Attack of the Crab Monsters
From the depths of the sea... a tidal wave of terror!
Year of Release: 1957
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Running Time: 63 minutes (1:03)
Director: Roger Corman
Richard Garland ... Dale Drewer
Pamela Duncan ... Martha Hunter
Russell Johnson ... Hank Chapman
Leslie Bradley ... Dr. Karl Weigand
Mel Welles ... Jules Deveroux
Richard H. Cutting ... Dr. James Carson
Beach Dickerson ... Seaman Ron Fellows
Tony Miller ... Seaman Jack Sommers
A group of scientists become marooned on an island while investigating the disappearance of researchers who had been looking into atomic activity in the Pacific. They quickly fall prey to giant, mutant crustaceans that are able to absorb the minds of their prey.
Attack of the Crab Monsters, remindin' us that on a Roger Corman set you may get crabs, the crabs may even get you, but one thing's for certain - the caterer sure's heck won't be servin' any up to the crew, cause them're way too expensive.
An speakin' of things I wouldn't mind seein' dismembered an wrapped in plastic, I got a little advice for all the manwhores out there: never dump on a girl with guy friends who can remove the diesel engine from a Mack truck without a crane hoist. I dunno where B.J. Wilder finds these guys, prolly the internet, or Starbucks; but either way I'm pretty sure she's got some kinda genetic magnetic pull that draws in assholes from all walks of life, an I'm... well, actually, at this point gettin' rid of 'em in new horrible ways has become one of my greatest joys in my life. Take this latest guy, let's call 'im "Chad" (I didn't catch the guy's real name, I just know every guy I ever met named Chad has been a douche). So B.J. generously invites Chad out to the Grime Time for the Halloween double feature earlier this week (seriously, how many of YOU have women that cool?), alright enough guy, I guess, still had most of his teeth, even claimed to remember watchin' Jackie Kong film that scene in The Being where Bill Osco runs in front of the train when he was a kid growin' up in Meridian, Idaho, an what happens? The next night, Billy Hilliard an I're in The Gutter Bowl arcade mindin' our own business, cursin' the BurgerTime cabinet, when Chad walks in with Trixie Willager an the two of 'em park their adulterous asses up at the food counter. So Billy spots 'em first (I think I was still sharin' a few choice words with Mr. Hot Dog), drops his pinball game without a word, an starts headin' for the counter.
By that point I'd already stuffed another quarter in BurgerTime an could only yell over my shoulder to ask why in the heck he'd ditched his game, an I hear "I'ma tuff hith fathe inna ball weturn an bowl til the copth thow up!"
After that I finally got turned around to see what he was talkin' about an just barely got 'im stopped before he committed any major felonies an said "look man, I know you're P.O.'d, but this ain't the way to handle it."
"Yer rih," he agreed, as he pried one of the legs offa the air hockey table; "I'ma bea' 'im to deaf firth, THEN the ball weturn."
Obviously I wasn't makin' myself clear, so I tried a different strategy; "Whoa! Hang on there, Conan! Lemme think a minute here... there's gotta be a better..." only my concentration was broken by Fannie Ogglesby losin' 'er grip on 'er ball, launchin' it backwards into the cigarette machine an leavin' a dent about six inches deep, which was when it suddenly hit me. The revenge plot I mean, not another bimbo-powered loose ball.
So we waited til the schmuck'd gotten good an tanked (B.J.'d introduced us at the Grime Time, so he remembered us) an I asked 'im if Billy an I could borrow his truck to pick up a load of wood I'd cut a few weeks back. Kinda underhanded, I admit, particularly since by that point Trixie was draggin' 'im towards the bathroom, but long story short: he gave up his keys faster'n Trixie gives up 'er honor to any guy with a lollipop, an away we went in Chad's truck.
"Wha're we doin'?! An why'd loo thop me from bussin' hith thkull?!" Billy demanded.
"Just what I told 'im, we're goin' to pick up that wood."
Billy looked at me funny for quite awhile but decided to reserve judgement until he saw where I was goin', an so I drove us out to Silas Tankersley's place where Cleave Furguson an I'd been cuttin' firewood.
"Thith beller be good," he grumbled, an so we walked up the hill to where Cleave an I'd bucked up our logs an I picked up the first one I came to an sent it rollin' down the hill *directly* at the truck, where it smashed into the passenger door an left a dent the size of a child's face.
