"Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" is probably best-remembered for its fantastic poster art (I actually want this picture hanging up on my wall someday), but its also one of the best-remembered American giant monster movies of its time. Rather than having a giant creature steal off with a busty heroine, let's make the busty heroine a giant monster! Its brilliant. This movie is probably best-remembered for its pretty blatant exploitation undertones, with a woman turning into a giant, ripping right out of her clothing, and then going on a rampage of revenge, appealing directly to people with a giantism fetish. For that reason, despite being made on a puny eighty-eight thousand dollar budget by some of the most Z-grade of Hollywood producers, "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" has inspired dozens of pop culture references, a remake, and no less than two softcore porn homages. So clearly, I couldn't avoid reviewing this one.
In 1957, a movie called "The Amazing Colossal Man" was made by Mr. Bert. I. Gordon, of "The Beginning of the End" infamy - whose "unique" directing style was enough to persuade me not to watch that film. "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" was directly inspired by B.I.G. and even came out in time to rival "Colossal Man"'s sequel, "The War of the Colossal Beast". They even hired "Colossal Man"'s screenwriter, Mark Hannah, to pen this one. "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" was produced by the Woolner Brothers, a pair of drive-in movie owners who had eventually grown into film producers, and were even partners of Roger Corman. The Woolner Bros. were responsible for the kind of films you'd expect, "Hercules Conquers Atlantis", "Castle of Blood", and "Hillbillies in a Haunted House", the sort of bottom of the barrel sludge that nobody today remembers, and "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" was by far their highest release. Directing is Nathan H. Juran whose work we previously met in "20 Million Miles to Earth". This resulted in a very usual giant monster movie which is primarily focused on characters and drama, which ultimately leads to the monster's rampage. I'd rank "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" well above most of the movies we've covered here, its actually a pretty solid movie.
The plot here opens with reports of a "satellite" being spotted all around the world, as the Reporter tell us. This "satellite" is just a UFO, but in 1958 Sputnik had just launched humanity in the Space Age so "satellite" was the new buzzword for pulp science fiction. Also Mark Hannah apparently thought "satellite" was the word for a round spaceship, and honestly this is the least of "50 Foot Woman"'s scientific flubs. This satellite finally lands someplace in rural California, where it is spotted by our currently normal-sized heroine, Nancy, played by the goddess-like Allison Hayes. Nancy, as it turns out, is the target not only of outer space invaders but a sleazy plot by her philandering husband to drive her insane and run off with a younger woman. Which is definitely a curious thing since I had trouble imagining anybody being dissatisfied with a relationship with the subject of that poster above me. Unfortunately Nancy takes her run-in with an alien, and later the giant man that lives inside it rather poorly, and she spends the next half hour begging the world to believe her fantastic story.
Nancy's husband, Harry, is played by William Hudson, another veteran of "The Amazing Colossal Man"*. Harry and Nancy have a troubled marriage... to say the least. Harry spends most of his time at the local bar dancing with a floozy and trying to drive his wife back into an insane asylum. Meanwhile, Nancy keeps trying to play the strong head of the marriage, being the heiress to a large fortune and thus the provider in this partnership, and clearly she's sick of Harry's bullcrap, but she's still very much in love with him, and it seems to be torturing her. I guess a feminist viewpoint would say Nancy's character is pretty poorly written since she can't live without a man, but I'd say she's still a pretty strong character and her relationship with Harry is well-written and complex. More complex than any movie called "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" deserves. Giant aliens or not, I think this could have been fine just with these personalities bouncing off each other. Which is unfortunate, since the movie doesn't actually give much screentime to
Eventually Nancy convinces Harry to drive her out into the desert to look for the "satellite" she saw the giant man inside. And indeed, they do find it. The giant lunges out, steals Nancy, and Harry, in his typical sleazy way, runs away to grab his things and run off with his mistress. He even makes sure to beat up Nancy's trusted and loyal butler, Jess, just so that he could appear even less sympathetic. Harry is the kind of character who exists mainly to keep you on the edge of your seat, because you know there's no way he can survive the movie, but you're curious just how gruesome his demise is going to turn out to be.
Oh, and if you're curious as to what the Alien Giant looks like... well.... Um...
I guess he just came from an Intergalactic Renaissance Fair, and he's a ghost??
Yeah, the special effects suck in this movie. I'll get to that in a minute.
Eventually Nancy is found on top of a roof someplace, with weird blue-ish marks on her neck and some strange kind of radiation emanating from her. Ut-oh. This is Silver Age science fiction here, radiation is either going to turn her into The Invisible Woman or a giant. Guess which one?
