So, just who the heck is Sam Katzman, anyway? Most boomers will remember these flicks from late-night "Creature Features" or Saturday afternoons with Sir Graves Ghastly, but never associated them together, much less with a specific producer. But Katzman was an old hand by the time these were made. He was the man who got Johnny Weismuller out of the leopard skin and into the safari gear as "Jungle Jim". He's generally credited for coining the term "beatnik". He did the "East Side Kids" movies, including two with Bela Lugosi. He was also the producer for two early Ray Harryhausen flicks, "It Came From Beneath the Sea" (with the lovable six-armed octopus) and "Earth vs the Flying Saucers". He even did a couple of Elvis pics: "Harum Scarum" and "Kissin' Cousins".
These four are from 1955-1957. "Creature with the Atom Brain" (1955) has an ex-Nazi (wow, were these guys into *every*thing!) creating atomic-powered zombies, complete with glowing serum in their veins. These middle-aged creeps stalk their victims to help a typical crime lord take over the city. They're hard to spot, except for the flip-top skulls. Story by Curt Siodmak, who sure came a long way downhill from his brilliant "I Walked with a Zombie".
The following year (and 10 movies later!), "The Werewolf" jumps out. No full moon needed here - he's a radioactive werewolf! (See a trend?) Poor guy gets in an auto wreck and some helpful docs fix him up with an experimental serum. You can guess the rest.....
"Zombies of Mora Tau" is certainly original - these zombies are amphibious! They're the remains of a ship's crew, guarding a treasure of diamonds in the underwater wreck. These dudes are the original "Terminators" - shooting, stabbing, or whapping them in the skull with a board: makes no difference, they keep a'comin'.
And maybe the most (in)famous of all: "The Giant Claw", whose monster was so over-the-top ludicrous that it couldn't be featured on the film's poster. A giant, anti-matter, butt-ugly space buzzard from another galaxy! Play the "Giant Claw" drinking game at your own risk: every time someone says "flying battleship", it's down the hatch. May be extremely hazardous to your physical AND mental health.
Most people of a "certain age" will remember one or more of these from their heyday on TV. In spite of three different directors and (at least) four writers, all have a goofiness factor that only Ed Wood comes close to. Earnest, fast-paced, and always entertaining, these are great reminders of the time when Hollywood was cranking out flicks at a frantic pace and wasn't totally dependant on mega-bucks blockbusters. The sets are usually claustrophobic, 75% of the film seems to take place at night or in pitch-black settings (except for "Claw"), and the "plots" are beyond unbelievable. In short - sit back and enjoy!