Every other Tuesday, I’ve been hosting the Screams & Screens movie series locally at Auburn Public Theater. We celebrate B-movies that are so bad they’re good. To be fair, some of the movies we show really are good, or actually have a few good parts to them.
We’re wrapping up our summer season with The Giant Claw. It’s a curious movie that epitomizes the whole “so bad it’s good” charm of these flicks.
Released in 1957, I like to think the original idea, or the first draft of the script, had potential. Clearly it was hamstrung by the ridiculously silly “monster”. The Giant Claw of the title refers to an over-sized turkey buzzard. It’s far from fearsome, unless you think too hard and get worried about the creature’s droppings.
As I’ve been immersed in these B-movies, I can’t help but wonder what it was like to be an actor in a movie like this. Was it shamefully embarrassing or just another rung in the Hollywood career ladder?
The Exotic Mara Corday
She was a beauty to be sure, but her dancing got her started. At fifteen, Marilyn Jane Watts was a showgirl in the Earl Carroll Review in Hollywood. She kept getting increasingly bigger parts in the sketches. Young Marilyn changed her name to Mara Corday, seeking to add an exotic element to her personal branding. And in what may have inspired Barbara Eden’s “Jeannie” just a few years later, there was one memorable act where she emerged from a perfume bottle.
She was also modeling quite a bit. Mara was featured in many magazines, including Playboy in 1958 as a centerfold. As an actress at Universal-International, Mara signed on as a contract player, and appeared in other B-Movies and Westerns.
The Men Her Life
Richard Long was an actor she met on the set of a movie called Playgirl. To those of us of a certain age, we knew him as the professor in the short lived, Nanny and the Professor. That sitcom was kind of in that same space as The Brady Bunch for us growing up. But he was in roughly a zillion roles in movies and TV. Today you will more likely associate him with The Big Valley or a Twilight Zone episode.
Mara married Long, and she retired from showbiz, for a time, to raise their children. Evidently they had a tempestuous relationship.
Clint Eastwood had a brief role in another one of Corday’s Screams & Screens type movies; Tarantula. That would prove fortuitous as they developed a long friendship, and he was able to offer her parts in his movies – most notably The Gauntlet, Pink Cadillac, The Rookie and that classic Dirty Harry picture, Sudden Impact.
Is it wrong to make fun of a creative effort that fails? Would it be hurtful to those involved? Who can say? It seems like this woman had lovely career and a full life. I don’t feel bad making fun of one of her efforts, The Giant Claw, and I bet she wouldn’t either.
The Giant Claw Merchandising
Unlike today’s movie properties such as Star Wars or The Avengers, The Giant Claw never had a licensing plan. No one ever wore a T-shirt sporting a Giant Claw logo and no kid ever played with Giant Claw action figures. That just wasn’t done in those days, and certainly not for a movie like this one.
But I did uncover one comic – Space Family Robinson Lost in Space #40, published by Gold Key in July 1974. It’s painted by the skillful George Wilson. It’s not really a Giant Claw comic, but clearly the monster from this movie was used as the model for the cover. (A giant ostrich, illustrated by Dan Spiegle, appears briefly in the actual story.) A curious momento from a curious movie. And we’ll be giving away a copy on Tuesday to one of our lucky filmgoers.
See you at the movies!
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