Island Claws

A couple of years ago, I plunged into the illimitable netherworld of VHS collecting.  I've spoken about this vagary before, but I haven't stressed how indignant some tapeheads can be.  A quick junket to eBay reveals just how eager amateur auctioneers are to take advantage of dyed-in-the-wool genre fans.  Certain videos sell for incogitably steep prices, and as long as people are desperate enough to buy these scabbards of nostalgia, tight-fisted vendors will have no reason to make tapes a little more affordable.  When I first began seeking out rare horror films on VHS, 1980's Island Claws climbed to the top of my want list with the fleetness of a pygmy marmoset.  Often times, it was out of reach.  The fact that it's not on DVD gave online sellers a conducive excuse to hike up its perceived value.

Now, I don't mean to suggest that this tape isn't worth something, but I wasn't going to spend $60-$100 on it.  Fuck that noise.  "Good things come to those who wait" is a veracious axiom (I do believe that I've found a name for my thrash band), as it's based in deductible reasoning.  I waited, and I got a copy of Island Claws.  Oddly enough, I didn't have any fanciful expectations.  I wasn't convinced that I had landed a lost z-grade masterpiece.  It turns out that this is an amiable, engrossing creature feature that compensates for skinflint finances with singular charm.  I had no idea that the script was co-written by Ricou Browning, so I'm doubly proud to say that I nabbed his autograph.  Who is Ricou Browning?  You really don't know?  First off, you're a loser.  Secondly, click HERE (you don't have to read the whole article, but do it anyway).

There is a gaggle of key characters to keep track of, but astonishingly, each one has a well-rounded personality.  Jo McDonnell plays Jan, a reporter assigned to muckrake a team of marine biologists.  Well, "muckrake" isn't a fair word to use; she is merely monitoring their research.  The perky blonde is quite judicious for a journalist.  McDonnell was Marilyn in the following year's The Munsters' Revenge.  Naturally, I gave her all of the brownie points I had available at the time (I was able to locate a few extra points in my pants...HEY-O!).  Schlock veteran Robert Lansing explores his range as Moody, an Irish pub owner who acts as a father figure to our strapping hero.  Oh, the strapping hero is portrayed by Steve Hanks.  Incidentally, he was not Marilyn in The Munsters' Revenge.

In case you can't tell from the cover art, we're dealing with a giant crab.  For the most part, we only see regular-sized crabs, and ordinarily, that would be a buzzkill.  However, I cackled my taint off watching would-be victims react to being approached by a concourse of fiddler crabs as if they were staving off rapist werewolves.  It never occurs to these dopes that they could simply walk away.  The death sequences are delightfully melodramatic.  For example, a beachcomber goes down in flames inside of his burning trailer...!  Where is Rawhead Rex when you need him?  I did grow weary of the seemingly perpetual exposition at the hour mark, but the ending is a sight for bloodshot eyes.

The giant crab is an animatronic work of art.  Somehow, director Hernan Cardenas managed to circumvent rear projection and stop-motion effects.  Granted, the hulking beastie is practically immobile, but it still looks cool.  Island Claws comes dangerously close to earning a coveted 4-Z'Dar rating.  Sketchy pacing and a disappointing lack of gore put a damper on the proceedings, though my opinion is subject to change with multiple viewings.  This isn't a "holy shit" cult classic, but it's definitely fun stuff.  And I don't know if they are actually fiddler crabs.  Is there a marine biologist in the house?  Insert laugh track here.

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