Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) – A Review
Nancy Fowler Archer (Allison Hayes) is going through a rough patch. She’s rich and beautiful, but she’s also recently been released from ‘the booby hatch’, her husband Harry (William Hudson) is cheating on her with the town floozy Honey Parker (Yvette Vickers) and Nancy has just been snatched up by a giant from a UFO!
When she turns up again something strange happens as Nancy miraculously grows to be fifty feet high! Now her philandering husband better watch his step. Or more like – try to avoid hers!
Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is a quintessential bad, old B-movie. There’s no way around it. Just the title screams it. It’s practically impossible to hear the title and not envision it being one ridiculous, poorly made cinematic experience. And it certainly lives up to that.
Shot in eight days for $85,000 the movie shows its schlocky cheapness in every way. There’s really nothing in it that demonstrates any kind of creativity or inventiveness with the story.
And even more disappointingly the cheap fun you might expect to find in it is barely there. It’s not really so bad it’s funny – it’s just bad. By the time it ends you just shake your head. The movie really gets more mileage out of its crazy title and its glorious poster than it deserves. I’ll get to that in a bit.
So, Nancy is a rich socialite who spent some time in a sanitarium. She’s drinking too much and it’s looking like her mind will snap again.
Her husband Harry is no help and causing Nancy additional grief. He makes it no secret that he’s only with her for her money and goes about having an affair with Honey in full view of the whole town. The only one who seems to genuinely care for Nancy’s well being is her faithful butler Jess (Ken Terrell).
When Nancy sees a ‘flying satellite’ not surprisingly no one believes her. The local sheriff and deputy can’t find any evidence to her unbelievable claims and it looks like it would be best she return to get treatment. Harry and Honey are loving this. It isn’t until Harry accompanies Nancy back out to look for this satellite when they find it. Nancy gets grabbed by a giant alien and Harry bolts leaving his wife in the huge hands of this alien visitor
Nancy is later found unconscious and soon she grows to enormous proportions. The doctors are confused, Harry goes back to Honey and plans to skirt town and Nancy awakens and determined to finally take revenge on her husband and Honey.
There really isn’t much of a story and what’s there is either so simplistic it’s not enough to get engaged by or things get so strange and goofy you just can’t get a handle on what is meant to be going on. But what can you do, it’s a cheap silly B-movie.
I suppose you can view the overall story as sort of a tale of woman empowerment and the ultimate fantasy of revenge by a betrayed woman. And yeah, the movie is unique in just the sense of it being a sci-fi movie with a female lead. At the time that itself was a rarity.
I think that’s one of the reasons why Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is more remembered than it’s preceding counterpart The Amazing Colossal Man. That and of course the more fun sounding title and that cool poster.
But you really have to sift through a lot of garbage to find any deep meaning and message in the story. It’s not like there’s a real catharsis and satisfaction when Nancy picks up the diminutive Harry and he gets what’s coming to him.
Maybe originally the story was written to be an allegory of sorts. But I’m betting even if there was that became a secondary thought by the filmmakers when they started shooting this. Director Nathan Juran decided to be billed as ‘Nathan Hertz’, supposedly out of embarrassment of the finished product. He thought the movie stunk.
They were probably more focused on just making this cheap, silly, intriguing sounding B-movie, attempting to lure kids to it at the drive-ins and hoping to turn a profit on this movie.
Maybe it would have had a deeper meaning and moral at the end of the tale if it was written by Rod Serling for the Twilight Zone. But here they just waste time and build to the moment when their giant actress tears the roof off the town bar.
The acting is par for the course with a movie like this. No one is going to win any awards for this stuff. The main actors are for the most part effective.
Hudson is an arrogant skunk and there’s nothing redeeming about him. He deserves to get some comeuppance and you gladly want to see it. Vickers is extremely cute and plays the greedy and heartless other woman that although you might find attractive is impossible to respect. She’s the kind of girl you could understand why Nancy would look at with disdain and want to pummel. Knowing her husband is finding someone like this so attractive makes his affair even worse!
Hayes is pretty good as she becomes more and more hysterical over Harry and that flying satellite. Most of her performance is at the beginning of the movie. Once she gets big she’s either just a voice or the special effects take over and she just gets to move around in slow motion.
After watching this I looked up more info about Vickers. Apparently she was one of the earliest Playboy centerfolds. I can see why. Her face has a wholesome quality about it and she does have quite a toned beautiful body. She did some modeling, appeared in other B-movies but never found popular success.
The strangest and saddest thing I learned was she had died alone in her house sometime in 2010 and wasn’t discovered until almost a year later by a neighbor. Apparently she had become very reclusive and I guess didn’t have many friends or family who checked in on her. That was a very depressing thing to learn and something I would never even imagine while watching this young beautiful girl dancing to the jukebox in this movie.