For the next twenty minutes, unfortunately, we don't get to see much of Nancy as the cast becomes bloated by the addition of a couple of fairly clueless scientists, the local sheriff, and an idiot bumbling Deputy. Unfortunately, the douchebag husband gets most of the screentime, while Nancy spends most of the movie either in bed or in chains in her upstairs room as the scientists debate what to do with her. Eventually the Alien Sphere is found by Jess and the Sheriff, who bumble their way inside, discover it runs on diamonds**, and then get ingloriously chased outside by the giant Medieval Bald Guy. The Giant is so offended by humans breaking into his satellite that he flies off into space, leaving the movie forever.
Finally, with just five minutes left in the movie, Nancy decides to make the front cover proud. She breaks out of her house, and starts roaming towards town, looking for the dickhead who calls himself her husband. Really, its hard not to sympathize with her at this point, especially since if she hadn't turned into a giant, Harry would have poisoned her with some drugs he stole from her nurse. So here we go, the big moment:
Sadly they did manage to find cloths big enough for her. Damn.
And here's our climax. Nancy barrels towards the local bar, and tears the roof right off. Her husband's mistress is crushed by some wooden planks - which in real life almost killed the actress since the prop guys forget to check if there were any nails in left in their wood. Then Nancy grabs Harry and pulls him up, crushing the bastard in what should be a glorious finale of revenge. Unfortunately, then the Sheriff shoots some nearby electrical transformers, which kill both Nancy and Harry immediately. We then end almost immediately.
The special effects in "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" are... not good. Unfortunately with a budget even more tiny than the usual B-movie, it appears that there was no money at all with which to create any of the usual effects we'd see such as rear projection or combining shots, or even simply using miniatures. While "Tarantula" was able to produce a huge spider walking down a desert road and more or less convince you that the creature actually was there and walking in a physical way, "50 Foot Woman" is unable to equal that. The best the editor was able to do was double-expose the film, so that Giant Nancy and the huge alien appear huge. But the effect is very poor, the giants for some reason look like phantoms, and in some shots its not clear at all where the character is supposed to be. Look at this:
I guess the radiation turned her into the Invisible Woman and a giant.
Allison Hayes is clearly the best reason to watch this movie, which is shame since she isn't given much to do in this film despite being the star, more or less. I'd say this movie is decent, and with only an hour running time, it isn't going to take much investment out of you if you're looking for some basic cheesy entertainment. But still, it isn't perfect, when at times it had shades of being something really incredible. If only the Woolner Bros. had given this movie a little more money, and it could have been one of the best giant monster movies ever. There were plans to create a bigger budget sequel, with the addition of color, but these fell apart in the early Sixties.
Now that's not to say that "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" doesn't have its place in history. Its probably the single most parodied giant monster movie of them all, perhaps only behind "Godzilla" and "King Kong", appearing in dozens of TV shows and cartoons, and inspiring much of the plot behind DreamWorks' pathetically mediocre "Monsters vs. Aliens". In 1993 HBO created a remake, starring Darryl Hannah and a Baldwin (I forget which one). I've seen bits and pieces of that movie, it isn't much of an improvement, but its certainly a lot sillier. They play up the gender divisions theme a lot more in that one. One movie that is far less feminist though is 1995's "Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold", directed and produced by soft core porn mogul, Fred Olen Ray, whose movies have graced late night Cinemax for two decades now. "60 Foot Centerfold" basically is a collection of nude scenes gathered together with a shoe-string plot. Even as porn, its the softest of the soft core. Just last year, Roger Corman produced another softcore remake, "Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader", which I haven't seen. But I'm sure one night, when I'm feeling lonely, I'll find a way to enjoy that.
On the next episode of All-Out Giant Monster Attack! - One of Ray Harryhausen's many fantasy movies: "The 7th Journey of Sinbad"***!
* Screw you, film history! No matter how many connections you make between "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" and "The Amazing Colossal Man", I refuse to watch another Bert. I. Gordon movie. Refuse! You hear me!
** I guess its made from the same technology as Mr. Freeze's suit in "Batman and Robin".
*** As you might have noticed, this isn't "Varan the Unbelievable". I can't seem to find that movie without paying like fifteen bucks on Amazon, so I'm going to give the very long wait for it come on Netflix. However, it appears that "Half Human" should be arriving in the mail soon, so that might turn out to be the next review, I dunno.