, call me mean-spirited, but one of the main reasons I find Roger Corman’s films from this era so enjoyable is his willingness – even eagerness – to off the Odious Comic Relief. In fact, by this stage it was almost a motif. Think about it: Chester Conklin in The Beast With A Million Eyes, Raymond Hatton in Day The World Ended, Beach Dickerson and Tony Miller here--- The only time it didn’t necessarily happen was when the OCR was played by Jonathan Haze and/or Dick Miller – and even that wasn’t always enough to save it. Alas, alas! – that generations of film-makers to follow failed to learn from The Master’s example!

The next thing we know, the voices of Fellowes and Sommers are calling out to the drugged-up Deveroux, telling him that they have found Dr Carson. They promise to take Deveroux to him as long as he stays quiet – very quiet. They tell him to meet them at the pit – and Deveroux, the poor brave idiot, does as they say. However, unable to find Fellowes and Sommers, Deveroux calls to them. “We’re right here, professor,” says Fellowes’ voice – and an enormous claw seizes Deveroux around the throat....

You GO, Roger!!

And yeah, I know Deveroux wasn’t quite himself, but – I’m not sure the morphine accounts for that thing being able to sneak up on him.

Deveroux’s screams wake the others. They gather in the living-room, and rather oddly, instead of looking in his room, they call to him. Deveroux’s voice replies that everything is all right, that the pain has gone.... Wiegand mutters for the others to keep him talking, which they do – even as they are finding his bed empty.... Wiegand continues to chat with the disembodied voice, but suddenly grasps the metal candle-holder sitting on Deveroux’s bedside-table.

In an instant, Deveroux’s voice changes tone. “Congratulations,” it concedes. Wiegand demands to know where Deveroux is, but gets the uncomforting reply that he is, “Where you all soon shall be. Bon soir.”

When Wiegand tells the others that Deveroux is dead, there is some muttering about ghost stories. “No, I do not believe in ghosts,” replies Wiegand quietly. No, you believe in giant mutated land crabs that can eat people’s brains and absorb their knowledge and personality and gain the ability to speak in their voice – which is so much easier. Feh! That’s scientists for you!

The next morning, the survivors find Fellowes and Sommers’ smashed tent. Their bodies are nowhere to be seen, and most of their dynamite is missing – dum, dum, dumm. The four collect what’s left, and then pass the day somehow, spending the evening waiting for Deveroux to speak to them, as he promised he would. Hank cleans his hand-gun, placing it on the table – and the next moment, Deveroux does speak, apparently through the gun.

(I may say that although the script of Attack Of The Crab Monsters is reasonably sensible up to this point, from here the Immortal Dialogue comes thick and fast.)

The voice first explains that all metal objects function as a kind of receiver for it. It then asserts that, “Something remarkable has happened to me”, and invites the others to the caves to see what that is. Drewer asks after Carson, and Carson’s voice replies that he is there too.

And so they do head for the caves – or the men do: Marty is left alone at the house, which hardly seems sensible. The three make their way to the site of Carson’s presumed death, Hank carrying “the equipment” that was mentioned in passing, and they hear an ominous tapping noise....and then a roar---

"BOOGA, BOOGA!!"

I’ll say this for the crabs: they’re a lot more effective than the monster suit in Day The World Ended, and less silly than Beulah in It Conquered The World For one thing, they’re bigger than the leading lady! The restricted views of them here are actually quite cleverly done, disguising the worst of their shortcomings, such as their essential immobility. The real issue, though, are their faces­ – particularly the eyelids. I think it’s supposed to tie in with the whole “eat a human, become a human” thing, but not only does it look intensely silly, the actual alien quality of crustacean eyes and mouths would have made the crabs a whole lot scarier.

