Monday, 2 November 2015

The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)

This movie quickly came about after the success of other size themed movies, mainly 'The Amazing Colossal Man' and the very successful 'The Incredible Shrinking Man'. As you can see, in order to mix things up a bit they made the main antagonist in this movie a woman. Alas they didn't really do much else to further this movie from the others, you can pretty much rule this off as an identically themed movie to the Colossal Man...but with a woman.

There are of course differences between the two movies, the biggest being this movie is virtually unexplained from the get go. The story starts  off with a white sphere that lands on Earth, this rather bizarrely shaped spacecraft appears to contain a giant, a giant that attacks a lone woman in a car. Now this woman (Nancy Archer) is a wealthy lady with a creep for a husband (Harry) who is merely after her money, not only that, he flirts around with another woman at the local bar because apparently, who cares. Strange choice in women too because Nancy is by far the looker in the story, and she's loaded! win win! Unfortunately our protagonist also has drink and mental issues, so of course no one believes her giant story. Nevertheless after much shouting and arguing Nancy manages to get her husband to accompany her and go look for the alien craft. This leads to Nancy getting abducted by the huge giant and (after getting found later on the roof of her house) inexplicably growing to epic proportions...well 50 foot, obviously. Its then finally that Nancy realises what a shit her husband is and rampages off to get him.

So story is weak and unbelievably padded out. Most of the run time leading up to seeing the giant version of Nancy is merely dialog, lots of chat between Nancy and Harry as they bicker over their life in general, Harry scheming with his bit on the side in the bar and the goofy police as the comic relief. Aside from the marital issues that we keep having to trudge through, we do get the occasional scene that raised my interest levels somewhat. Of course things do get more intriguing when the sheriff and Nancy's butler Jess go off and find the alien craft, then venture inside to discover the alien may well be powering his craft with jewels. This is why the giant first attacked Nancy, because he wanted her precious diamond necklace...but why not just go to the local jewellery shop?

Now, the! this movie really is the epitome of a low budget 1950'S sci-fi B-movie. You like crappy cheesy effects? voila! these have got to be some of the best around. First off the alien giant is nothing more than a big bald white guy, no mask, no mutations, no other-worldly features at all, just a bloke. Secondly, he appears to be wearing some kind of medieval costume, something that wouldn't look out of place during the Middle Ages in England. Now you could say that maybe, just maybe, this alien came from a planet and race that just happened to dress like that, some kind of uniform perhaps. But truthfully, I merely get the impression its just something that was picked up quickly because they obviously had no money and they just needed something that looked odd or different, it was probably a costume from another movie.

The highly amusing thing about all this are the optical effects used to create this giant and the giant Nancy later on. From what I can tell, it appears that a double exposure effect had been used to project large moving images of both actors against their backgrounds, one layered on top of the other. Unfortunately this hasn't worked too well, OK...the results are disastrous! Both performers appear transparent against their respective backgrounds at all times, they look like giant ghosts roaming the countryside, what's more, they aren't even that big looking. Towards the finale there are some models set up for Nancy to grab and destroy which does work much better, but its little too late I'm afraid, I don't understand why they didn't use models for all these shots, hell even if they were bad models it would still look better than having giant badly exposed ghosts walking around. Holy crapenspiel! don't even get me started on the big floppy, papier-mache hand effects that occur throughout, they were awesomely awesome.

The effects are just one problem amongst many though, nothing is really explained in this movie which is a problem, I wasn't expecting anything mind blowing here don't get me wrong, but its all so random. The alien craft comes to Earth for no real reason, accept maybe needing jewels to power his ship, but he lands in the middle of nowhere, surely he would know the best place to find jewels and isn't there any planet closer than ours??!! Then he attacks a lone female purely because she has a big diamond? I mean, you can't find any other big jewels anywhere else?? Plus, why are you so big Mr alien? why is your craft a white sphere? has does that even work? how do jewels power it? why aren't you wearing some kind of space suit? can you survive on our planet without one? how do you fit inside your spacecraft?! Can someone also try explain to me exactly why Nancy grew into a giant, what did he do to her? how did Nancy fit in that bedroom when she had grown to her epic size? and why are these giants bulletproof? I'm going overboard here aren't I.

Now while all this sounds hilarious, and it is indeed, Its still very difficult to mark this movie up. Had there been much more giant action then the film would have been more fun, simple as that. The problem is, all we're left with here is a pretty dull sci-fi that only sparks to life towards the end, other than that the only decent scene is when the sheriff and Jess the butler find the alien craft, that's it. Its quite clear to see from the actors that no one really knew how to play all this, do they go all out and try to be serious with the material, or do they embrace the stupidity of it all and have fun. No one knows, some go with it, some don't, its all over the place, and what's worse is nothing makes any sense in the slightest. If you like bad effects then welcome to thunderdome baby, just don't expect anything a good time.