Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


One Might Big Crab! Note two men at lower right.
ISLAND CLAWS (1980). Director: Herman Cardenas.

Pete Adams (Steve Hanks) is a teaching assistant and researcher working with Dr. McNeal (Barry Nelson), who hopes to increase the size of crabs as, presumably, a food source. Pete is attracted to a woman, Jan (Jo McDonnell), who is doing a story on McNeal's work, but, implausibly, is unaware that her father was driving the car in which his parents died years ago. Pete's surrogate parents are Moody (Robert Lansing) and Rosie (Nita Talbot), the former of whom owns the tavern where Rosie works as barmaid. Meanwhile, an accident at a nearby reactor unleashes radioactive waste into the water. The combination of growth hormones and radioactivity engenders bizarre behavior in ordinary crabs, as well as creates a crab of especially humongous stature. Island Claws combines a "nature turned nasty" plot about killer animals running amok with a giant monster on the loose. The scenes with the small crabs moving en masse toward potential victims are creepy, with the crustaceans being good little actors, but they never really seem to be "attacking." The big crab -- yes, there's only one [at least Attack of the Crab Monsters had two crabs] -- appears to be a full-size mechanical model that lacks great mobility but is efficient enough and is generally masked in darkness. A sub-plot involves a family of Haitians who sneak ashore and are at first blamed for some of the strange deaths in the area. There is some attempt at creating three-dimensional characters, and the acting is generally good. Bill Justis' eerie music is a plus. Island Claws holds the attention and isn't badly done, but ultimately there's not enough of the monster. Ricou Browning, who played the Gill Man in The Creature from the Black Lagoon and its sequels, was co-scripter along with Jack Cowden.

Verdict: Has its moments, but can't beat Corman's Attack of the Crab Monsters. **1/2.

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