Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957)

Perhaps on some level director Roger Corman knew that a movie starring giant crabs wasn’t really going to get audiences that fired up. Most people have never dealt with the animals except as a tasty treat and thus there is no deep seated fear of them like there is of the various insects, spiders and other icky things that became engorged during the 1950s heyday of these types of films.

In fact, when Mysterious Island featured a giant crab menacing people a few years later, the unfortunate creature ended up as an all you can eat castaways crab meat buffet! So it was probably not a bad idea that Corman tricked out his crab monsters with some additional super powers.

For instance, the crabs are able to explode things somehow. A plane was trying to fly away from the island and one bad special effect later and it’s blown up! How? The crabs are packed with energy so they obviously throw off arcs of heat which they use to explode chunks of the island!

But while crabs with the ability to remotely destroy their habitat may be both kind of awesome and a bit short sighted on the crabs’ part, that’s really just their warm up atomic power. You see they are made up of free roaming atoms. This means that their body is like a glass just containing all these bad ass crab atoms. And anyone who has ever passed Advanced Low Budget Nuclear Physiology and Mutations can tell you, that means one thing – whenever they eat a man’s brain, they get his memories and more importantly his voice!

Remember when Godzilla started talking in Godzilla vs. Gigan and you were like “damn this movie is so much better when Big G is shooting the breeze with Anguirus just like I do with my own buddies”? And with the Crab Monsters, since they’re the bad guys, they use their ability to speak (it’s actually telepathy, so you are deprived of the pleasure of seeing the crabs’ lips move) to trick, harass and taunt the humans who never fail to be singularly unimpressive with whatever lame scheme they’ve cooked up.

For while the movie is a very brisk 64 minutes and Corman made sure that every scene had something exciting happening, I barely had any handle on just what was being done to stop the monsters from killing everyone. There was naturally the predictable (yet still utterly moronic) talk about capturing one to study. Considering a giant crab just purposely destroyed your radio and is remaking the geography of the island with earthquakes and avalanches, is this really a good idea?

A somewhat better plan came about after it was announced that the monsters were “negatively charged” which means they would be destroyed if hit with a positive charge. But how could anyone do that? Hardly anyone could, unless they were the freaking Professor from Gilligan’s Island! And guess who just happens to be stranded on this island, too? Russell Johnson, the freaking Professor from Gilligan’s Island!

When the Professor announces it was easier than building a model airplane and they have two units they are going to use in tandem down in the crab’s lair, you’re just wondering how they’re going to screw it up. And they do when one dumb guy goes all Gilligan and accidentally triggers the positive stun juice on himself and gets eaten while the last three survivors are clinging to one of the few remaining rock formations!

It probably isn’t fair to really expect much out of a Corman movie called Attack of the Crab Monsters. The title alone gives away its modest aspirations quite well. Still, after an opening few sequences that do a nice job of setting up a creepy, unsettling situation on the island where no one is sure what happened to an earlier expedition and what all the strange noises are, the movie falters as soon as all the crabs’ extra abilities are trotted out forcing lots of bad science dialogue that isn’t in the least convincing. Sometimes we are just better off if the characters aren’t allowed to espouse every cockamamie theory that pops into their heads whenever something new and unexplained happens.

Beyond all that though was how much of an unfocused jumble the actions of the humans were during the last part of the movie. People are running around in caves, swimming in the ocean, splitting up, following trails of oil, running at the crab with a grenade and swinging an axe at it. If it hadn’t been for the survivors being at the perfect location on the island that could have harmed the crab, they would have had no chance. And why with all the knowledge the crab gains from the scientists it eats didn’t it know about the risk to itself in that area?

At least the movie delivers a giant crab that was trying eat people. It’s hard not to laugh though looking at the crab’s goofy eyes and not thinking that it had escaped from a Sid and Marty Krofft show.

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