ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS is one of a handful of B films that Roger Corman did for Allied Artists when he wasn't churning 'em out for Nicholson and Arkoff at AIP. It also happens to be one of his most beloved 50s monster efforts. Frequent collaborator Charles Griffith concocted the script and strays from the abundant humor present in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS and CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA, playing it straight this time (that is if you can accept a giant talking crab as serious). Griffith also appears in the film (he gets decapitated early on) and directed some underwater scenes.
A group of scientists find themselves marooned on a nuclear-affected atoll in the Pacific where they have come searching for members of a previous expedition. After doing some research, they learn that the other scientists were eaten by giant mutated land crabs, and that these creatures have also absorbed their minds. The menacing crustaceans begin to snack on this new set of guests, using telepathy (articulating with the voices of the person they just devoured) in order to summon their next victim.
Like all of the early Corman films, this was made on shoestring but was reportedly his highest grosser up until that time. It's a tight 60+ minute effort with very little time for chat, and the giant crabs don't look too bad at all in comparison with other 50s sleaze creatures. The film boasts a classic Corman stock ensemble: Richard Garland (PANIC IN YEAR ZERO) and Pamela Duncan (THE UNDEAD) are the heroic love interests, the vastly underrated Russell Johnson (still years away from "Gilligan's Island") is a life-saving technician, Mel Welles and Leslie Bradley are scientists with accents (you haven't lived until you've heard a giant crab speak with Welles' Mushnik persona), and Beach Dickerson and Ed Nelson are in there as well. Nelson also operated the crab and legend has it that Jack Nicholson did as well!
ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS has been released on DVD by Allied Artists Classics, a company whose legitimacy is still in question. Previously released on VHS, they utilize the same substandard transfer and it fairs no better on the digital format. The full frame black and white image is looks generations down in quality, with nonexistent black levels and video tape dropouts during the start of the show. The print source is in decent shape, but the overall appearance is dark and dingy. Sound quality is OK, if you can get past some hiss. This would be fine if this was an under-$10 budget release, but this baby retails for about $25! If you're willing to shell out the bucks, the quality is acceptable and this title is essential to any 50s monster movie buff's collection. Also included is the original trailer and a still gallery. (George R. Reis)
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