The four Sam Katzman films included in his Icons of Horror Collection stand as testaments to the American atomic age, reflecting public terror and awe towards 1950s technology and the accomplishments made in science and medicine. Sam Katzman, an incredibly prolific B-movie producer whose expertise in horror and sci-fi resulted in collaborations with Ray Harryhausen (Jason and The Argonauts), originally masterminded several wonderful thrillers, classic archetypal examples for later films on similar topics. In this DVD set, two of the four films are painfully slow paced, but contain horror scenes that vibrantly combine horror, sci-fi and film noir. Zombies of Mora Tau (1957) catalogues a researching team's attempts to confiscate a diamond stash lodged on an abandoned ship in a harbor guarded by the living dead. Some foggy shots of zombified sailors, eternally guarding the gems as a curse for stealing them, provide chills if even for a few moments. The Giant Claw (1957) introduces the viewer to the age of alien invasions and military paranoia. Opening with a great shot of an Earth diorama orbiting in space, the film chronicles Mitchell MacAfee (Jeff Morrow), an electronics engineer who reports from his aircraft shadows of a large bird dive-bombing his plane. Sally Caldwell (Mara Corday) stands by at home base, continually ready for action. When one does manage to see this elusive shadow, the viewer can almost make out the giant avian claw that looks like a chicken foot. The two films that really make the collection are Creature with the Atom Brain (1955) and The Werewolf (1956), which reinvent the Frankenstein story to chronicle humans-turned-monster in the name of science. In Creature, Dr. Steigg (Gregory Gaye) has reanimated dead men with atomic energy by injecting their brains with radioactive material that exponentially increases their strength to kill normal humans. Great sequences show Dr. Chet Walker (Richard Denning), the heroic scientist hired by police, using a Geiger counter at crime scenes. Live-dead men with stitched up heads wandering stiffly around as a monster mafia, giving hearty doses of humor to this fantastic film. Likewise, The Werewolf features awesome footage of star, Duncan Marsh (Steven Ritch), turning into a wolf while managing to keep his well-tailored suit clean as he runs through the forest. During most of the film, Marsh is fleeing a well-intentioned Sheriff Haines (Don Megowan), and two villains, Dr. Emery Forrest (S. John Launer) and Dr. Morgan Chambers (George Lynn), who accidentally turn him into a wolf when experimenting with radioactive injections that would protect humans from radiation. All four films have the look and feel of the epic Universal movies like The Wolf Man, and The Mummy, and give historical context to buffs researching 1950s monster films. —Trinie Dalton

Genre: Drama, Romance
Director(s): George Stevens
Production: Warner Bros. Pictures
  Won 1 Oscar. Another 6 wins & 15 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
NR (Not Rated)

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