"Well?" I says, "all these logs ain't gonna load themselves," an that's when Billy got my angle an completely cracked up before chuckin' everything he could get his hands on (includin' a coupla boulders that musta been pushin' 200lbs) down the hill like Donkey Kong in a barrel mill, an within 20 minutes we'd busted out all four windows, snapped off both mirrors, an caved the entire passenger side of the frame in so deep that it looked like Miles 'O Keeffe's chest in Ator, the Fighting Eagle.
"Feel better?" I asked.
"Muth," he admitted, an we proceeded to load the logs into the bed before droppin' 'em in my yard an returnin' the truck (it was about 4 in the AM by then) to The Gutter Bowl parkin' lot with a note that said: "we've secretly replaced your truck with a prop from a Carrie Underwood song, let's see if B.J. notices."
Prolly won't be goin' into Mack's Stacks of Manly Snacks anytime soon, least not on days where B.J.'s workin' anyway, cause I don't wanna end up on the wrong end of a BBQ fork bein' interrogated for wrongful termination of a relationship. I know they say "two wrongs don't make a right," but... well, they almost always make a funny.
I don't wanna toot my own horn or anything, but then, I sure's heck can't toot Chad's now that its terminal's been crunched like Joe Theismann's tibia. Butcha know, much as I love Halloween, it's always kind of a relief when it's over. After reviewin' all those top shelf flicks that I've already seen a half dozen times, it's a major relief to get back to the basics. So this week we're goin' back to the '50s, a simpler time, when America was still undefeated in major military conflicts, where "pinning" your girl didn't result in a prison sentence, and an era where you could name a political initiative "Operation Wetback" without a single member of the press callin' ya a racist. Now that I think about it, the '50s were pretty screwed up. But what the '50s DID get right was nuclear war anxiety, an from all that pent up terror sprang radioactive mutation movies to keep us distracted from the fact that the Commies could blow us to pieces at any moment, of which Roger Corman's Attack of the Crab Monsters is one of the all-time classics. So let's take a moment to be grateful for the fact that in the 21st Century the guy with nuclear missiles pointed at us is a lot more likely to have 'em just explode on the launch pad, an enjoy some '50s facts of life that're every bit as salient as the social guidance films of the era. First, watchin' a 250lb botanist climb a rope while scalin' a sheer rock wall kinda helps explain why the Gym teacher used to give you so much flack in P.E. Second, women're like finicky pieces of machinery; one minute they're faintin' in the midst of a minor earthquake, an the next they're calmly cookin' ya dinner while nuclear crustaceans attack yer residence. An third, always Windex the protective glass surroundin' the ocean before filming.
Thinkin' about that openin' narration though; the one with all that stuff from the Bible about how God's so embarrassed at how we turned out that He's callin' a cosmic do-over - it sure seems like He left a lot to chance when He gave these mutant crabs the ability to absorb the consciousness of everybody they eat. I mean, they basically hit the intellectual jackpot by havin' a buncha scientists show up on their island; suppose the cast of Gilligan's Island'd washed up on the beach (yeah, I know, The Professor's in this thing, but again, that's best case scenario) an they'd absorbed *them* instead of these guys? Can you imagine Bob Denver an Alan Hale in command of giant radioactive crabs tryin' to destroy mankind? Those two bunglers couldn't wipe out their own butt cracks with two hands an a nursing home training manual, so where would that've left His Bossness' grand scheme? Some people say He works in mysterious ways, but I think they're just tryin' to be polite, cause frankly, sometimes God works in STUPID ways. Seriously, what if all those models from The Horrors of Spider Island washed up on *this* island instead of Spider Island an gotten absorbed? What good is havin' a buncha screamin' bimbos in their brains gonna do? Poor crabs'd be stuck listenin' to 'em whine about the way their dresses make their carapace look fat an how cheap it made 'em feel havin' to spank Harvey Weinstein with a ridin' crop. I mean, what's *that* gonna do for the natural selection of your newly created species? Sometimes I think God got completely schnozzled on Fireball Whiskey an just said "the Hell with 'em all," cause I could certainly see doin' that.
