Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman - 1958
Attack of the 50 ft Woman - Released May 19, 1958. Directed by Nathan Hertz (aka Nathan Juran)
Supposedly this film was put together on a budget of $88,000. It went on to earn a healthy half-million in rentals, which is not bad for a film that has since been on the short list for worst sci-fi film of the 1950s, a category in which there is plenty of strong competition.
Considering the limitations of the script and budget, veteran TV show director Nathan Juran manages to bring together some brief scenes of strange, effective melodrama from the crazy plot. A recovering alcoholic wife (Nancy Archer, played by Allison Hayes) appears to be in the process of suffering a nervous breakdown while hopelessly trying to reconcile with a scheming husband (Harry Archer, played by William Hudson). Nancy's life looks lonely. She does have the steady loyalty of her (mostly silent) butler Jess (Ken Terrell) who registers anguish whenever things are not going well for Mrs. Archer, and Jess looks anguished a lot.
In the endless desert wilderness outside of town, Nancy encounters a visiting alien spacecraft (it's a giant ball, like the transport used by Glenda the Good Witch in Wizard of Oz and Guilala from the X from Outer Space). Contact with the alien craft and occupant (a gigantic bald man inexpicably dressed as a Medieval frenchman) wrecks Nancy's nerves, and this combined with a later poisoning attempt by her rotten husband and his mistress (played by Vyette Vickers) begins Nancy's transformation. She will first produce an enormous papier-mache hand and then finally burst through the ceiling of her home. This terrorizes the local town.
Actor William Hudson works through his part as the two-faced spouse with a steady soap-opera professionalism. A revealing aspect of the movie is that none of the meddling townspeople consider him a drunkard (as they do Mrs. Archer), yet his character is frequently plastered. There's also the question of why he is spending so much time with the vicious Honey Parker (Yvette Vickers) who spends her time dancing, or pining for money or pushing Harry Archer to murder.
This California desert town is small, yet it seems to have a 24-hour TV news broadcasting station which is dedicated to spaceship sightings and making negative comments on the life of the wealthy Mrs. Archer (the movie tells us she has 50 million dollars and the world's largest diamond).
The local constabulary is a pragmatic beer-bellied sheriff and an almost-idiot deputy (who also longs for local barfly Honey Parker), but the town patronizes the increasingly frustrated Nancy Archer at every turn, because, as the Sheriff says, she pays almost all the taxes for the area.
Allison Hayes' Nancy does a lot of extended screaming and crying in this movie. She is supposed to be an unlikable, rich and spoiled woman, but it rather comes off as a frustrated wife who just wants to be loved. Her black hair turns blonde after the size transformation, and though I think we are supposed to be witnessing a rampage through the town, it instead proceeds at a sleepy-pace with the silent Mrs. Archer mostly walking about undeterred by any of the frantic behavior of the terrified townspeople. It is as if she is dreaming.
The film has a meagre 65 minute running time, which is just as well. The special-effects are poorly done, and the separate scenes of the alien, a gigantic Nancy, and various props that are enlarged in size or modeled in miniature do not fit together on the screen to promote believability or even effective story-telling. In a way, the lackluster effects help promote a counter-reading of the film as a horrible dream suffered by Nancy Archer while fighting through delirium tremens.
Original Page March 2016
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