Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957)
Guest Review by Jason Scott
Hello again! I've returned to guide you through another b-movie romp. I decided to do a Roger Corman double-header, as it were. Attack of the Crab Monsters came out at the same time as The Undead & starred several of the same actors. It's freely viewable on YouTube, so it seemed like a good choice for me to take on in my sophomore effort as a b-movie critic. The movie opens with a credit sequence overlaid over a series of drawings depicting monstrous versions of aquatic creatures. While I didn't notice any crabs, there were some demonic fish & an enormous octopus (or possibly squid).
How big is this cephalopod?
This picture gives you an idea.
Right after this sequence there's scrolling text that sets the scene, as opposed to the voice-over that would otherwise be customary. This text reads like a player's book to an RPG, giving the audience members the impression that we are the ones going to an isolated Pacific atoll to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a scientific team. The text warns us that something very ominous is afoot, something "beyond the laws of nature" (dum DUM dum).
Cool! How do I roll stats for my character? What classes are available?
Then there are a series of stock footage explosions. There are several shots of mushroom clouds, since in the '50s the apocalyptic specter of nuclear weaponry was held up as the greatest example of humanity's self-destructive hubris & how we transgress "the laws of nature" (whatever those are).
We've kicked the nuclear genie out of its bottle, & its really ticked.
The last shot shows an explosion out at sea then a typhoon sweeping onto a coastline to wipe out some houses.
This is one reason why I don't care to invest in beachfront property.
To really pound down the message, we have a shot of a sky filled with dark clouds. A voice portentously recites Genesis 6:7, which goes something like this:
So the Lord said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth--men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air--for I am grieved that I have made them."
After all this dreadful build-up, the real action of the movie commences. A boat bearing several people rides up to what must be the atoll the scrolling text referred to. A group of men with a single woman disembark from the boat & survey their new surroundings.
The second scientific expedition arrives at the atoll. What horrors await them?
The first one to speak is an old man with a French accent. This man is a botanist named Jules Devereux, played by Mel Welles, who we saw earlier in The Undead as Smolkin, the singing gravedigger. He looks & sounds so different here that I didn't even realize it was Welles until the credits rolled at the end.
Jules remarks how unwelcoming the island is. A fellow in a white navy officer's hat, who I'll refer to as the Lieutenant, answers him. This man seems as though he might be of importance to the rest of the movie, but it turns out not to be so.
"Yes, thank you. My hat is very big."
Jules wonders if perhaps the ghosts of the scientists who so recently inhabited this island are still around. He shouts the name of Dr. MacLean, the only member of that doomed party who is going to be referred to, but receives only the squawking of birds in reply. The Lieutenant goes to attend to the second boat that is coming to shore. This boat seems to be having difficulty, & as the Lieutenant shouts out words of warning a sailor stands up & tumbles overboard. At this point, we get the first glimpse of the Crab Monster alluded to in the title. It's nothing more than a very brief glimpse accompanied by some ominous music, but that's fine. The movie-makers probably want to show off what is likely a cheap prop as little as possible, & this approach helps create some suspense early on.
The sailor looks down to see the crab coming towards him & freaks out. He desperately tries to swim to the surface, but doesn't make it, at least not alive. The other sailors in the boat can see their comrade but somehow fail to notice the enormous crab that's coming at him. When they pull the unfortunate man out of the water, they find themselves holding a headless corpse!
"Hey, do you suppose there's something in the water we should be concerned about?"
In the next scene the sailors' body is a lying in a bag on the boat while two sailors in white caps are unloading supplies into a tent. These two characters are going to be of some importance in the movie. They have names, but they always appear together & are practically interchangeable, so I'm just going to be referring to them as the Whitecaps, after their most distinguishing feature. The Whitecaps are demolitionists who have brought explosives, including grenades, to the atoll for some reason. One Whitecap wonders what they could possibly need these "pineapples" for, unless it's to play with those "babies" (normal crabs) out on shore.
The Whitecaps. You might also think of them as Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum.
We move inland to a cabin where the party is setting up house. The Lieutenant is talking with another of the scientists, the nuclear physicist Dr. Karl Weigand. He's played by 50-year old Leslie Bradley, a British actor who worked pretty steadily in movies & TV shows from the mid-'30s to 1970, & died 4 years later. Weigand speaks with a German accent, which would be a reference to all the German (Nazi) scientists employed by America in developing atomic weaponry. Weigand is the only one who wears sunglasses, & constantly has them on while outside during the day, which reminds me of Spider-Man's great villain Doctor Octopus. Maybe I'm just that much of a nerd. Weigand seems to be the de facto leader of this party.
Not Karl Weigand.
Karl Weigand, on the right.
Weigand & the Lieutenant talk about the headless body, with the former hoping that it isn't a bad omen. Pish, Doctor. Why would it be considered a bad omen that some seaman gets his head severed within a few minutes of the party's arrival on a mysterious atoll where a previous party has disappeared without a trace? I'm surprised a man of science could entertain such superstitious silliness.
"You wanna know what's a bad omen? My wife's just started talking to me about the joys of life-long chastity."
Nobody else seems to be too disturbed by the headless corpse, as they're inside cheerily getting things settled. The only woman almost has a run-in with one of the men, & I wonder if there's going to be a spark here, notwithstanding that this woman appears to already have a close male companion.
"I know I'm the only woman around, but we just got on the island. Are you really going to start hitting on me already?"
I'll introduce these characters now. The woman is Martha "Marty" Hunter, played by Pamela Duncan, who I just reviewed in The Undead. Her character here is a marine biologist & much less interesting than Diana Love/Helene from the other movie. The men don't treat her with overt chauvinism, but there's a definite undercurrent. The man Marty has both a personal & professional relationship with is Dale Drewer (mispronounced as Brewer in the movie). He's played by Richard Garland, who also returns to MMT from The Undead, complete with his craggy face & cleft chin. Garland's role of male lead here is even less distinguished than it was in that movie. Dale is also a biologist, but deals with the land creatures rather than the sea creatures.
