Crab Monsters on Wires

While flying out to Dallas to attend the Texas Frightmare convention and visit friends, I watched a copy of Attack of The Crab Monsters (1957). I think this is my favorite Roger Corman flick (although It Conquered the World (1956) is right up there too). Crab Monsters is really fun with a good cast on a mysterious Pacific atoll harboring outlandish, cave-dwelling, telepathic talking giant crabs. I love the dialogue: “Foolish Humans…” I caught a few trivial details. Early on in the film you’ll catch a scene showing a crab crawling around the edge of the shoreline. If you look closely you’ll spot a filament of line attached to the crab. It’s a tether to keep the crab from escaping into the water! The ever-frugal Roger Corman recycled the crab in other later scenes.

I love the design of the crabs. The Charles B. Griffith script originally called for crabs with eyes on stalks, but the final design renders caricatures with human-like faces with eyelids. How wild is that? “Foolish humans!”.

In the final confrontation with the boss crab, look for the guide wires used to manipulate the claws. Roger Corman was clever in shooting the scene around numerous tension wires used to keep the radio beacon upright. It’s difficult to spot the boom wires, but they’re there. Bill Warren notes that the claws were manned by actor Beech Dickerson, who is also in the film. I may be wrong about the use of the wires —they might just be there to be torn down from the beacon, which of course topples down on the crab.

There’s been some debate about the design and construction of the monster crabs. I always thought the crab had the earmarks of a Paul Blaisdell creation. However, Randy Palmer noted that Corman offered the job to Blaisdell, but he turned it down because he felt he couldn’t do the crab justice for the limited budget. Bill Warren suggested that Karl Brainard was the prop designer. Brainard was with Corman on several films of this era, including The She-Creature, Day the World Ended, Not of this Earth, plus other films like Invasion of the Saucer Men. J.J. Johnson notes that the crab consisted of an aluminum frame, covered with styrofoam and fiberglass resin, and was fabricated by a group of unknown effects artists calling themselves Dice, Inc. The crabs allegedly cost under $400 and housed actor Ed Nelson, who also appeared in the film.

This past weekend at the Texas Frightmare show I had my one and only chance to ask Roger Corman if Blaisdell worked on the crabs. And I did. Corman scratched his head and replied “I had to think a minute about this —Yes he did.” I prodded a bit more, “Did he design the crabs?” And Corman replied with a nod. He even signed a poster for me!

Palmer, R. 1997. Paul Blaisdell —Monster Maker. McFarland, Pg. 112.

Warren, B. 1982. Keep Watching the Skies! Vol. 1. McFarland.

Worth, D.E. 1995. Sleaze Creatures. Fantasma Books.

Johnson, J.J. 1996. Cheap Tricks and Class Acts. McFarland, Pg. 10.

2 Responses to “Crab Monsters on Wires”

  1. One of Corman’s own favorites. Can be watched here:

    I just like everything Corman did in the 1950’s, even the Westerns. He was really on top of his game here in “Attack of the Crab Monsters”. Thank you for sharing this with us, Barry.

  2. Cool! Regardless of the visual presence of the wires (hehe) the images are still quite scary! At least he signed your poster 😉

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