The movie begins with a narration from God talkin' about how appalled he is at how we turned out after He went an made us in His own image, an how we're such an embarrassment that He can't show his face around Club Deity anymore cause Xenu an Lucifer've got the whole place laughin' at 'Im, leavin' 'Im with no choice but to destroy us to teach us some manners. Then we pan down to a desert island where a buncha scientists've filled a boat so far beyond its maximum occupancy that even a Syrian refugee wouldn't climb in, an once they make landfall they wait around for their supply vessel until it runs aground an loses a man over the side who instantly sinks to the bottom an gets his head sliced off by a cabbage with eyes. It seems the scientists (Karl, Dale, Martha, Jules, James, an The Professor from Gillian's Island) have come to investigate the effects of nuclear fallout on the local critters an gamble away their lives on the possible explanations for why the last crew vanished. So they check into the local Banana Cabana Motel an start rootin' around in the notes left behind by the previous expedition until they find a journal entry talkin' about worms big enough to feed an Indonesian fishing village, only the entry abruptly ends when there's discussion about rotatin' 'em on a spit to settle a bet about whether or not they'd taste like chicken. The next day, Martha an Dale go divin' for tourist pennies in the Marineland Aquarium, but when they get out Karl calls 'em up to a nearby hillside to remind 'em not to go sittin' on the furniture while they're still drippin' an to show 'em the giant sinkhole with kiln-fired rock walls that opened up while they were out tryin' to get Flipper's autograph. Later that night, Martha wakes up to the Ghost of Squishmas Past (the captain of the previous crew) callin' 'er outside, where she runs into James who tells 'er he heard the voice too an that he's goin' down into the barbecued pit to look for the captain an find out what the dinner special is. Only about that time the ground starts shakin' like the bootays on KC and the Sunshine Band til Martha faints an James ends up losin' his grip on the rope an discoverin' that the term "bedrock" is kind of a misnomer. Then everybody runs outside to find Martha asleep at the ditch while James' voice explains that after a rough landin' he can now walk on his hands an swivel both legs around like nunchakus an that he's gonna need a hand an a coupla prosthetic legs. So Karl, Jules, an The Professor head through a tunnel that connects to the canyon tryin' to find 'im while Dale takes Martha back to the cabin just in time to catch a giant crab fiddlin' with their radio dial until it gets P.O.'d about the lack of a decent Reggae station an opts to just slice through all the wiring. They never do find James, which if we're bein' honest is about as big a loss as somebody spray paintin' graffiti on a lime green 1972 AMC Gremlin, so the crew goes out lookin' again the next day an end up gettin' ambushed by an avalanche of papier mache boulders that manage to cut off one of Jules' hands.
This ain't a real big loss either, cause Jules is a tubby French guy who looks like some kinda bizarre genetic experiment involvin' Ron Jeremy an Eddie Izzard. Meanwhile, the two demolitions experts Karl hired to blow up anything that tries standin' in the way of science're in their tent playin' poker, only the tent don't hold up well against the onslaught of Decapod Crane, an they end up gettin' turned into Krabby Patties. Then their voices show up in Jules' room an manage to lure 'im outside with the promise of 88lb women with hairy armpits, but when he heads outside all he gets for his trouble is pinched harder'n 3rd grade Math Club nerd on St. Patrick's Day. Unfortunately the jig is up now, cause everybody in the house hears 'im gettin' pinched in half like a stubborn turd in a rest stop bathroom, an despite the disembodied voice of Jules tryin' to convince 'em he just stepped in a patch of goat heads, they find his empty bed an the voice ends up leadin' 'em down to the pit where they're attacked by a giant radioactive ventriloquist crustacean. Needless to say, this scares the chitlin outta just about everybody, but The Professor manages to blow a coupla stalactites off the roof of the cave, resultin' in Mandible Lecter gettin' his antennas permanently scrambled. Then the cave starts smellin' like Crab Louie, an so they grab one of the claws an take it home for supper, cept Karl decides to run some tests on it an discovers that its molocules're all discombobulated from the radiation so that when it eats somebody it actually absorbs their consciousness, causin' their hearts to go on like Celine Dion. Fortunately, they also discover that runnin' an electrical current through 'em causes their atoms to go all Crab Nebula an figure that if an arc of electricity was strong enough to put down James Arness in The Thing from Another World, it'll probably work on ole Exoskeletor. It's just as well, cause they can't exactly afford to wait around hopin' the crew of Deadliest Catch'll show up to save their butts, so they rig up a coupla little electrified oscillator fans on either side of the cave an try lurin' 'em into the trap, only Karl ends up steppin' on toppa the ground wire an gettin' paralyzed long enough for Buster Crabbe to get ahold of 'im an munch his brains. The rest of the group manages to make it back the cabin while Mr. Krabbs shakes his claw at 'em like a Central American dictator givin' a speech from a balcony, but that ain't even the worst of it, cause while all this's been goin' on an elite squad of subterranean invertebrates known as Eel Team Six has been usin' their atomic antennae to blast the island's landmass into dust, an by this point it's becomin' pretty clear to everybody that not only was Walt Disney right about this bein' a small world after all, but that said world is gettin' increasingly smaller by the minute. I believe we'll bring this madness to a halt right here, so if you haven't seen this one yet... well, based on my description, that's pretty likely to remain the case.