Marty & Dale from a little later on in the movie. The reason Marty looks so unhappy has nothing to do with Dale...seriously.
Finally, there's Hank Chapman, who will be about the most effective character in the entire movie. He's not a scientist, but has a considerable degree of technical knowledge that will prove useful later on. Hank is played by 33-year old Russell Johnson, most famous for playing the role of the Professor on Gilligan's Island. He's the only member of that cast who's still alive today at 87, & also has a reputation as the narrator of the anime series Robotech. Like his character here, Russell was a soldier during WWII, & he won many medals for his distinguished service.
"Handyman" Hank Chapman.
To return to the movie, the party is now heading back down to the beach. The Lieutenant & his crew are preparing to depart before a wicked storm hits the atoll. They are to be away for a month, although a radio has been left for the scientific team to use if necessary. Weigand remarks how bizarre it is that everyone from the previous expedition could have just disappeared with nothing left behind but MacLean's journal. The Lieutenant mentions how eerily silent the atoll is, & says he'll be quite happy to be off.
On the way down to the beach, there's a strange noise that precedes sudden rumbling. The camera shakes as the atoll heaves all around the characters. The rumbling quickly subsides, leaving the party shaken but none the worse for wear. One of the seamen echoes the Lieutenant's strong desire to leave the atoll, however.
Rumblings that herald troubles to come.
"Whew! That was close. I almost lost my hat."
The Lieutenant & his men leave, promising to return in no more than a month. While the rest of the party climbs back up from the beach, the Whitecaps interrogate Hank about what the purpose of this expedition is. This scene seems to have been put in for the benefit of the audience. I think that the writer, Charles Griffith, had some notion that viewers might be a bit lost by this point, so he has Hank provide some exposition. As the rest of the group heads up in a line, Hank details each one's role based on his or her scientific specialty.
"Sorry, boys. I really don't know if those hats you're wearing are the equivalent of Star Trek red ensign shirts."
Hank explains that this atoll was bombarded by fallout from an enormous nuclear explosion that happened nearby. Basically, the party is here to find out how the radiation has affected the soil, flora, & fauna. Now I know very little about radiation, but I think these scientists are taking a real health risk by venturing on to this atoll so soon after the explosion. The radioactive exposure couldn't have taken place that long ago, & I would think it prudent for these people to be taking careful precautions against being exposed to damaging radiation that could still be lingering in the area. They're all carrying on as if this were just a regular tropical island that hadn't been all but nuked in the recent past.
Hank's exposition really isn't that useful, or I didn't think so. It will be obvious throughout the movie what each member of the party is supposed to be, & for many of these characters it's not even really important information to know. The only member of the party I haven't mentioned yet is Jim Carson, a geologist who I won't go into detail about because his role will be quite small. The Whitecaps are supposed to blow up rocks for Jim to study.
The whole party assembles on a hilltop to watch the seaplane taking off. As the plane's just left the water, though, disaster strikes! The plan suddenly blows up, unquestionably killing everyone on board. None of the crewmembers, including the Lieutenant, were around long enough to make me really care about their sudden passing, but the important plot point is that the scientific party now faces the prospect of being isolated on the island. Weigand immediately tells Hank to get on the radio, which is a smart move.
A bad screen shot of the plane taking off. Not having Nate's expertise in this area, I can't tell you anything about the plane other than that it is, indeed, a plane of some sort. [Editor Nate: I believe that's a Grumman G-21 Goose.]
"Okay, I'm thinking we're really screwed. Would you gentlemen agree?"
Alas, in the next frame lightning flashes across the sky as the storm is in full swing. It must have come up extremely fast, as Hank has not managed to get to the radio to send out a message before the storm hit. He can only receive local commercial radio stations; electrical interference blocks any signals being sent out. So, the radio that was supposed to be the party's means to keep in touch with civilization is currently useless.
This strikes me as very poor planning. Didn't anybody think of such an occurrence? Besides this interference, what if the radio had ended up damaged or shorted out for some reason? A month is a long time to be waiting on a remote island with no means of communication if there were some medical emergency. I really think some other type of contingency might have been thought of so that our crew here wasn't left stranded.
"'You can always reach the base by radio.' If that Lieutenant wasn't blown to bits, I'd punch him in the face."
Stranded they are, however. Dale tries to comfort Marty by saying that the Navy will send out a search party once the seaplane doesn't return, but Karl quickly stomps out this spark of hope by saying that the Navy will simply assume the landing party stayed on the atoll to wait out the storm. Nothing daunted, Dale says that they may as well make the most of this time by starting on their investigations, which includes reading MacLean's journal. Everyone heads into the living room to find out what the missing doctor had to write about.
Just as nobody really showed much curiosity about how the seaman from before lost his head, nobody really bothers wondering how the plane suddenly blew up. Everyone just seems to think it was some freak accident. While I mocked Karl's earlier talk of omens, it seems strange to me that all these practitioners of science aren't a little curious as to why such misfortune is so closely attending them.
So to the journal now, which Karl is reading out to an attentive audience. He's going over a part where MacLean describes having no success collecting any bacteria after five days. He does mention discovering the tissue of what seems to have been an enormous worm over five feet long. Every attempt made to cut into this tissue proved fruitless, but when fire was applied to the specimen....here the text dramatically cuts off. The sense of unease is underscored by more ominous rumbling.
Story-time with Dr. Weigand. Why is he still wearing those dark glasses inside at night to read?
The party decides to retire, with Hank voicing some worry about the "nightcrawler", the giant worm MacLean writes about. The scientists all share a smile at his concern, & explain that MacLean was describing a worm-like creature, not an actual giant worm. Handyman Hank thinks differently from his scientific colleagues on this point, but allows the matter to rest.
