Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

A case not unusual in this supersonic age we live in
★★
☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1958
Director: 
Nathan Juran
Starring: 
Allison Hayes, William Hudson, Yvette Vickers, Roy Gordon
The Setup: 
Woman grows into a giant in matters not-wholly-unrelated to her philandering husband.
Discussion: 

So all of a sudden there this is on DVD [it was recently released] and of course I have to see it immediately. This is one of those movies I’ve heard about forever and always vaguely wanted to see, seeing how amazingly cheesy it sounded. Well, it certainly was cheesy, but I wouldn’t have minded if it was a little better as a movie.

So we open with this television report with this guy reading [barely looking up at the camera] a report on a mysterious satellite seen over Asia and such and heading right for California! Apparently at the time, the writer of this thought the word “Satellite” referred to anything that came from space. We cut to a woman driving recklessly through the desert. She suddenly comes upon the giant orb in the middle of the road, and sits there, screaming. She gets out, and just when you think it couldn’t get any wilder, this giant fake hand with nasty patches of mid-digital hair comes to reach for her. She runs off into the desert, calling “Harry!” She’s not referring to the hairy hand.

We then meet Harry, in the arms of Honey Parker, local floozy. They stop kissing in order to deliver some exposition: Nancy [the screaming soon-to-be-giant] is heir to $50 million dollars. Harry married her for her money, but found he couldn’t “squeeze a dime out of her,” so he divorced her—and still didn’t get any money, because the laws are all on the side of women [tsss!—burn!]. Honey suggests that he simply kill the wife, and informs us that she used to be in the “loony bin.” Exposition completed, we return to Nancy.

She runs up to the bar/hotel where Harry is, and which is one of three settings the movie takes place in, screaming wildly. The entire police force [two men] happen to be outside, and the sheriff informs the dopey deputy Charlie that “There’s a flying satellite and a 30-foot giant out on 66.” They take Nancy out there, but of course the thing is gone, and Harry has been informed that his wife is losing her nut, but refuses to leave the side of his girlfriend.

He is, however, home by the time she gets there. They both drink, and she says she “won’t stand for any more of his two-timing.” He’s totally cold and patronizing to her, but still she decides it would probably be a good idea to tell him about spaceship and the giant. She does, he obviously thinks she’s finally cracked, but still she says “You believe me Harry, don’t you?” He puts her to bed, taking the massive diamond off her neck, as she mumbles in her sleep: “Harry… I need you… all to myself.”

This diamond, the Star of India, “the most famous diamond in all the world,” is as big as your thumb—and Nancy just wears it around town and to the local juke joint. So while Harry tells Honey [it took me some time to realize that her name actually is Honey] that his wife will be nuts soon and shipped off back to the loony bin, Nancy hears about her story on the news, mocking her for being insane. You see, it didn’t all start with Paris Hilton. It’s also curious that the newscaster would talk about her like she’s off her nut for seeing the very satellite he had earlier reported was headed her way. Harry comes home and she insists that they go out and look for it. And if they don’t find it “Then I’m crazy—and should be committed.”

They drive around the desert, finding nothing, Nancy going through more histrionics, then suddenly they see the satellite in the distance, having finally had the sense to move out of the roadway. They drive right up to it, Nancy feeling all over it to prove that it’s real, and then the giant comes out. This time we see his face—he’s a big bald guy. It’s time I told you that all of the special effects are just double-exposed, so while the giant [and later the giant woman] is there, you can see through them. This can lead to a lot of confusion at first, as you think that maybe he’s supposed to be a spirit. Anyway, Harry, the supportive husband that he is, takes off, leaving his wife in the clutches of the monster! And THIS is the husband she wants back.

SPOILERS > > >
So Nancy is deposited gingerly on the roof of her house—but by WHAT? Well, by the giant, obviously, and it’s a little funny to imagine her in his hands going “Okay, make a left on Walnut, through two stop signs…” They now have a nurse and several doctors on staff, and they give her these injections. Honey, who is over at the house for questioning, overhears that Nancy can only have injections of 7cc’s or she’ll die, and promptly supplies this information to Harry. He fills up a syringe with a nice heapin’ helping [as well as a massive amount of air], and makes upstairs to kill her once and for all. But—she’s transformed into a giant hand!

