Sunday, March 31, 2013

Monster #12—Giant Crabs

There's lots of stories and movies out there about giant arthropods. Particularly if they're giant spiders, but other creepy crawlies like scorpions, ants, and mantids all get their fair attention as well. Including crabs! When I started this post, I had assumed that there was only a few examples of giant crabs in fiction. I wondered why. Was it because they're just not as widespread? Because you kind of have to grow up on a coastline where there's beaches to visit to have a healthy respect and fear for these creatures? Certainly crabs exhibit plenty of creepy traits that should make them as feared as spiders—they have long legs... they can pinch hard... they move weirdly... and they have creepy eyes. But then, as I started thinking and researching, I realized how wrong I was!

I remember once, as a teen, I was down at Point Arena cove with my dad, getting some quality abalone picking in. I came to a tide pool filled with sand, and on a lark I decided to dig into the sand with my hands. I dug for a few seconds, made a hole, then straightened up to watch it fill in with water. In that instant, a kelp crab reared up out of the sand precisely where my fingers had been a moment before. For those who don't know what a kelp crab looks like... check out the picture. My memory says the thing was about a foot across... it was probably closer to six or eight inches across. Regardless, I missed having my finger snatched by a spiky brown alien monster by only a few seconds. I never dug in a sandy tide pool again.


Giant crabs and their kind show up relatively often in fiction, if you know where to look. There's Ebirah, one of the various kaiju that co-stars now and then with Godzilla, although Ebirah's more properly qualified as a giant lobster. There's also the giant crab that menaces the cast of The Mysterious Island. That crab's got the distinction of being an actual crab shell that was then articulated and animated by Ray Harryhausen, and as you can see in the clip at the bottom of this post... it looks pretty awesome, even half a century later! And then there's The Lost Continent, which is about a ship full of sweaty dynamite, man-eating seaweed, the descendants of the Spanish Inquisition stranded on said lost continent, and a fight between a giant crab and a scorpion.

Of course, no giant crab post is complete without mentioning the Casablanca of giant crab movies (ha! I like doing that)—Roger Corman's Attack of the Crab Monsters. In typical Corman style, this is a low-budget movie with a high-budget plot. Not only are the crabs in this movie giant, but they're intelligent too, because they absorb the intellect of those they eat. But it doesn't stop there! They're also psychic, and can mimic human voices by telekinetically vibrating metal objects at precise amplitudes to speak to their victims. Who are stranded on an island. Oh, and the crabs are using their telekinesis to slowly sink the entire island into the ocean. Oh... and these giant mutant crabs are almost impossible to hurt due to their regenerative powers. And perhaps worst of all... the crabs know that they're better than humans, and not only try to kill them and eat their brains to absorb their knowledge... they mock and threaten humans while they do it! This movie is nearly perfect!

There's also a series of books (SEVEN!) by a man named Guy N. Smith  that features crabs. He's also written a few short stories about his favorite critter, and it's one of those that I've read—I've not yet read his novels. Come to think of it... I should do so. Huh... looks like the first of those books became a movie called Island Claws. Unseen by me—and indeed, never even heard of by me before this post. Island Claws isn't out on DVD or Blu-ray or on Netflix... but as is the case with such obscure old movies, it DOES appear to be on You Tube, and the first of the crab books he wrote is available on the Kindle... The movie (which I just watched a little bit of) looks disco-riffic—not a quality I associate with giant crabs, but skipping ahead, the giant crab itself looks not bad for a 3-decade-old movie. I can't yet put any of his books down as recommended reading, since I haven't read any yet...

Perhaps I jumped the gun on this giant crab post. Obviously, I need to educate myself more on the genre!

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