That night there is a scene where Hank is sleeping in a cot when he's awakened by some gerbils(?) in a cage. He throws a blanket over their cage & wanders out into the living room where Karl & Dale are still talking about MacLean's journal & what it might mean that he so suddenly stopped in his writing. Hank wanders away then Karl & Dale hear some strange noise coming from outside. They investigate, & after a couple of tense moments staring out into the shadows they notice a vine beating against the cabin wall. They both share a smile of relief at the thought that it's just the wind, but after the two men go back inside the camera pans back to the vine as though searching for something else among the shadows cast on the wall. This short scene is unnecessary to the plot but does help build a bit more tension into the movie.
'Tis the wind & nothing more...Or is it?
The next day Marty is in scuba gear preparing to venture out into the ocean waters alone. I'm a bit concerned, as the last fellow who went down into those waters very quickly came back up without a head. Marty's too central a character to be killed off this quickly, though, so she should be all right.
We get a fairly lengthy scene here of Marty swimming around through schools of fish & meandering manta rays (but no sharks). There is a brief shot of a portion of the crab monster, accompanied by tense music with Marty turning her head as though in alarm. Nothing happens, however, as Dale comes swimming up to surprise his colleague/lover.
The two of them continue swimming around for a bit. They pass by the remains of some deteriorated hulk, & Marty picks up what looks like a strip of cloth from the sea floor, but nothing else really happens. Neither of them has any equipment to suggest they're conducting tests or collecting samples, & they may as well be scuba diving on a tropical vacation. I think Corman used this scene to help pad out the movie's running time a bit.
Marty can't find any red herrings around & has to take something else.
When Marty & Dale finally emerge back on shore, she gently rebukes him for startling her then talks about how a black rock she was using to keep her bearings in the water seemed to disappear. Dale mentions that something was moving by her when he swam up, but he didn't get a good look at it. So it would seem the awful Crab Monster was deterred from attacking Marty by...Dale? Hmmm, I just don't think he's that scary looking.
Maybe the Crab Monster was scared off by all that hair on Dale's chest, not that I should criticize.
There's another close shot of a normal crab scuttling along the sand, plus a shot of seagulls taking off. Dale says that crabs & birds are the only bit of life on this barren island. Really, Dale? What about all the lush & abundant plant life obviously covering this island? What about the teeming sea life you & Marty were just swimming through right off the coast of this island? None of this life seems to be showing any signs of mutations or radiation poisoning by the way, which should really still be quite evident given how recent the nuclear fallout was. MacLean's party couldn't find a trace of bacteria, yet all this more complex life has seemed to miraculously spring up in the brief interim before the second party arrived. It's irritating how these scientists have to deny the existence of the lush life that's obviously all around them. It's like hearing somebody complain about being thirsty while standing next to a basin of fresh water.
OK, my little rant is over, back to the movie now. The rest of the party calls down to Marty & Dale, telling them that they really need to come see something. The couple follow Jules, Jim, Carl, & the Whitecaps to an enormous pit that has inexplicably appeared where there was no pit previously. It's estimated to be at least 50 feet deep, & has emerged on a spot that Marty walked over on her way to the beach.
The party stares into the abyss, as the abyss stares into them.
Jim wants to explore the cave, but Karl sternly forbids it. When asked why, Karl answers that a geologist should know any further disturbance might cause a cave-in that could trap any unfortunate who ventured down. Karl moodily strides off, looking over his shoulder as if daring anyone to defy him. As I've mentioned, Karl has a very take-charge attitude. Jim seems rather unconvinced of the danger, & casts doubt on the pit's formation as being natural by showing a strange rock to Dale & Marty. Marty observes that the rock has glazed over as though it were "fired in a kiln."
"Yeah Jim, that's a pretty interesting rock, but have you noticed how hairy my chest is?"
It's nightfall again, & Marty is asleep in bed. As she & Dale are unmarried, & this movie is from the '50s, they of course don't share a bed, or even a bedroom. Marty is awakened by a ghostly voice that calls out her name & pleads for her help. Marty recognizes the voice as being that of the missing Doctor MacLean! The voice continues to urge her to quickly come help. Marty puts on some slippers & a robe & heads outside to take a look around, but sees only shadows. In the next scene, she is traipsing through the woods at night alone trying to track down the voice of MacLean, which seems remarkably foolish. Why wouldn't she get help or alert anyone else to what she was hearing? Marty's taken the time to change out of her bedclothes before venturing out, why didn't she take a bit more time & get someone else to come along? It's good that Marty doesn't seem to figure that she needs a man's protection, but under the circumstances heading out with no support just seems silly.
Marty hears the Caller in Darkness.
Marty does run into someone while roaming around, but fortunately for her it's Jim, whose screen time is rapidly drawing to a close. Jim says that he too heard MacLean's voice calling him out into the forest. He also apparently decided there was no need to tell anyone else what was happening. Jim & Marty argue a bit about the eerie voice. Marty is sure that MacLean is dead, & says that somebody could just be imitating the doctor's voice. To what purpose? And if Marty really does think that why did she play into this mimic's hands by doing exactly what the voice instructed?
"Dammit, will you men stop almost running into me! I don't care how horny you are!"
Determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, Jim intrepidly decides that he's going to get to the bottom of that pit. Marty tries to dissuade him, but Jim is determined to go through with it. He ties a rope around himself & dismisses any possibility of a cave-in. Apparently impatient to get his expedition into the pit started, Jim doesn't go back to the cabin to get any more help. He has Marty hold a flashlight on him & heads down.
"Don't worry. I'm a man. Nothing bad can happen to me."
Marty loses sight of Jim just as the rumbling resumes. Marty, showing the typical behavior of a woman in a '50s movie, immediately faints, while Jim tumbles from off the wall he's climbing down. Given how marginal this character has been, it's hardly surprising that this is the last we see of the geologist.
Alas, farewell brave Jim. I hardly knew you.
The other men show up now. They revive Marty & quickly learn of what's befallen Jim, Karl being sure to have his "I told you so" moment. They call down to Jim, & his voice answers, claiming to have a broken leg. Although everyone's eager to go assist Jim, Karl is firmly against anyone else heading down the rope on the grounds that it may not be long enough to reach the bottom. He instead suggests they go through the caves down by the seashore. He says that those caves have to connect to the pit for, in one of his many deductions that will prove to be largely correct, it has been artificially created.
