Comfortable and Furious

Attack of the 50 ft. Woman (1958)

If you’re going to name your film Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, it stands to reason that you’ll actually show the damn woman. And once you do – 57 minutes into a 66-minute picture – it again stands to reason that she’ll actually approach the promised King Kongian height, not barely clear the doorframe of a local bar.

But it’s 1958, and it’s all we could do to stay ahead of the Commies. Special effects would come later, once Sputnik fully humiliated us into giving a damn. As it stands, Nathan Juran’s legendary B-movie is more legend than fact; a shockingly dull slog that promises a Godzilla-style rampage through much of greater Los Angeles, only to give us goofy cops, drunken heiresses, and perhaps the era’s least interesting denouement. And there’s a Sequoia-sized paper mâché arm to keep us honest. Or at least awake for the final bell.

What could have been a feminist parable (or right-wing alarm) instead becomes the most inexplicably wasted opportunity of the Eisenhower years. Imagine a well-endowed, richer than rich, never-did-give-a-fuck alcoholic tearing a city apart simply because she could. Had they an ounce of courage, the giantess could have descended on Washington and settled any number of scores, perhaps even ushering in the sort of matriarchy only hinted at in the literature.

Years before Betty Friedan confirmed our worst fears about holy matrimony, one Nancy Archer (Allison Hayes) could have lit the fire of revolution all by her damn self. Instead, she seeks only her man. Fine, it’s to steal him away from his mistress (named, what else, but Honey), but not to kill. She just wants him around so she doesn’t feel so alone. He (and she) die anyway, but only after the sheriff shoots nearby electrical lines. Seems so grand a dame at least deserved a hydrogen bomb.

When Nancy is playing around with miniatures, her presence is a hoot, and we damn near believe she’s playing for keeps. But too often – like every other damn shot of the character – she’s a flickering image of embarrassment, often so poorly scaled that she’s barely able to see over a car. And then there’s the alien that afflicted poor Nancy with her massive predicament. He too doesn’t seem to be anything other than a dimly lit Mr. Clean with a fetish for jewelry. Why he came all this way is never fully explained, though it’s a stroke of mild genius to make his flying object spherical, rather than the disc of popular imagination.

But like all crafts from the great beyond, he flies over – but does not land in – any city of consequence. Rather than presidents or kings, our alien seems content to visit the low IQ set in the sticks. Perhaps these beings know more than they’re letting on. Maybe next time he’ll bring a better script. Or at least an explanation of how a 50-foot woman can still fit on a queen sized mattress.







One response to “Attack of the 50 ft. Woman (1958)”

  1. John Welsh Avatar
    John Welsh

    I witnessed this debacle as a young and impressional nine year old. The only things preventing me from fleeing to the lobby and pleading for the manager to call my mom to get me, was the tub of popcorn, extra large Hersey bar (w/almonds) and a large coke (no sissy Diet Coke in the tranquil 1950s, thank you). Being a slow chewer, I was riveted to my seat for the entire 60 plus minutes.
    Kid economics: Admission to Grove Theater, Upland Ca. : 25 cents. Snack bar: $1.50

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