Saturday, July 21, 2018

Stubs - Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) Starring: Allison Hayes, William Hudson, Yvette Vickers. Directed by Nathan Hertz. Screenplay by Mark Hanna. Produced by Bernard Woolner. Runtime: 65 minutes. United States. Black and White. Science Fiction, Drama.

Sometimes science fiction films have misleading titles in that they seem to promise more than they actually deliver. Case in point, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. Shot on a budget of only $88,000, the film began life as The Astounding Giant Woman, intended as a take-off on the trend in 1950’s sci-fi of size-changing humans: The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), War of the Colossal Beast (1958), and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). What sets this apart is that the main protagonist is a woman.

The film opens with reports of a number of sightings of an enormous, glowing red ball from around the world. The news announcer on fictional channel KRKR (Dale Tate) relays that the satellite appears to be headed in the direction of the western United States.

A big satellite appears in the road in the desert of California,
forcing Nancy Archer's (Allison Hayes) car off the road.

That night, Nancy Fowler Archer (Allison Hayes) has one more in a series of arguments with her husband Harry (William Hudson) and drives off half-crazed into the night. As she’s driving through the California desert, a red spherical object lands in her way and, in her panic, she stalls the car. When a gigantic man emerges from the sphere and reaches out for her, Nancy turns and, screaming, runs back to town.

Harry (William Hudson) is having an affair with the aptly named Honey Parker (Yvette Vickers).

Meanwhile, back at Tony’s bar in the nearby town, Harry is sitting with his girlfriend, Honey Parker (Yvette Vickers), drinking and discussing how they might get Nancy’s fortune. It is revealed that Nancy has already spent time in a sanitarium after she and Harry temporarily separated. This is common knowledge as it turns out, so when Nancy runs into town barefoot and frantically relates her sighting, Sheriff Dubbitt (George Douglas) assumes she has had a relapse. Because she pays most of the taxes collected, Dubbitt placates her and agrees to return to the desert with her and his deputy, Charlie (Frank Chase).

They find her car and the Sheriff and his Deputy pretend to search for the sphere and the giant. Dubbitt cautions Nancy about the dangers of wearing her famous Star of India diamond while driving alone, which is not something she wants to hear. Still angry, Nancy drives home.

Harry undresses Nancy and puts her to bed.

Harry, who has been warned by Charlie that she’s looking for him, is somehow already there waiting for her. Nancy bitterly demands that Harry leave, declaring they should never have reconciled. But Nancy also admits that she’s still in love with him. Nancy reveals her fantastic experience in the desert, pleading with him to believe her. Instead, Harry mollifies Nancy and then gives her a sleeping pill before returning to Tony’s, where he finds Honey dancing with Charlie.

Harry returns to find Deputy Charlie (Frank Chase) dancing with Honey.

He tells Honey that Nancy is apparently suffering from emotional duress again and they discuss the possibility of recommitting her and gaining legal control of her estate. He tantalizes her with the Star of India, which he had removed from around Nancy’s neck when he put her to bed.

The next day, Harry contacts Nancy’s private physician, Dr. Cushing (Roy Gordon), hoping he will agree with his plans for Nancy. Instead, the doctor warns him that Nancy could not endure another sanitarium stay.

Later, Nancy accuses Harry of blatantly conducting his affair with Honey and of trying to return her to the sanitarium. She insists her experience in the desert was real and demands that Harry drive her into the desert to find the sphere. Her promise to accept institutionalization if they can’t find the sphere is what makes Harry agree to go. She insists on taking a gun over the protests of Nancy’s loyal, longtime butler, Jessup Stout (Ken Terrell).

Harry takes Nancy out to look for the Satellite only she has seen.

Harry feels pretty cocky when they don’t seem to find anything out in the desert remotely looking like the sphere. However, just at sunset, Nancy spots it and makes Harry drive her to it. When the giant re-emerges and grabs Nancy, Harry panics. After shooting several shots from his pistol, Harry leaves Nancy and drives back to the house. There he quickly packs a bag. When Jess demands to know Nancy’s whereabouts, it dissolves into a brief fistfight. Harry is younger and subdues Jessup and leaves.

When he regains consciousness, Jessup telephones Dubbitt. Charlie is sent to intercept Harry and Honey as they attempt to leave her hotel and brings them back to the house. Later, Dubbitt locates Nancy, unconscious and strangely burned, atop the roof of her pool house. Once again, Cushing tends to her.

Charlie brings Harry and Honey to the house and Cushing reveals he believes that Nancy has suffered radiation burns and has strange cuts about her neck. Told not to leave town, Harry and Honey return to her hotel. Later, Honey relates having overheard Cushing caution his nurse that the slightest overdose of Nancy’s medication could be fatal.

Later that night, Harry returns to give Nancy an overdose of the medication. He sneaks back into the house, past the nurse (Eileen Stevens) who has fallen asleep. But before he can inject her, Harry is horrified to discover that Nancy has mutated into a giant.

Harry finds that Nancy has been turned into a giant.

The next morning, Cushing has the still unconscious Nancy chained and consults with specialist Dr. Von Loeb (Otto Waldis) that he’s brought in on the case.

One of the better shots when Jess (Ken Terrell) and Sheriff Dubbitt
(George Douglas) explore the satellite and see the Star of India.