It’s really the supporting actors that became more of a treat for me to watch. There’s the doctors who seem way too calm over Nancy’s sudden growth. It doesn’t really seem to phase them too much. They just want to go about the operation and will just order a lot of big medical supplies for it – not much of an inconvenience it seems. The screaming over-the-top nurse seems much more concerned by her gigantic patient.
I was hoping that Jess the butler would have had grown more important in the story as it progressed. He’s the one character who genuinely likes and cares for Nancy and that could have gone into several directions down the road. But it doesn’t.
Deputy Charlie is the dopey comedy relief. He’s always acting like a dork, saying the stupidest things. He’s meant to be so intentionally funny I don’t think he is. I was more amused by Sheriff Dubbitt. He’s supposed to be very serious as he investigates these giant footprints left behind by the giant alien. Upon discovering this huge footprint someone asks, “What is it?” and he dramatically replies, “Whatever it is, it wasn’t made by a Japanese gardener.”
I’d follow a Sheriff who would say something like that anywhere.
The special effects….oh boy. It’s not surprising you would see terrible special effects in this movie. And they are bad! Most of the fifty foot Nancy is shown via a big rubber hand. It looks so silly. It’s flopping around and the camera shakes as if the giant Nancy is shaking the whole house. I guess they redressed Nancy’s hand to be the giant alien’s. It looks like they just took off the nail polish, stuck some hair on it and that was good enough.
The thing we’ve been waiting for, the scenes we’ve been tantalized with since hearing the name of this movie is watching the gigantic Nancy tearing through town looking for the cheating Harry. It sounds so good. Sounds it – but doesn’t look it. The giant special effects are just as cheap and shoddy as that giant rubber hand.
The giant shots are transparent and simply laid over the background. They’re see through, they move in slow-motion and just look terrible. The extras don’t even remotely appear to be seeing or running away from really anything. They’re all looking in different directions, they’re eyelines are all over the place. Geez, at least they could have used a tennis ball on a stick to give them some direction.
I don’t understand why they used this transparent technique. I would have expected the giant shots to look bad, but this is so embarrassing. Like, I would have thought they might have filmed the alien actor with the camera low to the ground. Maybe use shoddy miniatures that he could walk around. It’s not like the mountain background here couldn’t have been remade in a shoddy cheap way.
Ok, maybe doing some forced perspective shots would have taken too much time, but even throw up a painting of a mountain behind him to help sell the idea. It’s no wonder Juran wanted his name off this movie.
Nancy suffers from the same see-through effect. As she is meant to angrily be storming to town to take care of Harry, we see her move slowly and calmly down the desert road. She doesn’t seem too angry. At least we’re given the required drunk guy being shocked by witnessing such a sight.
The miniatures that are placed around Hayes work so much better. There are only two or three shots of them, but they do more to sell the idea that she is now fifty feet tall than anything else we see in the movie.
She peers through a little window. She tears the roof off a little town bar. That’s really it. It’s amazing the best special effect is a miniature electrical tower – and it was probably made with an erector set. They really should have used more miniature props, but I guess they just didn’t have the time or money to do it.
Even more disappointing is that the fifty-foot rampaging Nancy only shows up in the last ten to fifteen minutes of the movie. The movie itself is only sixty-five minutes, but still it’s way too long to wait and sit through what we all want to see.
There’s so much of the move that is so illogical and confusing. There’s this thing with Nancy’s diamond necklace that maybe the alien wants to use to power his ‘satellite ship’. No idea why the alien is dressed like a reject from King Arthur’s court. Would a newscaster really take to the airwaves and sarcastically humiliate Nancy and her marital troubles like that? Nancy grows to gigantic proportions and somehow she can still fit snugly in her bedroom? There is just no consistency to her size. And why after she grows so big does Nancy become a blond?
It is not a good movie, but the one thing it did have was one of the best and most indelible movie posters in film history. It doesn’t resemble in any way anything in the movie, but it’s such a beautifully made poster it’s no surprise it’s become so famous and has been parodied so many times. Plus, this poster image, along with the title truly helped make the movie so remembered.
The poster was painted by artist Reynold Brown, who designed quite a few posters during this time. It’s so stylish, it’s exciting, the artwork is brilliant. This poster, along with the title screams B-movie fun. The proportions of the giant woman are all off (she’s more like 500 feet in the poster) and it’s misleading, but who cares, it’s an unforgettable image.
This poster has done more for the longevity of the movie than the actual movie itself. Man, I wish they still made movie posters like this nowadays.
If the movie was even a quarter as good as its poster it would have been an extremely fun B-movie. But on its own it’s a very schlocky affair that I don’t see warranting the attention. The packaging is all dynamite! With the poster and the fun-sounding title, you feel like you’re in for a real amusing treat. But when you sit down and watch the actual movie there’s really not much to get excited about or entertained by. It’s not nearly as much fun as it all sounds.
At least the movie gave us that poster.