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  Lobster Man from Mars The Crafty Claw
Year: 1989
Director: Stanley Sheff
Stars: Deborah Foreman, Patrick Macnee, Anthony Hickox, Tommy Sledge, Fred Holliday, Tony Curtis, Dean Jacobson, Billy Barty, Phil Proctor, S.D. Nemeth, Bobby Pickett, Mindy Kennedy, Ava Fabian, Tim Haldeman, M.G. Kelly, Stuart Browning, Steve Peterson
Genre: Comedy, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: J.P. Shelldrake (Tony Curtis) runs a movie production company, and as his accountant tells him it's all been going very well this year, with millions of dollars of profits to enjoy. But the taxman wants his share, and he now owes him a bill of four million dollars, money he cannot afford to give away so he has to find a solution which turns out to be a tax write-off. Yes, what his company needs is a flop, but where can he find one at short notice? It just so happens that one Stevie Horowitz (Dean Jacobson) is trying to get someone to distribute his low budget sci-fi adventure - could this be it?

And that low budget sci-fi epic is of course Star Wars - oh, no it isn't, it's actually Lobster Man from Mars, director Stanley Sheff's mixture of The Producers and a bunch of old B-movies of the fifties. With a title gifted to him by Orson Welles (who planned to appear but unfortunately died before shooting began), the results were cheap and cheerful, though nobody was going to mistake them for great filmmaking, with the project's enthusiasm its strongest aspect and for fans of the vintage flying saucery, likely to amuse for spotting the references Sheff made to his predecessors. If this wasn't exactly laugh out loud funny, it did have a shaggy dog charm that breezed through some rather laboured material.

They certainly secured an impressive cast, many of whom seemed to be here as a favour to the director rather than looking forward to any great actorly challenges. Top billed was eighties cult favourite Deborah Foreman, here playing Mary, one half of the couple who spot the Lobster Man's spaceship while out driving with husband John (director in his own right Anthony Hickox). She wasn't given much to do, alas, simply reacting to other's lines mostly, but her fans would be glad to see she garnered a fair amount of screen time. Also showing up were the likes of Patrick Macnee as the Professor who works out how to beat the crustacean, and the inevitable Billy Barty as a phony psychic.

There were more, with Curtis probably the most famous face, though this was at the stage where he'd lost interest in acting and was taking roles strictly for the money - his box office clout had evaporated by this point, and to be honest his scenes here were leaning on the superfluous, looking like padding to get the main feature, the film within the film, up to a more significant running time. It was probably the Lobster Man who was the main attraction as far as that plot went, and in accustomed fashion he was kept offscreen for most of the story, with only his grasping claw to be seen as he advanced on his victims, turning them into skeletons to achieve his masterplan of capturing Planet Earth's air supply to bring back home.

As ordered by the King of Mars, played by Bobby Pickett of Monster Mash fame: it was that sort of movie which wallowed in pop culture which Joe Dante had made his stock in trade, only with far more capability - and budget - that Sheff had at his disposal. Humorously poor special effects and hokey acting were the order of the day, and if that was not likely to float your boat you would find little to appreciate in the fanboy stylings here, but if you were more receptive you might find yourself engaged with a bright, tacky bauble which wanted nothing but to appeal to the sort of movie Sheff and countless others had loved to watch in childhood. With a Private Detective (Tommy Sledge, apparently as himself) and a military man naturally named Colonel Ankrum (Fred Holliday) dropped into the mix, there was nothing here beyond the surface silliness, and such was its near-amateur quality it was surprising to learn Lobster Man from Mars made it into cinemas, but good on it anyway. Music by Sasha Matson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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