Meanwhile, Dubbitt and Charlie discover an enormous series of footprints in Nancy’s garden. Dubbitt sends Charlie back into town for reinforcements and then he and Jess follow the tracks into the desert. There they discover the red sphere with the hatch open. They explore inside and find Nancy’s diamond and others apparently used for fuel.

See-through giant alien.

When the men see the giant, they run away, but he gives chase and destroys their car. Dubbitt hurls grenades at the giant, which cause him to return to the sphere, which then disappears into the night sky.

The giant alien destroys the car the Sheriff was driving.

Back at the Archers’, Nancy awakens and begins screaming for Harry. Charlie is once more dispatched to bring Harry back. He finds Harry at Tony’s with Honey, but, having decided to withhold all approval for medical treatment for Nancy, Harry refuses to return.

Cushing and Von Loeb attempt to tranquilize Nancy with an elephant syringe, but she rouses and, breaking the chains, bursts out of the house going in search of Harry. Charlie finds Dubbitt and Jess walking back from the desert and when they return to the Archers', discover the house in shambles and learn of Nancy’s escape.

Giant Nancy on her way to town.

Giant Nancy arrives in town and, as people flee in terror, she destroys Honey’s hotel looking for Harry. Charlie returns to Tony’s and desperately tries to convince the drunken Harry to hide. When Nancy attempts to break into Tony’s, Harry shoots at her, to no avail.

Charlie shoots at Giant Nancy to no avail.

When Nancy rips the roof off of Tony’s, a beam drops down on Honey, killing her. Nancy then snatches up Harry and carries him off, crushing him in her fist.

The roof is about to come down on Honey.

Dubbitt fires several shotgun blasts at Nancy without effect, but as she walks by the city power lines, he fires again and the lines explode, shocking and killing her. When she collapses, they find she is still clutching Harry’s lifeless body.

Giant Nancy is dead and is still clutching Harry's lifeless body.

To put it mildly, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is one of the lesser science fiction films to come out of the 1950s. There is a cheapness all the way through it from the really bad special effects to the underwhelming acting from the leads. There weren’t any awards waiting in the future for Allison Hayes, William Hudson, or Yvette Vickers.

Allison Hayes was a glamour girl turned actress. Sadly, being the 50 Foot Woman was the height of her career. A model turned actress, Hayes would continue acting mostly on television on such series as General Hospital and Bat Masterson.

William Hudson started out working mostly in television on series such as I Led Three Lives, Rocky Jones Space Ranger and Death Valley Days. He would also appear, though not the star, in such films as Mister Roberts (1955), My Man Godfrey (1957), and The Amazing Colossal Man (1957). He is really not leading man material and it shows here.

Harry is a horrible human, not for having an affair, that’s almost understandable, but for leaving his wife to die on the side of the road like that. You really can’t come back from that sort of total disregard for another human being and be considered anything but a skunk.

Yvette Vickers was best known as Playmate of the Month July 1959.

It might come as no surprise but Yvette Vickers’ best-known appearance might be in the pages of Playboy magazine, where she was July 1959 Playmate of the Month in a photo spread shot by Russ Meyer. Her film roles included an uncredited appearance in Sunset Boulevard (1950), Short Cut to Hell (1957) directed by James Cagney, Reform School Girl (1957), and Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959).

Comedy relief, for what it is, is supplied by Frank Chase, a character actor best remembered for his role as the corny deputy, Charlie. By the end of the 1950’s, he had left acting for writing, like his father Borden Chase had been. Chase would right for such TV series as The Virginian and High Chaparral. Sadly, he is almost the most memorable performance in this film.

While you don’t expect great acting from 50’s sci-fi, you also don’t expect great special effects. However, these are particularly bad. The optical effects are poor, to say the least. When Nancy is growing she is either a prosthetic arm that looks like bad papier-mâché or she is shown as a double exposed image as high as the power lines or the building, whichever she has to be as tall as, she is often see-through as is the giant alien and his satellite at times. All of it is MST3K-worthy of ridicule.

An example of the less than stellar special effects in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.
 I don't think she's supposed to be see-through.

The story is all over the place. There’s fifties’ adultery, no sex no nudity. There is also the science fiction that really seems to have no purpose. A big red satellite passes by all the major cities of the world to land in the California desert. Why? Does the giant alien somehow know about the Star of India diamond? Why does what he does turn Nancy into a giant as well? There is never any attempt to make any of it make sense. We’re just supposed to watch this train wreck without questioning or looking for any sort of logic. Low budgets don’t have to equate with no story.

Being bad should have been a sign for Hollywood to walk away from the story, but the film made money, so you know there had to be sequels and remakes, at least talks of each. Profits are easy when the film costs $80,000 to produce, so there was talk of a sequel, which, thankfully, never materialized.

Remakes were also talked about. In 1979, Dimension Pictures discussed a remake with Paul Morrissey, a disciple of Andy Warhol, as director. That never materialized, nor did Jim Wynorski’s mid-80s planned project with Sybil Danning in the title role.

It took HBO to actually make a telefilm in 1993 with Christopher Guest directing and starring Daryl Hannah in the title role. Hannah also produced the film.

There is very little to recommend the original Attack of the 50 Foot Woman other than its camp appeal. It doesn’t take much digging to find better sci-fi films. That said, this film does have a cult following and I would almost always recommend an original over a remake. So, if you’re in the mood for tall women in a film that’s short on plot, then this is the film for you. If you want to see a really good sci-fi film, then keep looking.

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