"Oh Dale, I've learned my lesson & will never go off into the night again without you as my studly male escort." (I think Hank really wants to be the man holding Marty like that.)
Here we get some chauvinism as nobody even considers that Marty should venture into the caves. Indeed, the elderly Jules flatly orders Dale to return Marty to the house while the rest of them head off. I'd think Jules would be the better one to take Marty back, so that the younger Dale could accompany the rescue mission. In fact, why can't Marty just head back to the house on her own? She actually says that, but Karl assures her that having an extra man won't make any difference whether Jim is alive or dead.
"I won't let this woman interfere with our manly plans." (Is it just me, or is Hank giving Dale a look that says, "That's my woman you have your filthy mitts on!")
On the way down to the caves, Jules, Hank, & Karl run into the Whitecaps, who came to investigate the sound of a woman screaming. They said that from their tent down on the beach it looked as though the whole island was going to shake apart, & a portion of it actually fell into the sea. Weigand rushes them all down to the caves.
Before entering, Hank spots a crab nearby & throws a rock at it, though Karl tries to stop him. Hank asks why, & Karl says that he hates to see any living thing killed, even one so ugly & repulsive. Jules interjects that crabs are harmless, to which one of the Whitecaps responds that crabs are actually ruthless killers that will tear a man limb from limb if given the chance. Who knew?
Remember everyone. Crabs are pure Evil disguised as an innocuous crustacean.
The men venture into the dim caverns until spotting a weird light ahead. Jules calls out to Jim, though Karl immediately tries to quiet him. Jim's voice answers, encouraging the men to come forward. They keep going until they come to the spot where Jim's rope hangs, showing that it was indeed long enough to reach down to the bottom. Karl notices blood on the ground, but there's no other trace of Jim, & he says that they should hold off any further attempt at finding the geologist until the morning. Hank doesn't like the idea of leaving a man with a broken leg down in these caves all night, but Karl insists they leave the caverns, & also that they do so by climbing up the rope rather than retracing their steps. Jules is getting quite suspicious of what Karl actually knows, but he won't elaborate, continuing to insist that everyone head up the rope. One of the Whitecaps says that their tent is close to the cave entrance & they don't need to go up the rope, but he meekly submits to Karl's will.
The Whitecaps are powerless beneath the withering force of Karl's imperious glower.
While this has been going on, a drama has been playing out at the cabin. Marty is reading MacLean's diary again when they hear the strange sound that preceded the first rumblings on the island.
Marty: "In this version of the script the attacking crabs are something else entirely. Oh, my goodness! I'm certainly glad we didn't have to act out the raunchy scene described here. Ugh, how disgusting."
Dale: "Uhh...yeah, that's really disgusting. Uhm, would you excuse me for a moment?"
Dale, apparently fearing the worst, grabs a gun from the desk Marty is seated at. They both open the front door to peer outside but can make out nothing. A moment later, a crash comes from inside the house. Dale heads over to the room from which the noise came & rashly enters over Marty's warnings. It's a lot similar to Jim's descent into the pit, but Dale will fare better.
"Don't worry. I'm a man. Nothing bad can happen to...What do you mean you heard that one before?"
He is no sooner in the room than an enormous claw whips out from off-screen & knocks the gun out of his outstretched hand. Dale immediately retreats as the creature begins going on a rampage.
Judging from Dale's expression, I don't think the Crab Monster is offering him a friendly handshake here.
The lights go out & the violent noises end. Dale tells Marty to get a kerosene lamp as he goes in to inspect the room. The room's contents have been smashed to a shambles. Dale thinks that the storm's interference has lessened enough to call for help, but he & Mary find the radio has been deliberately & systematically sabotaged!
The next morning Marty is looking out of an enormous hole that was made in the wall by whatever attacked last night. Karl is looking at something through a microscope, while Hank is inspecting the radio. Jules makes a joke about having missed the party at the house last night, which falls quite flat. He asks Hank whether the radio is fixable, to which the reply is that it will have to be practically rebuilt. It seems Hank might actually be capable of performing such a feat, which indicates that his technical knowledge is quite considerable.
Marty is telling the two men that whatever came to the house last night will never be hired as her home renovator.
Dale wonders what could have caused the creature to not come through the door after him & Marty. Karl replies that it would take a lot of energy to deter such an intruder, which the lights of the cabin produce. He speculates that whatever attacked is afraid of electricity, though it left as soon as the electricity was knocked out, so I wonder about that explanation.
Marty, still looking out the hole in the wall, notes that an entire mountain has disappeared. Dale quizzes Karl on what he really knows about this bizarre, deadly situation they've found themselves in. Karl starts fiddling around with the microscope he was using, & states that the only thing he knows is that all the events that have taken place from the party's arrival on the atoll to this point must be connected. I hardly need an advanced degree in nuclear science to come to that feeble conclusion.
"This is called a microscope. It's what we would use if were actually scientists."
Now that it's morning, it's decided to carry on exploring the caves in the hope that somehow Jim might still be rescued. Even Marty comes along on this trek to the underworld. In the next scene, the party is in the caverns & Dale is complaining that they've searched everywhere without finding their lost colleague. Karl concludes that Jim is beyond any help when the rumbling starts up & there is a partial cave-in. The unfortunate Jules is struck by falling rocks & has his right hand struck off!
Fate has dealt Jules an awful hand.
As the others are trying to wrap up the wound the Whitecaps suddenly arrive. They had been lured into the caverns by Jim's voice again, but there's no time to wonder anymore about that mystery, as Jules needs to be carried back to the house fast. Jules is now in bed with his stump wrapped up & Marty acting as his nurse. She gives him a sedative & he mumbles a bunch of stuff in French before drifting off to sleep.
Jules: "Say, I wouldn't be so badly injured & then immediately killed off, would I?"
