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Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman (1958) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper).

November 17, 2020 | By | Reply More

This is one of those films that has become a low-grade camp classic. While it is not as incompetent as some of the films of this period, the campy title certainly drew attention to the film and the abysmal special effects which ironically have an attraction all their own. If this film had a reasonable filmmaker behind it, it would probably be nearly forgotten by now.

‘Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman’ opens with reports of a strange flying object seen several places over the globe. It comes to rest at the edge of the California desert. Nancy Archer (played by Allison Hayes) is driving through the desert and sees the object, looking like a thirty-foot jawbreaker. As she stares at it, we see a huge and somewhat rubbery hand reach down to her car. She returns to the local town in hysterics.

Her philandering husband Harry (William Hudson) hears that she is in town in a hysterical state. She claims that a thirty-foot giant was trying to get her diamond necklace. It has the ‘world’s most famous diamond’, the 563-carat Star of India. How she got the huge diamond is never explained.

The local police humour her since she is the wealthiest person in the community, but no evidence is found. The film devolves quickly into a fairly mundane melodrama of a no-good philandering husband who cheats on his rich wife with the local good-time girl Honey Parker (Yvette Vickers). Harry wants to have her institutionalised as insane so that he can inherit her fifty million dollars. At first Harry really believes Nancy is insane until he goes with her into the desert and actually sees the alien ‘satellite’. Harry abandons her to the alien and drives to town, but later she is found still alive, though comatose. Honey talks Harry into killing his wife, but when he goes to do it he finds she has grown to fifty feet in size as an effect of contact with the alien. The sheriff and Nancy’s butler find giant footprints and track them to the spacecraft, which is full of steam. Inside it seems to have a collection of diamonds in glass globes.

The alien chases them out of the spacecraft and destroys their car, then they look somewhat bewildered by the experience. He returns to his craft and flies off. Nancy returns to consciousness and goes to town to find Harry. She tears apart the town, killing Honey and dragging away Harry. As she walks close to a power pole with an electrical transformer, the sheriff shoots it and it explodes killing Nancy. As the sheriff points out, she finally has Harry to herself. The script is by Mark Hanna who the previous year wrote ‘The Amazing Colossal Man’ and managed to outdo the lameness of that script writing a sort of companion film. It even has a major actor in common, William Hudson who played the scientist Dr. Linstrom in that film.

‘Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman’ was directed by Nathan Hertz, a pseudonym for Nathan Juran who the previous year directed ‘The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad’. He clearly did not want to use his full name and who can blame him. In spite of the bad material, Juran manages to get at least acceptable performance from all concerned, with the possible exception of the alien. If there is one place to look for quality in ‘Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman’, it is in the acting. In the title role is Allison Hayes, who had made four fantasy film the previous year, ‘The Disembodied’, ‘The Undead’, ‘The Unearthly’ and ‘Zombies Of Mora Tau’. This is the role for which she is best known, though it probably was not much of a stretch for her. William Hudson had made previously films like ‘Destination Tokyo’, ‘Strategic Air Command’, ‘Mister Roberts’ and’ My Man Godfrey’.

The first bad visual in the film is a route sign looks like it came from an art department, not a highway department. Things will get much, much worse. The script calls the spherical object a ‘satellite’ again and again. Of course, it is not a satellite, it is more similar to the bubble that Glinda the Good Witch of the North uses to zip around Oz. What little we see of the alien is on a film stock that is either better lit than most of the other footage or is on a different film stock since it looks like it is bleached white. The alien we see is rather impoverished-looking, simply a bald man in funny clothing.

When Nancy grows to fifty feet in her own bedroom, we see no signs that she is crowded by the walls of her normal-sized bedroom. When we see the inside of the spacecraft, it is decorated beaverboard and seems too small to allow the alien to move around. When we see the alien he is outside the ship and when you see him full size, he appears to be translucent, except when you see just his hand. We get a better look at his uniform and see it to be a strange jacket with a picture of a bull on the back. Just why an alien would have a picture of a bull on his jacket is not explained. Nancy’s hand is properly large but it looks like a large plush cushion. Showing Nancy walking to town, they use the same bad image-mixing effects. This is a great example of place where they only had to film her from a low angle to create the effect they needed.

Instead they superimpose her image and get the same translucent effect that destroys all the bad effects in the film. Nancy’s attack on the town is a classic of bad effects. The same translucent effect is prominent. When Nancy picks up Harry, it clearly looks like just a silly-looking doll. But there was something that attracted audiences and keeps attracting them to this film. Something about the giant Nancy tearing the town apart and calling ‘Harry!’ keeps audiences coming back, but not for the most charitable of motives.

BEST TOUCH: Nathan Juran does a professional job, not common in films of this quality. There is not one mis-delivered line in the film.

WORST TOUCH: Ah, so much to choose from. Probably what bothered me most is the translucent alien with the bull on his jacket. What were they thinking of?

There is not much film here to warrant a second viewing here. Certainly it seems an unworthy choice for HBO to remake as they did in 1993. This film rates a low -2 on the -4 to +4 scale.

© Mark R. Leeper 2020

Category: Films, MEDIA, Scifi

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