Alrighty, well, Attack of the Crab Monsters is, I suspect, one of those flicks where you just "had to be there." That's not to say that there aren't younger folks who have an anachronistic love of bad science fiction, but the film's IMDB score is one where you can easily imagine half its viewers dumping on it due to the lackluster production values, while the other half gives it a perfect rating due to their childhood nostalgia, and what they ultimately produce is a score that's actually pretty accurate (4.8). Crab Monsters was one of the earliest flicks in the career of the lovable Roger Corman, who directed at least one flick almost every year from 1955 up until 1971, when he began focusing primarily on producing (even though he'd already been doing that concurrently with his directorial duties, both on movies he was directing and ones he was not). Hard to say whether he just got tired of it, or whether he decided the studio finally had the money to pay someone else to do it, because I'd be very surprised if saving money wasn't at least part of the reason he chose to direct certain projects. The 1950s movie industry really was tailor made for a guy like Corman, because the '50s were the first decade where the costs of making movies had begun to drop to the point that they could be made on the cheap, and it was also the first decade where your more fantastic genres of film had started to become more widely accepted by the movie-going public. It was also the golden age of the drive-in, and because people didn't have much basis for comparison yet, the movies didn't have to be that good as long as they were entertaining, and this is the type of filmmaking which Corman excels at to this very day, long after the glory days of the drive-in have passed. Crab Monsters was originally filmed back-to-back with another of Corman's golden oldies: Not of This Earth, with which it opened as a double bill for Allied Artists back in 1957, and despite a total running time of 2:10 between both flicks, each title has acquired a respectable cult following and pulled in a decent box office return at the time. No doubt inspired by bigger budget flicks with the same premise, Corman began down the path upon which he stayed for much of his career, and began producing low budget clones of big budget hits. He made the thematically comparable Monster from the Ocean Floor a few years earlier in 1954, capitalizing on the audience reaction to flicks like It Came from Beneath the Sea and, honestly, this is where Roger is at his best. Among all of Corman's productions, my favorites are the Alien clones from the early 1980s, including Forbidden World, Galaxy of Terror, and The Terror Within; and whether you enjoy Roger's films or not, you really can't fault his business model, because if you can produce a movie that's 70% as good as Alien for 10% of the cost, that's a recipe for profits.
Everyone feeling warm and fuzzy? Very good. Unfortunately, it's now time to face reality, so break out the butter and let's find out if we can have our crab cakes and eat 'em too. The plot is about as ridiculous as you'll ever see in any science fiction flick of the 1950s, and I'm not just talking about the idea of giant radiated crabs, because I can deal with that part just fine. But that's not even close to the most preposterous element of this flick, so what I'm going to do here is simply let the dialog from the movie speak for itself, because once you've absorbed it, you'll have no need of my analysis: "The free electron in the copper atom breaks off to circle the next atom, taking the charge along the wire. The free electrons jump from atom to atom along the copper at the speed of light. But instead of free electrons, the crab has free atoms, all disconnected. It's like a mass of liquid, with a permanent shape. Any metal, therefore, that the crab eats will be assimilated in his body of solid energy, becoming part of the crab. And their [its victims'] brain tissue, which, after all, is nothing more than a storage house for electrical impulses. That means that the crab can eat his victim's brain, absorbing his mind intact and working." So yeah, there's your plot explanation, and you can't look at that with an objective point-of-view and simply dismiss it. The acting is definitely the high point, and although nobody stands out or gives an especially riveting performance, the entire cast is solid. Now, the *dialogue* given to said actors is pretty funny stuff, and includes passages like: "It could hardly have been me doctor, when I have been here all the time dreaming of all the things I might learn to do with only my left hand" (a line delivered by the now disembodied voice of Jules while trying to refute his own scream uttered moments before as he was being eaten), and "Are you hiding something from us doctor? A theory perhaps?" "Maybe, come! We must hurry!" There're a few more doozies, but I don't wanna spoil 'em all. Its goofiness not withstanding, that's on the writer, not the actors, and the actors did a decent job with the material they were given.