Marty: "Here, this will get your mind off all that fretful business."
It's down to the seashore now for the last scene with the Whitecaps. They are in their tent playing cards, & one of them is shockingly without his hat.
"How could you have taken your hat off, you fool? Have you no sense of decency?"
"Go suck your thumb, you baby! I'm a grown man & I don't need to wear a hat anymore."
The hatless Whitecap loses this round. What else do you expect when you're not wearing your lucky charm? Ill fortune continues, as the two men hear that strange sound that has usually preceded calamity. The Whitecap with the hat says that it sounds like "a kid dragging a stick across a picket fence." The hatless Whitecap says that there's no picket fences here & grabs the lantern to investigate. He doesn't get any farther than the entrance to the tent when he sees something that causes him to scream in terror & lurch back into the tent, knocking it down as the scene ends.
"I repent. I'll put my hat back on. I'll never take it off again. Please don't...Aaaargh!"
We go to Jules' room back at the house. He's awakened by a Whitecap's voice, telling him that they've found Carson & he must quietly come to the pit. Jules agrees to go completely alone, which is of course a foolish decision, but I'll give the poor guy a break since he's in great pain & heavily drugged. Jules stumbles from bed & out into the night without arousing anyone else. He makes it to the pit & calls out to the voice that has led him here. In response an enormous claw reaches out from off-screen & clamps over Jules' throat, but not before the doomed botanist has let out a scream that's heard up at the house.
"I just lost my damn hand, & now this! Do the movie-makers hate me because I'm old, or because I'm French?"
Everyone comes rushing out into the living room now. By the way, the power has been restored. I don't know what caused it to go out the night before. I thought the Crab Monster had somehow destroyed the generator, but it must be all right. There's nothing mentioned by any character about why the lights work now when the night before they didn't, so I'll just let it go.
"Hey Marty, notice how bare my chest is? It's a lot better than the wilderness on that hairy ape Dale, don't you think?"
Jules voice now speaks, trying to assure everyone that there's no need for alarm. Karl keeps the voice talking while motioning the others to follow him into Jules' room. There they find the botanist's bed is empty, while his voice continues to chat away about how he was dreaming of what he could do with only one hand. The friendly chatter stops when Karl picks up a metal dish on the bed stand that Jules' voice seems to be issuing from. When asked where he is, Jules' voice replies that he is where they shall all be soon enough, & that they will hear from him again tomorrow night.
Jules' ventriloquist act is failing to amuse the party.
The only thing of note that happens that day is the discovery that the Whitecaps are gone, as is most of the dynamite they were keeping with them, but not the grenades. In the next scene it's night again with Karl, Marty, Dale, & Hank sitting around a table waiting. Hank puts a gun down on the table, & Jules' voice suddenly issues from it. For whatever reason, the phantom voices can only be projected through metal.
Jules' voice invites them to come to the caves again, where all will be explained. Jim's voice chimes in, claiming that they will be reunited with him, too. This all seems extremely fishy (or crabby, you might say) but the men dutifully head off to the caves, Karl telling Marty that they have no choice if they want to find out what's going on.
Marty: "Should you really go to the caves? Doesn't it seem like an obvious trap?"
Karl: "Marty, if a man can't trust a talking gun, what can he trust?"
So, we have the three remaining men entering the dismal caverns once again. Karl calls out to whoever is out there to "Show yourself!" He shouldn't be so eager, as we now have the first full shot of a dreaded Crab Monster! In the dark cave, the monster prop is still heavily obscured. The Crab Monsters have been very careful so far to prepare ambushes & pick off one or two people at a time, but this Crab Monster is dispensing with such tactics & attacking three armed men at once.
The men start firing guns & hurling grenades, which don't seem to have any effect at all. That is, until a grenade thrown by Dale by chance blows some stones loose from the roof of the cavern, which crashes down on to the Crab Monster.
The Crab Monster with a piece of jagged rock through its head. Ouch!
The men go to investigate the nature of this beast. Karl speculates that it was more by chance that they killed this creature. A chunk of rock has struck its brain, & if this rock were removed the monster might return to life. I don't know how Karl figures out any of this stuff. He happens to have brought a camera with a flash along with him & takes pictures of the Crab Monster, comparing it to a stream of mercury. As Karl explains how a portion of the mercury can be isolated for study, he uses a pickax to strike off one of the Crab Monster's claws. He also instructs Hank to set up what dynamite he's scrounged to finish off the beast.
"Oh yeah! We are going to have one helluva good crab roast tonight!"
Suddenly out of the darkness a second Crab Monster emerges. I don't know why this beast didn't attack together with the other one, or why it's taken so long to arrive on the scene. Maybe the two Crab Monsters work independently. Karl keeps his wits about him & quickly gets off a picture of this other beast before the men dash away. The explosives they had rigged go off, completely destroying the Crab Monster that had been trapped under the rocks. The other Crab Monster is still alive, though, & berates them in Jules' voice for killing MacLean's party. The men are actually quite fortunate that their explosion didn't literally bring the roof down on them all, rather than just the Crab Monster.
Back at the house, Karl is analyzing some of the Crab Monster's tissue in a microscope while the claw is laid out on a workbench. Karl says that the Crab Monster's atomic structure is completely disrupted, making it like a liquid that's held within the container of its body. Moreover, the Crab Monster can assimilate other creatures into it's amoeba-like body, including their brains, which Karl points out is just a "storehouse of electrical energy." So, here we have the explanation for how the first expedition completely disappeared, & for the ghostly voices of people killed by the Crab Monsters. The Crab Monsters take over the minds of people they devour. The Crab Monster that was destroyed had absorbed MacLean & the Whitecaps. It was mentioned that one was male, so the other is presumably his mate & has absorbed the other people who have disappeared.
There are some unanswered questions I have. Why did the Crab Monsters grow so huge? Why have only two crabs apparently been affected in this way? Have other animals been turned into these terrifying radioactive mutants? MacLean's journal did mention that worm, after all, but if any other creatures have been affected like the crabs they're keeping in hiding.