Yes, Nancy is now the 50 foot woman. But we have to infer this, because all we see of her is a giant fake hand. As they observe on the commentary, it’s kind of funny, because SHE is supposedly right there, but all the characters just keep staring at her hand. The low [like $7] budget keeps most special effects offscreen, which results in numerous shots of the other characters reacting in awe and terror, which made me wonder if this contributed to the famous Speilbergian device: slow zoom in to characters gaping in awe at off-screen dinosaur/spaceship/alien/lost temple, then cut to the thing itself. The nurse screaming here gives numerous over-the-top screaming shots.

So the sheriff and some doctor decide they must go out and try to find the orb for themselves. By the way, we are not meant to speculate on why, after zooming over Cairo and Russia, this orb suddenly decided to settle down in California. Must be the sunny weather. Anyway, they soon find the orb, and finding the door open, go right in. You might wonder why, if the aliens are giants, they make human-sized rooms in their spacecraft, and also wonder at the preponderance of pegboard, that interstellar construction material. Inside they find a bunch of diamonds hanging in fishbowls [it is SO The Cat from Outer Space], including the Star of India [we can book him on petty larceny!]. But then the giant comes back home [just out picking herbs], and says “Someone’s been snooping in my orb!” I hope you don’t believe all this stuff I’m telling you. He chases the guys outside, and now comes one of the cheesy highlights, which is where he picks up their car—and once in his hands it is a totally different car. He throws it down, and when it lands, it is back to the first kind of car. Such is the transformative power of these stellar beings!

So back at home a doctor informs us that what’s happened to Nancy is “a case not uncommon in this supersonic age we live in.” You know, I guess that’s true. Happens all the time. Anyway, Nancy’s awake and she’s irritated. She gets up, and rips the whole top off the house, calling for Harry. He’s not at home at the moment, so she starts taking off down the road for the bar/hotel. Keep in mind that she is see-through this entire time. Oh, and she’s wearing what looks to me to be a very charming bikini, but is supposed to be bedsheets. Okay, but they are tied quite fastidiously into an attractive little garment, making us appreciate how, even when a giant, a woman must be concerned with presenting an attractive appearance.

So she walks rather leisurely toward town—you can see it’s the same footage of her superimposed over various backgrounds to make different “shots,”—and gets to the bar. By the way, I forgot to mention that the guy who plays the bartender is also the giant. Nancy looks for the adulterous duo by shoving her hand into their hotel room, then proceeds to rip the roof off the bar. Beams fall on Honey and kill her. Apparently the actress very narrowly avoided an accident while filming this scene. Nancy then reaches in and grabs Harry.

You will notice that we don’t see a lot of Harry when in Nancy’s clutches, and this may be a) that he’s essentially just a doll at this point, and b) he seems to have no legs. You can just see his empty pant legs swinging in the breeze. She takes Harry over to this huge power line that happens to be there, and stands there contemplating it while the sheriff shoots. He hits it and it explodes! Nancy falls, dead, and the sheriff says “She finally got Harry all to herself.” The end!
< < < SPOILERS END

I sort of thought it would be better than it was. I mean, sure, it’s a B movie and all, but I kind of thought it would be more fun throughout. You do get a lot of overwrought domestic drama with Nancy pitched at 11 the whole time, you get giant aliens in leather vests with patches of fuzz on their hands, and you get a very minor rampage at the end, but still… I was just expecting a little more. Probably because the cover shows the giant woman towering over a freeway and terrorizing the populous, and that never happens. In fact, the rampage isn’t much of a rampage at all, more like a leisurely walk and very brief bar/hotel destruction. You get VERY little 50-foot woman [actually she seems to change size markedly from shot to shot], and when you do she doesn’t have all that much to do—and does it all with a completely impassive look on her face. Maybe all those sedatives were still working.

This was remade with Daryl Hannah in a version that was supposed to both up the special effects and bring out the feminist content—which is, I guess, why I was expecting a little more feminist content here. Sure the whole deal is about Nancy dealing with a no-good, low-down dirty double-dealing husband, and she does eventually find her “power,” but even so, her life completely revolves around her husband the entire time, regardless of how poorly he treats her, and even when she grows to giant size her entire life is all about him. So it’s a little disappointing on that front as well. But if you want 50s sci-fi cheese, that is certainly here.

There is a commentary on the DVD with a film historian and Yvette Vickers, who played Honey. Vickers is quite personable, and the historian drops a few interesting tidbits here and there, but it won’t significantly alter your understanding of the movie. We never find out what happened to the alien, by the way. I guess he’s still chillin’ in the desert with his diamond-filled orb. So there we are, another classic B-movie crossed off the list.

Should you watch it: 

If you want. It’s cheesy, to be sure, but I suspect it’ll be somewhat of a disappointment to anyone excited by the concept or poster art.