“There's a flying satellite and a 30-foot giant a few miles out on Route 66.” – Sheriff Dubbitt
As the world seems to slip a little deeper into gloominess on a daily basis, I’ve found myself watching a steady diet of classic black and white films, some of them for an upcoming project that you’ll see later in the year. Some others, for the recently revived Cult Corner. At the moment, in Cult Corner I’m tracking down some of those films that are so cringingly bad, they’re unintentional works of comedic genius. I’m digging deep and even going online to hunt down some films that are legendarily bad, but I’ve never seen.
Somehow, I’ve stumbled into a groove of watching sci-fi films based on people mutating into giants at the moment, as evidenced by my kicking this off with The Amazing Colossal Man last week. The reader reaction to that has been pretty good, so let’s carry on with a film I’ve often heard of and read about but had never actually seen.
The title alone tells you all you need to know, incidentally the scene shown in the poster never actually happens in the film. Despite this, the poster was voted in at #8 in Premiere magazines top 25 movie posters of all time.
So, Attack of the 50 ft Woman. (I knew it was going to be bad, how could it not be? I wasn’t quite prepared for what was to follow, but I got my money’s worth of laughs).
Made in 1958, it was shot in seven days on a budget of $99,000 – and it was completed for $10,000 under that budget. (Oh, dear lord – looking at it, you have to wonder where $79,000 of that budget went… it wasn’t spent on talents, effects or writers)
Late one night… (not that you’d know it’s late at night, mind – except the cars headlight are on, and someone mentions the time as being midnight later on, the scene seems to be shot in daylight – as do most of the night scenes, making it hard to follow what time of day it is. The bar in their small town seems not to have any time to close.)
Anyhow, late one night we see a car being driven recklessly along what we’re told is a desert road (except this desert has trees, grass, meadows etc) in an area of California where “satellites” have been seen. (Apparently, after the Sputnik launch in 1957, the writer thought a satellite was the term for ANY spherical craft…. I swear to God…)
Driving the car is Nancy Archer (Yvette Vickers) a wealthy socialite with a troubling history of alcoholism and mental instability. She sees the er… “satellite”, screams incessantly to nobody in particular, sees there’s a giant hairy rubber hand reaching for her, screams some more and runs back to town, abandoning her car. I assume she screamed all the way.
The town lawmen investigate, taking her as seriously as they can, as she’s the richest woman in town and pays more taxes than anyone else. But they don’t find anything, after all, she’s crazy – right?
Well, seeing thirty feet tall giant aliens popping out of what seems to be a weather balloon is the least of Nancy’s problems. Though she’s stone cold sober at the point she has her encounter, she left the town bar in a hurry – and with good reason. She’s the wealthy one, but she’s married to a lowlife, philandering, scheming rattlesnake named Harry (William Hudson) who has spent the evening flirting with his bit on the side, cheap and brassy Honey Parker (Yvette Vickers) right in front of his wife.
Harry and Honey want to get rid of Nancy but they want her fortune and are scheming to get rid of her. Basically, Harry’s gaslighting Nancy into believing she’s in a worse condition than she really is, and plans to use her notions of satellites and aliens to have her committed. (Wow – the script took a grown up turn there.)
When Nancy insists, they look for the satellite, he decides to humour her but unfortunately, they find it. Now a word about the satellite – it has an unearthly translucence to it, which gives it an alien strangeness (despite it being out of scale with everything else around it. It has no sense of largeness, it’s just a weather balloon.) The bald alien occupant with the hairy hand (played by the same guy we see as a bartender) is also translucent. But this isn’t a deliberate effect – it’s just cheap and badly executed.
Anyway – Nancy is caught by the unconvincing hairy hand from Planet X, while Harry sees his chance to get the hell away, leaving her to her fate. Sadly for him, she’s found on the roof of their pool house, but she’s been irradiated with some form of alien radiation and starts to grow. We know this because we see her giant hand in her bedroom – and if at all possible, it’s a worse looking hand than the hairy alien one. (And somehow, despite the size of the hand, she hasn’t burst out of the walls of the house or come crashing through the floor to the living room, go figure)
When Nancy DOES crash through the house (56 mins into a 66 min film) the effects range from tolerable to groaningly bad – her lower half is transparent in many shots but she wants Harry, and she knows the two timing skunk is with his floozy, so she stomps town ward, Honey dies in the rubble as she destroys the bar and carries Harry off in her giant hand before the local lawmen bombard her with grenades that send her reeling in to the electrical cables, frying both Nancy and Harry.
All this in just over an hour.
There was a sequel planned, but never made. BUT…. For God alone knows what reason, this film was remade in 1993 with Daryl Hannah in the leading role. In a fit of madness, I’ve bought a copy and will be reviewing it here soon. (Just let me get over this one first, I might need counselling, pray for me.)
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