Karl also figures that the Crab Monsters are somehow able to throw out arcs of heat that they've used to create the pit & the caverns. I'm at a loss as to how the Crab Monsters would be able to do this sort of thing, but then maybe that's why I never became a nuclear physicist.
"I was a bartender once, you know? I can mix up the meanest screwdriver you've ever had."
Marty is flipping through the pictures Karl took in the caverns, which Dale seems to have just finished developing. She points out that the other Crab Monster is expecting, proving that it is a female. Reminding us that she is indeed a marine biologist, Marty points out the ring of yellow fat at the base of the shell that the babies are maturing in.
"Oh no! How did that picture get mixed in? Look honey, I was really drunk & stupid that night..."
Everyone but Karl takes this as a sign that the Crab Monster must be quickly destroyed. Karl, who up to this point has been very cautious, now seems to be quickly developing a fascination with this atomic monster. He was brought to the atoll to study the effects of radioactivity, & the Crab Monster is an intriguing if perilous example of these effects. Karl wants to somehow capture the Crab Monster alive. Only Marty makes anything like an objection to this very risky idea, pointing out what the beast did to the wall of the house.
Hank now tries out an experiment of his own. He's rigged up an electrical device &, bearing in mind what MacLean wrote about the worm, is going to give the claw a shock to see what happens. To general astonishment, the claw disintegrates immediately upon contact with electricity. Dale concludes that the Crab Monsters must be negatively charged, although I don't really follow how this works. The Crab Monsters are able to safely consume humans that carry an electrical charge, so are humans negatively charged too, or are the victims killed first so that they don't produce any charge?
The claw gets zapped.
Karl is excited at this discovery, & urges the making of a trap that uses a positive charge strong enough to disable the Crab Monster without killing it. Handyman Hank dutifully makes such a device, which gets tested out in the tropical forest. Karl is like a kid with a new toy as he gazes upon this device. He congratulates Hank on constructing this trap so quickly, & Hank nonchalantly replies that it was quite easy. How was it easy, & where did he get all these parts from, anyway? It seems to me a Tony Stark level engineering feat that Hank, still trying to get the radio working, was able to so quickly assemble whatever parts were lying around into a device that could shoot out a bolt of electricity when someone steps on a sensor. If Hank gets off the atoll alive, he should set up some home security company. With a bit more tinkering, he could make a fortune selling his invention as a way of disabling but not killing home intruders. I'm sure the military & various businesses would also be interested.
"Oh yeah, building this little thing was no effort at all. With a few more scraps, I could have made a miniature arc reactor."
"With this all-powerful weapon, I shall take over the wor....Wait, I told everyone in the last scene that I'm not a mad scientist."
Anyway, the party now has to decide how to get the trap prepared down in the caverns where the Crab Monster is lurking. Karl says that the beast must sleep during the day, so they could use those hours to plant the device & wait for one of the Crab Monster's eight legs to trigger it. So the Crab Monsters aren't active during the day? That's funny, because the headless seaman was killed during the day, & a Crab Monster was moving around off shore when Marty was scuba diving during the day. Also, how will anyone know that the Crab Monster has walked into the trap? They'll want to know immediately so the beast can be secured before it recovers. Are they going to be regularly checking the trap? That means descending into the dangerous caverns, which seems very risky. Also, how is it known what voltage would be sufficient to disable the Crab Monster without killing it? For all anyone knows even a small charge might cause instant annihilation. Or, what if the charge is too weak to affect the Crab Monster? I think Karl is being too quick to form his conclusions. Also, even though the Crab Monster has been positively identified as female, Karl refers to it as though it were male, on the chauvinistic assumption that only male creatures could really be dangerous.
The others go along with his plan, though, just as they've gone along with all his proposals throughout the movie. Hank & Marty in scuba gear go down into the pit carrying the trap while Dale & Karl wait up on the hill. It's curious that Dale, being the man after all, doesn't insist on going on this dangerous mission. There's no reason given for why Marty's going instead, though it was written this way so that she & Hank could fan that tiny little spark of attraction that had been ignited at the beginning of the movie. The two of them improbably choose this tense situation to start talking about loneliness & how difficult it is to avoid unless you can find that special someone. Hank asks Marty whether she's found that special someone, but before she can answer they hear a noise nearby.
"Before you two go down, I want your assurance you won't let buried sexual tension get in the way of this very important mission. Dale, you didn't hear what I just said."
A quick exploration shows that the Crab Monster is literally around the corner, apparently napping during the day as Karl speculated. So it seems even a radioactive monstrosity with loose atoms needs to get twenty winks, though I guess she just started snoring a moment ago, & fortunately all the chatter didn't wake her. Hank daringly states that he's going to try to get another specimen for Karl to study, which seems ridiculously dangerous. His nifty device is nearby, why doesn't Hank just grab it & zap the Crab Monster while it's sleeping? Marty tries to be the voice of caution, as usual, but nobody has paid much attention to her.
As Hank creeps forward, a shot of the Crab Monster's eye shows it opening. Ah ha! It seems the Crab Monster is laying a trap of her own, pretending to sleep in order to lure the humans to their doom. Pretty devious, though I wonder why she didn't just attack when she had the chance?
The Crab Monster almost gets Hank, but not quite. He & Marty immediately take off with the Crab Monster in close pursuit. They must not have had a chance to get their trap operational, as it doesn't go off when the humans & the monster go by it. With no time to climb out of the pit, Marty & Hank run for the water. Dale & Karl see what's going on from above & head down to the seashore to provide whatever help they can.
There's some tense moments now as Hank & Marty swim for their lives. They make it to shore, standing up immediately in shallow water even though they just surfaced in water that was much too deep to stand up in. They spend a few seconds taking off their scuba gear while I yell at them to just get the hell out of the water.
Get out of the water!
They make it on to shore a few moments before the Crab Monster emerges, making a first appearance in the daylight, & allowing us the first good look. For me, the most striking feature of the Crab Monster is the eyes, which remind me of Stewie's from Family Guy.