Still, as I say, some skilful editing makes these scenes pretty tense and exciting. Drewer is knocked down by a stray claw. Hank lobs hand-grenades (in a cave??), and Wiegand fires a gun, but they do no damage to the crab. However, one of the grenades dislodges a section of the cave’s roof – yeah, you’d think – and a stalactite-like chunk of rock plunges down, impaling the crab in what we assume is its brain.

The men approach with caution, speculating over why this killed the crab while the bullets and grenades did nothing. As Wiegand takes photographs, he reminds the others of the story of the uncuttable worm-flesh, and worries that although the damage to its motor area has stopped the crab, if they were to remove the stalactite, it might come back to life. They decide to bury it, but first remove one of its claws as a specimen.

Hank goes to get some dynamite, while Wiegand and Drewer examine the crab. Drewer observes that it does appear to be an ordinary land crab, while Wiegand points out that it is a male. And at that moment, a second crab charges into the cave, roaring and waving its claws.

Well, you know what they say: hell hath no fury like a female mutated land crab widowed.

Wiegand orders Hank to set off the dynamite, quickly snapping another photograph before the three men run away. The dynamite goes off, but even as the blast recedes, Deveroux’s voice reflects that the men have killed MacLean and all of his party, and tried to kill him....a very big mistake....

"You will take my microscope from me only when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers!"

At the house, Wiegand examines a sample of the crab’s flesh, commenting, “The molecular structure of this crab is entirely disrupted! There is no cohesion between the atoms!” I’m not quite sure why Wiegand, a nuclear physicist, is doing this work rather than one or both of the biologists, particularly since it turns out that he thinks you can see atoms under the microscope.

However, perhaps the real issue here is Wiegand’s talent for analogy. He first compares the crab’s flesh to electricity, only with a flow of atoms rather than electrons; then he compares it to a liquid, taking the shape of whatever contains it. Finally, he theorises that when the crabs absorb food, they absorb it completely, turning it into matter like themselves – and that since the brain is basically a storage unit for electrical impulses, the minds of their victims are absorbed and assimilated wholesale, including the memories.

I’m impressed. Rarely have I heard so much utter nonsense in so few sentences....yet I have to admit, in context, it’s amusingly convincing nonsense.

Marty then wonders why, if they have been absorbed intact, Jules and the others have turned against them. Drewer has an answer for that: preservation of the species. “Once they were men,” he intones solemnly, “now they are land crabs!”

I couldn’t tell you how much I admire the cast for getting through all this with a straight face. I can’t imagine Corman allowed them too many takes, either.

Hank wants to know how the crabs are blowing up the island. Wiegand speculates that the crabs are able to generate arcs of great heat from within their own bodies, reminding the others of the glazed appearance of the rocks near the pit. Marty, who has been looking through Wiegand’s photographs, then interrupts with some alarming news: the second crab, the female, is pregnant. Of course, she doesn’t say “pregnant”. Instead she explains that they’re, “About to have a blessed event” and that the crab is, “In a very delicate condition.”

It’s hard being a female scientist.

As Wiegand stares at the photograph, we are also given a close-up of it – and thus catch a glorious, unforgettable glimpse of Beach Dickerson’s feet – or is it Ed Nelson’s? – sticking out from within the carapace.

 

"Congratulations - it's a foot!"

You know....you can go out there and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on big-name stars and action sequences and special effects and 3D....but I guarantee you won’t entertain me one-tenth as much as Roger Corman just accidentally did.

Hank immediately exclaims that they have to kill the crab. Wiegand begins to utter an objection, and interestingly enough, it is Marty who exclaims, “You’re not going to suggest that we should save it for science!” Wiegand reassures the others that, no, that’s not what he meant: “I have no ambition toward becoming a mad scientist!”

Well, excu-uu-uu-use me!

And then Wiegand goes on to say that he does want to take the crab alive, so that it can be studied. Eh? Hank, meanwhile, has remembered that remark of Wiegand’s about the crabs being afraid of electricity. Carrying the claw to a bench, he attaches two electrodes to a battery, and then touches the claw – which is immediately reduced to ashes.

