Well 1950’s cinema gave us all manner of monsters, aliens, giant bugs, mythical creatures, doll sized people, invisible people etc…In the realms of over sized animals and bugs (arachnids) there was a large array including giant man eating grasshoppers, scorpions, tarantulas, praying mantis, ants etc…So it was naturally just a matter of time before a movie came along that had a giant man eating bird, because why not? If it can be even remotely scary there’s a chance there’s a 50’s movie about it.
In this wondrous movie life is generally fine and dandy for all the characters concerned, that is until a giant bird comes out of nowhere and starts to attack planes and such. Naturally most of the main characters in this movie are military types because of course they are. Two of the protagonists aren’t military types but are in fact civil aeronautical engineers that appear to be working with military types, so its all military type stuff as usual.
Yep so this giant bird is attacking planes and causing lots of panic and alarm. The problem is no one can prove its a giant bird at first, many think its a hoax or a UFO. Thing is, this giant bird is really quite giant, its described as being as big as a battleship, sooo…how has this not been proven yet?? Cameras are apparently not in use in this movie and everybody seems to be somewhat shortsighted because I really fail to see how a battleship sized bird could go undetected. Then you gotta ask yourself where this thing came from? How did it get so big? What does it eat other than people and planes? Where does it live? Are there more of them? Oh wait it actually comes from an anti-matter galaxy, because of course it does. But how did it…ah who cares, don’t question it.
So the giant bird in question turns out to be an alien basically, from another galaxy. That doesn’t stop it from looking like a bird from Earth though (kinda like a cross between a Vulture and a Condor). Anyway I say that lightly because this giant bird is most probably the most ridiculous looking special effect ever. The main clear problem is the birds head, oh boy! This thing literally looks like a Warner Bros cartoon I kid you not. The shape of the head is all wrong, it has this comical tuft of hair sprouting from the top of its head, the beak is permanently open with no movement and the eyes are…umm…beyond farcical. The rest of the bird isn’t too bad truth be told, the body looks fine, the wing span, feathers, claws etc…all look perfectly reasonable for this type of B-movie. Its that head, that hideous, static, wide eyed, dopey looking Looney Tunes head.
Unfortunately like many of these really bad B-movies the film is padded out with lots and lots of stock footage, generally military footage. Next to that you have a load of narration to fill in all the gaps where they couldn’t afford to actually film. Much of the run time revolves around boring dialog scenes with the characters as they discuss how to stop the creature, where it came from, what it wants etc…Then numerous other scenes of people in planes (exceedingly bad plane sets) looking out of cockpits in shock and horror as a large shadow passes overhead. When we do actually see the giant creature you can even see the wires holding it up.
The weird thing is at times the effects aren’t too bad. When the giant bird attacks Manhattan the model skyline with overflying giant bird and military aircraft actually looks quite nice. Obviously the black and white helps cover any noticeable flaws but overall some scenes do look acceptable. In fact when the bird attacks the Empire State Building I can confidently say it actually looked pretty solid, the crumbling skyscraper did look pretty competent. Alas things take a nosedive when the bird eats the obvious model planes and the live action pilots who are shot against a poor rear projection sequence. Then of course there’s all that stock footage of crowds spliced with real footage of a very small group of people reacting and running in terror.
Would you be surprised if I told you this bird turns out to be impervious to all Earthly weapons? Didn’t think so, aren’t these monsters always somewhat invincible? No amount of gunfire, shells, missiles, rockets or even nukes can ever bring these fuckers down. Turns out this thing can create its own anti-matter force field that also gives it stealth from radar, handy huh.
Again its a shame really because the movies poster is so incredibly awesome, really striking. Other than that there really isn’t anything I can recommend here unless you like to see amazingly bad special effects. On that front the movie is top notch, a full riot to be sure, but I can’t give it a good score for that because the movie is terrible. I do believe this movie is only well known (or infamous) simply because of its terrible giant beastie model. Everything else is pretty much as you would expect and no different from all the other 50’s monster movies. Shout out for the epic Morris Ankrum who clearly made a mistake agreeing to be in this. He still manages to be epic though, its the hair and tash that does it.