"If I am a monster, beware my claws!"
Dale & Karl are further up on shore, & Dale takes several shots at the Crab Monster from a rifle before Karl tells him it's useless, the bullets just pass right through the beast's body. Say, if the Crab Monster is immaterial like this, how come the one that was destroyed earlier was affected by those falling rocks? Wouldn't the rubble have just passed right through his insubstantial body? For that matter, the Crab Monsters should just be able to pass through walls like ghosts, & tearing off that claw earlier should have been impossible. The Crab Monster's become inexplicably substantial when it's convenient for the plot.
"What if I hit it in the brain, like I did before?"
The Crab Monster congratulates the humans on injuring her by taking one of her claws, but says that claw will grow back in a day, while the humans won't grow back the lives they are going to shortly lose. When did this Crab Monster lose the claw? I know Hank was intending something of the sort, but he never got close enough to get anything from the beast. Or did he? Did Hank strike off the claw, & that's what aroused the Crab Monster from its slumber? Nothing was shown on-screen to indicate so.
Back at the house, Hank is still trying to get the radio working. Karl & Dale decide to survey the pit & the caves. Marty suddenly decides that she's going to fill the traditional women's role & make the men some food.
"Would you excuse me? I have to go tie myself to some chains attached to the stove in the kitchen."
Karl & Dale head out, talking about how the atoll is dwindling all around them. Much of the original island has fallen into the sea, & the two will soon discover that the area where the pit was has now flooded over. Back at the house, Marty gets derailed from her domestic duties when she hears a broadcast coming over the radio. She goes back out where Hank is & learns that the radio can receive signals, but still can't transmit anything, which really isn't helpful. Now I guess they can listen to some music & deejay chatter while waiting for the Crab Monster to devour them.
Marty asks Hank where he gained such great skill with machines, & Hank replies that it's due to his military experience plus knocking about for a while in the broadcast business. Hank asks how Marty met Dale. She says that they studied at the same school they are now researchers for. Seeing the looks Hank is giving her, Marty quickly adds that once Dale gets his promotion their partnership will be permanent. Marty says nothing about getting a promotion herself, so I suppose she intends after marriage to just give up the scientific career she's presumably worked so hard for & spend the rest of her life being the dutiful wife & mother.
Sorry, Hank. Unless Dale ends up as a Crab Monster snack, you're out of luck.
This little love triangle among Hank, Dale, & Marty hasn't really fit well with the movie & could have just been done away with. Dale will remain completely unaware of what's happening, while the attraction between Hank & Marty seems more forced than natural. The whole affair really doesn't add anything substantial to the movie, in my opinion.
Returning to Dale & Karl, they have gotten down to the cave entrance to find two little streams of oil.
There be Oil in this here atoll!
Karl figures all the explosions & seismic activity must have tapped into some deep oil source, which he insists on investigating. Dale of course points out that going into the caverns is quite dangerous, but Karl hardly seems to think so. The man who earlier was quite cautious has become increasingly bold & is now bordering on reckless. He says that the Crab Monster is like a rattlesnake that can be heard long before she gets close enough to be a danger. That's the reason she's destroying the atoll, according to Karl, so that the scientists are trapped with no place to run. Karl says that as long as he & Dale stay alert, they can easily avoid falling into the beast's clutches. I think Karl is being way too sure of himself here. The Crab Monster has proved to be a very crafty adversary thus far, & is in no way comparable to a snake or other mundane menace. Nonetheless, Dale is won over by this argument. Again, it's remarkable how persuasive Karl is. With little effort, he's gotten every member of the party to agree to everything he's decided upon. Now he & Dale aren't even going to remain together, but will each follow one of the oil streams.
"How dare you question me? I've been right about absolutely everything!"
Dale doesn't walk for long before he hears the sinister sound of the Crab Monster. He glimpses her around a corner, & quickly heads off without even trying to warn Karl of the nearby danger. For his part, Karl is plodding along through these dreadful caverns as though he were out for a jaunt on a sunny country trail.
This is the widest shot in the movie. You can just make out Dale running for his life on the right.
Dale dashes out of the cave & runs into Hank & Marty, who have come to tell about the semi-working radio. Dale looked like he was just going to keep right on running, but with these unexpected reinforcements, he insists on going into the cave to warn Karl that the Crab Monster is heading in his direction. I really can't think how they'll get to Karl before the Crab Monster does, but then Karl was quite certain that he could handle the danger, anyway. Marty is told to stay outside, but she surprisingly disobeys this command after a moment's hesitation & runs after the men. That's showing some welcome spunk.
Seeing his girlfriend together with resourceful ex-soldier Hank, Dale decides that it's best to act brave.
"Damn '50s movie conventions! I'm not missing out on this because some man tells me to."
Karl has noticed the trap that Hank & Mary left behind in their earlier flight from danger. Apparently still determined to capture the Crab Monster, Karl crouches over the device & tries to get it running. So Karl knows how to work this device, even though he didn't build it? I guess so, as he seems to know what he's doing. He takes something out of his pants pocket that I can't quite make out, but I'm thinking must be a tool of some sort. His labor is interrupted by the dreaded sound of the Crab Monster's approach.
Karl playing with his favorite toy.
Karl tries to get away, but in his haste he blunders right into the now-functional trap that he was so insistent about. Oh, the irony! The electrical charge, meant to incapacitate the Crab Monster, doesn't kill Karl but renders him completely helpless. He can do nothing but stare in wide-eyed horror & emit choked screams as the Crab Monster advances on him. The others arrive too late to save Karl but in enough time to watch him being consumed by the creature he was so fascinated about.
Failing his Reflex saving throw, Karl takes 2d6 damage & is paralyzed for 6 rounds. The Crab Monster, sadly, will be on top of him in 3 rounds.
