Pretty much any kind of animal, but giant-sized, can be the springboard for a B horror movie. Giant monkeys, lizards, insects…you name it! Today, leave it to our old friend Roger Corman to take seafood and turn it into a monster. I guess that’s one way of thinking of it: giant crustaceans could destroy humanity, or make for a great buffet at Red Lobster. Get your dipping butter ready for 1957’s Attack of the Crab Monsters.
We begin with a group of scientists being dropped off on an island to study the effects of some nearby H-bomb tests. They are a collection of biologists, botanists, and other big head types led by Dr. Weigland (Leslie Bradley). They are there to replace another team that has been missing for some time. This little trip doesn’t start well, though, when one of the team members falls into the water while unloading supplies and is promptly relieved of his head. The fun continues when the plane that brought them takes off to head home and promptly explodes in mid-air.
The team soon starts to realize that the previous scientists had noted that some of the islands creatures were experiencing an increase in size due to the radiation. That night, Dr. Martha Hunter (Pamela Duncan) and Dr. James Carson (Richard Cutting) are awakened in the night by a voice calling to them. The voice claims to be that of Dr. McClean, leader of the previous expedition. It leads them to a deep pit that was not there the day before. Jim decides to use a rope to descend to the bottom of the pit, but falls when a sudden earthquake hits.
The others, including Martha’s main squeeze Dale (Richard Garland), later find her unconscious at the top of the pit. Jim calls up to them that he has a broken leg, so a team decides to find another way down to rescue him. Meanwhile, Dale and Martha head back to the lab where they are attacked by a giant claw.
The search party isn’t having an easy go of it either. One of them, Jules Deveroux (Mel Welles) ends up losing a hand in a rock slide accident. Back at the lab that night, he is summoned by a voice to the pit, as well. He is greeted by a giant claw which snaps around his neck. Others end up being attacked by giant crabs and they are soon able to grab a severed claw to study. It turns out that these creatures have grown huge from the radiation and can now communicate telepathically in the voices of their previous victims, having consumed their brain tissue.
Supposedly, director/producer Roger Corman came to writer Charles B. Griffith with the title for this one and told him he wanted something with “suspense or action in every scene.” I’m not so sure that’s what he got, but Attack of the Crab Monsters was certainly an ambitious project. For most B-movie makers just having a bunch of giant crabs would’ve been enough, but adding the element that the crabs are essentially possessed by the minds of their victims is certainly original. Now, does it work? Uh, not exactly. It’s a clever idea that, unfortunately, comes across as a little bit silly in the end.
At the same time, that’s the kind of outlandishness that gives B-movies like this their charm. I dare say, in the hands of a lesser talent than Roger Corman, this may have become unwatchable. Corman knows how manipulate things to his advantage, though. Is the premise silly? Oh yeah! Are the monsters papier-mache seafood? You better believe it, kiddos! The end result still ends up being cooky fun.
The film is ridiculous, no question about it. Corman manages to work his magic on Attack of the Crab Monsters, however. It’s certainly not his best, but also far from being his worst.