Scorpion Releasing gives the Blu-ray treatment to ISLAND CLAWS, an obscure but entertaining slice of Floridian crustacean chaos from the creators of FLIPPER!
Lovely photojournalist Jan Raines (Jo McDonnell, THE OCTAGON) is assigned a story on world hunger and approaches – through her friendship with marine biology student Lynn (Martina Deignan, GHOST) – Dr. McNeil (Barry Nelson, THE SHINING) who is experimenting with speeding up the growth cycle of crabs. Jan hits it off with McNeil's assistant Pete (Steve Hanks, HOLD YOUR BREATH) who explains that they have observed that crabs in the heated water near nuclear power plants have mature at least two years quicker than those in other areas. Coincidentally, a leak at the nearby power plant that has released 46,000 gallons of contaminated water into the bay has caused an early mass migration of crabs onto land. The crabs seem unusually aggressive, attacking Jan when she falls off her bicycle in the woods. Pete is skeptical until they discover fragments of a giant outer molted crab shell. Rather than being horrified, Pete and McNeil are elated that their experiment might have worked until Lynn is brutally attacked in the woods and has her arm mutilated. They are also responsible for the fiery death of banjo player Amos (Mal Jones, PRIMAL RAGE) but the fisherman Joe (Tony Rigo) suspects voodoo by refugee Haitians hiding in the woods; and bar owner Moody (Robert Lansing, EMPIRE OF THE ANTS) finds himself caught in the middle when Joe stirs the locals up into a mob. Meanwhile, Pete, Jan, and McNeil hunt the giant crab which has carved a destructive and deadly path into town in search of food.
The PG-rated ISLAND CLAWS has the look and feel of a 1970s TV movie – especially with the breezy scoring by Bill Justis (SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT) – which isn't really a bad thing at all. Production values are relatively slick for a low budget film and performances range from good to earnest while the busy script only gives the most basic characterization, with vets like Lansing and DAY OF THE LOCUST's Nita Talbot – as Moody's sassy short order cook – faring best. The backstory about the enmity between Moody and Jan's power plant president father Frank (Dick Callinan, THE EXORCIST's doomed astronaut) ends up having no bearing on the relationship between Pete and Jan (not that Pete ever has an opportunity or reason to bring it up, especially since Frank figures nowhere into the final half of the film). It's also never explained whether the contaminated water or McNeil's experiments – or a combination of the two – is ultimately responsible for the big baddie. The actors and filmmakers manage to stage an intense and pyrotechnics-heavy climax around a rather stiff mechanical monster, making ISLAND CLAWS more entertaining than it really has any right to be. John Furey (FRIDAY THE 13TH PART II) has a small role as Lynn's boyfriend and Dan Fitzgerald – who plays the sheriff – also appeared in the Florida-lensed exploitation films MAKOS: JAWS OF DEATH, Ken Weiderhorn's KING FRAT (as the apoplectic dean) and EYES OF THE STRANGER.
Premiering on CBS in 1984 and released to VHS the following year on Vestron Video, ISLAND CLAWS comes to Blu-ray in a 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen encoding from a generally crisp and colorful but not unblemished source. The shadows in some of the night shots are grayish, but this seems to be due to the uneven cinematography and possibly some brightening in post-production rather than faults in the transfer. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is clean, with the music usually having more presence than the sound effects apart from the explosions and the "roaring" of the crabs.
The sole extra is an interview with co-writer Ricou Browning (9:16) who has not seen the finished film but was present to observe some of the construction of the giant crab. He and his FLIPPER writing partner Jack Cowden were brought onto the production by production manager Ted Swanson (CADDYSHACK, ROCKY) who introduced them to the sibling team of producer Dario and director Hernan Cardenas who wanted to make a film about crabs. He spends much of the interview discussing his work on FLIPPER and GENTLE BEN as well as his directorial efforts SALTY and MR. NO LEGS. He reveals that during SALTY the production built docks on location and that subsequent productions in the area had added buildings to the location that would become the town setting for ISLAND CLAWS. ISLAND CLAWS has been pressed in a quantity of 1,200 copies with some available now from Diabolik DVD and others later available through Scorpion's own direct sale page (which is currently under construction). (Eric Cotenas)
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