The three run off, with Dale stopping a moment to set fire to one of the oil trails that led him & Karl down here. For a second, it looks as though Dale might perish in a valiant attempt to kill the monster, leaving Hank to console Marty, but Dale makes it out of the caverns unharmed. His fiery trap fails to do any harm to the Crab Monster, although she doesn't pursue the trio any further. Hank sorrowfully reflects that he expected Karl, if anyone, to survive. The prospects for the three remaining party members seem quite grim.
"Well honey, I don't think we'll be having that wedding & getting that house in the suburbs, after all."
They head back to the house, & Hank tries to send out some kind of SOS through the radio. Dale asks if it's working, & Dale curtly replies that he can't know, since he's not on the other end of this signal. The Crab Monster now speaks to them with the voices of Karl & Jules, telling them it's no use. Soon the atoll will be completely destroyed, eliminating any trace of what happened to both expeditions. Hank, Marty, & Dale will be absorbed into the Crab Monster, & their combined minds will plot how to go about invading all of mankind, bwah hah hah!
"Wait a minute! A transmission is coming through. Commies have taken over America! We're better off as Crab Monster food."
The rumbling from the island gets much worse now. The land rips apart as the house starts crumbling. The three survivors rush out before they are trapped in the house's collapse.
The Crab Monster is literally bringing down the house.
They struggle up the only remaining peak that's left above water now. Reaching the top, they behold a rocky landscape with a lone electrical tower, perhaps the transmission tower for the radio.
Here's the scene of the climactic confrontation.
Goaded by the Crab Monster's taunts being transmitted through the tower, Dale & Hank decide to make a final stand using their seven remaining grenades rather than meekly submit to what seems like an inevitable fate.
Being red-blooded American men, Hank & Dale will stoically fight on against seemingly impossible odds.
Hank mentions a toolbox by the electrical tower, from which he pulls a hatchet & hands it to Dale. Marty's scream alerts the men to the approach of the Crab Monster.
"We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."
Hank & Dale hurl their grenades, which of course have no effect other than to make the Crab Monster mildly annoyed, which she expresses using the voice of Karl. Dale, apparently very desperate, takes his last grenade & moves directly toward the Crab Monster. Dale rather pointlessly tells Hank to "Be Careful", but makes no move to help out.
"Atta boy, Hank! You go heroically risk your life while I keep the woman safe."
I'm not sure what Hank's plan is, or if he has one, but he ends up getting gashed on the left leg, his grenade uselessly exploding on the rocks. Rather than finish off the injured Hank, the Crab Monster heads over to Dale & Marty. Dale takes a swing at the beast with his hatchet, but the pitiful weapon's knocked away. He then tries to fend off the grasping claws using his fists, which is just silly, but the Crab Monster seems to be toying with her victims a bit here.
"Do what you want with the woman. Just leave me alone!"
Its hesitation proves disastrous, for Hank is down but not out. He crawls over to the transmission tower & throws a switch that turns on the electricity. I don't know why the tower wasn't powered up before. If it is a transmission tower, the radio would have been useless with nothing to send or receive signals (although the radio ended up being pretty useless, anyway).
Hank starts shaking the tower, apparently trying to topple it over. Shouldn't he be electrocuted by the current passing through his body into the rocks? These are the questions I'm usually too lazy to find answers for. In his strenuous efforts, Hank climbs up the tower.
Luke Skywalker awaits rescue by the Millennium Falcon after his disastrous battle with Darth Vader at Cloud City...Oh sorry, that's another movie.
As soon as the power was turned on, the Crab Monster abandoned Dale & Marty to go after Hank. Given how sensitive she is to electricity, I would expect the beast to stay away from the tower rather than go straight towards it, but that's what she does. Hank succeeds in sending the tower plummeting down straight on to the Crab Monster, which is destroyed in a great cloud of sparks.
Hank chooses to die a hero rather than live to see himself become the villain.
Hank either dies form this electrical discharge, or from the fall. He definitely dies, though, as the last words spoken in the movie is Dale solemnly saying, "He gave his life..." as Marty reacts with horror. The two of them are safe from the Crab Monster, but their situation is still perilous. They are now trapped on barren rocks with no supplies of any sort or any means of sending out a distress call. Unless the radio messages Hank sent out actually got through, or the navy decides to check on the expedition before the month is up, it seems likely Marty & Dale will soon perish from hunger & thirst. I'm sure we're meant to think they're rescued somehow, but the movie ends right after Hank's heroic death.
"That's right, dear. You are now mine & mine alone."
So, what do I think of this movie? All in all, I give it pretty high marks. There is an atmosphere of suspense in this film that The Undead never had, though the characters in that movie were a lot more memorable. The acting's decent, the monster prop's pretty well executed given the paltry budget, & the baloney science is merely typical of this sort of movie. Given the film's title, I was expecting the monsters to be mindless rampagers, but they turned out to be much more interesting.
Actually, my theory is that Charles Griffith adapted his script from an alien invasion story. I'm thinking of the novella Who Goes There?, which can be read freely on-line. This story, written in 1938, was first adapted as a film in 1951's The Thing from Another World. Roger Ebert refers to this movie as "Alien in embryo", & it was remade by John Carpenter as The Thing. Griffith could very well have watched the 1951 film, read the original story, or both, as Attack of the Crab Monsters is very similar in plot: A team of scientists on an isolated outpost are preyed upon by a malevolent entity that is very difficult to kill & exists outside of Earth's natural systems. The Crab Monsters' ability to absorb the minds of their victims echoes the alien creature in Who Goes There?, which can assume the identity of anything it kills. The hammer-handed message at the beginning of Attack of the Crab Monsters concerning the dangers of nuclear weaponry isn't really kept up in the rest of the film, suggesting it was tacked on rather than really part of the original story. The film's dialogue could just as easily fit in an alien invasion movie. Whether my theory's right or not, the basic plot has been used in many classic sci-fi films, & is well enough executed in Attack of the Crab Monsters to make the movie worth checking out if you have a spare hour or so.
Well, that's it for now. Thanks for reading!
Written in June 2012 by Jason Scott and used with his permission.
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