Hank sets to work devising an electrical trap (hmm, someone’s been watching The Thing), which they arrange in the cave. Wiegand tests it, exulting that the charge should be strong enough to stun the crab, so that they can remove its claws and cage it – aw, ow! – but not strong enough to kill it. Now, all they have to do is figure out how to get the crab to walk into the trap. Crabs being smarter than James Arness, you understand.

(Annoyingly, having just discovered that the remaining crab is female, all throughout this sequence Wiegand refers to it as “he”. [Shades of Jurassic Park – or vice-versa.])

The changes to the island have left the lower entrances to the caves underwater, so the team splits up. Marty and Hank are to climb down into the pit and place the trap where they want it, then escape via the water, while Wiegand and Drewer are to act as bait, to lead the crab down to where they want it. Encouragingly, not only do they not try to keep Marty out of it, no-one offers to help her with the climb down the rope, either.

In the wake of a bitter argument over melted butter versus rémoulade, Hank took his claw and went home.

On the other hand, Marty thinks this might be a good opportunity to follow up on those thoughtful looks she and Hank have been exchanging from time to time. Fortunately, before things can get mushy, there’s a noise from nearby. Marty and Hank tip-toe down the passageway, and find the crab asleep in an alcove....and I can only assume that the noise is supposed to be its snoring. Hank decides he’d going to try and remove a claw. However, as he creeps up with his knife drawn, the crab opens a single eye....

(We are given far too good a look at the plastic eyelids here.)

As Hank severs one claw, the other knocks the knife from Hank’s hand. He and Marty take to their heels, the crab in pursuit. Wiegand and Drewer see them as they scoot across the tiny beach and plunge into the water, and circle around above them to where they calculate they will emerge again. They guess right, which is just as well: even as Marty and Hank catch their breaths, the pursuing crab scrambles up over the rocks nearby. Drewer fires a rifle at it, which doesn’t do much to the crab, but does alert the others to its proximity. As they scramble up the slope to safety, the crab, speaking in Carson’s voice, jeers that it can grow another claw – can they grow another life?

Subsequently, the quakes and rock-falls become more frequent, and more violent. As Hank completes his rebuilding of the radio, Wiegand and Drewer inspect the landscape, recognising grimly that before much longer, there won’t be any island left. And where’s Marty? – you might ask. Oh, she’s preparing a meal. Because, you know, girl.... Marty and Hank start swapping histories, until Marty is compelled to explain that she and Drewer have been together since college and that, “As soon as his promotion comes through, we’re making it a lifetime partnership.”

His promotion?

Meanwhile, Wiegand and Drewer have discovered oil. No, really. Two separate streams are oozing their way across what’s left of the island, and an excited Wiegand insists they split up and each follow one. And yes, I know that to some, oil is all-enthralling; but is this really the time – ?

It is? Okay then.

 

Nuclear physicists, on the other hand, are not smarter than James Arness.

The exploration leads the two scientists into two different cave entrances. Drewer soon encounters the crab, but its back is turned and he manages to hide. Recognising that Wiegand will be in its path, Drewer runs outside, meaning to circle around and warn him. He runs into Marty and Hank, to whom he explains. He then hurries off with Hank, tossing a, “Stay here, Marty!” over his shoulder. Marty baulks for a moment, then follows anyway.

Meanwhile, Wiegand has found the abandoned electrical trap, and starts setting it up. He’s so intent on the job that the crab is almost on top of him before he notices it. Jumping to his feet, he turns and runs – straight into the electrical trap. Ouch. And as he lies there incapacitated, but fully conscious, the crab moves in....

Serves you right, you oil-obsessed jerk.