Here's who matters and why: Richard Garland (The Undead, Panic in the Year Zero!, Mutiny in Outer Space), Pamela Duncan (The Undead), Russell Johnson (This Island Earth, The Space Children, Horror at 37,000 Feet, It Came from Outer Space), Leslie Bradley (Tarzan and the Trappers, Teenage Cave Man), Mel Welles (Raising Dead, Wizards of the Lost Kingdom 2, Invasion Earth: The Aliens are Here, Chopping Mall, Wolfen, Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype, Lady Frankenstein, The Little Shop of Horrors 1960, The Undead, She Beast, Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy), Richard H. Cutting (The Monolith Monsters, Monster on the Campus, Creature with the Atom Brain), Beach Dickerson (Deadly Dreams, The Dunwich Horror, Teenage Caveman, War of the Satellites, Creature from the Haunted Sea), Tony Miller (War of the Satellites), Ed Nelson (A Bucket of Blood 1959, The Boneyard, The Brain Eaters, Night of the Blood Beast, Teenage Cave Man, Invasion of the Saucer Men). Only one guy managed to escape the reputation of Attack of the Crab Monsters; Russell Johnson, who, of course, went on to play The Professor on Gilligan's Island.
The special effects are... yeah, I don't imagine I need to say it. If nothing else, I like the ambition, but ambition coupled with a lack of funding is *always* a recipe for failure, and these crabs are some of the most pitiful creatures ever put to film. It Came from Beneath the Sea worked, in no small part, because of Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion animation, whereas here you've got bulky, rigid creations operated by a coupla guys standing directly beneath it. The legs cannot move independently, and the creatures in general have the appearance of something an elementary school might make for a local parade float. You've also got Jules' severed hand, which he's pretty obviously hiding in his sleeve, but to his credit, Roger did manage to sneak a decapitation into the flick, and the dummy utilized for that particular shot looked pretty decent, so I guess it's not all bad. The shooting locations are decent, with most of the outdoor scenes being filmed on either the California coast, or inside the famous Bronson Caves in Los Angeles. The editor also threw in some stock footage near the end to help illustrate the island's ever-shrinking condition, and these were shot contemporaneously enough that they don't appear too out of place. The underwater scenes were filmed at Marineland of the Pacific in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, and while the aquarium is pretty obvious, it would be hypocritical to point an accusing finger at this flick, but not all its bigger budget siblings like Creature from the Black Lagoon, and therefore I will not. I've also seen a few people chastise the interiors for being little more than a random residence, but I'm inclined to consider that nitpicking, as the structure is the only one on the entire island. Knowing this, it's logical that it would be set up the way it is, because it's never stated that it was built specifically as a research center, so that too is nitpicking. The soundtrack is vintage '50s Science Fiction, and is therefore extremely cheesy and overly dramatic, but also perfectly suited to a flick of this genre, from this era. I mean no disrespect when I call this type of soundtrack cheesy, by the way, because the soundtracks for some of the biggest Science Fiction hits of the decade are *every bit* as cheesy as this one. They also seem remarkably interchangeable, because you could easily swap out the soundtrack on Attack of the Crab Monsters with, say, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and it wouldn't change the dynamic (or quality) of either flick much at all. Overall, it's pretty bad on a technical level, but it's still kinda fun to watch, and with a brisk 62 minute runtime it manages not to drag. That said, this is one where you've really gotta decide for yourself whether to see it, because I can't recommend it to anyone who isn't already in love with '50s Science Fiction flicks - but I can say that if you give it a shot and find you don't care for it, at least it's short.