Little back story on this one. Years ago, I had spent like $20 to buy a DVD of this film from Allied Artists Classics. I was really looking forward to reviewing it for my site B-Movie Central. So I get the review page all set up, find the info, movie cover and trivia, etc…, and then just as I’m ready to start working on the review, I pop the disc in, and it was just absolutely unwatchable. The transfer was done from a VHS tape with some serious tracking issues, and it looked like pure ass. Seriously, I was really pissed off that I had spent $20 on something that crappy. It isn’t the only time that’s happened to me either. I have a Godzilla movie like that as well. But I digress…
When I saw that Shout Factory had released Attack of the Crab Monsters in a triple feature with two other Roger Corman films, I immediately requested a copy to review. Thankfully, Shout Factory has been awesome about sending me stuff, so I got my grubby little hands on it, and as soon as I saw it, my heart wept. It was, as expected from a Shout Factory release, pure black and white awesomeness. It looked great! Finally, a copy I can review, and I’ll be reviewing it for B-Movie Central as well when time permits next month.
Anyway, so that’s the back story. Now on to the movie itself…
A team of scientists is sent to an island to investigate the disappearance of a previous study team that had been working on the island to investigate the effects of radiation from nuclear tests on the island and the animal and sea life that exist on and around it. Accompanying them are a couple of demolition sailors, and a technician / handyman named Hank (Russel Johnson). As their investigation continues, the island starts experiencing frequent earthquakes, and various parts of it keep falling into the sea. Finally, their investigation reveals something. A notebook was found that described a lump of flesh they had found, similar to that of an earthworm, only huge, and nearly indestructible. At this point, they started hearing voices. Voices of the scientists who disappeared, calling out to them, only it wasn’t the scientists. The crab monsters, when they kill and devour someone, basically assimilate everything they eat into their being. So when they eat humans, their brain gets assimilated, and not only are the crabs telepathic, but they can use their victim’s own voices to call out telepathically to the others to lead them into traps. They also happen to be the ones causing the earthquakes that are destroying the island. So the scientists not only have to find a way to stop the monsters, but they have to do it before there’s no island left for them to do it from. Will any of them survive? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.
First off, instead of a lion roaring, the movie starts out with a rooster crowing. You know when a movie starts out with a rooster crowing, you’re in for a real treat!
The film itself is pure b-movie greatness. It’s movies like this that made me fall in love with classic b-movies in the first place. The entire cast is absolutely perfect for their roles, and the crab monsters themselves, are not only huge and look totally amazing, but you can clearly see the wires working the limbs on them, which only adds to the fun of it all. Seeing Russel Johnson in the film added a considerable amount of fun to it as well. I think probably for most everyone, he’ll always be the professor from Gilligan’s Island, but he did a whole lot more than just Gilligan’s Island. He had a really varied career that ranged from b-movies to westerns to television. Still, when an actor gets really well known for one role, that’s all you can think of them as. Look at Ed O’Neil. No matter what you see him in, you’ll always think of him as Al Bundy. It’s inescapable, but to be honest, it’s not really the curse it would seem to be, nor does it really diminish their other roles all that much. Still, you can’t watch them without that image being in the back of your mind, at least to some degree.
The story is just as fun as the cast and creatures that brought it to life. My favorite aspect of the story is how the crabs are intelligent and actually assimilate their victim’s brains into their own. This makes them particularly tricky and deadly, and a much more formidable foe than if they had just been normal crabs that grew large because of radiation but maintained their generally stupid crab brain. Something else about the crabs that really added to the tension in the film, is that you could hear this clacking sort of a sound when they were near. It was enough to give you the boo boo geebies when you heard it.
There was something else that surprised me about this film. At one point, one of the scientists loses his hand when there’s an earthquake and a huge rock falls on his arm. This was rather shocking for a film of this era, and seeing him with a stump was pretty intense and really added to the sense of trouble these people were in.
Technically, the film was really well made. It was perfectly edited, and the pacing kept the story moving along at a good pace. At no time did it ever feel like it was dragging, or was focusing too much on anything that was particularly uninteresting. The lighting was always good, even in the dark scenes, the sound was good, and the visual quality on this release is excellent. One of the films on this release however, and I believe it was this one, did have a light crackling in the sound, as though the levels were recorded too hot, especially in the scenes with music. It wasnt bad enough to impair the audio really, but it is noticeable. Still, it’s but one minor flaw in an otherwise excellent transfer of an incredibly fun film. This movie truly is a prime example of b-movie greatness, and this triple feature release from Shout Factory is absolutely one that you’ll want to have in your collection.
If you’d like to find out more about this release, or to pick up a copy for yourself, you can check out it’s page on the Shout Factory website here.