The other three arrive just in time to get a good eyeful, and then turn and run out again. Halfway along, Drewer pulls up, telling Hank to take Marty out while he goes back to light up the oil. Hank obeys with alacrity, and there is just a moment here as Drewer is staring after them when he’s obviously thinking, Hey, I’ve got a better idea, how about I take Marty out and you light the oil? – but they’re gone before he can even finish the thought. Anyway, he ignites his lighter and tosses it back into the cave, sprinting away from the resultant blast. However, catching up with the others, he remarks that he’s only slowed the crab down, not killed it. Hank replies that at least they now have the chance to send another SOS.

But even as he does so, Deveroux’s voice speaks mockingly via the radio-set, telling them that long before help can arrive, they will be a part of him – and there won’t be any island left.  On cue, another violent quake hits. The three survivors flee the house, and just in time: a torrent of water pours across the sinking island, sweeping the structure away.

Marty, Hank and Drewer scramble to higher ground, up to what used to be, at least, the highest point on the island, where the transmission tower sits, a maintenance kit beside it. Hank and Drewer reflect that they have that and their remaining grenades with which to fight back. Suddenly, Marty shrieks: the crab is climbing up after them.

"Mmmm....Singapore chilli mud human!"

The three take cover, and the menfolk start lobbing grenades and firing guns. “Foolish – very foolish!” mocks crab-Deveroux, and it’s hard to disagree. Hank goes charging towards the creature, meaning to try what a grenade at close quarters will do, but the crab knocks him over so that he is partially caught in the blast. Clutching his injured leg, Hank drags himself over the rocks, while Drewer swings at the crab with a hatchet.

Well, it’s a desperate situation, but there is one more thing they can try – an extreme measure with the double virtue of resolving not only the crab situation, but Marty’s romantic difficulties, too....

On cinematic qualities alone, I’m always surprised to reflect that when Attack Of The Crab Monsters was released in a double-bill with Not Of This Earth, it occupied the top half of the program. Still, there’s no question that Corman and AIP (the films’ distributors, although not their producers) knew what they were doing: Attack Of The Crab Monsters finally took in over $1 million – not a bad return on a mere $70,000 investment. Corman’s theory is that while it was the outrageous title and advertising art that brought the punters in, it was the film’s bizarre plot and impressive levels of suspense that kept them in their seats. (He also thinks the audience loved the crabs.) It’s hard to argue. There are plenty of monster movies from this era, but nothing quite like this one. In the end, it’s a near-perfect example of overcoming a limited budget through the power of a clever idea.

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Click here for some Immortal Dialogue.
 
Footnote: And I really cannot let this occasion pass without this---
.
       Even from the beach I could sense it--
       lack of welcome, lack of abiding life,
       like something in the air, a certain
       lack of sound. Yesterday
       there was a mountain out there.
       Now it's gone. And look

       at this radio, each tube neatly
       sliced in half. Blow the place up!
       That was my advice.
       But after the storm and the earthquake,
       after the tactic of the exploding plane
       and the strategy of the sinking boat, it looked

       like fate and I wanted to say, "Don't you see?
       So what if you are a famous biochemist!
       Lost with all hands is an old story."
       Sure, we're on the edge
       of an important breakthrough, everyone
       hearing voices, everyone falling

       into caves, and you're out
       wandering through the jungle
       in the middle of the night in your negligée.
       Yes, we're way out there
       on the edge of science, while the rest
       of the island continues to disappear until

       nothing's left except this
       cliff in the middle of the ocean,
       and you, in your bathing suit,
       crouched behind the scuba tanks.
       I'd like to tell you
       not to be afraid, but I've lost

       my voice. I'm not used to all these
       legs, these claws, these feelers.
       It's the old story, predictable
       as fallout--the rearrangement of molecules.
       And everyone is surprised
       and no one understands

       why each man tries to kill
       the thing he loves, when the change
       comes over him. So now you know
       what I never found the time to say.
       Sweetheart, put down your flamethrower.
       You know I always loved you.
.
                                             --- Lawrence Raab
.



Car Insurance
----posted 28/11/2010